By J. Michael Kearsey
The emerging lower Hawthorne Entertainment District is about to get quite a bit more entertaining. In August, the Tony Starlight Showroom opens at 1125 SE Madison beside the newish Mad Sons Restaurant, for weekend theme shows that have been so successful on Sandy Blvd. for the last seven years.
The grand opening will be Friday August 22 with a Variety Show and a Rat pack vibe, comedy and more. Tony Starlight includes impressions and parody songs (“My Hair Keeps a-Fallin’ from My Head”) in his act along with “original music with lyrics about your awful children, traffic gridlock, and our ever changing relationship with our pants.”
The room will feature tributes to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Burt Bachrach and Neil Diamond. Starlight’s tribute to the man who brought us “Sweet Caroline” has become a major draw beyond his own club. He brings the persona of Neil Diamond as few others can and he muses about bringing that show to other rooms, especially the casinos of the Northwest. He has already played to packed houses at the Alberta Rose Theatre, The Venetian in Hillsboro and the Old Liberty Theatre in Ridgefield.
Mr. Starlight (nee Brett Kucera) has spent much of his life entertaining. Born in Grand Rapids, raised in Bozeman and Hood River, he met up with the Arte Davis Trio in the mid-nineties, performing a tongue-in-cheek jazzy lounge act a la Bill Murray at the Airport Lounge.
When vocalist Starlight joined the group, people really started listening. Although his background was in comedy, the group began to pack venues like the 1201 Club, The Gypsy, Jimmy Maks and Mark’s on Hawthorne. People come out to hear Tony Starlight! That gig lasted over 5 years before Tony and his wife decided to move to Los Angeles. During his 7 years in California, he concentrated on playing all the comedy clubs he could with his mix of music, comedy and shtick alongside well-known comedians such as Sarah Silverman and Zach Galifianakis.
Returning to Portland, he leased the club on Sandy, built a series of different personas with his tributes and gathered a loyal following and a loyal musical cast as well.
“Reece Mashburn has been my bandleader and music director for all these years and we have an octet that can play just about anything I need. The arrangements are tight and each show is a fun night for all of us.
“We even have recorded a Tony Starlight theme with Carla Harris being my Shirley Bassey of Goldfinger fame. Although she has relocated to Atlanta, we were able to pull it off.”
There will be nights that will be “more Vegas and more theatrical,” according to Starlight, including a James Bond night, a Copa Cabana night, AM Gold Night (“It’s like a big campfire sing-along, K-Tel style!”) There will be a big Christmas show, costume parties and special events to include guest artists like Rebecca Kilgore, Julian Snow-Harris and Barbara Ayars with a magician thrown in for good measure.
“We envision more of a dinner theatre show, a broader swath of entertainment, something that Portland has needed for many years. The capacity will be 135 and the parking lot will really help us out, along with the neighborhood,” the smiling 40-something notes.
“We will have a great layout for the club with proper staging, better seating and sightlines, beautiful blue theatre curtains and a great catering and drink menu from Spin Events–so we can really take care of the entertainment!”
Tony Starlight has been in demand as an emcee and host at fundraisers for Grant High School, the Hollywood Veteran’s Parade, Food Services of America and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame’s Induction Ceremony.
Though his star rose is Hollywood, Starlight and his many forms will bring his very special style and outrageous showmanship to roost in the Hawthorne District. Let’s support his efforts and have a lot of laughs doing so.
For more information, see the website: www.tonystarlight.com.