TV turned North Babylon boy Peter Lemongello into an overnight heartthrob in the 1970s. The so-called King of Mood Rock became a household name when he used the tube to sell his "Love '76" album on vinyl and eight-track tape. Lemongello says he sold more than 1 million copies as a result of the narrated, soft-focus infomercials.
And then everything went wrong: He filed for bankruptcy in 1979; served probation after pleading no contest to arson, bribery, vandalism, insurance fraud and attempted bribery charges; spent 17 months in prison for mortgage fraud; almost died from a pill overdose; and was robbed and kidnapped.
Despite all that, the 63-year-old Florida resident says he is happier than ever as he prepares for his hometown comeback at the Theatre at Westbury.
How he has worked through his troubles:
Maybe it's because of music and because I'm grateful to be able to do it. I don't know if I was always grateful, but I am now and I have been for quite a while.
On his connection to his fans:
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One of them is my wife. We lived on the same street in Islip. Her parents always came to my shows, and occasionally I would come to their house. She was 12 when I was 29. Then when the "Love '76" thing happened, Karen became a fan. . . . Now, when I came over to the house, she would stare at me through the walls. They moved to Florida in 1977, and I kept in touch with her twin brother. In 1993 . . . I called him and said maybe we can have lunch. . . . Karen was there, and now she was 28 . . . We got married three months later. We've been ecstatically happy ever since.
On what he told his 10-year-old son when he asked why his ads were a success:
They didn't have a remote control.
On his funniest memory playing Westbury:
I found myself spinning around a lot. Then it dawned on me that the stage was spinning. I had to stop for a while. I got dizzy.
On how he once said, "I'm singing for people who work hard every day and who have aggravation and mortgages and whose love lives aren't that great," and who he sings for now:
I sing for lovers. . . . Almost everything I do is a love song, either unrequited or celebrated. I am really happy, and I want everyone else to be happy.
WHO Peter Lemongello
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday at the Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd.
INFO $49 and $59; 877-598-8694, livenation.com