The Cookie Castle News
About A Tribute To An Incredible Performer
IN THE DEC. 23, 2023 ISSUE
Royal Greetings From The Cozy Castle Kitchen
ROYAL GREETINGS FROM THE COZY CASTLE KITCHEN
A Tribute To An Incredible Vocalist and Performer — William Cellio
The Castle is not at all cozy this day — sad news has removed all of the holiday merry.
A dear friend and a man with whom I have shared the stage for the past 31 years died yesterday.
Bill Cellio of Cheswick was 85 years old - but you might not have known that in November when he was performing with our group — The Original Class Act — we were doing his favorite of our 18 shows — “American Salute” for Veteran’s Day.
Bill’s glorious voice was in full throat and as always I thrilled at hearing him sing some of my favorite solos of his — “Bring Him Home,” “In God We Still Trust” and “This Is My Country.”
I was so looking forward to hearing him sing “Birthday of A King” and “Mary Did You Know,” next week for our show in Pittsburgh. I also was happy to know we would get to do our hilarious version of “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.” I laugh every time I recall Bill’s expressions at my crazy antics. And he made such a great “Frosty the Snowman.”
Bill, me and Terry Shields
Bill came to me with the most glorious voice. I take no credit for that. He had been a cantor at his church where he also sang for funerals and weddings. But Bill had never performed on stage. It was a difficult journey - but I turned Bill into a star. Everyone loved hearing him sing — and not just sing but perform.
Bill was not the world’s most handsome guy. He was short, chubby and balding. But I reminded him that some of the world’s most popular vocalists were not good-looking. They became famous because they connected to their audiences. So I coached Bill to look deeply into the eyes of the women when he sang love songs like “The Way You Look Tonight.” I directed him to hold their hand — make them believe that they were the most important woman on the face of the earth.
Evidently I was successful. Two great stories:
At one show while Bill was serenading a woman, I stood backstage watching with great pride and I heard another woman lean over to her friend and say “Isn’t he dreamy?”
At another show after the performance a woman came over to me and asked about Bill, “Is he married?” I replied that he was. And she asked, “Is it a happy marriage?” This woman was determined to have him.
Bill’s devoted wife of 61 years, Cissy (Cecilia) was not about to give up this gem. Bill was one of a kind. Besides his incredible talent, he was smart, thoughtful, kind, generous, and patient …. especially with me.
During our early years when I began directing Bill in our shows my Mom was still living and she could hear from her upstairs bedroom what was going on during our rehearsals in the living room. One day she came down and said sternly, “Patricia……the way you talk to Bill….I don’t understand why he keeps coming back.”
I was a very tough director but I explained to my Mom that it was my mission to make Bill a star.
On another occasion he and I were on our way to do a show in Pittsburgh and Bill got the directions mixed up and we were lost (before GPS). I was flipping out because I never ever ever want to be late for anything. And I was going on and on and on and on and on. I wouldn’t shut up. And I knew I was being unreasonable and nagging but I just couldn’t stop. I even wondered why Bill did not just open the door and get out of the car instead of listening to me harping. As it turned out we got there in the nick of time, did the show and everyone loved it. I am a crazy performer — sitting on the laps of men, fussing with their hair, kissing them, laughing, joking. And after the show one man came over and hugged me and said “You are just delightful.” I pointed at Bill and said, “I think you should ask that man over there if HE thinks I am delightful.”
Anyway - as I said - Bill was very patient.
I will miss him terribly. Not just performing with him. Not just hearing him sing. But him. A wonderful friend who loved dogs as much (maybe more) than I do.
And now he is singing with the angels in Heaven with his precious dog Thor by his side. I am happy for him. I am sad for his wife, for me and Terry Shields who also sings in The Original Class Act and my sister Maria who also performed with Bill at Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh and several area nursing homes and all of our friends who got to know him here at my house.
My sister Maria Biggs singing with Bill
And mostly I am sad for for everyone who won’t get to hear him sing.
I can’t say the word merry right now — but I will wish you all a Very Blessed Christmas.