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Dennis Bono - To Laugh, To Love, To Life

   Dennis Bono is well known as the consummate interpreter of the Great American Songbook.  What Bono is really proud of are the 15 years of doing a weekly syndicated radio show.  During those 15 years as the host of his own nationally syndicated musical variety/talk show from Las Vegas, “The Dennis Bono Show,” Bono has interviewed just about every major entertainer who ever stepped out on a Las Vegas stage.  During the 15 years, Dennis also introduced many lesser known talented entertainers to a vast listening audience, who have gone on to become well known today. One of the keys to the success of the show is Dennis’ playful personality and ability to actually listen and interact with his guests. His first guest 15 years ago, Bob Anderson, once said, “Dennis thinks funny!”


   “Not only do I get to discuss the business of showbiz with some of the greatest entertainers who work, or have worked in Las Vegas on my show, but I also learn something more about them and their lives every time too,” Bono explained. “As a guy who got lucky when a certain individual happened to hear me on his car radio, I know the importance of finding and helping new talent get exposure. That’s why I often bring on an unknown talent, and give them the opportunity to meet, talk, and learn from my guest stars. It also gives them the exposure they may need and perhaps the experience to be prepared for that next step towards a future in show business.  It’s fun to bring back one of those guests years later who is now a headliner in a Vegas showroom.  It also exposes them to a really wise listening public,” he smiled, remembering back to a phone call he received from Jilly Rizzo in 1980—a very close personal friend of Francis Albert Sinatra that changed his life.  


   After more than 15 years of working from coast-to-coast,  Bono decided to come off the road and accepted a job as entertainment director for the Sonesta Hotel,  in his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut, to be home with his family and baby daughter, Elise.  Since his graduation from high school, college and military, Dennis had been on the road working for society bands on weekends, or working with his own band in nightclubs throughout the East Coast. In 1972 Dennis Bono became a regular on the Playboy Club circuit. He also had a new CD that was getting good airplay on the West Coast, which is what brought Jilly Rizzo, Frank Sinatra and Dennis Bono together.


    In 1988, while visiting a friend in Los Angeles, Rizzo heard Dennis’ new CD while having dinner.  He asked his friend to get in touch with the singer and to let him know that Jilly would be calling Dennis when he and Sinatra were scheduled to return to New York.  Jilly called Dennis and a meeting was set up for the next day at the Doral Hotel. Within hours, the two men had bonded like brothers.  Suddenly all the doors began to open, the same doors Dennis had tried to open for more than 15 years.  And, before he knew it, Dennis Bono was living on the West Coast, and was booked to be Don Rickles’ opening act.  Jilly later told Dennis that Sinatra told him, “This is the kid that’s going to carry the torch for our music.”  “I don’t know where I would have ended up—I might still be in Connecticut, working as an entertainment director—if it hadn’t been for that one phone call from Jilly,” Bono told the authors of the book, “Jilly.” “That single call changed my whole life.”


   Unfortunately, Jilly Rizzo was killed in an automobile accident in Palm Springs in 1992. Dennis decided it was time to move to Las Vegas, where he starred in the Starlight Room at the Desert Inn Hotel for two years running. Whenever Mr. S was in town, he’d sneak in with his pals to see Dennis’ late show and visit.  Dennis continued to work in various hotels in Vegas and Atlantic City, and even did a few tours overseas.  With a new record, “Forget to Remember,” receiving great airplay from coast to coast, Bono realized that he could reach even more people through the mediums of television and radio. His concept was to appeal to the 50 and over demographic, which he felt to be a largely neglected audience.  In 2000 Dennis signed a six-week deal with KJUL-FM radio in Las Vegas, to produce and star in a syndicated weekly variety radio show at the Sunset Station Hotel & Casino, which ended up running for the next five years.


   In 2005, the show moved to Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino, with a contract to be syndicated by the USA cable television network.  In 2010, Damian Costa, entertainment director for Michael Gaughan’s South Point Hotel Casino, came calling. “The Dennis Bono Show” is now celebrating its fifth year in the South Point showroom.  The hour show is nationally syndicated on radio and taped every Thursday afternoon in front of an audience of 500 people.  Dennis has just signed with the CRN Network to have his show broadcast on 30 additional radio markets nationally, including 18 cable television markets reaching 11 million homes.


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