Richie Quarantello doesn’t just rely on vocals or his considerable musical ability to keep crowds entertained. The fun-loving, 70-year-old native New Yorker puts on quite a show by engaging his audience.
“It’s always going to be a party when I’m up on that stage,” said the entertainer known as Richie Q.
He goes above and beyond to deliver on that promise.
Sometimes, he’ll ask the crowd, ‘Do you want to see sexy?’ He’ll then pull up his pant legs and ask women to smack his leg. Mesmerized ladies stick money in his pant leg.
Other times, he’ll approach a woman in the audience and say, ‘Your husband requested a song specifically for you.’ He’ll sing the song, leaving the wife feeling special, even though the husband didn’t request a song.
“Some of those guys give me a $10 tip when their wives aren’t looking,” Richie said.
Richie wows audiences with vocals and his ability to play both saxophone and flute. Since moving to The Villages nearly two years ago, he has performed at Red Sauce and Cody’s Original Roadhouse in The Villages, Pasta Cucina in Fruitland Park and SIP Restaurant Jazz and Wine Bar in Leesburg.
Living here has taught him some valuable lessons.
“When I first moved here people told me there are lots of STDs in The Villages,” Richie recalled. “I said, ‘What the hell is that, some type of motor oil?’”
Richie hasn’t always been so happy-go-lucky, but his sense of humor helped him push through challenging times. At age 14, he joined a gang and became a street fighter on the unforgiving streets of Brooklyn. He later joined the U.S. Army and was injured several times in Vietnam — once from grenade shrapnel and another time from a bullet. He suffered a massive heart attack in 1991.
“When you’ve endured everything I have, you realize each day is a blessing,” he said.
Richie owned a successful carpet contractor business and did big-dollar jobs for Mariah Carey, Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise and Jerry Seinfeld. In the evenings, he headed to his basement and played the saxophone.
“I’d be down there until 3 a.m.,” he said. “My wife would ask me, ‘When are you coming to bed?’”
The self-taught saxophonist became quite talented. After retiring and relocating to Naples in 1991, he became the saxophonist for two different bands, Night Train and Magic Moments. He later moved to Costa Rica and performed in several Latin and Reggae bands. His talents also landed him gigs alongside The Temptations at Crystal Palace Casino in The Bahamas and with famous singer Johnny Maestro aboard a cruise ship.
Today, Richie performs a wide range of music. He covers songs made famous by Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. And he often sings and dances to Latin rhythms as well.
“When I’m performing I love to dance,” he said. “I make people in the audience get up and dance, too. I can spin and turn with the best of them and have great balance because of my fighting days in Brooklyn.”
He also puts considerable thought into his outfit.
“What you wear matters onstage because stage work is a visual business,” he said. “You’ll never find me in blue jeans. I wear slacks, a shirt, a vest and a hat — either a fedora or a Panama hat. I’m always clean shaved and smell nice, too.”
Without question, Richie has developed a winning formula. On a good night, he’ll bring in as much as $300 in tips. To be the best performer possible, he remains in tip-top shape by running with his dogs each morning and hitting a human-shaped punching bag.
“I love being onstage and performing,” he said. “I feel I’m very good at it. Everyone comes out to these venues to enjoy themselves, and I take lots of pride in making sure they have a wonderful time.”
PHOTOS: Ron Vandevander