The Great Pretender
They are the founders of Sha Na Na, and stars of the '70s television show with the same name.
"We got very big. We built ourselves up into headliners," says Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, Sha Na Na's most memorable greaser. "The Bowzer character was that kind of greasy, but intensely vulnerable character that really did exist in the '60s and in the '50s."
Bowzer and the others are now in their 50s, and their music still lives on. Sha Na Na sold millions of records, but it never had a hit of its own. The group would interpret the hits of others, and in a sense, they were the great pretenders.
But it was all good, clean fun, until one day, a greaser with a great voice showed up on the scene and managed to fool a lot of people. He was not only a great pretender, but a great imposter as well. Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports.
In Florida, doo-wop bands have always been a hit in bars and clubs along the beach. That's where Tommy Mara's group, The Saints, and Joe Locicero's group, The Mello Kings, became two of Florida's top local groups.
Both men remember being thrilled that living legend and former Sha Na Na singer Vinny Taylor had moved to town.
"You know, he had the talk," says Mara. "He talked the talk and he walked the walk."
The former bad boy of Sha Na Na said he had a new stage name: Danny C. And he even had his own Web site, where fans could log on and see all the rock 'n' roll legends he performed with over his career.
Locicero and Mara couldn't believe their luck when Danny C asked their groups to back him up on stage.
"We featured Tommy and The Saints, and then we featured Danny C from Sha Na Na," says Mara. "Sold it out."
For Jessica Hart, Danny C wasn't just a famous singer. He was the man of her dreams. "I just felt safe with him," says Hart, who moved in with Danny C within months of meeting him. "Our relationship just flowed. It couldn't have been any better."
They found their dream home on the waterfront, and Danny C released a new video. But eventually, Hart started noticing things.
"We would be in bed at night and he would just jump out of bed and run to the window," recalls Hart. "He never wanted people coming into our apartment, and he would tell me a lot of times, 'Whatever you do, just don't bring up the Sha Na Na thing.'"
"He was a little paranoid about little certain things. If I would talk to somebody, he would ask me, 'What'd that guy say,'" recalls Locicero, who began to sense something was very wrong. "And then, I had some people come over to me at some show saying that he wasn't, you know, the right guy. … He's a phony, that's what they told me."
Mara says he had a similar experience: "The owner of the Show Palace came up to me and said, 'We got a problem. There's people here that are saying Danny C's a phony.' I says, 'What, that can't be.' I mean, he says he's Danny C. He's got the jewelry."
It was then when Locicero decided to do some checking. "I called up Sha Na Na," says Locicero. "I talked to Scott, and he told me, 'He was not a former member of Sha Na Na. We don't know this guy. This guy's a fraud. End of story.'"
Screamin' Scott Simon told Locicero that Danny C couldn't be Vinny Taylor – because Taylor had died of a drug overdose in 1974. So Locicero says he confronted Danny C: "He told me he was Taylor, he was the legit Taylor. And that's when he sent me all the proof."
Danny C sent Locicero some documents – obviously phony -- that he said would prove he was Taylor, including a Social Security card, birth certificates, and a baptism certificate.
"He conned a lot of people. He conned people you would never think could be conned," says New Jersey State Police Det. Lou Kinkle.
The truth about Danny C is that for 27 years, he has been a wanted man and a fugitive.
"I want him back in prison or I want to know he's dead somewhere. That's it," says Kinkle. "That's the only thing that's going to satisfy me."
And the double life that Danny C was leading was about to catch up to him. Kinkle and his team were asked to find a murderer who escaped from prison 27 years ago. They were looking for a killer named Edward Solly, who was serving time for murdering his girlfriend's 2-year-old son Christopher Welsh.
Solly was caught and sentenced to 15-20 years in a New Jersey prison. Later, he was transferred to a minimum-security facility, where he was allowed to go on furloughs to visit his elderly mother. After his third visit, Solly disappeared and was never seen again – at least not under that name.
Only his mother knew that Solly had taken the new name Danny C, and she wouldn't tell the police where her son was. But after she died, police talked to her husband, Harry.
"He says, ''Look, all I know is that he's a singer, and he goes by the name Danny, Danny C,'" says Kinkle, who was about to get the break of a lifetime when a routine Web search pulled up Danny C's Web site.
And there he was. Edward Solly, the fugitive Kinkle had been looking for, staring him right in the face. So the authorities went to pick him up in Florida, and they found him fishing on a pier behind his apartment building.
What was that moment like? "Devastating," says Solly. "Devastating because my world that I knew now had totally exploded."
Solly says he never meant to kill the child, but police say this was no accident. "I never had any violence on my record," says Solly. "I'm not known as a violent person."
His arrest was front-page news in Florida. Solly will most likely be behind bars until 2010 – and he won't be able to con any music fans for a while.
But he stills seems to be working on one of the people he duped – his girlfriend, Jessica Hart. "I've got quite a few here," says Hart, with piles of letters from Solly. "They are all sealed with a kiss. We started writing the middle of August, and we renewed our relationship, and it's probably better than it's ever been."
Hart, who believes Solly is not guilty, decided to marry her true love. But the real members of Sha Na Na are far less forgiving.
"As much as one is tempted to find humor in this, when it turns out that, that the person in question is a murderer," says Sha Na Na member Bauman. "And not only that, the murderer of a child. The humor really ends."
Because of good behavior and time served, Edward Solly was granted parole and released last August. He will be on parole until 2011. He is no longer with Jessica Hart, and is reportedly living in a welfare motel in New Jersey.
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