Ex-Dream Street singer starts act two of his career

Greg Raposo, formerly of boy band Dream Street,

Greg Raposo, formerly of boy band Dream Street, poses backstage before a performance with his current project Dead Celebrities at Manhattan's Webster Hall. (Feb. 20, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Dave Sanders

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'Hello New York!" screams Long Island's Greg Raposo, welcoming a raucous crowd of hundreds in a downstairs studio at Webster Hall in Manhattan.

Out comes Raposo dressed in top hat, red shirt and vest. By the seventh song, worked up to a fever pitch, he strips his shirts down to a cross tattooed over his heart and jumps into the audience.

It loves him. Some things never change.

Music is still his passion. Half his life ago, Raposo, 24, was one of five singer-dancers wowing sold-out crowds in the boy band Dream Street. With a gold album of the same name in 2001 and hit song, "It Happens Every Time," they were destined for explosive superstardom but broke up at their peak in 2002 over disputes between managers, producers and their parents. Dream Street spawned pop idol Jesse McCartney's career while sales of Raposo's self-titled solo album and Nassau Coliseum crowds thinned out.

Gone is the headset and in-unison dance moves, replaced with smoke machines, a bullhorn and laser light that Raposo toys with, the music dodging in and out in liquefying dizziness. Add a techno dance beat, blended with his strong deep voice and edgier lyrics, and suddenly we're not in Kansas anymore. He's seeking to define himself musically with a new band, Dead Celebrities (my space.com/deadcelebrities), stepping away from his past, yet reminding us of that 1,000-watt performer American girls adored.

"Dead Celebrities music just makes you feel good and want to dance," says Melissa Diamond, 22, a Stony Brook University student who came from Holbrook to see the group in Manhattan. "They're really great guys and put on a good show."

In spring 2008, Raposo assembled musicians who he says "just jelled" to form the pop-rock quintet. Dead Celebrities is the tongue-in-cheek name they took; each member is starting fresh after a modicum of success that waned. Fronting as lead singer, Raposo credits luck in getting drummer Dan Leo of Action Action and Diffuser; bass player Danny Miller, once named a top model by Elle Magazine, and Brian Corona and Jesse Leo from the punk rock scene. They recorded an album in 2009 in Los Angeles with producer Tomas Costanza and released the single "21st Century Girl" on the online music service Last.fm.

Raposo's energy is rapturous. Girls shriek and pony up to the stage to get closer. Raposo's the kind of showman you can't take your eyes off of as he plays the audience with give-and-take teasing.

When he leaps onto the pole of stage lights and swings from the ceiling, mom Maryann Raposo, who was always there guiding his career, cringes.

"I don't like when he does things like this. He could get hurt," she says.

His younger sisters - Amanda, 21; Nicole, 17, and Daniella, 15 - cheer and clap. They've seen it all and sacrificed much during this ride Raposo has been on with music. Greg's career took a lot of time and it was very different growing up with a celebrity brother.

Paving the way

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Raposo didn't just gain his chops in a boy band. He already had a slew of music credits to his name by the time he was cast in 1999 as the first member of Boy Wonder, then renamed Dream Street, losing a member or two along the way. The group evolved to include Raposo, McCartney, Matt Ballinger, Frankie J. Galasso and Chris Trousdale.

Dream Street, as in Broadway, or the street of dreams, was the creation of producers Louis Baldonieri and Brian Lukow. Originally created as a reality Broadway show about a band with a dream to make it, the show never happened, but the band cut an album with Atlantic Records and toured the country, opening for Britney Spears.

Growing up in Douglas Manor and later Old Brookville, Raposo was the first student of guitar teacher Marie O'Connell of Little Neck. She would book gigs and take Greg to perform at kids' birthday parties, playing '50s rock and roll and Elvis tunes.

"Oh man, I've been like this since I was 3," Raposo says. "I love the attention. I had so much fun singing and playing my guitar for kids my own age."

When Greg was 9, Maryann Raposo, then working in her husband Octavio's real estate business, took him to WPLJ-FM's Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill, who were broadcasting live from Manhasset's Landmark Diner, a stop in their '90s "Diner Tours." Greg muscled his way toward Shannon and Pettengill and asked to play an Elvis song. They indulged him on the air, anointing him "The Elvis Kid," and he appeared on WPLJ regularly for three years, singing and playing guitar.

He came in second in a "Star Search" national talent contest. In 1997 he was chosen, out of 400 kids, to perform at Graceland during the 20th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, embodying Elvis as a child. Raposo gained wider exposure in between, shooting commercials for Frosted Flakes and Crest, among others.

A mom to a talent manager

The road to stardom wasn't always smooth. Maryann Raposo, hardly a stage mom, did what she says any mother of a talented child does: "You do whatever it takes to help him reach his dream but keep his feet on the ground."

She focused on Greg's career, but was not his manager. She learned the business and put it to good use for herself. In 2008 she opened Dream Maker Talent Management (dreammakertalent.com), in Glen Head, representing children and adults. "When I first meet with parents, it's a certain type of personality that comes out within that child," she says. "It can't come from the parent. I can tell right away if there's that certain spark, that hunger."

Raposo currently represents Nikki Blonsky of Great Neck, who won critical praise as Tracy Turnblad in the movie "Hairspray."

"People don't realize that it's a lot of hard work for the child and their families," Raposo says. "It takes a toll on your marriage and the other children in the family. It requires incredible patience and juggling."

Life of a child star

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As a child star, attending school during the day and rehearsing in the evenings felt like two different worlds, Raposo says.

It's not unlike his life now; by day he's in real estate showing apartments throughout Queens and pursuing a liberal arts degree at Manhattan's New School, and by night, he performs with Dead Celebrities on the New York circuit, including Long Island's Crazy Donkey and the Jones Beach Theater.

Manager Joseph Farriella, who has worked with Snoop Dogg, 311 and The Ataris, says, "I haven't met a band like Dead Celebrities that's caught my interest in a very long time. They have what it takes to go all the way."

Raposo remembers his school days.

"When I was in Dream Street, I was going to North Shore High School - a public school. No one kind of wanted to deal with me, except the girls," Raposo says, laughing. "It wasn't much different than another kid playing soccer or baseball on travel teams. I had this fun after-school thing to do later in the day. We had a ball."

Raposo remains friendly with bandmates from Dream Street but adds, "Being in a boy band really wasn't very different from working at CVS. They told you where to stand, what to wear, how to sing. I have always written my own music, but not in Dream Street."

Learning a lot about the business early, Raposo says he finds happiness today playing his own music. "It's how I define myself as a person. Writing with other co-writers brings different elements to it. Music is freedom, to be who you want to be and to be able to express that."

He pauses and then adds, "For people on 'American Idol,' or any kids with aspirations to be in the music business, it has to be a passion, because it's something you absolutely have to do and you love it. You can't do it for any other reason."

At Webster Hall, Raposo ends the show by promising the crowd, "We're just getting started. This is only the beginning."

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