NORM JOHNSON / publicity photo
Thursday, May 14, 2009 | 2 a.m.
About the book
- Includes: “Sing Deadly” includes a three-song disc recently recorded in Vegas.
- Price: $26.95 in stores and $22.50 by mail
- Where to buy: Pitrello sells the book on cruise ships and at his land gigs. Or they can be ordered at [email protected] or by mailing a check to Carme Pitrello, 15515 Redington Drive, Redington Beach, Fla. 33708.
Beyond the Sun
If there were a cruise ship on the Sea of Tranquility, Carme Pitrello would perform on it.
The 75-year-old entertainer has been around the world seven times in the past 20 years, working on ships that have sailed to the most exotic ports on the planet.
“I was on one ship for four years. I would get on in February and get off in December,” says Pitrello, who used his down time aboard ship to write a Vegas-centric novel.
He self-published “Sing Deadly,” which weaves his colorful life and celebrity friends into a clever plot that involves a superstar entertainer who is a hit man for the mob.
“Almost everything that happened in the book happened to somebody,” Pitrello says.
Before Pitrello set sail he was a mainstay in Las Vegas, performing in showrooms in the ’60s and ’70s.
Before Vegas, Pitrello cut his entertainment teeth singing in mob-connected nightclubs around the country.
“My uncle was with the Buffalo (N.Y.) mob,” he says. “It was just a way of life, like ‘The Sopranos.’ ”
He largely avoided working for the mob, except onstage. He did some collecting for them, but nothing serious, he says. But they wanted to record him, put his records on jukeboxes on the East Coast and make him a star.
“I told them no. I had just come out of the Army and I didn’t want to be owned,” says Pitrello, who was a Ranger in the Korean War.
He can’t remember not wanting to be an entertainer.
“My very first memory is of me when I was about 2, chasing my sister around the room and suddenly hearing Gene Autry on the radio singing ‘South of the Border,’ ” he says. “I stopped and listened, and I knew then I wanted to be a singer.”
Before joining the service he sang in clubs and hospitals in the Buffalo area, but he didn’t take it seriously until he got out of the Army. He got his taste of Vegas when he was stationed here to observe atomic testing at Desert Rock in the early ’50s.
“I got to know everybody in town. Being Italian, they took care of me,” he says. “I knew then I wanted to come back here.
“But in those days you didn’t come here to start a career — you had to have an act when you got here. So after I got out of the Army I played mob joints around the country. I paid my dues.”
He moved to Vegas in 1968 and performed in “Pardon My Can Can” at the Thunderbird, the first of many shows.
“That’s when Vegas was really happening,” Pitrello says. “It lasted through the ’60s and ’70s, until Howard Hughes came to town and then things began to change.”
His last engagement in Las Vegas was in 1987. Pitrello performed in Laughlin and other cities, but cruise ships became his bread and butter. Now, he’s trying to spend more time ashore.
“I’m getting tired,” he says.
He kept a home in Vegas and has one in Florida, where he spends a lot of time performing in theaters at condominiums and other venues.
“But I won’t work a condo on the east coast of Florida,” he says. “They go there to die. The biggest thing going on is who died today and what are we going to eat tonight.”
Pitrello says he misses the days in Vegas when he worked six and seven days a week, month in and month out.
“Then, all of a sudden we can’t work here anymore, there’s nothing for us. Freddie Bell (who died last year at the age of 76) said the town retired us.”