Canton man recalls connections with famous — and infamous characters
By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
CANTON – Fate brought Al Dotoli together with his lifelong friend, Myles J. Connor, Jr., a convicted art thief and suspected planner of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. They met when they were young, joined together by their passion for music. As a teenager in the 1960s, the 74-year-old Canton resident played the bass guitar in Connor’s band The Wild Ones, and Connor, who was older, occasionally played in Dotoli’s band, The Druids. It turned out that Connor wasn’t the only famous connection in Dotoli’s life―he has lots of stories to tell.
The stolen Rembrandt
In 1974, Connor was about to go to prison for stealing Andrew Wyeth paintings. Seeking a bargaining chip for a leaner sentence, Connor and his associates stole a Rembrandt from the Museum of Fine Arts. “We spent a lot of time negotiating the deal and figuring out my role,” Dotoli recalled. “The papers said that the Rembrandt was handed off to the FBI and state police in Boston. It was at a Holiday Inn in Randolph. I know because I was there. I wore a ski mask, so nobody knew who I was.”
Music was his launching pad
Early on, before Dotoli could ever imagine touching a Rembrandt, he became more focused on understanding and acquiring sound equipment than playing in a band. He launched All Sound Audio along with a bandmate, and eventually leased a storefront in Quincy. “We could make five times more money supplying sound equipment than playing a gig. I was a hippie, but I was also a capitalist, so that worked for me,” said Dotoli.
When he was only 22, his “Dotoli Doubles,” a custom combination of speakers, was used by The Rolling Stones in their 1969 “Gimme Shelter” tour. Dotoli went on manage bluesman James Cotton, the James Montgomery Band, and the Fat City Band. Four years later, he became involved with the Music Inn in Lenox, a 10,000-seat venue. “This was a great run until there was a brawl during an Allman Brothers concert and the venue was shut down,” said Dotoli.
His career continued to soar. Dotoli said, “Dionne Warwick told her manager that the only good sound was in Vegas or at my events in New England. After that I became her sound consultant and toured the world with her.”
In 1988, Dotoli toured with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. on their “Together Again” Tour. “I still get goosebumps when I think back on walking Dean Martin onto the Oakland Arena stage with Sinatra’s friend Jilly Rizzo,” Dotoli remembered. “Martin walked up a couple of steps and then tripped like he was drunk, which maybe he was. The crowd went wild. He started to sing, ‘When you’re drinking you get stinking. It helps your point of view.’ People roared,” said Dotoli. “I still don’t know if he manufactured it, but it was perfect.”
Olympic bombing in Atlanta
In another twist of fate, Dotoli was the production manager for the Global Olympic Main Stage event at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Once again, he found himself in the middle of controversy. He said, “Richard Jewell had been the midnight to noon security guard in the front of house, which is where the bomb went off. The sound guys had really liked him. They had asked me to request that he stay on even though guards usually left after two-week shifts. I did it.”
Dotoli continued, “When the bomb went off, we all thought that Jewell saved a lot of lives. He had told everyone to get out. The guys got together and raised $5,000 to gift him, which was matched by management. I alerted the papers that we were going to give him a big $10,000 check on stage. Next thing I knew, an FBI agent called me and said, ‘Don’t do that. Watch the 5 p.m. news. Richard Jewell is our leading suspect.’ ”
There was another connection that Dotoli worried about. Part of the reason that Jewell was a suspect was his behavior at his previous job at Piedmont College. Dotoli said, “I went to college there and got kicked out. Two weeks before the bombing, I drove there―about an hour away from Atlanta―and signed into a log and then walked the campus.” He added, “I knew that the FBI was looking for an accomplice. It wasn’t me, but at the time, I was concerned that my coincidences might add up.” Jewell was eventually cleared of any involvement in the bombing.
Working for Robert Kraft
Capping off his career, Dotoli was selected by Robert Kraft to be the production supervisor at Gillette Stadium. For almost two decades until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he produced outdoor concerts at the stadium, while touring arenas during the winter months. “Working for the Krafts was great. In addition to concerts at the stadium, I produced seven post-Superbowl shows for the team members and their families. The Krafts really know how to throw a party,” said Dotoli.
Most famous person
It’s impossible for Al Dotoli to name the most famous person he’s met. Would he say Sinatra, The Rolling Stones, or the Dalai Lama? Growing up in Milton, Dotoli could not have dreamed of having so many possible answers to this question, and so many stories to tell.