George Tortorelli returns to CNY May 17 to recall his work as boxer and bandleader

— In the 1950s, George Tortorelli was a professional boxer trained by Syracuse’s renowned light heavyweight Ralph DeJohn. In the early-60s, George quit prizefighting to work as a professional musician, although he continued teaching the sport and boxing in exhibitions.

To document his dual pursuits, Tortorelli, the 80-year-old former Syracusan who has lived in Miami, Fla., for four decades, is now writing a book aptly titled “From Scars to Stars: From the Ring to the Stage.”

Before he adds author to his list of accomplishments, however, Tortorelli will return to his old stomping grounds from the Sunshine State from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 17, for a dinner-dance and show at the Goodtime Banquet Hall, 526 Teall Ave., in Syracuse; $15 includes a buffet dinner served at 6 p.m.; 385-7073.

The May 17 event will focus on both of Tortorelli’s primary pursuits.

“First we’ll show some fight films featuring great local boxers like Mike and Joey DeJohn, Carmen Basilio and Nick Barone,” he said. “Then the entertainers take over.”

The Tommy Rozzano and the State Street Band will headline and vocalists Danielle Rausa and Tom Tortorelli will be featured. George, who has a great gift of gab, will act as master of ceremonies.

In his younger days, Tortorelli excelled at both punching and playing.

As a prizefighter, Tortorelli compiled an impressive record of 48 wins and four losses, good enough to become 1958’s Central and Western New York Golden Gloves Middleweight Champ.

And as a bandleader, using the stage name George Orelli, he worked at all of Central New York’s top nightclubs, from Andre’s Tic Toc Club to Lorenzo’s to Three Rivers Inn where he accompanied touring stars such as Louis Armstrong, Betty Hutton, Jimmy Durante and Connie Francis.

One of his favorite places to play in the early-60s was Three Saints, at 105 First St., in Liverpool. “George Schreiner ran that club and brought in top-flight entertainers,” Tortorelli remembered. “George is still living out on the West Coast.” Orelli and his lovely wife, Rosalinda, were featured at Three Saints were featured there nightly with a combo including Ted Losito, Howard Dunning, Ed Goodness and Pete Buttaro.

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