By: Fran Pado
May 23, 2023

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of heartthrobs from our adolescences). Series edited by Heather Quinlan.



When I was seven, some of the girls on my block had boyfriends. Since they were seven too, the dating part consisted of MadLibs and talk of spin-the-bottle. But these girls, they seemed so… teen. Dr. Scholls sandals, terrycloth shorts. Teen was what I wanted to be. And when I met Tony DeFranco, I became a teen. I mean, not really. I didn’t really meet him, ever. But in my mind every time I thought of his voice I grew a little more teen. So I thought about him a lot and knew I was headed in the right direction.

Tony DeFranco was the front-child in a ’70s “family band.” These bands sang peppy AM radio hits and stuck the youngest, cutest sibling up front. The DeFrancos broke in 1974 with “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat.” And suddenly Tony was everyone’s crush. When I say everyone, I mean every girl under the age of 10. Part of his appeal was that, though he was 14 when “Heartbeat” dropped, he looked about 10. And the rest of his siblings hulking around him with giant instruments looked like moms and dads. But the real reason I liked Tony, besides the fact that we could sing in the same key since his voice hadn’t changed, is that he gave me a peer group.

On those slow, insufferably hot New Jersey days, my friend Anne and some other kids and I would sit on my stoop and see what Tony was up to. We didn’t need the internet. We had Tiger Beat. Tiger Beat let me peer into Tony’s life as he met Dinah Shore, recorded new hits, and acted like a “regular boy.” The latter was especially helpful since I had no idea what was going on with boys, nor did I really care. But I found out that the more I talked about Tony and bought Tiger Beat, the more friends I had. Finally I had something to talk about.

Every issue provided loads of conversational fodder. There was an article on Tony’s hot temper ( a warning that he may be violent but who cares?), and Tony’s plea for girls to send him a photo he could carry on tour. The one that really confused us was: “Tony — his new way with girls?” I mean, what did they mean by “way?” The best one was “Win a date with Tony!” Any girl above the age of eight was eligible to win a candlelit dinner with a teenager. I wrote an essay explaining why I would be the ideal date. And I waited.

I got older and so did Tony. He made a disco album. It failed. He disappeared. Tiger Beat still featured the Osmonds and bands like Mantooth (which didn’t exist, I just saw a picture of the 30-ish man from McCloud next to a nameless preteen and assumed they had a band). I was confused by Mantooth but now can totally appreciate the name. I briefly switched over to the Osmonds but the vibe between Donny and Marie was weird and boring. Childhood moves so fast, one minute you’re into something and the next minute… it means nothing. I moved on to disco and left Tony behind.

He’s selling real estate now. There’s nothing pathetic about his history since the DeFrancos tanked. He’s never done the comeback thing. And thank God he’s never had a Vegas show. I’m glad he’s alive, selling big houses, living in L.A. Thank you, Tony. “Heartbeat” is still a banger, no doubt.


TEEN YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Heather Quinlan | Adam McGovern on ANDY GIBB | Crockett Doob on DREW BARRYMORE | Kathy Biehl on THE MONKEES | Josh Glenn on SHAUN CASSIDY | Catherine Christman on ELI WALLACH | Carlo Rotella on VALERIE BERTINELLI | Miranda Mellis on EDDIE VAN HALEN | Paul Finnegan on KIM WILDE | Heather Quinlan on MIKE PATTON | Mariane Cara on NKOTB | Mimi Lipson on ARLO GUTHRIE | Gabriela Pedranti on GUSTAVO CERATI | Michele Carlo on MICHAEL JACKSON | Ingrid Schorr on PAUL McCARTNEY | Carolyn Campbell on ROBERT REDFORD | Erin M. Routson on JOHNNY KNOXVILLE | Amy Keyishian on JIM MORRISON | Fran Pado on TONY DEFRANCO | Krista Margies Kunkle on LUKE PERRY | Lucy Sante on FRANÇOISE HARDY | Lynn Peril on DANNY BONADUCE | Jack Silbert on CHERYL TIEGS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on CHRISTIAN SLATER | Cynthia Scott on LEONARD WHITING | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN.