I am so happy to welcome my friend Val, Charles Valentine to the show this week. We have been friends for many years after my cousin, Johnny Kris Johnson introduced us in LA. After knowing Val for about 5 years I received a call from him, requesting help when he learned his beloved Mom Margarita Promponas, was having memory issues and cognitive loss. Val returned to his native New York City to care for her, and has remained by her side for years. Today we had a lovely chat about Val’s childhood, Margarita’s career, and Val’s career and how it changed when he decided to put his work on hold and return to Manhattan. Val speaks with so much love about his mom and her Alzheimer’s. He has used many techniques to learn her new style of communication. He has figured out her many nuances of smiles, the look in her eyes , and things she says to help him understand her needs. Even as her Alzheimer’s has progressed, she still loves to sing and dance.
Throughout her life, Margarita was a singer and dancer who toured the country in her younger years. She was also extremely proud of her Native American heritage. Her son soon followed in her footsteps. Charles Valentino attended classes at the New York School of Ballet and the American Ballet Theater while a student at the High School of Performing Arts and he danced with the Harkness Ballet, the work was choreographed by Geoffrey Holder. He made his acting debut in The Me Nobody Knows, – played HUD in the Australian production of HAIR, and returned to the states for the national tour of the show. He had a hit single “I was born this way,” on Gaiee Records, released by Motown. In Bill Turner’s version of the Ziegfeld Follies Valentino portrayed the legendary Bert Williams. He also appeared on Komedy Tonight, an NBC-TV special. He was the scarecrow in the national touring company of the WIZ as well as the 84 revival on Broadway with Stephanie Mills. Most recently he acted on CSI Vegas.
His more recent work was with his close friend Joni Mitchell. He is featured on her special Painting with Words and Music. He was also featured in her video Come in from the cold, He sang on Ladies Man, from the album Wild Things Run Fast, and Yvette in English from the album Turbulent Indigo.
We spoke about how Val stays healthy as a caregiver and what he does for fun. His LA family is still close to his heart. He shares information about his deep love for friends Joni Mitchell and Anjelica Huston with whom he has sang and danced with so many times over the years. Angelica Huston writes in her book, Watch Me: “He twirls me around as if I were a silk scarf. I never set down unless he was dancing with his other favorite girl Joni Mitchell.”
His LA family includes my cousin Johnny Kris, who Val calls his brother by another mother and Shell Burton. They have had a deep friendship for over 40 years. Val credits his family and friends for keeping him motivated, while caring for his mom. No matter who you are or how bright the lights shine on you, Alzheimer’s can find you anywhere. I thank my friend for being on the show and lovingly sharing their story.