Ronnie Riccadonna wants to party like it’s 1989. And he wants you to do it, too. Chances are, you’re going to, and you’re gonna like it. Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Spring 2010 Youngstown Pulse By B.J. LISKO Youngstown Pulse Magazine Editor My first encounter with Ronnie Riccadonna was some seven years ago. At the time he was booking the then Sky Club in Masury. He was just looking to put on rock shows, and everything about his persona screamed it from the second I saw him. One look at Riccadonna, and you don’t forget him. He looks like he came straight out of a Motley Crue video, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Nikki Sixx. The band he fronts, Dizzy Whore, is a Sunset Strip throwback and an unabashed testament to five guys with the balls to do exactly what they want to do wherever they want to do it. Riccadonna is a rocker, through and through. And if you don’t like it, he doesn’t care. He’ll find people that do, and he’ll win them over along with all their friends. His persona is stories larger than his stature, and he’s one of the few people left that recognizes and understands the true idea of putting on not just rock shows, but full-blown, off-the-wall, freak show parties. Riccadonna is one of the few people that still gives a s*it. Case in point was he and his girlfriend’s recent “Heaven and Hell” bash out in Brookfield. What started as a little idea between the two turned into Riccadonna’s rock ‘n’ roll dream complete with snakes, sex toys, Jesus on stilts, Satan, a Playboy model and a sexy freak side-show by way of the Infusion Crew. Oh, and yes, there was rock. In straight up Alice Cooper and Crue fashion Riccadonna came to the stage in a coffin presided over by stilt-Jesus and the freak show. Scantily clad women with power tools fired sparks into the audience by way of metal underwear. And yes, it was in Brookfield surrounded by miles of forest, a nearby five-star golf course and an old-timers restaurant. The event cleared over 1,000 people at the door, drew the fire marshal and religious protestors, and he’s got more shows in the works. Not just “Heaven and Hell,” but 80s parties, 80s zombie parties, stand-up comedy blowouts – you name it, if it sounds like fun, Riccadonna will make it work. He was interviewed in the first incarnation of Youngstown Pulse years ago and I still remember the tagline on the cover: “Ronnie Riccadonna shouts and the devil, and wins!” He’s still winning, and now he’s shouting at Jesus, too. Written off by many, Riccadonna continues to disprove his doubters and says exactly what’s on his mind, all the time. He may not be an international rock superstar, but he carries himself that way. But the single greatest thing about him is despite the rock star attitude, when you get to know him you realize just how likeable he is. He’s got a swagger and cockiness to him and he’ll say what’s on his mind, but he truly is one of the area’s good guys, doing whatever he can to promote rock ‘n’ roll in a scene that in some sects has forgotten how to have fun. His appearance may be cheesy or outlandish to some, but he’s just looking to have a good time. And for Riccadonna, the more the merrier. Coming off of the very highly successful “Heaven and Hell” rock ‘n’ roll carnival show, in Brookfield no less, what do you have to say to the people that have been doubters when it comes to rock shows in the area? There’s a lot of negative people out there, and the negative people are the people that sit at home and b*tch that there’s nothing to do. Obviously with full support and a killer over the top show, anything is possible. I’m just trying to bring back, especially with our band Dizzy Whore, we just want to take shows to the next level. It’s not just to get booked at a bar and play, we actually want to put on a stage show and keep you entertained the whole night through. I consider you and myself, as the only real front men in the area for original music, in the sense that we’ll go out of our way to talk to the crowd and get them involved and do whatever we can to put on an entertaining show. We do it in different fashions, but we both get the idea of rock show, as opposed to just a band playing on stage. Why do you think everyone seems to take a back seat to that in this area? Bands are putting on shows, but you don’t get a lot of that showmanship aspect around here. What is that called? Mellow dramatic? Too cool for school? “I’m trying to impress you with how cool the riff is.” I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like people are too cool to be a little cheesy, too cool to have fun on stage, too cool to crack a smile. I don’t care how good of a musician you are. Can you entertain a crowd? Can you even pull a crowd? That’s how I look at it. With Youngstown, it seems like a lot of the shows, regardless of where they are, people seem standoffish a lot of the time. Do you think that the crowd has become conditioned to feeding off that sort of back seat mentality? That they’re almost afraid to get involved? Is it rubbing off from the performers themselves? Yeah. A lot of the scene is either punk or stoner rock. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good punk and a lot of good stoner rock, but it’s like, what we’re bringing something a little different. We’re just not afraid to be a**holes on stage and have fun. When fun is projected on stage from the band, and the band is firing on all cylinders having a good time, the crowd says, “Oh my God, it’s alright to have fun. We can get into this.” Why does it seem like you and I are the only people that understand that in the whole Mahoning Valley? I don’t know. (Laughter) You’re going to a bar to drink with your friends, and sometimes hundreds of your friends. You should want to have a good time and party. You’re at bar for Christ sakes. That’s why I can’t stand these bands that want to cry all over themselves. I mean, if you sit around and listen to Type O Negative all day, you’re gonna want to kill yourself. I’m not saying they’re a bad band, but come on. I was always under the impression that the whole idea of going to a show was to have a good time and have fun, and forget about all the stupid and stressful things you have to deal with. Rock ‘n’ roll is a release. Is the hip thing to be miserable? Or to be down? You look at s*it like Facebook and Twitter and people constantly telling you what they’re doing at all times, and mostly it’s depressing and everybody’s status is f*ckin’ miserable. It’s like an online diary of people’s depression. What sort of keeps you and Dizzy Whore inspired to do what you do? To do the fun, upbeat rock show that no one seems to be doing anymore? In our review, you said it. People are going to listen to this album with extreme prejudice, but Dizzy Whore does what they love, and that’s it. There’s probably a ton of people out there that hate our band. Whatever. I don’t care. Don’t come to the show. But what keeps us inspired is we’re five best friends having fun doing what we do. And when you’re having fun you’re going to do want to do it more often. It’s not a job, this is an escape. This is your alter-ego, this is your fun. If you can project that out and the crowd has fun, they keep coming back, they tell even more people, and it’s a good thing. How did the whole “Heaven and Hell show come about? It’s always been a dream of mine to just throw these crazy elaborate shows. Whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll or an 80s costume party, just fun s*it. Let your hair down. It’s not about how cool you are. Just dress up, be a fool, have fun. I love doing that. I got the idea when I was at the Pittsburgh Art Institute and people were throwing raves and things like that. I was like, “Can’t you do something a little more fun?” I mean, I don’t want to sit there and suck on binkys and glow sticks all night. There are other ways of going about this. I started dating my girl Tawna, and we had similar ideas and we went into it together, and the first thing we did was have an 80s party. We just decked the place out with all the cheeseball s*it from the 80s, and it was a huge success minus the elements of a blizzard and three other big events going on in the immediate area. Once that happened and we saw the potential of it, and we were working with a great girl out in Brookfield, Sandy Superak, the manager of Tiffany’s, and she saw how fun it was and thought it was great and that we should keep doing these sort of shows. So for the next one, Tawna and I planned out “Heaven and Hell.” It’s such a big building, so did one side heaven and one side hell. We booked the bands and booked the Infusion Crew, and they got ideas, and so did the other bands and then even the community, and we started getting sponsors and vendors. It got crazy and over the top, and everyone that was involved was putting their own little twists on what we were doing. By the end of it all, what we imagined it to be, and what it ended up being was the whole community coming together and putting their own twist on it. It was like this mangled pop can, and it just snowballed and got so big. It was amazing. You know you threw a good rock show when by the end of the night, the fire marshal was called and you have religious a**hole protestors in the parking lot yelling shit like “Psalm whatever, Jesus said …” we had to kick those guys out. The funniest part about it, was to throw this kind of show on Halloween is expected. To throw it a week before Easter, now that’s f*cked up! We’re gonna have another 80s party here in a few weeks. So we’re putting a Zombie twist on it and we’re gonna have people dress up. I don’t know if it’s ever been done before. What sort of things are going on now musically more recently on the national scope that keeps you inspired, if anything? There’s nothing. F*cking Nickelback, Shinedown, Hinder, all that flash in the pan bulls*it, they all sound exactly the same. I haven’t bought a record since like 1989, and if I have it’s one that was recorded from 1960 to 1989. What other things are on tap for Dizzy Whore? We’ve got a bunch of new songs in the works, possibly a new album. It looks like after this “Heaven and Hell” bash that we’re gonna be working pretty often with the Infusion Crew. We have a really good relationship with the guys from Subsonic and Love Turns Hate, too. It’s a really good mix. We work well together and we’re all heavy promoters. One thing we don’t want to do is play a show with a band that’s just going to sit around and not promote. It’s about hitting the streets and making it happen. You gotta work your ass off. Tell me something about yourself that very few people know? Oh man. (Pause). Tawna and I had a baby boy, Ryker, just six months ago. Well I think most people know that. Facebook and all. It’s pretty universal. Yeah, you’re right. Well then I’d say that I’m hired as an air traffic controller at the Youngstown Air Force base. And looking at me, you wouldn’t think I was a f*ckin air traffic controller. (Laughs) Fair enough. Well you look at me, you don’t think I’m a sports editor! Getting back to Youngstown, specifically, targeting some of the bars around here, what are your impressions since Dizzy Whore isn’t directly based from here? I’ve been around Youngstown for about 10 years, working down here professionally and musically. Youngstown has made a huge turnaround I think. Kind of turned into Boardman a little bit with some of the high class s*it going on. I got some looks walking into Rosetta Stone dressed the way I am. I think a lot of the rock ‘n’ rollers kept downtown alive and now Canfield is down there partying. There’s an element that gets overlooked downtown a lot in that much older crowd. You know, it’s all cool, though. A couple weeks ago we were down here doing a show at Barleys and I had to park clear over at Cedars and walk over to do the show. I was walking down the sidewalk, and I’ll be damned, it looked like a real f*cking city. People were lined up at places to get in, there were drum sets on the sidewalk, and I was like “wow,” it did make a change. At the same time I have a little b*tch about it. Everything’s spread a little thin. Everyone downtown on the strip, you got Cedars and Barleys, the two staples in my eyes for downtown, but now every bar in the Youngstown and tri-state area has got a f*cking stage and is trying to book bands. Is the bar business hurting that bad that they’re turning to bands now? Well then, start paying us what we’re worth. You know, we play O’Donolds a lot, and they treat us really well. I never thought in a million years Dizzy Whore would be playing to the dinner crowd at O’Donolds, but we’re doing well there. It’s weird. Everyone’s got bands. Do you think it’s because of the economy? A lot of bars and venues have live music, but the problem I have is that a lot of bars have really s*itty live music because of it. Everyone under the sun can get a show anywhere. Not that it’s a solution, because a lot of the rooms are still empty. One thing that really irks me is how the industry has changed. It’s probably because of the economy. But entertainment, and bands back in the heyday was top notch. Bars would bring in national acts and have a few good local openers. Now anymore, you go into a bar, if you say you want to gig there, the first they ask is, “You got a following?” Why? Does your bar suck that bad that I have to bring 200 people in here so you can make money so I can leave with 50 bucks? Why don’t you do something? Sorry, bar people. But many of them operate that way. And the ones that do tend to be the ones that turnover constantly, that are something new every six to 12 months. You can’t rely on five guys living in their parent’s basement or in some terrible band to turn your business around for a night. You gotta make your bar kicka** and continually have kicka** music in there. Be picky about who you have. It’s the bar’s responsibility a little bit, too, to help you with your advertising. I’m not gonna sink a hundred bucks in flyers, do a huge web campaign and do a huge mailing list so I can tell everyone to come to your bar so our band can make 80 bucks when I know your bar is banking a couple grand because of the crowd we brought. I’ve been at every angle, booking, doing the door. I know how shit works. Do you ever resent, or get angry, when people don’t take you seriously because of the genre of the music you play or your style? I understand it. I know that the prejudice is out there, and I don’t give a f*ck. What we do is fun. We’re not all over the top serious. We’re not all arrogant Mick Jaggers up there. We’re just having fun making music. A good friend of mine said you give your CD out to 10 people and three like it, you’re batting .300. I’ve got a bunch of other different theme parties I want to throw, and I like to promote and book a lot of comedy. My brother Mark is a stand-up comedian. If the venue is willing to do it, I can hook them up with just about any comic they want, too. The cool thing with this little venture I’ve got going is that I can take it anywhere. It doesn’t just have to be in one place. Anything that has to do with entertainment, I pretty much have a link to it. It’s like this, if you don’t believe in me, I believe in myself and I’m gonna make it happen.