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‘AGT’ season finale: LI's Sal Valentinetti places 5th, Grace VanderWaal wins

At a viewing party for Sal Valentinetti, 21, of Bethpage during the finals of "America's Got Talent" on Wednesday night, Sept. 14, 2016, the singer’s fans gathered at Da-Angelo Pizzeria & Ristorante in Albertson to watch the talent show and to cheer him on. Credit: Johnny Milano

Sal Valentinetti — the “Voice” of Bethpage who won over Long Island if not quite the rest of the viewing nation — fell a bit short in his quest to win “America’s Got Talent” Wednesday.

While arguably that viewing nation’s loss — not his — Valentinetti did get close. The 21-year-old singer made it to the top five, but did not crack the top four.

Coming in fourth place was singer Brian Crum, followed by football player-turned-magician Jon Dorenbos.

Finally, it came down to performance duo The Clairvoyants and Suffern’s ukulele-playing singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal. The 12-year-old VanderWaal won the whole thing.

But Back to Valentinetti: He was gracious and characteristically — well, Sal — in his farewell: “This is not the end,” he said — after first calling “AGT” “the greatest show on planet Earth.”

“This is the first day of the rest of my life.”

Valentinetti began this run three months ago and it was immediately apparent this was not going to be your average “AGT” run:

“I’m Sal Valentinetti and I’m from Lawn Guyland New York,” he proclaimed loudly and proudly during his spring audition. “I deliver pizzas for my cousin’s place.” (Da Angelo’s, in Albertson).

And with that, Valentinetti won over Lawn Guyland and a lot of other places too. He was the real deal and also an old soul — Simon Cowell’s initial observation — in a world of music competition shows stuffed to overflowing with new souls. At his audition, he gave shout outs to his mother, extended family — cousin Tommie, also memorable — and a cherished and recently deceased grandmother who drew him to the standards.

“I’m gonna entertain you like you’ve never been entertained before” he promised the judges. “I didn’t come here to try out. I came here to WIN.”

He also apparently came to meet Heidi Klum. He immediately accomplished that goal.

(Klum, also a fan from the beginning, said after his cover of “Mack the Knife” Tuesday: “You are a star . . . I just love you.”)

Beside stage presence, charisma, and comeback lines, Valentinetti also had — and has — a fine voice. In June after the ride began, he posted a Youtube video calling for requests from the great American Songbook: “What is your favorite Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, Jerry Vale, Vic Damone, Mel Tormé, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney . . . any of that era. I wanna hear your favorite song.” Chances were good they were his favorite song, too.

As Newsday’s Glenn Gamboa reported last year, Valentinetti also sang during the open-call Nassau Coliseum auditions in July, 2015, for the final season of “American Idol,” performing the Sinatra standard, “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Gamboa explained what happened next:

“ ‘I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you can tell me the real name of that song,’ judge Harry Connick Jr. challenges him . . . When Valentinetti, who performs songs from Sinatra and Tony Bennett regularly at Vetro in Howard Beach and J. Michaels Tuscan Steakhouse in Oyster Bay, correctly answers ‘In Other Words,’ Connick pays him the money.”


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