Entertainer Sean Reilly does Ol’ Blue Eyes his way. Winning a major Sinatra impersonation contest has made it a very good year.
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The 52-year-old Wilmington native has been entertaining folks at nightclubs and weddings as Ol’ Blue Eyes for the past couple years. He took the act to another level in June when he topped 12 other contestants to win the Frank Sinatra Idol Contest in Sinatra’s hometown, Hoboken, New Jersey.
Reilly was introduced to Sinatra’s style as a baby, when his mother would rock him to sleep while singing songs from the 1955 album “In the Wee Small Hours.”
“I was personally trained by Frank Sinatra,” he says, half-joking. “Every song, every note, every breath I learned from him. I can hold any note Sinatra can hold on any album he ever recorded.”
When Reilly was 7, he listened to his parents’ Sinatra albums. By 13 he was saving grass-cutting money to buy his own records—“Sinatra, not The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, like everyone else.” Since then, he has committed at least 1,200 Sinatra tunes to memory.
Reilly works as a headhunter with The Network Group in Trolley Square. He and his accompanist, David Zipse, played a regular Sinatra gig at the Ameritage Restaurant and Lounge until it closed last summer.
The pair met during an audition for a local musical about Judy Garland, in which Reilly played the role of Sinatra. That’s when “Sean Sinatra” expanded beyond wedding receptions and friends’ homes.
“When he walked in, well, he had the hat, he had the look,” Zipse says. “He opened his mouth and sounded like Frank. I was just blown away.”
Reilly’s mannerisms and baby blues bear an uncanny resemblance to those of The Chairman. He wears no makeup for the part. He simply maintains a neat haircut.
“As I’ve gotten older, I look like him. I act like him. I didn’t mean to do that,” Reilly says. “What I’ve learned is you just never know what the next 50 years of life will bring.”
How far can he ride the Sinatra gig?
“Exactly,” he says. “It’s open-ended. You go with the flow.”
Asked if this could be his 15 minutes of fame, Reilly laughs. “How about 15 years?” —Drew Ostroski
Page 2: Fighting the Good Fight | Dave Tiberi is inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame fo efforts to reform his sport.