The Evolution of Performing Chameleon Billy Mira

By Amy Nicole Tangel

Many people start out in life with big dreams, but to see those dreams through takes great courage and the will never to give up. For one lifelong performer who has dedicated his life to entertaining others, the true test came when the world shutdown and the lights went dark, but perseverance has given him the strength to rise.

Growing up on Long Island, nationally known singer/comedian/impressionist Billy Mira, said he always knew he wanted to spend his life making music.  His school years started with the theater, and over time Billy said he just felt more drawn to singing; realizing early on this was his destiny.  While attending East Meadow High School, Billy said he was lucky to have a drama curriculum in school during a time when not all schools offered such programs.  His drama teacher was influential and always told him he was gifted and encouraged him to continue to pursue acting, but Billy said at the time he was all about rock-n-roll and strictly had his sights set on rock stardom. 

“It really is amazing that I never went into acting, because that is how I started doing impressions and impersonating things, and that’s really what acting is,” he said.

Right after high school, Billy hit the road and moved to Florida for a period of time, but he said he wasn’t happy with the scene there then, so he moved back to New York in 1987 and took the lead in the rock band, Whisky Road.  With long hair and tight skinny jeans, Billy said his days with the band allowed him to make memories of a lifetime and while the band recorded and released tracks under signed management, the alternative-grunge scene had come along and hair bands became a thing of the past.

“We creatively had this other influence that was more of a jazz influence, oddly enough that had horns in it, which was a foreshadowing what I would eventually do,” he said.

At one point along the way, Billy said he started getting into broadcasting and that is really where he got into comedy, but all the while he continued pursuing music and playing at local clubs.  Most notably, Billy said his first real break came with comedy when he landed a spot on The Howard Stern Show in 2002 as a comedian and impressionist.  From that point on, he said his career took off while traveling across the country with the show as a Stern-Personality over the years that followed; building a foundation that would eventually cross paths with his music career and the creation of his self-described, “Vegas meets Broadway” style show, Billy Mira & The Hitmen.

Reflecting on how he got to be where he is today, Billy recalls everything he did professionally as “an experience” until the moment came along when he landed his spot with The Howard Stern Show. Winding up on the show in the first place was a fluke thing, he admitted.  He said one day he just decided to take a chance and call in when Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne were on the show to do his Ozzy impression.  Billy said Howard told him he didn’t think he was that funny and hung up on him; leaving him feeling knocked down. Hours later fate stepped in and turned everything around.

Billy said he believes there are no coincidences in life, and that evening while out to dinner he was overheard talking about calling into the show by someone at the next table, and that someone just happened to be Sal Governale, writer and producer, of The Howard Stern Show.  Billy said Governale asked him to do the impression for him right then, and the rest was history.  Years later, they are still good friends and have continued to work together on various projects.

“I started doing the impression and he (Sal) said, ‘Everybody wanted to know who that guy was and why Howard hung up on him,’ and that’s how it started,” he said.

Years later, Billy took the culmination of everything he experienced musically along with his comedy act and brought it all together when he wrote and developed his show, Billy Mira & The Hitmen.  He said the inspiration came to him during his time living in Las Vegas from 2011 to 2013 as he continued his  broadcasting career covering mixed martial arts for Fox Sports and working alongside UFC – a time when he said the sport began to explode in popularity. 

As much as Billy said he enjoyed his time broadcasting and is a huge fan of the sport, every day he said he looked at the billboards of Vegas shows and knew that was what he was really meant to be doing.  Billy said he began writing his show with the vision for it to one day become a headlining Vegas attraction and was heavily influenced by Brian Setzer; combining orchestra and Broadway into one.

“It’s a music show that enables me to be funny, do impressions, do comedic stuff; everything within one show.  The great thing about it is that I can change it at the drop of a dime,” he said.

Upon his return from Las Vegas, Billy went all-in with development of his show and performed Billy Mira & The Hitmen for the first-time ever in 2015 at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut.  He has traveled across Long Island with stops at theaters such as Gateway Playhouse and long-standing residencies at clubs such as The Polo Lounge at Westbury Manor. That was until the pandemic shut everything down and Billy no longer had a stage to call home. But just like every other unexpected turn in the road he has faced over the years, Billy stayed true to himself and kept looking toward the future.

While many solo-artists took to live streams and virtual tip jars during the shutdown, Billy said as great as that is for other entertainers, it was not right for him.  For Billy, he said the concept of virtual performances would not work for him and his act because his acts are so interactive and draw so much energy from a live audience that something would be greatly lost.

In the meantime, Billy turned the downtime into a positive when he released a new cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s, “If You Could Read My Mind” and recently teamed up with longtime friends, Rob Rush of 94.3 The Shark and Mark “The Animal” Mendoza of Twisted Sister as co-host to a new weekly internet show, “Rollin’ With.”  The live streamed show is produced with Area 22 Productions and for Billy it has not only been an opportunity to interview interesting people, it has been an outlet for him to stay connected and share his gift of comedy with countless people in a time when people need laughs more than ever.

During the past couple of months, Billy has been branching out once again as stages in New York continued to be dark and set his sights on Florida once again for opportunities to get back to business until everything opens back up in the northern part of the country.  Billy said he is determined to take any good opportunity that comes his way to get back on stage, but ultimately his number one goal to return to Las Vegas remains the same.

“My road is going back to Vegas.  When I left, I remember saying, ‘I am coming back here and I am going to come back with this show,’” he said.

Things have rapidly been looking up in New York and venues are beginning to announce plans for reopening.  This Friday, April 30, Billy will finally be heading out for his first residency since Covid hit, when he makes his solo return singing live at Krish’s in Massapequa each Friday night.  Billy said he is thrilled to be getting back out there and performing at one of his favorite local places.  He is presently working on another local residency and said he will be releasing that information to the public as soon as it is confirmed.

To keep up-to-date with Billy’s most recent projects and upcoming events visit www.billymiraandthehitmen.com for all happenings.

Radio Personality and Author dedicates life to spreading joy to others across Long Island

By Amy Nicole Tangel

In a time when life has been more than challenging for most, keeping connected and having something to look forward to is of utmost importance. For one man who has based his radio and marketing career on bringing joy to others in-person, being thrust into reinventing promotions to remain engaged with communities and keep listeners’ spirits up has not slowed him down.

“Big Mike” Sangiamo began his career in radio in the fall of 2015 when he was hired as a member of the promotional street team with Connoisseur Media Long Island, home to stations such as 94.3 The Shark, 103.1 MAX, and WALK 97.5.  With years of determination and hard work behind him, Mike brings experience to the table after having worked field events years prior, and he said slowly, but surely, he stepped up the ladder to become the current Director of Local Marketing and Promotions for all five stations belonging to Connoisseur Media Long Island.

“Part of that is also being an on-air personality, being out there in the field, and really just trying to engage listeners out in the community as much as possible,” he said.

Of course, the world of in-person events was pre-pandemic, but Mike said step-by-step the pause is lifting and he is looking forward to once again entertaining and connecting with people across the island in whatever way he can through the radio.  The best part of field events for Mike is always meeting new people, and he said the sense of no two events ever being the same is what makes his job so fun. For Mike, he said the best part of all is when people win prizes; to share that joy with them and to make them smile is one of the greatest aspects of the job.

Radio during Covid has been especially challenging for Mike, and for the work he has done to try to reinvent the way local marketing and promotions have been executed during the pandemic, but he said he is grateful to still be working when many others in roles like his have lost their jobs.  During the recent holiday season, Mike said promotions did begin to finally pick-up with giveaways and some appearances at locations. 

Stop & Shop, T-Mobile, and Tropical Smoothie Café are businesses he has worked on major promotions with for vacation and gift card giveaways, and said the biggest difference now is the crew he used to have is temporarily gone; leaving most appearances up to himself and what he calls his “Number One,” Liana Neidig. In spite of the times, Mike said he takes pride in all of the recent innovative work done alongside a great team and strong leaders in the industry, such as Director of Operations, Patrick Shea and General Manager David Bevins. For Mike, he said he is grateful for the faith the company has placed in his approach, and everything he has done has been more personalized because of it.

“The fact that I was able to keep WALK 97.5 and our other stations active during the pandemic was quite a challenge. I had to go back and rely on everything I ever learned during my time at Disney, Subway and yes, even the funeral industry to figure out a new approach to a routine element of radio during an economic crisis caused by a global health catastrophe,” he said.

Mike’s career in public relations unknowingly began when his passion for Subway sandwiches took over, and he created the unofficial fan club of Subway restaurants with his fellow Subway-loving friends at the age of only 15 years old.  He said he and his friends simply really loved the food, and back then growing up in Queens there weren’t many locations, so he and his friends had to travel by bus for 45 minutes to get to their nearest Subway.

“It just became this thing my friends and I started to identify with,” he said.

In a twist of paths and an unconventional combination, Mike’s time before Connoisseur Media and his Subway career involved attending school to be a funeral director and a taking a college internship with Walt Disney World.  After graduation, Mike said he was at a crossroads between becoming a funeral director or a having career with Subway.   

He applied for Subway corporate jobs across the country, and in 2005 he was hired in the Nassau County development office as Promotions Coordinator and Field Evaluator; visiting restaurants for quality checks throughout the county and doing voiceovers for their commercials.  Eventually, Mike said this turned into a promotions and marketing role when he saw the need for local marketing.  It was through his local marketing with Subway, which led to the position he holds today. It happened when Mike said he attended a local event and was struck when he saw a guy at a table from the radio set-up with music and a prize wheel; instantly knowing that was what he wanted to do.

“I was like, ‘I could do that; I could do that,’ so I started selling my services to Subway Restaurants to do grand openings and anniversaries,” he said.

From there, Mike created a street team for Subway’s in-person events and even developed two Subway sandwiches including “The Feast,” also known as “The Feast of Sangiamo,” an Italian-American sandwich that was sold nationally.  Mike said this experience led him in a round-about way into broadcasting and the radio industry.  While Mike still consults occasionally with Subway today, he said his full-time dedication is with Connoisseur Media.

“To have the type of involvement and impact on a brand like that for some kid from Queens…it was all because I loved the product,” he said.

Although Mike said he is not a full-time jock, the on-air portion of his position compliments his first love of appearances and endorsements.  Presently, Mike hosts “Midnight Snacks” at midnight on 103.1 MAX FM weeknights and occasional Fridays with 94.3 The Shark from 7 to 10 p.m., live from The Studio at The Paramount in Huntington, along with various character spots for the Anna & Raven Show on WALK 97.5.

In addition to wanting to reach people through the airwaves and in-person as much as possible, Mike has also reached countless people as an author of his book, “The Fattest Guy in the Room-10 reasons why being fat sucks! (and 3 reasons why it’s not so bad),” which is available for purchase through breakthescale.com and depicts what life has been like for him living as an overweight person from childhood through adult life with a humorous twist.

“It will make you laugh; it will make you cry, and then it will make you laugh again,” he said.

Mike said he always had a desire to write and publish a book from the perspective of the beginning of his career and relied on memories of being the “funny fat guy in high school.”  When he realized he could be funny, he said he put everything together to become his character of, “Big Mike.”  As life went on, he grew into an adult, and Mike said he felt like he had something to say about his life experience and wanted to share with others in the hopes of helping just one person.

“I don’t like the idea for anyone to feel bad, or ashamed about being overweight and the way that they look,” he said.

As part of his ever-evolving promotions persona, Mike has combined his writing work with his character performance and said he loves to dress in character when he goes out for the radio stations.  He celebrates with characters for almost every major holiday and memorable names he created to go along, such as “Frosting the Snowman,” “Jingle Bell the Elf,” as well as four different leprechaun characters; all who have been created to lend happiness to each radio station and its following. Mike said he just wants to bring joy to others.  During the holiday season, he incorporates, “Santa’s Lonely Helper,” a self-described “Dr. Seuss style” poem/story he is author to, which he reads at various events across the island such as, Brookhaven’s Holiday Lighting Spectacular in Suffolk County. 

What radio stations will be able to do in future will be limited, according to Mike, but he said there are still safe and socially distant events happening. They are just few and far between.  In the meantime, Mike has also been working with Adventureland in Farmingdale throughout the pandemic, hosting almost all of their movie nights, and he said he has even called bingo before the start of the films from time to time.  No matter what Mike is doing anywhere on Long Island, he said his number one goal is to always take the radio stations with him.

“Thankfully, we jumped into action, participating in thank you parades for health care heroes, birthday parades, graduation parades; then drive-in movies and drive-in concerts all the way through to socially distant holiday attractions. Wherever I go, I am going out as the radio station, so if I go the radio station comes along,” he said.

To follow Big Mike on social media you can find him on Instagram @thefeastman, and you can catch his podcast, The Big Mike Radio Program on Apple Podcasts.  For local appearances, be sure to check your favorite Connoisseur Media Long Island radio’s website for the most up-to-date information.

Photos courtesy Big Mike Sangiamo

Artist Opens Gallery with Premiere of Pandemic-Inspired Paintings

By Amy Nicole Tangel

Long Island Artist and Live Event Producer Steven Calapai faced the same reality as many others in the industry when the entertainment world essentially shutdown in early 2020 due to the world-wide Pandemic, but with determination to be resilient and with a lifelong passion for art, he said he has taken his creativity to levels he never dreamed of with the recent opening of his new gallery.

Park South Gallery opened its doors this past March in Amity Harbor, N.Y., filled wall-to-wall with Steven’s paintings that are now being recognized across the country for not only their artistry, but for the inspiration behind the color.  Steven said he always loved to paint, sculpt, and design, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit, when he was looking for an outlet to deal with the sudden halt to life, that he began painting every day.  A little more than a year later, Steven has painted approximately four hundred paintings to date and has no plans to stop.

“Life’s hard, life’s tough, and if I could make every minute of life worth living even more moving forward, I am going to do it,” he said.

Steven said he releases all his emotions in his paintings and whether it is sadness, anger, loss, new beginnings or happiness, his art is the window to his soul.  He said looking at the walls of the gallery people will see the paintings are filled with expressions of everything he is, and he said his diversity and how it has been touching other people is what he takes most pride in.

With a self-proclaimed philosophy to “keep moving forward” along with having a career in film and television spanning over 20 years working for companies like Paramount Pictures and Atlantic Records, Steven said those experiences gave him great drive and memories to hold on to, so when everything shut down, he simply woke-up one morning and decided he was not going down with it.  When Covid hit, Steven said his live event and commercial real estate business instantly became non-existent.

“As soon as Covid hit, it was over and it was over in like 24 hours, so I woke up and I had to reinvent myself,” he said.

Born and raised on Long Island, Steven said his life was saved at the age of 10 when he turned to music and art to deal with his parent’s difficult divorce.  He became an actor and print model as a teenager, and in between it all he became an avid drummer.  Times were tough financially, and as a young and eager musician, Steven said his first drum kit was an old Ludwig he found when someone else’s trash became his treasure; recalling it as ‘a moment of never giving up.’

“I found an old Ludwig set in the trash. It was champagne pearl, not an extremely popular color with teenagers. I remember finding sandpaper and black and white house paint in our garage. I worked so hard sanding all the pearl paint off and painted the set black and white stripes,” he said.

From that moment on, Steven began playing in garage bands and creating flyers for bands.  Not realizing it while it was happening, he tapped into not only his artistry, but his future in public relations.  Following his acting and modeling career Steven dove into the music industry as a producer, session drummer, Grammy member and studio owner.  During his time working with musicians, he most notably managed the late R&B singer, Freddie Scott, and worked with artists such as Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Van Morrison.

As Steven’s recognition grew, he turned his focus to managing actors and worked in press and public relations with executive producers such as Mark Lipsky. Working alongside Lipsky, who is well-known for producing films such as, The Nutty Professor and Coming to America, Steven has provided management services for celebrities and even worked closely with Greg Martin, son of Beatles Producer George Martin.

All the while, he said his passion for art grew rapidly having had the privilege of personally knowing and learning from iconic artists such as Andy Warhol and David Bowie, and spending influential nights with them in conversations at Studio 54.  Steven said his artwork has also been heavily influenced by his time exploring different neighborhoods and cultures, but early on some of his greatest inspirations came from other artists such as Blondie and Iggy Pop as he witnessed the beginning of the pop art movement.

“The imagery of Hollywood is forever tattooed in my memory and can be seen throughout my work,” he said.

In his 30’s, Steven suffered the tragic loss of a child, and just as he has recently worked to turn the pandemic into a positive through his artwork, he carried the same mindset to help carry him through his grief some years ago when he began contributing to charities and sharing support to others in need.

While Steven is humble in his philanthropy, he said he has made it one of his life’s missions to always donate his art and his time.  The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Cancer Society and Mandate for Humanity are organizations that Steve said he holds most near to his heart.

“All the charities I work with are all good people and I want to help,” he said.

This past November, Steven was diagnosed with Covid and thankfully experienced no symptoms, but it was his time in quarantine when he said he “went nuts” and painted almost around the clock.  He said he would go to sleep at eight o’clock and wake-up at 3 a.m. and start all over again.

When he started painting during the pandemic, Steven said he just wanted to create and share some things with people to make them feel more positive about Covid.  Some of his favorite expressions are painting trees with blossoms and seascapes, and for Steven, he said his new paintings have just simply been so much fun and so positive.

“They are peaceful, so I put a little different twist (on each one), and I add new colors to them,” he said.

Park South Gallery is considered home to Steven, but he said he is currently working on opening a gallery in Boca Raton, FL, and Las Vegas.  Word has been rapidly spreading of Steven’s work, and this past January his art was featured in Livein-Style Magazine as well as Modern Luxury Magazine/Vegas-The Art Issue.  Steven is currently working on getting his art in hotels in major cities across the country and he said there is no stopping him as he shoots for the stars with the dream of seeing his paintings in the world’s first space hotel on the moon. 

At the end or the root of it all, depending on a person’s outlook, Steven said he just wants to share his experiences, his emotions, and his imagination through his paintings with other people to inspire people to never give up.

“This is all based on failure; all of it.  If you don’t fail, then you never learn how to succeed,” he said.

Steven will be premiering his spring collection Saturday, April 10 at Park South Gallery in his true fashion with a private VIP event and is using his space to additionally support other artists such as an upcoming exhibition show with tv personality and Ink Master Artist “Gentle Jay” Blondel on May 8.

To learn more about Steven and his paintings, you can visit www.stevencalapai.net and www.parksouthgallery.net.

Feature Photo Credit: Kate Fox

Photo Gallery: Amy Nicole Tangel

Best of LI Beauty Salon Expands in New Location

By Amy Nicole Tangel

As the perseverance of local businesses continues to grow, a sign of better times ahead can be seen  in the recent expansion of one Long Island beauty salon, and for the creator behind it all, it has been 25 years in the making.

Best of LI 2021 winner for best hair salon two years in a row, Tresses & Colours, has recently moved to a new location for the first time since they opened their doors 24 years ago on Carleton Avenue in East Islip, N.Y.  Now approaching their 25th anniversary August 1, they have re-located on Montauk Highway in Oakdale, N.Y., and owner Louise Polite, said she couldn’t be happier with the growth in business in spite of the times.

“It has been good.  It has been really good.  We have lots of new customers from the area, and we also get quite a few from Best of LI,” she said.

Louise said the recent move has also been an expansion of not only Tresses & Colours, but her handmade skin care company, Sonny & Dew is also growing.  Just a few months in from her recent grand opening, Louise has already launched a new facial line with Sonny & Dew, brought in new artists, and added more chairs.

The new all-natural facial line includes appropriately named products such as “Bye Bye Puffy Eye” and “Liquid Lift,” along with moisturizers and serums to help skin look and feel healthy.  In addition, Louise said the oatmeal scrub cleanser she created is phenomenal and one of her most underrated products. 

Sonny & Dew’s Day at the Beach Collection is still “hands down her number one seller,” but she said she is also excited about her new hand lotion line that is bakery inspired.  As for hair products, Louise creates those as well, and one of her best sellers is her handmade, Tea Tree Scalp Scrub.  In Louise’s experience and with her expertise, she said some of the mass-produced tea tree products that you see are too diluted. She said she believes the good stuff is very hard to get, so she decided to make her own. 

“If you have a dry scalp, it is excellent.  You take a little bit before you wet your hair in the shower, you take maybe the size of a quarter and you exfoliate your scalp,” she said.

Across Long Island, the work of Tresses & Colours and Sonny & Dew continues to be recognized.  In addition to being Best of LI winners, Louise and her companies were recently highlighted in an interview on LI radio station WALK 97.5 with The Anna & Raven Show and were featured in a box-opening video of Sonny & Dew products by Barstool Sports founder, Dave Portnoy.  Louise said having Dave do a video opening one of her boxes was a very exciting moment, and she continues to get orders from that plug to this day.

Amidst all the growth, Louise said she continues to be focused on balancing her business by being committed to paying it forward, and to supporting others in her community.  When Covid hit, she said she wanted to give back to the nurses who were on the front lines, so she started sending hand lotions as a thank you to nurses at hospitals.  Nurses from Syosset, the former Southside now South Shore University Hospital, North Shore University Hospital, and NYU Winthrop Hospital received packages from Louise.

Most recently, Louise gave back to the nurses at Stony Brook University Hospital with Day at the Beach hand lotions and free haircuts.  In response, Louise has received countless pictures and posts from nurses all over who have shared their appreciation for the thoughts and care.  Louise said her goal is to continue to pay forward to the nurses and first responders any chance she can.  She said even though things seem to be getting better, the nurses are still there helping others and should not be forgotten once the dust settles.

“It seems to me like everybody has forgotten about them at this point,” she said.

As part of her recent relocation and expansion, Louise has brought on outside artists to provide services such as facials, permanent makeup, microblading, lifts and tints, and brow lamination.  Clients can book an appointment with a fully licensed esthetician and a permanent makeup artist to receive any of these services.  Despite the pandemic, Louise said she never stopped working and moving forward with her salon, but there is still a lot of work she wants to do.

One of those goals is being able to return to fairs with her products.  In the beginning of the shutdown, Louise said she enjoyed the break of the weekly grind, but now she is deeply missing the in-person connection with her customers.

“Once they pick-up, I will be at the fairs again.  Without a doubt, either I will be there, or one of my girls will be there, but Sonny & Dew will be back at the fairs,” she said.

A big worry for Louise, she said, is the fear that people have developed a habit of going onto Amazon and having everything the next day; and she said she worries that those customers won’t come back.  Especially for the crafters and handmade people like her, Louise said those artists really need people to come back.

“I am hoping that people are not so in tune to buying online now that they don’t come out to support,” she said.

Setting worries aside, Louise said she is grateful to her customers wherever they come from.  While new customers have been a breath of fresh air to the business, Louise said it is her repeat customers who have been the most rewarding.  Louise takes pride in being there for her client’s needs and if there ever is a question, she said all someone has to do is call her, and she will gladly help any client find just the right product for their individual needs.  For her returning customers, she said they know her products by heart now.

“I don’t have to show them anything anymore.  They just walk-in and pick out what they find,” she said.

To learn more about Tresses & Colours and the services they provide, you can visit www.tressesncolours.com.  Sonny & Dew is located inside Tresses & Colours at 1227 Montauk Highway in Oakdale where you can shop in-person, or online at www.sonnyndew.com.  To book an appointment for hair styling or any other service, call 631-581-9369.