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Engelbert Humperdinck returns to Westbury

Pass the hankie -- Engelbert Humperdinck turns 75 Monday. But the sexy, side-burned "Release Me" singer won't be crying. When he plays NYCB Theatre at Westbury Friday night, he'll be handing out handkerchiefs to fans the way he has for the past four decades.

But touring won't be the only way the pop legend will be marking his birthday -- he's got a new CD coming out featuring some pretty fresh duets.

People really love to get the handkerchiefs, huh?

Oh ya, they fight over them. When I throw them to the audience, sometimes there are major struggles to get them. People sometimes fall down and wrestle for them. It's funny to watch.

Why did you cancel your Westbury show last year?

I had walking pneumonia, and it just took my voice away. It took a good six weeks , but I am all better now and I'm ready to work.

What's your funniest memory of playing Westbury?

In the past, there was always the fact that you had to go through the audience. Sometimes I would go up pretty much dressed, but coming off they used to rip shirts off me.

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They don't do that anymore?

I'm pretty much secured now with people on either side going up the aisle. They keep hands away from the clothes.

What can fans expect this year?

I'm doing a brand-new album, which is coming out this year. There are people who are writing songs for me of a great caliber -- people like Paul McCartney, Bryan Adams, Yusuf Islam [Cat Stevens], Elton John. I also believe Amy Winehouse has written a song for me. I'll be doing a duet with her . . . and Adele.

Late last year, a meningitis awareness campaign turned "Release Me" into "Please, Retweet Me." Were you glad you let them do it?

Of course I am. They called and asked my permission.

Do you like to use social media?

No . . . It's used by my publicity company.

To what do you attribute your longevity?

I think it's hard work and making sure you give your audience something fresh every year. I tend to revamp my show every year . . . and my sense of humor.

Is it true that Elvis Presley stole the sideburns-and-jumpsuit look from you?

Not the jumpsuit. I was the first one to bring sideburns into the United States. And it became my trademark. Then, of course, after I did it Elvis started and the Beatles and everyone went sideburns crazy . . . When Elvis was around, he said, "If it looks good on you, it looks good on me."

I read that you've gone blond. Are you still blond?

I'm nearly. I've gone lighter. I don't think I should keep my hair jet black because it's not feasible. I was gray when I was 20. I've been dying my hair since my mid-20s. I'm trying to get back to my roots.

Do you still feel like a sex symbol?

Well, that's what they still quote me as and I don't think I've changed much over the years. I still do the same sort of actions on stage as when I started.

Do fans still throw underwear at you on stage?

Occasionally. . . . Maybe underwear is getting too expensive.

You're an "American Idol" fan. What did you think of Pia Toscano being voted off?

I was upset. I think she was probably one of the best singers on the show, technically. She needed some instruction on movement and technique as far as portraying her song on stage. You not only have to sing your song, you have to sell it with your eyes and your body language. You learn how to do that. I started in small clubs and working around. I just didn't go on a major TV show and be discovered. It's something that took time and effort. It's sort of an apprenticeship. I went through all that in order to gain experience to keep an audience interested in my performance. Singing one song is easy. Try to do it for an hour an a half to two hours.

Is it OK to become an overnight sensation?

I think it's too easy to get famous these days. If you've got the talent, you will succeed. But a lot of them who do these sorts of things don't last very long because of lack of experience. The media does give you a chance to be discovered very quickly.

What is your favorite nickname?

You can call me "Eng." You can call me "Bert." But don't call me "Dinky."


WHAT Engelbert Humperdinck

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury

INFO $37.50-$61.50; tickets from his canceled show last year will be honored; 800-745-3000, livenation.com

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