Homepage: www.lindajorizzo.de, www.piazzalinda.de
Interview by Zeljko Vujkovic & Alen Milkovic (alenmilky)
Big thanx to Linda's agency OTRE-MEDIA. It gave us a chance to make this interview! Small intro (C/P) from that site:
Linda's dream to be in the limelight began back in New York City when she was in her teens working as a fashion model. Her career then took her overseas to Milan, Italy. There she tried her hand at music. Although it was 'just for fun', Linda was already finding herself on stage with Pupo, Umberto Tozzi, Loredana Berté, and Adriano Celentano. It wasn't too long before she landed her first recording contract with CBS and Baby Records.
Linda was named 'Model of the Year' by Mulher d'Hoje, the top Portuguese fashion magazine. While in Lisbon, Linda started working with live bands touring the country to gain more stage experience.
In the late 70's Linda returned to New York to finish her degree in nutrition. Linda's contacts in Milan arranged a meet with Bobby Orlando (Pet Shop Boys, Divine...) and within a short time she became part of the disco girl group The Flirts (Passion, Danger, Helpless) that landed in the Billboard charts throughout the USA and eventually the Hit Parades in Europe.
After leaving The Flirts in 1985, Linda Jo Rizzo returned to Germany considering several offers for a solo career. This was her dream and the rest is history!
alenmilky & Zeljko: Thank you very much for this interview. We can't wait to ask you about Bobby Orlando and Fancy ;-) but we should start in chronological order. You were born in the USA, but your roots are from Italy. Would you tell us more about it please?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I was born and raised in New York City. All of my grandparents were born in Sicily so I grew up very Italien. Went to school and studied in New York.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Your name, Linda Jo Rizzo, sounds very nice, and melodically almost. Can you tell us if this your real name or your artistic name?
Linda Jo Rizzo: My real name is Linda Jo Rizzo. I never had to change it because it was alredy different.
alenmilky & Zeljko: How did you decide to start your career as a singer? Were you doing something else at the time? You were a model, is that right?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I worked as a model 3 years in Milan, Italy and 2 years in Lisbon, Portugal. After fulfilling my modeling dreams I went back to NY and went to college to study nutrition. I ran my own nutrition business for 5 years before I started to sing professionally. It happend by chance.
alenmilky & Zeljko: When and how did you meet Bobby Orlando? What was Bobby O like?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I met Bobby at a dinner in NY together with some old music producers that I had worked with in Milan while I was modeling. They told me I had nice a nice voice and that he should try me out in the studio. We started working together right away. He was a fast and energetic worker. He did not waste time.
alenmilky & Zeljko: One of the interesting things with Bobby Orlando was that after he had success with some artists, he had problems with them, and those problems were taken to court. The exact situation was with Divine (source) and the Pet Shop Boys (source) . Can you tell us your thoughts about this please?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I loved working with Bobby but as it often happened in the earlier days of ones career, our contracts were not very generous for the artists. After all costs of production, menagement, choreographers and studios were taken, there was very little left for us.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What can you tell us about The Flirts? We have information that you sang all The Flirts' songs, but still we need confirmation from you?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I am sorry to say that I cannot even remember all of the titles that I recorded with Bobby. I worked a lot in the studio for him and was payed for my recordings. Some of the songs were used for the Flirts, some for other groups. That is how we worked because not all the members of the groups that were beign produced were good enough for recording.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Where are you in this list of names that performed in The Flirts? Are you Christina, and if you are, why that name?
1982 "10C a Dance": Andrea, Rebecca & Holly
1983 "Born To Flirt": Christina, Debby, Holly
1984 "Made In America": Debby, Christy, Christina
1985 "Blondies Brunettes & Redheads": Tricia, Debby, Christina
1986 "Questions Of The Heart": Geri, Christina, Debby
Linda Jo Rizzo: The only album where I appear on the cover in a photo is "Born To Flirt" 1983. After that I remained in Europe after our tour in 1984-5 and started my own career. Since the members of the grop were changeable it did not matter who was replaced or who was on the cover. It was important 1 redhead, 1 blond and 1 brunette. We were a created concept that worked beautifully. I did not stay in contact with any of other girls after I left the group.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What were your relations with the girls from The Flirts like?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Not very good. I wanted a professional career and they were not as serious as I was about the hard work involved in a singing career.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Which song by The Flirts is your best one and why?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I liked "Jukebox", "Helpless" and of course "Passion".
alenmilky & Zeljko: Most of songs by The Flirts are happy and energetic. I'm interested in the song "Helpless". It's the story about a girl that was left by boyfriend and she feels helpless. While singing, did you feel the lyrics of this song in a personal way (if you have had experience described in this song)?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Not at that time but I did have an exprience like that song many years later.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What kind of music were you listening to while being a member of The Flirts?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I loved the sould disco sound of the late 70's and early 80's. I was also a big fan of commercial pop rock.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Did you have any other part in creating songs, other than singing? I guess Bobby Orlando didn't want to have influences from anyone than himself?
Linda Jo Rizzo: You are right. I often helped with the lyrics but Bobby always had his name on the rights. He was very particular about that.
alenmilky & Zeljko: I guess you and The Flirts had many performances in clubs across USA or...?
Linda Jo Rizzo: USA, Canada, Europe.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Who created choreography for The Flirts?
Linda Jo Rizzo: We had few different choreogrpahers in NYC.
alenmilky & Zeljko: In which European countries did you have concerts with The Flirts, and in which one solo show? Linda, do you remember perhaps, your show in Croatia (it was Yugoslavia then) in one small city, called Karlovac? I am asking you this because this city is my hometown, and I remember when you were here, and not only in my city, but in the club, which was the building where I live today ;-) I would not be surprised if you don't remember of course.
Linda Jo Rizzo: Oh God I can't even begin to remember all names. That was more than 23 years ago!! Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Turkey, Kenya, Tunisia, Sweden, Finnland, Belgium, Holland, and of course I remember Karlovac!
alenmilky & Zeljko: What happened to The Flirts at the end - why did you stop?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I stopped to go solo. It was my dream and it was very hard do work with 2 girls all the time.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Have you met any other of Bobby O's artists like Divine or the Pet Shop Boys?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I knew Divine, Ronnie Grifith and some other US artists of his.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Have you met other High Energy performers like Patrick Cowley, Sylvester, and Paul Parker and did you have concerts with some of them?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I worked with lots of top stars but I only have contact with George McCrea who did "Rock Me Baby". If you look at my website you will read some names of the stars I worked with.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Do you still have contact with Bobby Orlando? Did you know that he released new album a few years ago?!
Linda Jo Rizzo: No I haven't see him since 1985.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Tell us something about Roni Griffith?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I only met her once in the studio in 1983 so I can't really say much. She was nice, friendly and cute.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Who's behind Miss Kimberly and the Girlie name?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Don't know.
alenmilky & Zeljko: When and why did you decide to leave the USA and go to Germany?
Linda Jo Rizzo: For the tour of 1984 with the Flirts.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What is the big difference in your life, having moved from the USA to Germany?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Yeah, but we were so busy with touring I really did not realize that I was in another country.
alenmilky & Zeljko: In Germany, you were working with Fancy! How did you meet him, and how did you start your cooperation with him, and could you also compare him with Bobby O?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I met Fancy at a concert we were doing together in Saarbrucken. He told me he was looking to produce a girl alone and asked if I were interested. It took a while to get together but we worked great together, I enjoyed his way of working much more than Bobby O. I wrote my own texts, did my own backup singing, and had much more to say about my songs and production. He is great.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Your first song for Fancy was "Fly Me High". Am I right? Can you tell more about it please?
Linda Jo Rizzo: "Fly Me High" was a real quick song. I did not like it too much but EMI took it right away. My favorite was "You're My First You're My Last". We did records for 4 years.
alenmilky & Zeljko: There are very rare video clips of The Flirts, but what about videos from your solo career - "Heartflash", "Fly Me High", "You're My First", "Just One Word", "I've Got The Night", "Perfect Love" - do they exist, and if not - why?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I do not unfortunately have professional videos of my songs because they did not go into the hitparade and record companies do not invest in videos unless the song becomes a hit. That's how ZYX records worked.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Did you meet Grant Miller perhaps one of the artists that Fancy produced? Fancy was a friend with Divine, and he introduced Grant to Divine. I wonder, were you somewhere around in that time?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Grant and I spent a lot of time together. He was a great person.
alenmilky & Zeljko: You and Fancy together sang the song "How Do I Feel" from his album "Strip Down" in 2000. This was your first disco song after many years, am I right? How come you waited so long to sing again?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Fancy and I had not worked together for a while. We were just busy with our seperate careers and then we thought to do something again.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Did you sing any backing vocals on Fancy's production songs, and if so in which one?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I did but I honestly do not remember which ones. We did a lot of things together in the 80's and 90's but again that was a long time ago.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Have you been singing under some other names?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I did one project under name Jo Jo Rizzo in the 90's, another project in Switzerland which I can not reveal the name of and of course some phantom recordings for Bobby Orlando. I do not know though for whom they were used.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What about today, are you working on something particular?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I produced "The Best Of Linda Jo Rizzo" in 1999 with a collection of my songs. In Dec. 2006 I produced a CD for my restaurant with 17 songs from the best artists that perforemed for me. I have 2 originals numbers on CD. Then in the summer of 2007 I produced a CD for the Hippodrome at the Oktoberfest. I have been performing there every year since 1999 so the owner asked me to compose a Wiesn hit and I did. At the moment I am writing but not in any production yet.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Do you have concerts nowadays, and what do you sing there?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Of course I still do my concerts. I have 3 different show that I offer. One is of course the 80's style where I sing half playback and do all my songs, Flirts and various hits from the 80's. Then I have my Gala shows where I work with 5 - 7 men bands live on stage and bring a mix of pop and evergreens with entertainment. In the last few days I have developed also into standards and swing and have done shows also in this direction.
alenmilky & Zeljko: Do you know about any new Italo disco songs from the last few years?
Linda Jo Rizzo: No.
alenmilky & Zeljko: How come you are running a restaurant "Piazza Linda" nowadays - is it due to your Italian roots?
Linda Jo Rizzo: My 2 great loves were always performing and cooking. My dad is cook so I learned a lot about good food when I was young. My restaurant is a live music so we have dinner and live music every night. That makes it interesting.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What is the best food there (just in case that we decide to visit it :) )?
Linda Jo Rizzo: We are famous for our antipasto plate, my tiramisu recipes and of course some of our pastas.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What kind of music do you sing in your restaurant?
Linda Jo Rizzo: In "Piazza Linda" I do mostly jazz, swing and soft soul because we can not do the music with a high volume like in a concert.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What kind of music do you like to sing and listen to the most, nowadays?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I love the commercial rock of the late 60's and early 70's. It's the music I grew up with and it brings back such great memories.
alenmilky & Zeljko: What do you enjoy doing the most now?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Since I lead very busy and stressful life with very little time for me I just really enjoy relaxing, reading, going out for a nice dinner and when possible lay on a beach and just listen to the waves go in and out. That is heaven for me.
alenmilky & Zeljko: At to finish, do you have any message for your fans?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I am just thanxful to all of them after so many years they still listen to my music. It is a beautiful feeling to know that I have brought happieness to others. That is what I feel on stage. It is a giving thing for me and very fulfilling. My fans should always keep music in their heart and soul. It cures lots of things. Thank you all for beign a part of my life and career.
Thank you very much for this interview. You're a true High Energy and Italo Disco legend with a gorgeous voice!!!
© Alen Milkovic (alenmilky) & Zeljko Vujkovic - April 2008
At a certain point of her life, Linda Jo Rizzo decided tha being a nourishing expert and model wasn’t enough for her life, so she met Hi-NRG producer Bobby “O” Orlando and decided to form the disco band “The Flirts”. Linda was very relevant for spreading the vogue of Disco Music in Europe and starting the whole Italo Disco stuff. Still very present in the music biz she was so kind to share some words with us in occasion of our Neo Italo Disco project.
Mark Zonda: First of all, Linda: how did your love for music begin and what Italo Disco meant to you?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I always loved music. of course when I was younger i listened to rock, country rock and rock blues. my favorite groups were Crosby, Stills and Nash, Led Zeppelin. that is very different to disco. my first real experience with disco music was the Flirts but in Europe. In America we were considered New Wave. Italo Disco for me is happy music that makes you want to dance!
Mark Zonda: Was MTV relevant for The Flirts success? Were you confortable with the members of the band and Bobby O’?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I cannot say if MTV was so important for the flirts. i believe the dicoteques and DJ’s were the the most important. the flirts became famous on the dance floor. I was not very comfortable with the other Flirts. I was the oldest and therefore the one who took the career more seriously. I wanted success and was willing to work hard for it. The other 2 girls not so much. I got along well with Bobby. i never really had a problem with him. He was a hard worker and full of energy like me so I could identify with him very well.
Mark Zonda: Was “Passion” your best hit after all these years? It sounds really Giorgio Moroder. Have you ever met him?
Linda Jo Rizzo: yes I think Passion is probably the best seller of the Flirts. I never met Moroder. I would love to meet him. i am sure he is a great man!
Mark Zonda: Were all the songs written just by yourself? Which one made you more proud?
Linda Jo Rizzo: all the Flirts songs were composed by Bobby O. i did help with the texts in the studio when we recorded but he had all the rights to them. I wrote all the texts for my records. i like to write because when I sing the song it means something personal for me. it tells a story about me. of all my published songs I like “You’re My First, You’re My Last” the best.
Mark Zonda: What’s the story behind “You’re my first, you’re my last”? Do you have any particular memory of that song?
Linda Jo Rizzo: Yes it has a special meaning. At that time I was single and looking for a LOVE that would be true, faithful and no games involved. It is about a girl who then falls in love but it does not work out so she thinks. You are my first (true love) but he does not feel the same and so she is heart broken and thinks…You are my last…She will never feel the same deep love she felt for him. That really happened to me! But I must say I now found that special partner an am very happy. Everything in life takes time and patience!
Mark Zonda: Do you think that Italo Disco has still something to say after all these years?
Linda Jo Rizzo: I think italo Disco is coming back. I do many 80's concerts and they are full with young and old people so the music is popular. I hope it becomes stronger because I find the music of today sometimes very
aggressive and hectic. 80's music was fun, happy and positive.