Singer still dazzles his fans

Rich Dimond is a persistent man.

He wants to get his story out. He's running out of time. There are thousands of fans out there who need to know he's still around.

This is his last hurrah, he said. At 75, he can still kick and spin, sing and dance, but one day he may not be so spry.

His audience is residents of mobile home parks, nursing and retirement homes. Dimond and his singing partner, Cindy Lynne Packard, 68, dress up for each show in sequined, glittery outfits. Dimond plays several instruments including the saxophone and clarinet. They call themselves the "Oldest Romantic Singers in America." No one has argued otherwise.

They've brought their variety show to Grand Villa of Largo on Starkey Road twice a month for two years. They draw the biggest crowds, said activities director Betty Holdcroft.

Dimond and Packard make it a point to greet each person in the audience. When resident Richard Collins, who is usually up dancing, wasn't at the last show, they noticed.

"They're like our extended family," Holdcroft said.

They mix up the show, singing, cracking jokes and adding theatrics to their performance.

"Razzle-dazzle them and they'll beg you for more," Packard sings.

Toes tap, Collins dances by marching in place and occasionally spinning around, one resident dozes off on a couch.

Dimond gets on his knee and holds a female resident's hand.

"I don't know why you thrill me like you do," he sings.

Once, Dimond played for bigger audiences. He came to Clearwater in 1964 with his wife and two kids. He went by Dick then. His band, Dick Dimond and the Excitement, played at local hotels and clubs.

"We were the hottest band in the area," he said.

Dimond said after performing at a Miami hotel, he was dubbed by Miami papers as the "Tom Jones of Miami."

He's been married four times. Each wife died of cancer caused by smoking, he said. He and Packard live in the same Largo mobile home park and sing a song called Are We in Love? when asked about their relationship. (The answer: they're just friends.)

Packard, who is legally blind, sings in eight languages and knows 5,000 songs. She said when she's singing an old song, some of the Alzheimer's patients sing along.

"I'm just grateful that there are people who still want to listen," Packard said.

Until they can't sing and dance anymore, Dimond and Packard will continue to "razzle-dazzle them."

"I look forward and I see what's coming," Dimond said. "I've been blessed that I can still do it."

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at (727) 445-4181 or tel-khoury@sptimes.com.

Singer still dazzles his fans 05/03/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2008 6:36pm]

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