In 1987, 28-year-old Broadway starlet Linda Sabatelli was enjoying a relaxing dinner out with the cast of 42nd Street when she caught the eye of Gerard Carelli. The talented young trombonist, back from a 10-month stint touring with Ray Charles, had in 1980 relocated to Manhattan and began subbing in the orchestra pit for the production. “I was invited to that dinner, and sat across the table from Linda, but we both had come with other dates,” Gerard says. “A little time went by, and I asked my hairdresser, Bobby, about this beautiful brunette dancer. Bobby knew immediately that I was talking about Linda, and helped me to deliver a note to her.” Soon after, Gerard and Linda began dating. They tied the knot in 1989, and, for the occasion, Gerard wrote Linda a song entitled “Beautiful Dancer,” which would eventually become the title track for his 1993 album.
Although the Carellis now live with their 14-year-old son Marcello in the quiet hamlet of Bedford Hills, far removed from Broadway’s bustle, over the past 30 years, the couple have amassed an impressive list of accomplishments in the worlds of music, film, and dance. Gerard has worked as a bandleader at New York City’s Rainbow Room, performed alongside some of the greatest crooners of our time—including Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, and Mel Torme—and even released two of his own albums, Beautiful Dancer and Lucky to Be Me, the latter of which he wrote soon after Marcello’s birth as a tribute to his son. For her part, Linda has performed alongside the Broadway greats Jerry Orbach and Tammy Grimes, starred as principal dancer on camera for scores of soft-drink and fast-food commercials during the 1980s and 1990s, and became a renowned choreographer, with work that has included choreography for the 1989 Academy Awards. And, though they both gained renown in separate fields, Linda’s and Gerard’s paths to success share similar traits of the talent, tenacity, and luck that got them there.
In the commuter town of Wayne, New Jersey, located 30 minutes outside of Manhattan, Linda’s father, who worked in manufacturing, and mother, an accountant, hoped for college and a nice, traditional career path for Linda. But her father set into motion a very different path when he sent 4-year-old Linda to the local dance school in hopes she would learn to channel her boundless energy. Her teacher, Gloria Frances, quickly realized Linda was a gifted dancer. “After a few years, Gloria believed she had given me all that she could offer, and began to bring me into the City with her on weekends to take classes,” Linda recalls. “Then, when I was 13, she brought me to see my first Broadway show: Pippin. That show decided it for me!” With a razor-sharp focus on making it to Broadway, Linda, who in 1973 was still just a teen, began taking classes at the prestigious (Henry) LeTang studio in Manhattan, where she met another talented kid, Gregory Hines. “He was a genuine and multi-talented performer with no ego who truly inspired me to follow my dreams,” Linda says of Hines, who would become a dance partner at LeTang and her lifelong friend.