Tag-Archive for » Tony Tillman «

Princess Royalty For Entertainers

It won’t rank with American Idol or any of TV’s music reality shows, but competing for AJ-JamalEntertainer-of-the-Year on a Princess cruise ship can be a step in the right direction. And in March, four finalists will compete for votes to win the accolade on the Caribbean Princess after it leaves Houston on a 7-day cruise.

The four are comedian A.J. Jamal (right); magician Alex Ramon (left) singer, dancer and musician Nathan Foley (below right); and piano player and keyboardist John Dressler (below left). The winner will be the fifth Entertainer-of-the-Year for Alex RamonPrincess, as chosen by cruise-ship passengers.

Three years ago, we were on the Crown Princess to see number 2, singer Tony Tillman, above with Cruise Director Lisa Ball. This week’s announcement had us wondering what became of him and his three finalists from 2013: a comedian and overall entertainer named Sarge, a comedy duo named Alfred and Seymour; and mentalist Wayne Hoffman.

Today, Tony Tillman (now 69) is still listed with a talent agency and available for performances as a recent vintage of Sammy Davis Jr. Sarge seems to be booked as much as he wants to be, Nathan-Foleymostly in comedy concerts, mostly in Florida. Alfred and Seymour, who calls themselves the The Black StreetBoyz, entertain passengers regularly on Princess ships. Wayne Hoffman has a website.

All were talented, just as all four of the 2016 finalists surely are.

Jamal, calls himself the “King of Clean” which infers family comedy, has been on The Tonight Show. Ramon is among only 20 illusionists to win one of The Christopher Awards (for work that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit”) and John-Bresslercreated a magical accompaniment for Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards. Foley has 23 years of stage and TV experience in Australia, where he won a slew of awards. Bressler is multi-talented and Princess describes his show as a “must-see.”

Anybody who has been to shows on cruise ships knows these people don’t get there without being good. What nobody really knows is how good.

Winning Entertainer-of-the-Year is worth $5,000 but for them, it’s not about the money. It’s more about what it could mean to their careers.

In the news…

• Double the ships, double the sailings for Windstar over the last 18 months
• Lindblad Expeditions adding two new 100-passenger ships for 2017 and 2018

Today at portsandbows.comThe ultimate ‘going green’ — Ecoship

Celebrity Eclipse
14 nights
March 20, 2016
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Aruba, Curacao
Inside: $1,399
Cost per day: $99

Princess To Name Its Top Entertainer

Without much fanfare and no politicking, voters are casting ballots this week for one of four candidates.

This is “Election Week” on the Crown Princess, where passengers will be selecting the cruise line’s annual Entertainer of the Year. There are four finalists: two comedians (Ben Seidman, Steve Caouette), one singer (Lovena Fox) and one violinist/entertainer

Entertainer of Year

(Christopher Watkins). All will be performing on the Crown Princess this week to win the audience’s affection, along with their votes.

The ship is presently at sea off the coast of Mexico, and it will be closing in on its return to Los Angeles when the winner is announced tomorrow night, the final night of the cruise.

It’s the fourth year for the awards and obviously it’s popular. When the Crown Princess had its lines pulled in at the dock in L.A., there wasn’t an empty bed on board. All room categories were sold out.

Zach WillinghamLast year’s winner (for 2013) was a singer, or vocalist as Princess calls it, Zach Winningham (right). Two years ago, the last time the Entertainer of the Year was crowned on the Crown Princess, we were among the people who watched another singer — Tony Tillman — win over two comedians and a mentalist for the 2012 title. The inaugural award was a comedian, Carlos Oscar.

It’s a fun event because the passengers are involved. It’s also rewarding for the finalists, who in the preceding year have been performing on Princess ships, which is how they become finalists. The winner goes home with $5,000 he or she didn’t have when the cruise departed.

Also a title they hope can be parlayed into more fame and more fortune.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruising in Crystal's world

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
November 7, 2015
San Juan (return): Tortola, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Thomas
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Cruise Ships And Entertainment

Almost every cruise ship has entertainment. Here are some of our favorite entertainers over the years…

Allure-ChicagoThe signature production on Allure of the Seas reminded us what a terrific musical Chicago is — guess that's why it's been around for almost 40 years!

Riviera-FlamencoNot actually "on" the Oceania Riviera, this Flamenco dancer turned everyone's head at the then-new ship's christening ceremony on the Barcelona waterfront.

Navigator-Unexpecteds The Unexpected Boys, from an organization of tribute acts (The Four Seasons), on Navigator of the Seas

Unexpected Boys…and off-stage, where they have real names (left to right): Nick Celona, Aaron Young, Doug Carpenter and Scott Pearson.

Crown- Tony Tillman, named Princess Entertainer-of-the-Year on the Crown Princess, was inspired by the late Sammy Davis Jr. and has made a career playing him.

Blue Man Until seeing Blue Man Group on the Norwegian Epic, we might have considered this one scary act…but what a funny, entertaining show.

Glory Dayz-1A talented group from Rhode Island, Glory Dayz seemed headed for a bright future in cruising after spending a week auditioning on Explorer of the Seas.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

MSC Divina
7 nights
March 7, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSan JuanBahamas
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49

Tony Tillman 'Crowned' by Princess

ON BOARD THE CROWN PRINCESS – Off and on for a decade, singer Tony Tillman was an opening act for Bill Cosby. One night in Las Vegas, Cosby was introducing Tillman (which the famous comedian always did for his opening acts) when he noticed a man making his way towards the stage from the wings.

"Wait a minute, sir, you can't come up here…," the famous comedian said, before pausing appropriately and continuing, "…oh, I guess YOU can."

Out stepped Sammy Davis Jr.

It was a watershed moment in the long career of Tillman, who this weekend became the Entertainer of the Year for Princess Cruises.

"There on one side of me is Bill Cosby," he recalls. "On the other side is Sammy Davis Jr. — I'm in the middle, and they're treating ME feel like I belong there."

Today, Tillman  is at the head of the Princess entertainment class. In a competition decided by the Crown Princess passengers last week in the Western Caribbean, he was the leading vote-getter. No, exact results were not announced by the cruise line but it's clear the ship demographics worked in favor of the gifted, 66-year-old singer.

He outpolled two comedy acts — a one-man laughing machine named Sarge and a high-energy duo known as Alfred and Seymour — and "mentalist" Wayne Hoffman, who left  the audience mystified, which is what all good mentalists do…and this one was good.

The demographic on the Crown Princess is more from Tillman's era than the others but that's only part of how it helped him. Chatter on the ship was that the main challenger was the multi-talented Sarge, proclaiming he was "a Black Jew from New York" and with him came a predictably edgy and sometimes-insulting repertoire.

Since the Crown Princess sails out of Galveston, its 3,000-plus passengers are largely from Texas, where people don't easily warm up to New Yorkers who insult and make fun everybody, including southerners from the Bible belt.

Ironically, Sammy Davis was African-American and Jewish. In his impressive set list were songs made famous by the late song-and-dance star. The audience loved it, and him.

Sarge was equally as entertaining in the comedy department. Here's one (clean) sample…

"Everything is so politically correct. They don't have blackjack tables in Vegas any more…they're African-American tables. It's not craps…it's the number two area. You don't play poker…you take her out for dinner and a drink."

Poke-her…get it?

After bringing the house down with laughter on his first of two shows, Sarge hit his audience with a true (and not-very-funny) story for his climax. He told of being homeless and living under the Manhattan Bridge in New York City and down to his last friend, a man named Todd.

"That was 23 years ago. He pulled me out, took me to Florida and introduced me to God and a life that would change. He saved my life."

This was the second time Princess has crowned its Entertainer of the Year, but the first time on the Crown Princess. Based on feedback from passengers and cruise directors, the cruise line narrows the field to four before putting them to a final vote during the Entertainer of the Year cruise, when each finalist performs twice in the Princess Theater. Last year's winner was comedian Carlos Oscar, selected by passengers on the Ruby Princess on an Eastern Caribbean cruise.

This time, Tillman's successful formula came from Sammy Davis roots, which through the years he has embraced and nourished with respect.

"The first time I saw him perform, I was in row four, in Stockholm," says Tillman. "I sat there with my eyes buggy and my mouth open. That's when I realized what an entertainment experience could be. I was able to see what was possible, to be able to control an entire performance and change it on the fly. I cater to whoever's in front of me, because that's what I saw Sammy Davis do."

And that night in Las Vegas, where Sammy Davis (left) was known as Mister Show Business, Tillman knew something else.

He belonged, just like he now does as the Princess's Entertainer of the Year.

Coral Princess
10 nights
March 27, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Aruba, Cartagena, Panama Canal, Colon, Puerto Limon, Grand Cayman
Inside: $1,099
Cost per day: $110

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