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Fabian Forte Exposed

We’ve been swamped with a ton of mail these past few weeks—all about Fabian—all asking the very same questions about him.

“Why does Fabian go by just one name?” you’ve asked.

“Does Fabian have a last name?”

“Come on—what is his last name?”

To answer the first question first: Fabian—the fastest-rising young singer to hit the spotlight since Elvis—goes by one name because his managers thought it would serve as a good publicity gimmick. And it has, so far.

To answer your second and third questions:

Yes, Fabian does have a last name.



The name is Forte.

How did we find out?

We went down to Philadelphia, Fabian’s home town, and asked around.

That, frankly, was the sole purpose of our trip—to find out his name and be able to answer our mail.

But while in Philadelphia we learned more about Fabian, lots more. In fact, because the build-up that has accompanied his rise has been purposely mysterious (again. that publicity gimmick), we learned facts about his life that have never before been printed.

Up till now all the information on Fabian given out to newspapers and magazines throughout the country, has been the same:

He is sixteen years old. He attends high school. He does not date steady. His favorite color is turquoise. While he admittedly couldn’t sing a note a year ago, he has since studied hard and is now on his way to the top.

Period!






That’s all there was . . .

Pretty flimsy stuff, yes—but everybody printed it. Because the boy was hot, became hotter, and people wanted to know anything about him.

It was inevitable that one day the full, true story of the boy’s life would be printed.

All that was needed were the facts.

Well, we’ve got ’em. All the facts.

And so here—for the first time—is the complete, never-before-told story of Fabian Forte. . . .

He has lived all his life in a small brick house near the corner of South 11 and Shunk streets, in the heart of South Philadelphia’s crowded Italian neighborhood.

As a boy, Fabian learned the first rule of the neighborhood: Know how to use your fists—a rule that was to come in handy later in his life.

“Even when he was a little boy he was good with his hands, very fast,” says Louis Fiovaranti, a buddy of Fabian’s. “He never went looking for any trouble, like some of the kids. But if any trouble came his way, he wasn’t going to just stand there and take it. Not Fabe.”






Too young but determined

Fabian himself, however, had other ideas about the future—as he proved that day when he was twelve years old; when he walked into the Bellevue Pharmacy—a few steps from his house—and up to Robert Grobman, the pharmacist and owner.

“Can I work for you, Mr. Grobman?” he asked. “I hear one of your boys has left you, and you need another boy.”

“That’s true, Fabian,” Mr. Grobman said, “—but you’re a little young. I mean, this is hard work you’ll have to do here.”

“So?” the boy said, showing a muscle.

“I know—you’re strong. But you’ll have to run errands, help mop and sweep the floor, clean windows—all that,” Mr. Grobman explained.

“So?” the boy said again.



“And you won’t have too much time to play with your pals anymore and—you really want the job, Fabian?”

“Yes,” the boy said.

“Why?” Mr. Grobman asked.

“Well, I been thinking about what I want to be when I get big,” the boy said. “Sometimes I think maybe I want to become a big engineer. Then sometimes I think maybe I want to become a doctor—or a big drugstore man like you, Mr. Grobman. If I work here, I can at least get practice for that.”

“You’ve got a good spirit, Fabian. And you’ve got the job,” Mr. Grobman said. “You start Monday. At four dollars a week.”

The boy began to laugh. “Wow!” he said.

“Wow what?” Mr. Grobman asked.

“I forgot you get paid for working, too,” the boy said, still laughing, and rushing out of the store to tell his folks the good news.






What Fabian wanted out of life

At about the same time Fabian began working at the Bellevue Pharmacy, he entered George C. Thomas Junior High School—the same school Eddie Fisher, another local boy, had attended some fifteen years earlier.

Eddie was, of course, already a top entertainment figure, and the pride of Thomas.

Nobody at the school ever dreamed that Fabian would begin to follow in his footsteps in just a few short years.

“Tots of boys were jealous of Fabian when he was here at Thomas,” one teacher recalls. “For lots of reasons. And we all heard about the fights he was forever getting into.”

She specifically recalls the day she passed Fabian in the corridor, his right eye half closed and discolored—his face battered.

“Where’d you get it, Fabian?” the teacher asked.



“The shiner?” he asked back. He smiled. “Gee, I was home last night, in my room, and it was dark and there was this door and—”

The teacher nodded. “And you walked into it?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Fabian said. “That’s right.”

“Come on,” the teacher said, “—the truth.”

“Honest,” Fabian said, not looking her straight in the eye. “Honest”—and he walked away.

A little while later the teacher heard another version of the story—this time from a girl student who was helping her mark some papers.

“Did you see Fabian Forte’s eye today?” the girl asked. “Really, some of the hoodlums in this school are too much.”

“What did happen?” the teacher asked.






Forecast of things to come

“Well,” the girl said, taking a deep breath, “a couple of days ago Fabian caught one of these bullies in the boys’ room beating up a poor little kid, half the size of him. Fabian broke it up and told the bully to lay off. In fact, he pushed him right out of the boys’ room. So after school yesterday the bully showed up with a friend, near that empty garage on Johnson Street, to teach Fabian a lesson. They grabbed him while he was walking by, pulled him into the garage and began to beat him up. But Fabian ended up flattening them both, like two pancakes.” She began to giggle. “You should see them today!”

“Oh, that Fabian,” she went on, coming out with a sigh that was soon to be repeated by millions of girls throughout the country. “Ohhhhhhhhhh. . . .”



Fabian had just been graduated from Thomas Junior High and entered South Philadelphia High School when two events that were to change the course of his life took place.

The first was his father’s illness.

The other was his chance meeting with a man named Bob Marcucci.

Both events took place on the same day.

On the morning of that day, Fabian’s father suffered a heart attack. The Fortes, panic-stricken, phoned for an ambulance. Within a few minutes the ambulance arrived, Mr. Forte was placed on a stretcher and—Mrs. Forte accompanying him—was gone. Fabian stayed around the house to watch after his two young brothers and to wait for word from the hospital.

It was while he was waiting—sitting on the concrete stoop outside the house—that Mr. Marcucci saw him.






Why Fabian did it

What has never been printed, however, is Fabian’s real reason for making his decision to become a singer.

“The reason,” a friend says, “is that his father was sick and Fabian was worried about this. Also, at this same time, his brother Bobby became sick—something wrong with his spine—and the boy had to have a lot of special care. There were lots of hospital and doctor bills to pay. The Fortes weren’t poor—but a cop doesn’t make $50,000 a year, either. So Fabian thought that maybe if he got into this singing business and made some money doing it, the family would never have to worry.”

Always a religious boy, he went to his church and had a talk with his priest.



“Those who have faith,” the priest told him, “can do the impossible.”

Fortunately, Mr. Forte made a rapid recovery and Bobby’s case was not as serious as was first believed and the bill-paying went smoothly, without Fabian having to help at all.

But time had passed by now and the boy was already on his way into that big new life that was spreading out before him.

Before long, Fabian cut his first two records.

They were titled I’m In Love and Lilly Lou.

They were not very good, and they were not successful.

But most of the people around the boy, who knew him and liked him, were proud. “He’s really improving,” they said. “Nat much of a voice yet, but you should have heard what it was. . . Anyway, lots of girls are beginning to write in to him and he’s got a couple of fan clubs and it really looks like he’s going to make it.”



However, a few people close to Fabian were worried.

One of them, a teacher at Thomas Junior High, phoned him one day.

For a few minutes they exchanged greetings, talked about the old days, about this and that.

Then the teacher asked: “Fabian, how are things going in high school?”

“Fine,” Fabian said.

“You managing to keep up with your studies?” the teacher asked.

“Oh sure,” Fabian said. “I’m going to be moving around a lot now, going on tours and everything, week ends mostly. But I had a talk with the people at school and they said that as long as I kept up with my work, it was all right with them.”

The teacher paused for a moment.






If you really like it . . .”

“Fabian,” she said, “do you remember that talk you had with me a few years ago, when you told me what you really wanted to do in life when you got older—how you would go to high school and then to college and become a big man in one of the professions someday?”

“Yes, I remember,” Fabian said.

“Well, I think what you’re doing now is fine . . . if you really like it—” the teacher said.

“Oh, I like it,” Fabian interrupted.

“Yes,” the teacher said. “But remember, you’re only at the beginning of something now. I don’t know much about the entertainment field—except that it’s tough and that there’s a lot of disappointment involved. People rise and fall, much more quickly than in any other field. So be the smart boy you’ve always been and remember that. And, remembering it, keep up with your studies and graduate and go on to college and have something to fall back on—just in case. . . Do you understand what I mean?”



“Yes,” Fabian said slowly.

And you promise me you’ll keep up with your studies?” the teacher asked.

“I promise,” Fabian said. “I know what you mean, and I promise. . . .”

Half a year had passed now since that phone call.

But in that time Fabian had zoomed from the just-another-kid-singer category to the threshold of stardom.

What did it were two hit records—I’m a Man and Turn Me Loose, a couple of appearances on the Dick Clark show and then, finally, a coveted five-minute spot on the Perry Como show.

Half a year—and Fabian stood on the threshold, a short step away from the future and the fame it might well bring him.



But, inevitably, the voices of doom began to chant that Fabian was only a flash in the pan, that he wouldn’t last.

“For a kid who still can’t really sing yet, who still needs all kinds of polish and training—it’s impossible,” said one man.

“It can’t be done. The boy’s trying hard, but it can’t be done,” said another.

“He’s one of those freak things that comes along once in a while, maybe lasts, maybe doesn’t. In this case, like in most such cases, I’d think you could underline doesn’t,” said still another.

Was Fabian bothered?

For a while, yes.






Things got tougher

The criticism made him uncomfortable, uncertain.

At the same time, he realized that his school work was beginning to slip. It was becoming tougher and tougher to find time for homework, to keep up his good grades. His last mark in American History—for one—had been a “D.”

And so, for a while, Fabian was bothered. . . .

One night—walking home from a long rehearsal session—he passed his church and went inside.

The church was empty, nearly dark.

Fabian walked down the long aisle and kneeled before the altar.

He began to pray.



“Help me be strong,” he whispered. “Help me make good. Help me do well with my career and my studies. . . . Help me make my family proud, and all the people who’ve helped me, and all the people who’ve thought I’m worth anything at all . . . I know I’m asking a big favor. But can You help me, God? Can You help me . . . ?”

A little while later; Fabian left the church and went home.

“Where’ve you been?” his mother asked, as he walked into the house. “I expected you half an hour ago.”

“I stopped to talk to a Friend.”

“Who?” his mother asked, casually.

“Oh . . . a Friend,” Fabian said. “I had something to ask Him.”



“And did he answer you?” his mother asked. Fabian smiled.

“Not exactly,” he said. “But—I got to thinking, Ma. This Friend of mine. He doesn’t answer things very quickly sometimes. But He’s never let me down yet. And I figure that if I keep working with Him, for Him, harder than I’ve ever worked before—He’ll never let me down, ever.”

His mother watched her son, confused, as he walked into his room to hang up his jacket.

Then, shrugging, she muttered, “Well, any friend of his is a friend of ours”—and went into the kitchen to prepare his supper.

THE END

 

It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JULY 1959