Singing for His Supper
Award-winning actor Tom LaGravinese is a born performer and entertainer.
He says his earliest memory is as a 6-year-old impersonating legendary TV host Ed Sullivan for visitors at his parents’ home, formally introducing his guests in his best Sullivan style.
Ten years later, he saw what “real” impersonators could do when he witnessed famed comedian Rich Little at New York’s Rainbow Room.
“He always says, ‘Before you do people, make sure you say who you’re doing,’” LaGravinese said before breaking into a Ronald Reagan imitation.
“Seeing Rich Little, I just increased my impersonations. Throughout high school I impersonated teachers. I impersonated students.”
At the time it hadn’t yet struck him that he might be able to earn a living doing them one day. That is until he ordered a singing telegram for his wife.
“I remember that I sent my wife a singing telegram when she was 19 in New York,” he said. “I thought, ‘Perhaps I can do this.’ I started with just Elvis and Groucho Marx, basic guy in the tuxedo.”
Back then, impersonations hardly paid the bills, so LaGravinese pursued a career as a gemologist to make ends meet while honing his acting and comedy skills. In 1997, he began performing singing telegrams full time. He fills any down time as a licensed gold buyer in Chandler.
“Occasionally, I get calls for that, but my bread and butter is my entertainment,” he said.
The 54-year-old’s repertoire ranges from the character “Taco Bill” to Santa Claus. He can also enlist performers from a stable of contractors who can perform the roles not suited to him, like Lady Gaga or Marilyn Monroe.
While LaGravinese is certainly in possession of an odd job, it has to be one of the most fun gigs we’ve seen in a while!