Firestone fills Packard stage
WARREN — The Packard Music Hall stage was crowded Thursday night with celebrities living and dead.
Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett and Neil Diamond are just a few of the folks who turned up during Roy Firestone’s performance as part of the Warren Civic Music Association’s 2017-18 season.
Firestone is best known for his years on ESPN hosting “Sports Look” and “Up Close,” and he shared stories collected from some of the 5,000-plus interviews he’s done in a nearly 40-year career.
Firestone said he asked Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe, a man not known for his academic accomplishments, if he graduated magna cum laude. Sharpe told him, “The fact that I even graduated was, ‘Thank you, Lawdy.'”
And when he asked basketball great Shaquille O’Neal if he visited the Parthenon while in Greece, Shaq replied, “We visited a lot of clubs. I don’t remember all their names.”
But Firestone also is a singer and a gifted impressionist, and those are the talents that were primarily on display during his 90-minute performance.
He also knows how to play to the hometown crowd. He mixed images of Warren native Paul Warfield and Boardman native Bernie Kosar in his montage of Ohio sports highlights.
In an interview last week, Firestone said he would tailor the show for the local audience, and he wasn’t exaggerating. Sung in the style of Johnny Cash to the tune of “A Boy Named Sue,” Firestone gave a shout out to such local restaurants as the Hot Dog Shoppe, Sunrise Inn and Saratoga while singing lyrics like, “Here at Packard Music Hall/You can have yourself a ball/and our amphitheater’s made for everyone.” The song was accompanied by images of area landmarks.
Some of the music was played for laughs — he imagined Frank Sinatra singing The Village People’s “YMCA” and Cosell and Ali as a hip hop duo — but the impressions were dead on.
Backed by a three-piece band of local musicians, Firestone also did some more serious songs, such as a rendition of “Wichita Lineman” as a tribute to Glen Campbell and a version of The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around,” which is included on Firestone’s CD.
During intermission and after the show, Firestone signed copies of the CD and his book “Don’t Make Me Cry, Roy,” with proceeds being donated to the American Red Cross to help with its hurricane relief efforts.