By Patty Fantasia
Photo credit: Patty Fantasia

Entertainment Consumers Exchange Honors Entertainers at 2011 Awards Luncheon

The Entertainment Consumers’ Exchange hosted a 2011 Kickoff Awards Event honoring The Letterman and other entertainers on Saturday March 12, 2011 at the Double Play Restaurant.  This is the 10th anniversary year for the ECE, which bestows the Excellence in Entertainment Awards on the favorite performers of its membership and has enshrined 19 of them into the Fans Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Joining The Lettermen, who were in attendance to accept their award, other honors went to Freddie Eckstine, Male Vocalist of the Year; Lena Prima, Female Singer of the Year; David Osborne, Pianist of the Year; Ronnie Rose, Entertainer of the Year and also an inductee into the Fans Entertainment Hall of Fame along with Sonny Charles & the Checkmates.  Fran Traficante acted as Emcee and along with her husband Pete presented the first award to Freddie Eckstine.  Other presenters included: Marlene Koppenhaver, David Mitchell, Helen and Wally Stone, Terrie Neilson, Roseann Calara, Tim Fahey and ECE President Zee Matulonis.

The event started off with lunch and lots of socializing before the awards ceremony began.  During the festivities several anecdotes and details about the careers of the honorees were mentioned by the presenters.  For example, Freddy Eckstine is known for the show he performed in many Las Vegas casinos called Sentimental Journey, which was inspired by music legends Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughn.

Entertainer of the Year Ronnie Rose has sung for numerous presidential couples including the Clintons and the Bushes as well as at special events for sports teams like The Boston Celtics and New England Patriots.   David Osborne, who it’s been said plays “romantic piano” has also performed for Presidents Bush and Clinton as well as for Jimmy and Roselyn Carter.  Referred to as the “finest pianist in the U.S. Osborne, who showed up in a tux for the awards ceremony, can be heard playing at the Petrossian Bar in the Bellagio Hotel.  Before joining the Bellagio David performed at Caesars Palace. R&B group Sonny Charles and the Checkmates are perhaps best known for their 1969 hit “Black Pearl” and have become one of the favorite lounge acts in Las Vegas performing Motown Medleys, Rock & Roll and of course Rhythm & Blues.  

American male pop music vocal trio The Lettermen comprised of founder Tony Butala, Donovan Tea, and Mark Preston came by to receive their plaques as inductees into the Fans Entertainment Hall of Fame before performing at The South Point Hotel and Casino later that evening and are scheduled to appear there again later in the year from October 28-30, 2011.  Perhaps best known for their hit “When I Fall in Love”, which was released in 1962, after their introduction they shared a few facts about the band including that the original Lettermen, who started out in 1958, never recorded.  Butala, who is also receiving acclaim for his Castlebrook Wineries in Napa Valley, has stated on the band’s website that the one change he would have made in his 50 plus year career would be to have chosen a different name for the legendary group.

Unfortunately, Female Singer of the Year Lena Prima didn’t attend the ceremonies due to illness, so her husband had to come and accept her award.  Lena is the daughter of Louis Prima and has delighted his fans and introduced a whole new generation to his music by performing his trademark songs like “Just A Gigalo” and “That Old Black Magic” in casinos, theaters and festivals around the country.  In addition to paying homage to her father, Lena established herself as a singer/songwriter in her own right and has recently released “The Storm” on Eleventh Hour Records.  The album’s title is a reference to the post-Katrina rejuvenation of New Orleans.  Aside from her musical pursuits she is a talented artist, who began creating jewelry in 2006 using semi-precious stones, sterling silver, various metals, vintage pieces and clay.  Each piece is one of a kind with the exception of her limited edition “Pennies from Heaven” bracelet, which is named after one of her father’s hit songs, and is also the moniker she bestowed on the music and arts outreach program she started.

Zee Matulonis

Ronnie Rose and Fran Traficante

David Osborne

The Lettermen with Fran and Pete Traficante

The Lettermen

Roseann Calara