As fans of the Lucille Ball Little Theatre can attest, Sam Paladino could play any character.
Paladino, who passed away Friday at the age of 88, took the stage at the Lucille Ball Little Theatre in more than 80 productions ranging from ''South Pacific'' and ''Sabrina Fair'' to ''Gigi'' and ''Guys and Dolls.'' His one-man show, ''The History of Jamestown,'' debuted in 2008 when Paladino had been performing for nearly 70 years.
The character he played best, however, was that of Sam Paladino - a caring family man, raconteur, successful businessman, involved citizen and patriotic Italian-American. The script called for a man best described as a kind, genuine person, gracious and dignified in stature. He must light up a room by simply walking in the door, with the look of a 1940s movie star and, in later years, the demeanor of a kindly grandfather whose experiences and success made him a natural leader for those who knew him.
His story began in a hard-working, Italian neighborhood in Jamestown, where a young Sam first became interested in performing on stage. As his talent blossomed, Lucille Ball invited Paladino to try his hand in Hollywood, but World War II intervened and took him to China, Burma and India.
Upon his return to Jamestown, Sam married, had three children and realized his childhood dream of opening a business as a special hairdresser for both men and women. Dorian's, his first business, is run today by his daughters.
Sam Paladino leaves a trail of civic involvement as long as the list of roles he played on stage, ranging from the Rotary Club - which honored Paladino recently with a rendition of Louis Armstrong's "The Whole World's Smiling" - and Easter Seals to his longtime affiliation with the Italian-American Charity Golf Association.
His life was, indeed, a long-running hit.
Sam Paladino never starred in a major motion picture in Hollywood, but he was one of Jamestown's beloved leading men for decades.
Bravo, Sam. The spotlight shines a little less bright on Jamestown's stage without you.