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Saluda gives Perry Como a Christmas salute: Late iconic singer, wife spent many summers in WNC vacation home
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 14:35
By JOHN NORTH
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SALUDA — The late singer extraordinaire Perry Como, a beloved former summer resident of Saluda, who, in turn loved this Polk County city now numbering 713 people, was honored in a program about Como and his Christmas music during the Saluda Train Tales program on Dec. 20 at the Saluda Historic Depot at 32 W. Main St.

“Como bought a vacation home in Saluda in 1980,” an event promotion noted, and “in his later years, Como lived in a private semi-retirement with his wife.”

The singer, actor and television personality had a career that spanned more than 50 years.

Como received five Emmys from 1955 to 1959, a Christopher Award (1956) and shared a Peabody Award with good friend Jackie Gleason in 1956. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1987. Posthumously, Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002; he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. He has the distinction of having three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio, television and music.

Como died in his sleep on May 12, 2001, at his home in Jupiter Inlet Colony, Fla., six days before his 89th birthday. He was reported to have suffered from symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Dec. 20 program began with introductions by Mark Ray, an at-large board member with the Saluda Historic Depot. Ray also oversees the depot’s store hours on a part-time basis. Ray thanked the Polk County Community Foundation, which sponsors the Train Tales series.

Ray said in a Dec. 22 telephone interview with the Daily Planet that the program honored Como, who was “a favorite singer, exceptional role model and just a wonderful example of a good, humble, gracious person...

“He had over a 50-year career. He bought property (in Saluda) in 1979 — about 140 acres” and held it for roughly 22 years. “He visited prior to that — and that’s why he made the decision to buy. He basically could have gone anywhere, but he basically found Saluda to be that little mountain community to give him the privacy he was after.

“We decided to do a tribute to Perry because of his notoriety with his Christmas songs. I deal in the past. I’m an ‘old soul.’ The guy had no baggage. He was just a very genuine, humble, gracious person — the stories at the program abounded about his kindness. “

He added, “Lips were sealed in Saluda — as far as where his property is located” — both in Como’s lifetime and even today. “It’s a long drive on a mountaintop. It’s behind a gated drive now from the family that bought” the property....

“The fact that the locals went out of their way to protect their privacy” — Como greatly appreciated, as “he just couldn’t escape otherwise,” Ray said. “His Jupiter, Fla., place, his home in Long Island — he couldn’t escape. He was very, very much a family guy. The Saludans were very protective of his privacy.”

Further, Ray said, “To me, we’re in desperate need of this kind of portrait,” referring to today’s political turmoil.

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Como, Christmas, Saluda ... ah, the memories
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 14:33

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the main address given during the Christmas salute to Perry Como in Saluda on Dec. 20:


By NANCY PEW
Member with Historic Saluda Committee 

 

For those of us who grew up in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Perry Como Christmas special. 

We remember the sacred sound of “Avé Maria.” You might find it interesting that he only sung it live at Christmas — and he never sang the song in public. He believed it was special and should only be sung during the holy times.

The man whose memory we come to honor and share tonight was one of humility with a calm, peacful personality and warm, smooth, easy-listening style of music. He started out as a barber in Pennsylvania and ended up a singer.

He was not one to boast about his achievements, such as a music career of 50 years, 44 of those he recorded for RCA Victor. He recorded 200 songs, had 20 gold albums and sold more than 100 million records, only to be outdone by his friend Bing Crosby.”The Perry Como Show” was a staple on NBC (TV) from 1948-50 and 1955-63. Only two shows ran longer, one being “Gunsmoke.” 

He has three stars on the Walk of Fame. He received a Kennedy Center Award from Ronald Reagan, along with a whole host of other “firsts” awards. His net worth at death was $40 million.

He sought privacy in his personal life, which is how he came to live in Saluda part of the year for many years. Tonight, we will share in some of the stories about Perry’s life in Saluda. We hope you will have others you feel like sharing.


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