Written by Juliana Simone
Hoboken, N.J. – Weather could not have been more ideal in New Jersey on this midweek day in June. The Hoboken Park where the event took place, is right on the Hudson River. A beautiful backdrop of the Manhattan skyline that changed from glistening daylight to a glowing sunset, couldn’t have been more flattering to all of the singers who came to share their love of the famed actor and singer, Frank Sinatra.
The fourteenth day of the month brought together fifteen contestants who were chosen to compete in the 12th annual Sinatra Idol Contest. Some had competed before and some were there for the first time.
Each of them had to submit five songs they preferred to sing if chosen, from Sinatra’s huge portfolio of recorded music. They were then told by the contest’s organizers which of their five tunes was picked for them to sing in the show. This is done so there is no repetition in songs to the viewers and judges.
Three of the fifteen contestants came from other countries:
Gabriel Diaz from Mexico City, Mexico; Stanley Volk from London; Dan Lauzon from Ontario Canada. The remaining dozen had four from the event’s home state of New Jersey: James Beckham, Peter Cannella, Dylan Kaplan and Carl Reich. Three came from New York: Humphrey O. Uddoh, David Martinez, and Joe Cracco. Two were from New England: Jerry P. Padula, Waterbury, CT and Barry Oliver Lawton, Dorchester, Ma. The other three had a distance to travel to appear: Paul Capello from St. Augustine, FL; John Busalachi from Willmington, N.C. and Frank Gamrus from Madison, IN.
For more details on the contestants, click here to read full biographies and see most of their photos that were printed in the program handout:
The six judges on hand were Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla; Joyce Flinn, a Hoboken café owner; Bob Foster, Director of the Hoboken Historical Museum; Jay Lustig, former critic/editor of New Jersey’s newspaper, “The Star Ledger”; Jack Silbert, a writer and editor of the New York Times, who has lived in Hoboken since 1994; Margo Singalese, a veteran film, stage and television actress who was a Hoboken school teacher before her entering the entertainment business.
The best score contestants could achieve was a five. Score cards given to the judges ranged from one to five. (Editor: If there was an actual zero this writer is unaware.) With six judges present, this means the best score any contestant could achieve was a 30.
MC and Host Gary Simpsinatra got the night rolling by warming up the crowd with Sinatra’s “Witchcraft.” The winner from the prior year, Jerry Pearce, was also asked to sing.
Throughout the evening, the judges reasoning for lower score cards held up after a performance, was most commonly that the singer had a good voice, but did not sound like Sinatra himself, whether it was due to the contestant singing the song ‘their way’ or an occasional accent. Other critiques from the panel were some notes were off key or the tone or presentation was off.
It seemed it even mattered if a contestant was from Hoboken or not, in that this alone gave the home town boy immediate fives from the Mayor and other judges. This contestant came in second overall with this local advantage.
A tie for third place, the first time ever according to the coordinator of the event, went to Peter Cannella, a Marine veteran and singer-songwriter, and to Frank Gamrus, a Desktop Support Technician from Indiana.
The winner was Dan Lauzon, who is a dead ringer for Frank Sinatra himself, and because of this works professionally as a Sinatra look alike. He was number fifteen out of the group, and closed the contest with his version of “That’s Life.” Encouraging the audience to sing along with him, he received the majority of the crowd’s participation with chanting, “that’s life” after each verse. Belting out a good enough version of this well-known song, looking just like the icon and embracing a full arena, made him an easy choice as winner for 2018.
In my vue, this writer found that some singers should have had more points delivered from the judges, and some less. The crowd seemed to agree with the comments heard all around, but musical tastes are always personal. Regardless, it was fun to be had by all and an experience that was only enjoyable. Any other songs posted after this publication will be updated here.
Judge for yourself with four performances currently available online from the 2018 contestants:
(“The Way You Look Tonight” – Jerry Padula)
(“Angel Eyes” – Stanley Volk)
(“Strangers In The Night” – James Beckham; starts about one minute into the video)
(“One More For My Baby” – Joe Cracco)
As traditional with this venue, all contestants and former winners are asked to take the stage and sing the Sinatra anthem “New York, New York” after the winners have been announced. Here is a link to the 2018 finale.