By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Crestline is a creative zone, inspiring many writers and artists. David D’Orazi chose to retreat to the mountains for weekends for over five years to write an insightful, book heralding the spectacular life of his father, Tony D’Orazi, a vaudeville performer, former Disney artist and a TV and radio performer.
Tony also faced the demons of mental illness, yet he persevered to raise a family that has thrived, making a positive impact on the entertainment world, even today. The book is being released this March by Page Publishing.
David D’Orazi has been vacationing in Crestline for over 50 years, spending much time here while a child visiting his grandparents’ vacation home with his sister who was on the TV show Happy Days in the 1970s. He wrote his book The In-Between Artist at his own Crestline vacation home named Treta’s Bird House. He named it in honor of his mother because his mother loved birds and the house is surrounded by trees and birds in the Top Town area.
When his mother first saw the house, she thought it looked like a bird house from its roofline. Treta had the opportunity to decorate it with birds everywhere, down to the dishes in the cupboards.
Sitting on the back deck, looking up at the trees, D’Orazi was able to focus on the writing. “Crestline is my space to write and be inspired. I get up, walk the lake and have breakfast and then with a clear mind I can sit and write. It is a mental escape from the work-a-day world.”
D’Orazi is an award-winning water treatment expert, who worked for Cal Tech and was a consultant for the water industry.
D’Orazi wrote the story of his father, Tony, a child prodigy from Missoula, Montana, who through his artistic abilities moved to New York, Chicago, Hollywood and San Diego during his working life in the 1930s through the 1960s.
He became an “in-between artist” for Disney on the first full-length animated movie, Snow White. An in-between artist is the artist who makes the characters move by drawing the pictures in between the various scenes, giving the characters the look of movement. Out of thousands interviewed for the job, he was one of the four hired. While on that project, he helped create the character of Dopey, one of the most loveable dwarfs.
However, he had a dream of being on the radio. He had previously taught children how to draw, verbally, and believed he could do so over the radio. He went to KHJ radio, which was located around the corner from Disney, and finally got an interview, which soon led to his own radio show, forcing him to abandon Disney.
He became “Uncle Tony O’Dare, the first cartoonist of the air,” both on KHJ radio and eventually KTLA television, receiving fan mail and fame. Eventually, Pinkie Lee stole his TV act, after Tony performed his whole act while he auditioned to be on his show but wasn’t hired. A week later, he saw Pinkie Lee perform his act on his TV show, which was quite a shock.
A head injury in a car accident led Tony to experience some mental illness problems which would derail his ambitions, from time to time. He ultimately received 37 shock treatments after having five nervous breakdowns. Living the life of a manic depressive led to several career changes.
One reason D’Orazi wrote the book is to be able to donate a portion of the proceeds from the book to mental health research, since mental illness severely affects both the person who has the disease and those who live with them.
The book details Tony meeting his wife, Treta, and their life together performing in vaudeville, while touring America. This marriage lasted through thick and thin, producing four children, including their daughter, who followed in his footsteps under the name of Kathy O’Dare (using her father’s stage name). She was a child actor on the TV show the Banana Splits as the Sour Grape and as a teenager on the TV show Happy Days as a continuing background player. As a beautiful blonde, she was on the cover of several magazines with Ron Howard and later starred in one of his early movies. Producer Garry Marshall had many good things to say about her career potential.
Later in life, Tony went on to become a character actor with guest spots on several TV shows including Sanford and Son and All in the Family. This book is a portrait of an artist, actor, father and a new car salesman, in between. Through the book, D’Orazi demonstrates that his father, no matter what obstacles he faced, was determined that he would continue and succeed.
D’Orazi has been on TV, too, as a contestant on several game shows. He is now a performer himself, as “H2O Magic Dave” at the Magic Castle, doing sleight-of-hand magic with water. His son, Vincent, has won an Emmy for his HGTV show Flea Market Flip. Son Michael teaches blind children at Pasadena Arts Center and his son, Dan, is a builder/contactor.
The In-Between Artist is being published by New York’s Page Publishing and will be available at $13.95. It will be stocked at Crestline’s new bookstore Print and Page Booksellers at 23876 Lake Drive, at the corner of Thousand Pines Road. It will also be available on online at Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble and Indiebound.org.
Devina Horvath, owner of Print and Page Booksellers, has stated she intends to have a book signing of D’Orazi’s book during her grand opening celebration on Author’s Day in April.
D’Orazi, is already writing another book at Treta’s Bird House on his sister, Kathy O’Dare, and her life in the TV industry and the mental health problems she also faced, hoping to be able to donate even more funds for mental health research.