Backstage with Ron Onesti:

Yes, I’m looking more like a rock star every day

Yeah, this really happened.

If you have ever been to The Arcada, you know I try my best to welcome our guests at the front door. I love doing that for a few reasons. First, I sincerely appreciate those who come to patronize my establishment. Our customers could easily spend their hard-earned entertainment dollar at any one of hundreds of options in the Chicago area. So when I see them, I welcome them with a smile, a “thank you” and more often than not, a warm hug.

Secondly, I am truly a fan of the music! I trade stories with other fans, sing the songs out loud and sway back and forth to the music in the front row with the rest of the other cult followers. So I get the excitement of our guests who enter the building, just wanting to be a part of all of it, or as much of it as we will let them!

For example, it was the day of the Neil Sedaka concert at The Arcada. I was very excited to welcome this pop icon to the theater, just imagining what his all-hits show was going to entail. To think about the numerous hits he has written and performed both for himself and for countless others, well, it is truly amazing.

I was once again standing at the front door, feet planted firmly in anticipation of an evening of hugs and loud renditions of “Laughter In The Rain” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”

Now, as I am getting up there in years, and my hairline seems to be sliding farther and farther back into oblivion, I guess I am beginning to take on the “look” of those rock stars of yesteryear. But even so, I still did not see coming what was about to happen.

This lady walks up to me and coyly addresses me, with her hand somewhat embarrassingly covering her lips. She was probably fifty-something, dressed in a form of a poodle skirt, definitely a throwback to rock ‘n’ roll’s roots.

“I have been looking forward to this for 30 years,” she said to me. “What you have done for me, well, you just could never know. I have heard so much about your shows, but just could never afford to go.”

I said: “That is so kind of you to say, but any time you have a bit of a financial challenge, please let me know. I always have room for a music fan.”

“Wow, you are even nicer in person,” she said. I went back and forth with her about how many shows I do a year, and how I am a fan like her, and truly love the music also. She went on about her dream of meeting me and even went as far as to ask for my autograph and a photograph with her.

I was totally taken aback by her kindness. I couldn’t believe her excitement. After all, I just produce shows; it’s the hitmakers who deserve this kind of adoration.

“I will remember this night forever. Thank you for being so nice. You are everything I thought you would be!” she said. “Mr. Sedaka, can I give you a hug?”

Now it all made sense. She thought I was Neil Sedaka! Really? He is 78 years old! Talk about a bad day!

So I gave her the hug anyway. But at the risk of ruining her dreams, I remembered that she would eventually find out I was an impostor later when Sedaka took the stage.

“My dear, I have bad news for you. I misunderstood that you thought I was Neil Sedaka. I am NOT him. He is 78 years old!”

“Oh my goodness, I am so sorry!” she said. “Then who are you?”

“I’m here for the show, I’m Paul Anka,” I said to her with a serious look on my face.

She nearly passed out. And I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was kidding.

Yeah, that happened.

Paul Anka returns to the Arcada Theatre Sept. 7 and 8, and Neil Sedaka returns to The Arcada Oct. 19. For great seats, visit or call (630) 962-7000.

• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email