Billy "The Entertainer" Donato goes heavy on the cheese.

Donato's Pizzazz 

Billy "The Entertainer" Donato goes heavy on the cheese.


His songs may be familiar, but what makes 45-year-old song-and-dance man Billy Donato so popular are the shticky tricks up his tuxedo sleeve. "You don't know what he's going to do next," says Terry Marakis, manager of Mardi Gras, the Elyria club where Donato, a.k.a. "The Entertainer," appears regularly. "He really gets the audience involved."

And everyone is fair game during one of Donato's Vegas-style one-man shows -- which he performs to prerecorded music on a custom-made sound system. He'll pull fidgety men from their seats, dress them like the Village People, and have them go through the hand motions while he sings a rousing "Y.M.C.A." Or he may lead a lady to the stage, dance with her to "Just a Gigolo," and suddenly flip her over.

"Everybody who attends is already part of my show," he says. "I think of the stage as my living room and the audience as a gathering of family and friends."

Life as The Entertainer keeps Donato away from his native Cleveland for much of the year. He spends a lot of time in the desert (he wows them in Sin City casinos like Caesar's and the Tropicana) and on the water (with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line).

Donato got started in the biz back in 1978, after a gig with the Philadelphia Phillies didn't pan out. He tried his hand at entertaining and found solace in the sweet sounds usually associated with wedding receptions. But a few years ago, The Entertainer hit a snag: He was diagnosed with cancer.

After 15 operations, Donato walked out clean. But there was talk. Talk that The Entertainer would have to pull the plug on his sound system. "When someone tells me I can't do something that I'm very passionate about doing, I get very hot," he says. "I accepted the challenge."

Donato returned to the stage only a year after his first surgery, armed with musty songs, his karaoke-like machine, and the innate belief that the show must, indeed, go on. And so it does.

Latest in Get Out

  • Get Out!
  • Get Out!

    Event picks for this happy week in Cleveland
    • Apr 4, 2012
  • Get Out!
  • Get Out!

    Event picks for this best week in Cleveland
    • Mar 28, 2012
  • Get Out!
  • Get Out!

    Event picks for this transcendent week in Cleveland
    • Mar 21, 2012
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Most Shared Stories

From the Archives

  • Gator Baiter

    Ted McRae has a head for reptile stunts.
    • Oct 23, 2002
  • Idol Chitchat

    Nikki McKibbin and the big-haired guy make the rounds to Cleveland.
    • Nov 6, 2002
  • More »

Site Search

Facebook Activity

© 2014 Cleveland Scene: 1468 West Ninth Street, Suite 805, Cleveland, OH 44113, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation