His name is Fabian Anthony Forte, but since 1958, when he received the Silver Award for the Most Promising Male Vocalist of that year, his first name alone has been his calling card. It took about three appearances on Dick Clark’s Philadelphia-based American Bandstand show before Fabian became a household name when songwriters Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus provided him with his first monster hit, “I’m a Man.” The Bandstand audience loved him, Dick Clark loved him, a nation of teenagers loved him, and a show business career was born.
On November 1, Fabian will host the Original Stars of American Bandstand touring show at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in downtown Worcester. The concert, which he produces with his friend, singer Bobby Vee, also features fifties and sixties legends The Chiffons, Brian Hyland, Chris Montez, and Johnny Tillotson. Fabian has nothing but praise for his producing partner, Vee, whose song hits include “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Red Rubber Ball” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.” “Bobby Vee is one of the greatest guys in the world,” says Fabian. “He has so many hits it’s incredible. Bobby Vee is really a champ.”
When he’s not touring with the Bandstand show, or with Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon, who perform around the country with him as “The Golden Boys,” Fabian lives on a forty acre spread he loves in western Pennysylvania. There, he indulges in his favorite pastime—fishing. “I just caught nine bass out in my pond two days ago. It’s a relaxation for me.” He’s active as a fund raiser for and contrbutor to the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. But, at 65, it’s still singing that gets his juices flowing.
“We have a core audience of Baby Boomers. I guess there’s like 70 million of us out there. It’s like a big reunion every time we do a show. I just can’t believe how exuberant they still are. Makes us feel really fantastic.”
And the Boomers sometime bring their kids. When they do, Fabian invites them onto the stage and instructs them on some Terpsichorian blasts from the past.
“The parents bring them and I get them up on stage and teach them how to Twist. And guess what, they know how. I don’t have to teach them anything.”
He and his compatriots spend a lot of performing time in Branson, Missouri, home of forty-one theatres, and a hundred and one live shows. He’s been working at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre for a couple of years, and plans to go back very soon.
“Branson is beautiful, it’s like western Pennsylvania, that’s what it looks like. The Ozark Mountains. Three beautiful rivers all around it, great fishing, which I love.”
Fabian also has a resume as an actor in film and on television. His breakthrough dramatic role, in fact, was on a television anthology series called BUS STOP. The 1961 episode was entitled “A Lion Walks Among Us,” and his director was the estimable Robert Altman.
“Robert Altman wasn’t sure that I could do it. So I had to audition for him. And it was a wonderful experience. He looked at me and he said, ‘You got it.’ This guy that I played was a merciless killer, and the kicker was, I got away with it, so all the sponsors decided that this wasn’t the right message to send off to young people because I was a quote unquote teen idol. So it was the first show in TV history that went on without any commercials. Not like today, kiddo.”
In the movies, he’s worked with a number of cinema icons. Of John Wayne, his co-star in NORTH TO ALASKA, he says “What you saw is what you got. He was incredible. He was very nice to me.” He is less enthusiastic about Bing Crosby, whom he worked with on HIGH TIME. “A great artist, a great actor, and a great musical person. Not a nice man.” He saves his highest accolades for James Stewart, with whom he did two movies, MR. HOBBS TAKES A VACATION and DEAR BRIGITTE.
“If anybody’s ever blessed, you have to be blessed to work with Jimmy Stewart. He was the most congenial, helpful person I ever worked with.”
He stayed in touch with Stewart over the years, and Stewart always thought highly of him. As a result of this decades-long friendship, Fabian is being honored on October 24th of this year with the Harvey Award, presented by the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Stewart’s home town.
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