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Ask Matt ... about Perry Como's summers in Saluda

David O’Brien Perry Como shows off Perry Como records and other memorabilia. [MATT MATTESON/Hendersonville Lightning] David O’Brien Perry Como shows off Perry Como records and other memorabilia. [MATT MATTESON/Hendersonville Lightning]

Q. What is the Perry Como Christmas in Saluda all about? Are they still doing it?

It’s a good time with wine, eats, and music. “We’ve held the Perry Como open house for about four years now,” said David O’Brien, a volunteer and board member of Saluda Historic Depot and Museum. “It’s free and open to anyone,” he said. “The next event will be on Friday, December 16th at the Depot here on Main Street in Saluda.”
O’Brien gives credit for the Perry Como Christmas to Mark Ray who ran Dad’s Collectables next door to the Depot. “The first Christmas event was in 2019,” said Ray, who recently moved his shop to East Flat Rock. “We knew we had a winner when we had to turn people away.” Ray admitted he was always a fan growing up watching Perry Como’s TV shows. “The event is not really a fundraiser but more of a tribute to a famous entertainer who found a community that went out of their way to protect his privacy,” said Ray. “Last year’s event featured live music and when they finished with Ave Maria there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
There is very little Perry Como memorabilia at the Saluda Depot but the volunteers are eager to share stories about “the barber from Pittsburgh” who summered in his mountain retreat for almost two decades. “Perry liked the anonymity that Saluda offered,” said O’Brien. Como, who built his mountain top home in 1980, kept such a low profile that few of the townspeople recognized him. One of O’Brien’s favorite tales is about Lola who ran the town’s grocery store. Como learned that she had a birthday and gifted her with a happy birthday serenade. “That was beautiful,” said Lola who had no idea who the mystery crooner was. “You know, you ought to think of singing professionally,” she said.
Depot volunteer Bill Klippel personally remembered Como as a quiet guy who would often walk a mile from his home to the Saluda Post Office to get his mail – always sporting a floppy hat. “The locals knew never to call him by his real name,” said Klippel. “It was always – ‘hello Mr. C’.” Como and Saluda were a good match. “Perry was often known to help out a friend who owned a gas station on Main Street,” said Nancy Pew, a local Perry Como fan. “Customers never realized it was Perry pumping their gas and cleaning their windshields.”
O’Brien reeled off another Como story, this one about a Saluda restaurant guest who begged Como to stand and sing a song for everyone in the dining room. “I wish I could but my recording contract prohibits me from performing impromptu,” he replied.” Then Como broke into “Catch a Falling Star” as he took a circuitous route to the men’s room.
A full-size granite statue of native son Perry Como guards the entrance of the Canonsburg, PA police station yet no events are held there in his honor. There is no sign or marker in Saluda for the part-time resident except a simple gold plaque inscribed “Perry Como Table” mounted on a wall in Newman’s Restaurant at the Orchard Inn. “That was Perry and his Roselle’s favorite table,” said Inn owner Marianne Blazar who with her husband Marc bought the inn eight years ago. “He liked the table because they were shielded from other diners,” she said. The table offers an awesome mountain view.
Perry Como sold more than 100 million records and from 1944 to 1958 he charted 42 top ten hits. His music is still heard on our local airwaves. “We do a lot of Perry Como,” said Mark Warwick of WTZQ Radio. “Probably the two most requested songs are It’s a Good Day and Hot Diggity.” As a singer, entertainer, and TV personality, Como’s career spanned over 50 years. Some of his songs are legendary such as Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes, Magic Moments, It’s Impossible, and Juke Box Baby. Como died in 2001 at his home in Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida at the age of 88.

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