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Stephen K. Peeples: Prima time on Hollywood Walk of Fame

All Access: Random notes from the SCV and beyond

Posted: July 29, 2010 12:55 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2010 6:05 a.m.

Trumpeter/bandleader Louis Prima Jr., singer Sarah Spiegel (behind him) and Lena Prima (center) head back to the stage after marching through the audience during "When the Saints Go Marching In" to close their performance Sunday after the unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honoring the Primas' father, Louis Prima.

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It was definitely Prima time in Tinseltown Sunday as the late swing legend and jump-jazz giant Louis Prima was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with his son, daughter, and two grandsons on hand for the dedication ceremony and a live performance that followed.

Prima's son, Louis Prima Jr., and daughter, Lena Prima, along with Prima Jr.'s sons Anthony, 12, and Jacob, 16, accepted the star on behalf of Prima Sr. and his widow, Gia Prima, who was unable to attend.

Joining them to witness the joyous occasion in front of the Ricardo Montalban Theater at 1617 Vine Street, just south of the storied intersection of Hollywood and Vine, were at least a couple hundred civilians and a few dozen video crews and snapparazzi representing the world press.

The dedication of Prima's star commemorates the 100th year since the singer, composer, trumpet player, bandleader, radio, film and Las Vegas superstar's birth (he died in his hometown of New Orleans in 1978, at age 67),

The Prima party also launched a day of "Walk the Walk" events staged to celebrate the Walk of Fame's 50th anniversary.

Half a century and 2,413 sidewalk star presentation ceremonies ago, the Walk was established to help attract tourism and rejuvenate Hollywood, a community within the city of Los Angeles.

It worked, of course, and the Walk is now iconic in its own right, a destination for entertainment fans who visit Southern California from around the world, and locals who love that it's in our own backyard, half an hour away from the Santa Clarita Valley.

Officiating the ceremony were Leron Gubler of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and L.A. City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge, who presented the family a proclamation designating the day as "Louis Prima Day" in Hollywood and L.A.

In their remarks from the podium, Prima Jr. and his sister were proud, jubilant, emotional and grateful for the recognition of their father and his musical legacy, and the fans gave them a warm reception.

To the few spectators who might have been unfamiliar with his dad's music, he said, "Listen to the ‘Casino' soundtrack - it's all Louis Prima!"

After the official star unveiling and customary photo frenzy, the trumpet-playing Prima Jr. and his eight-piece band of expert jump, jive ‘n' wailers, The Witnesses - featuring a zany horn section and drop-dead retro-gorgeous singer Sarah Spiegel - hopped on a compact stage set up in the theater's entryway.

Their half-hour set was pure homage to Prima Sr., as well as his singing partner Keely Smith, and their band, also called The Witnesses, highlighted by swinging versions of "Jump, Jive, an' Wail," "Angelina," "Buona Sera," "That Old Black Magic" and "Just a Gigolo."

Prima Jr.'s 12-year-old son Anthony Prima took a vocal turn during the latter, as Jr. had done with his dad at about the same age.

And to close the set, Lena Prima joined the band to belt a spirited "When the Saints Go Marching In" -- complete with a march through the audience on the sidewalk and street and back onto the stage for a wild finale.

This was an abbreviated version of their usual show - we missed "Sing, Sing, Sing," Prima's Grammy-honored swing national anthem - but you'd still think Vine Street had morphed into Bourbon Street for the duration.

A few minutes later, as the band cooled off inside the Montalban lobby, we caught up with Anthony, who confirmed he's joined his dad onstage to sing a bunch of times before this.

"That's what I want to do," he said.

And the cradle will swing, swing, swing.

A veteran music journalist, Peeples is also a Grammy-nominated record producer, an award-winning radio producer and editor of the award-winning Signal website. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily anyone else's, including The Signal's.

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