Don’t you love the Internet? Singer Elisa Fiorillo does…most of the time. Her hit videos from the 80’s are on YouTube, and the website she personally maintains is full of past and present highlights. But comments about her are there, too.
“I remember thinking Elisa was hot enough to melt glass,” said one.
And from another: “I hear she gained a few pounds.”
Whoa….that last comment wasn’t nice. But what DID happen to Elisa Fiorillo?
She lives in Henderson, NV. She is married with a three-year-old daughter. She sings regularly in Las Vegas. And she’s still hot, fellas, though reed-thin she isn’t. And did we mention, she’s singing with Prince?
Talk to Fiorillo and the words come tumbling out. She’s bubbly and candid. “I started singing at 6, never took formal singing lessons, but by age 16 had a record deal. I won Star Search in 1985, had tours and TV appearances and even made an album co-produced by Prince.”
Fiorillo has a broad singing range, is proud of her enunciation and loves singing Broadway tunes and anything by Barbra Streisand. However, as a teenager she was packaged in the Madonna pop mold. “I probably didn’t appreciate how lucky I was in terms of being able to have success and travel the world,” she says now, “but the experience was not always positive. I hated flying and we did a lot of that. Also, the record people would insist on me making an appearance, then going back to the hotel. ‘Don’t mingle,’ they said. ‘Maintain the mystery.’ I remember calling my Dad and telling him how lonely it was on the road.”
Years passed; the jobs dwindled and after 12 years, the record deals ended. Fiorillo could sing, but she was no longer the next big thing. She needed a steady job. Hired as a hair salon receptionist, she learned to operate a computer and enter the real world. “I couldn’t believe how some people would talk to me in the salon,” she says with a grin. “Didn’t they know I had been on American Bandstand?”
But time away from the limelight had its benefits. She could have fun and friends, mingle, learn to cook, fall in love with a handsome bartender, get married, write “her” kind of music, sing occasionally and plan her future.
Along the way, Fiorillo and her husband, Michael Dease, moved from Los Angeles to Henderson, NV. Fiorillo’s mother lived in Las Vegas – a built-in babysitter for a future family, yes? Dease could find work (as he did, at Wynn Las Vegas). And a sagging singing career could be revitalized….maybe. Sadly, Fiorillo’s mother died two-and-a-half years ago, when the Deases’ new baby, Olivia, was just six months old.
So what about the singing? Singing is what Fiorillo loves, “what I need to do for myself,” she explains. “I had hoped to sing jazz in a Las Vegas lounge,” she says, “but there are very few lounges left. I also maintained some of my baby weight. I remember one Las Vegas agent looking me up and down and basically telling me I had no future…no matter how I sounded.”
A musician friend invited Fiorillo to sing at the private Stirling Club lounge in Turnberry Place. A second appearance did the trick, with Entertainment Director Kelly Clinton loving the voice and taking Fiorillo under her wing, arranging showcase appearances and asking her to become a Saturday night regular entertainer at the club.
Fiorillo also worked at the daycare center where her daughter was enrolled. One day last year, she was helping out in the kitchen, counting portions of chicken nuggets, when her cell phone rang.
An assistant to singer/writer/musician Prince said Prince wanted to talk with Fiorillo. A half hour later, with Fiorillo seeking privacy in the daycare washroom, Prince was on the line. She knew the voice because 20 years earlier, she had met Prince at his recording studio. He had taken an interest in her singing and co-produced her second album, but they’d lost contact. The words she heard couldn’t have been more welcome. “I’ve always thought of you as a talented singer and I’d like to work with you,” he said. Yes, she was available. No she wasn’t under contract. Wow. He remembered. Wow. He said he’d get in touch.
Seven months went by. Fiorillo began to think she’d been punk’d. But the call finally came. Fiorillo was invited to go to Los Angeles where she showed she could still sing and learn quickly. Days later, she was one of three back-up singers for Prince on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “Good job; we’ll be in touch.”
Several more months passed during which Fiorillo saw to it that much of that baby fat disappeared. In October, she was then called for rehearsals in Minneapolis at Prince’s studio. Husband Michael and a good friend looked after daughter Olivia during the absences. “And Thank God for my IPhone and Skype,” says Fiorillo. “Olivia and I talked every night.”
During rehearsals in Minneapolis, Fiorillo, the quick learner, learned 75 songs. She returned home, but within weeks, left Las Vegas again. This time, Prince, the band and the girls flew to Europe, performing three surprise concerts to large audiences in Paris, France. They also returned to Minneapolis for a fourth concert.
Earlier this month, Fiorillo returned to Prince’s Paisley Park Studios for several recording sessions. “Prince is a brilliant musician, writer and producer, and he’s never sounded better,” she says. “I count my blessings.”
So whatever happened to Elisa Fiorillo? She’s a wife and mother, and she’s singing in Las Vegas. When the phone rings, she may also fly off to sing backup…for a legend who remembered.