Who Is Tony Belmont?
He was born to poor Italian immigrants, and raised in a tough neighborhood in the South Bronx, NY.
A very young hard working businessman, he sold newspapers by the second grade. It didn't matter how hard the work was, how dirty it was, or how little it paid, if it was honest work,
young Tony was ready to do it.
His parents loved music so at 5 years old he was in his first play.
This was something that would come back over time again and again. He danced with a little girl to Sweet Georgia Brown in a play that would later become famous,
Anchor's Away. While most children at 8 can barely cross a busy street,
little industrious Tony was selling T.V. Guide. He delivered, found new clients, collected the money, kept a ledger, and turned over the money every Friday to the company.
With the money he saved he bought a set of drums and by 11 years old began playing and singing in a band. He had found something he could make money at and enjoy at the same time music!
By day during the summers he would work at Palisade Park, New Jersey,
known at the time as the best Amusement Park in America with 1.9 million
visitors between May 31st and September 2nd. While working at
Palisade, Tony caught the eye of Irving Rosenthal, the owner of Palisade Park and one of the richest men in the country. Irving was impressed by the work ethics this young man had.
He admired Tony for working long hours without a break and never complaining.
And so, a friendship developed between the old Jewish millionaire
and the young Italian boy. While other boys had heroes like Roy Rodgers or Superman, to young Tony it was Uncle Irving.
As the years passed, Irving
promoted him to higher positions despite Tony's young age.
Discovering the boy's musical talent, Irving made him the assistant to helping with the big Rock'n
Roll shows at the park. Eventually he would play a bigger roll each summer. It was at this time that he began to meet the early pioneers of Rock n Roll
including: Clay Cole (who later became his partner) Dick Clark,
Cousin Brucie, and Murray the K. Then one day while visiting the Brooklyn Paramount Theater to play with a back up band for a big show, he met
the legendary Alan Freed, who was known as the king of Rock'n Roll promoters and the top man in music in those days.
He was so impressed by Tony
that he hired him to work for Alan Freed Productions, the top agency in the world for Rock'n
Roll. Tony left the drums and singing with the groups behind to
learn from Alan Freed how to be a producer and director of large shows. He honed his skill working with Alan at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater, Fox, Capitol, Radio City Music Hall, and Madison Square Garden.
From that point there
was no looking back. Tony quit high school, as there was no money in the family to send him to college, and devoted
himself full-time to producing Rock Concerts for Alan Freed.
About that time the military was drafting everyone and rather than be in the Army,
Tony went into the Marine Corp. Later, on the GI Bill, he completed College
where he made the Dean's List and received a BA Degree.
It didn't take long in the Marines to find himself in the middle of a war. When he returned a decorated combat veteran, the world of Rock n' Roll was changing quickly. Alan
Freed had died and there was a British invasion of rock groups.
Tony paid off the debts that Alan Fred Productions had accumulated and with the help of Ray Reneri, an old friend that also had worked for Alan, re-opened the company. He applied and received a Federal Trademark for Alan Freed Productions® and started moving forward producing shows.
During the next
decade Tony produced hundreds of shows, a Broadway Play, and produced some of the best girl singing groups in Rock n' Roll. The latter
was a challenge to take four girls with limited experience and make them a top rock act with great harmony. This was a difficult and proud accomplishment.
He managed and was an agent for over 50 gold record artists including; Jim Croce, Frankie Vallie, The Drifters, The Shirelles, The Chiffon's, The Ronettes, James Brown, and a long list of successful acts.
He also met and became friends with some of the most amazing people of the time
including: Ray Kroc (CEO) McDonald Corp, John Deloran, (Auto Visionary) Colonel Parker (Manger of Elvis) Wolfman Jack (DJ) Dick Clark (TV) Bill Graham (Rock Promoter) Debbie Reynolds (Actress) and many others in a variety of fields.
While doing a large concert in NYC some comedians were hired to fill in while the bands changed behind the curtain. A love for comedy and the comedians began.
He joined the LA Friars Club
known as the most exclusive club in Hollywood at the time. He was
sponsored into the club, which was the rule then, by two famous comedians and friends, Steve Allen and Morey Amsterdam.
During a discussion one night at the Friars Club between Tony and a group of well know comedians, the idea was proposed for a National Comedy Museum. Tony was asked to spearhead the project.
After a lengthy search, it was found that there was no museum dedicated to the history of Comedy. He applied for a Federal Trademark not only at the national level but across all the states, Canada, and the U.K which he still owns. He had become the first President of the Comedy Hall of Fame, Inc. To be the best at this new venture he studied and took dozens of courses from the AAM and went to visit over a hundred museums. Staying at the Baseball Hall of Fame to study the operation for a month. Unfortunately getting federal trademarks, becoming a museum expert, and putting together the mechanics for such a project takes years. In time Morey Amsterdam, Steve Allen, Red Buttons, Joey Bishop, Milton Berle, and George Burns passed away. Leaving Tony to move forward on the project without the help of these great comedians he depended on. The task got harder and would than require a lot more time.
He spent the next two years touring the country and interviewing as many of the great comedians as possible. This is now a one of a kind collection of the story of comedy told by the comedians themselves, on how they made the transition from early comedy, vaudeville, film, stand-up, theater, radio, and than into television,
Taking his knowledge of producing some of the biggest musical events in the world he began to produce television. The first show was a 90 minute special to honor Minnie Pearl the country comedian icon live from the Grand Ole Opry. Filled with country stars for the entertainment segments, and leaving the end of the show to honor Minnie the only thing to do was to have a top MC from the country music world. Tony insisted on Ralph Emery, The best Country known MC at the time. The show went over smooth and hit the highest rating ever for the Grand ole ole up to that time. Over a 15 million viewing audience! His award shows were exciting with not only great comedians but some of the most powerful politicians in the world that were part of the show such as; Nelson Mandela, George Bush Senior, George Bush Jr. Al Gore, Bill Clinton, NY Mayor Giuliani and more.
Working on the Comedy Museum while producing a dozen large network award shows kept him very busy. What little time left called for raising money. Tony refused to ask the comedians for funds. He felt it was like asking someone to dinner and telling them to bring their own food? So this made the journey to raise money to build the museum very difficult. He poured most of his own money into the project and accumulated a large collection of memorabilia, artifacts, and library.
A temporary museum was opened to test the market and to find out if the concept was good but also to see if the technology for the exhibits would work properly. The museum went over great and he realized that the museum would need a larger building.
The search for a larger building is now underway while a wonderful program made from some of those early interviews tours the country called, the Comedy Time-Tunnel.
The boundaries in life our limited to our own Imagination~~Tony Belmont