45 Years Since Tony Orlando’s Massachusetts Meltdown
One of the most famous people in the world during the 1970s celebrated his 78th birthday on April 3. Forty-five years ago this summer, Tony Orlando suffered a breakdown on a Massachusetts stage in front of some 3,000 fans, and it all came crashing down around him – or so he thought.
Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson were Orlando's backup singers and appeared with him on his weekly CBS television variety program from 1974 to 1976.
Orlando's "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" was one of nine gold records he achieved as a recording artist. Hits such as "Knock Three Times" and "Sweet Gypsy Rose" propelled Tony Orlando and Dawn to superstardom.
The group's first major hit, "Candida," was released under the name Dawn in 1970.
Wikipedia says Orlando had three top 40 hits in the 1960s with the studio band Wind before turning his attention to producing.
By the mid-70s, Orlando began to use drugs. First, it was over-the-counter caffeine pills, according to The Washington Post. Orlando told the Post in a December 1977 interview, "I'd take four vivarins before brushing my teeth." The paper says that after his close friend, actor Freddie Prinze, committed suicide in 1976, Orlando began using a "frantic and enormous amount of cocaine."
On July 22, 1977, while appearing at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, Massachusetts, Tony Orlando had a breakdown and walked off the stage. He told the Post, "All I wanted to say was, 'Help me, I would like to get off the stage to see a doctor.'"
Orlando did three more shows after Cohasset before canceling the rest of the tour. Orlando was determined to be suffering from manic exhaustion, and he was treated with lithium.
Tony Orlando and Dawn reunited several times before parting for good. Orlando still performs occasionally.
My aunt and uncle and several friends were in the audience the night Tony Orlando suffered a breakdown in Cohasset. They describe it as a surreal event, one they've never forgotten.
Were you or was anyone you know at the South Shore Music Circus that night?