Frank, Dean Croon For Tsunami Relief

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Ring-a-ding ding lounge lizards, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and a cast of celebrity impersonators are coming to Payson to raise money for tsunami disaster relief.

Jim Speiser, who plays Sinatra in his 1950s fedora era through the 1960s tuxedo years, is coordinating the event. He said talented tribute artists from all over the country are donating their time to perform at the Feb. 12 benefit concert at the Mazatzal Casino.

"I am really looking forward to meeting some of these artists who are coming from out of state," said Speiser. "It gives me warm squishies that these people are coming here to do this for free."

Casino marketing director Marc Kaplan said performances representing a wide range of time periods and musical styles -- from Ella Fitzgerald to Patsy Cline to Latin pop sensation, Ricky Martin -- promise something for everyone.

"It's going to be quite an evening," said Kaplan. "The concert will appeal to a wide variety of people."

Speiser took the idea for the benefit concert from an Elvis impersonator named Rick Lazenko. Lazenko was in Phuket, Thailand when the tsunami drowned parts of Asia Dec. 26. Although Lazenko wasn't injured, he was deeply affected by the death and destruction caused by the disaster.

Lazenko then decided to stay in Phuket, and put on a concert to raise money for the relief effort.

"I was minutes away from the wave and am fortunate to be here today," wrote Lazenko in an e-mail sent Dec. 27. "I have been working with search and rescue and the things I have seen and had to help with will remain with me forever. It has change my life! I will not run or stop here ... I am organizing an island relief event.

"I along with many that live and work here, (we) agree we need to start building the moral (sic) of all that share this island and so we are having a relief event planned around the first of the year."

Speiser and a nationwide group of impersonators and tribute artists, called The Entertainment Network, followed suit and have been planning benefit concerts all over the United States.

Speiser believed that holding the concert in February is important to remind people of the continuing rescue efforts on the other side of the world.

"This is really time to show your love for your fellow humans," said Speiser. "I think it's even more important to keep reminding people that the relief effort will be ongoing for a decade. The Red Cross will have to keep the cash moving. The February date is good to remind people that there still is a human disaster."

Speiser and his bandmate, Vic Fatali, who plays Dean Martin, will do a Rat Pack schtick. Bing Crosby, Connie Francis, Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin tribute artists, and Payson musicians John and Luann Carpino, will also perform while surprise celebrity impersonators mingle with and entertain the crowd.

Perry Damone, son of crooner Vic Damone, serves as the evening's emcee.

Speiser said the audience will have the opportunity to take pictures with their favorite celebrities.

"Come have a good time and out of the goodness of your heart, donate," said Speiser.

The minimum donation for the concert has been increased to $10 per person. Kaplan felt the increase was necessary because of the high-quality talent and the event's popularity.

"We know we're going to have a jam-packed house," said Kaplan.

Although entry to the concert is free, the minimum donation is suggested and seating is first come, first served. The concert begins at 8 p.m. and ends at midnight. All proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross.

Speiser said he is still seeking experienced impersonators for crowd walk-arounds.

For more information contact Speiser (602) 370-2128 or Kaplan at (800) 777-PLAY (7529).

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