From Dream to Reality: The Inspiring Journey of Oleg Frish – The Leading Light in Entertainment

Today, we have the pleasure of introducing you to someone who has left a remarkable impact outside the realm of medicine. You might have caught glimpses of him on your television screen or even experienced the joy of attending his concerts. Oleg Frish is an extraordinary individual who effortlessly connects the past with the present, rekindling enchanting memories that reside within us, all through the power of music. His journey encompasses the tale of an immigrant who has attained tremendous success and acclaim. Ultimately, it is the story of a person who is actively contributing to the betterment of our world. 

As an internationally renowned celebrity television broadcast host, journalist, and recording artist, what has your experience been like after so many years in the industry? 

I embarked on my journey in this industry at a young age, diving into a highly popular genre called “psychological experiments,” which luminaries like Wolf Messing, Mikhail Kuni, Lev Benditkis, and later Yuri Gorny pursued. As a university student, I was enthralled by this genre, considering it a marvel, and I sought to carve my own path within it. Rather than seeking to heal or harm individuals, I aimed to showcase the incredible capacities of human memory, psyche, willpower, thinking, and reactions, among others. 

Thus, I created a program called “I Will Read Your Mind,” wherein I successfully guessed the names of renowned figures, cities, countries, and historical dates. Furthermore, I introduced a unique musical segment where I not only guessed songs but also performed them. Naturally, to accurately guess the name of a great person, one must be well-versed in the likes of Kierkegaard, La Fontaine, or Hemingway. Likewise, performing a song requires a deep understanding of it. 

Parallel to this passion, I cultivated a love for collecting vinyl records, amassing an extensive collection over time. This hobby took root during my childhood in Zaporizhia, Ukraine, where my father, a conductor and People’s Artist, and my mother, a pianist, created an environment that deeply fascinated me. Little did I anticipate that the names written on those record sleeves or heard on the radio would one day become real to me. Meeting remarkable individuals such as Tamara Miansarova, Aida Vedishcheva, Edita Piekha, Gyulli Chokheli, and Muslim Magomayev seemed like an unimaginable dream. To my astonishment, a photograph of me and Muslim even graces his book – among the countless pictures captured throughout his life, our photo found a place in the pages of “You Are My Melody.” 

When I arrived in America armed with this knowledge and passion, the entertainment industry welcomed me with open arms. Americans truly appreciate individuals who possess expertise in their fields and are thoroughly prepared. Thus, my love for music, passion for the stage, and educational background in philology and journalism intertwined harmoniously. This fusion not only allowed me to enter the industry but also paved the way for me to discover my unique place within it. 

With your vast knowledge and memory of over 15,000 songs from various genres and eras, how do you manage to maintain such an impressive musical database? 

As I mentioned earlier, my involvement in psychological experiments focused on acts that required extensive memory. However, my memory extends beyond songs alone, as it is relatively easy to remember songs that resonate with us and effortlessly embed themselves in our minds. Over time, my music consumption has transitioned from vinyl records to cassettes, CDs, and now digital tracks available on the internet. When I arrived in America, my passion led me to eagerly invest all my resources into albums by artists who specialized in genres I grew up with, such as jazz vocals, Great American Songs, and rock and roll. Eventually, blues and R&B became additional musical genres I embraced. 

Possessing an innate affinity for memory, I honed my skills in alignment with the principles of Mnemosyne, the ancient Greek goddess of memory. In the past, I actively practiced mnemonic techniques, a rare and unique genre where two artists shared the stage. During these performances, one artist would venture into the audience, requesting the names of renowned individuals to be reiterated. This extraordinary format employed a distinctive effect, allowing us to encode an entire language into just seven words. The combination of specific phrases, my mood, gestures, and facial expressions served as cues for my partner to encode a surname for me to decipher on stage. For instance, a prompt like “Oleg, think,” indicated that the name belonged to a celebrated poet. Conversely, an instruction like “Don’t worry, speak!” would signify a surname associated with the world’s first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, or someone of comparable complexity. Employing this encoding system greatly aided in organizing the vast array of information in my mind, and my memory shelves boast remarkable capacity. Up until recently, I didn’t rely on a phonebook, instead committing phone numbers to memory. Therefore, it is safe to say that I possess a robust memory. 

You have interviewed numerous notable figures in the entertainment industry throughout your career. What have been some of the most memorable moments and conversations you’ve had with these major stars? 

Among the more than 1,500 segments I’ve filmed, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with legends like James Brown, B.B. King, Donna Summer, and Gloria Gaynor. Meeting these iconic individuals and seeing them become real and relatable has been truly fascinating. They’ve shared stories I’ve known since childhood, as well as stories that were completely new to me. 

One particularly poignant experience was my interview with Donna Summer. It turned out to be her final interview before her passing. Despite battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, she arrived at the filming location in New York, even before the film crew. She looked stunning, with her makeup and hairstyle, despite the immense pain she was enduring. It was another chance for her to connect with her viewers through the camera, especially those who remembered her from her time in Europe when she lived in Germany and performed worldwide. 

Another remarkable encounter was with Connie Francis, often referred to as the Madonna of the 1950s. She sold approximately 300 million records in different languages and had numerous chart-topping hits. However, in 1974, she experienced a traumatic sexual assault that brought her back into the public eye. In response, she established an organization to support women who had faced violence and began giving lectures alongside her concerts. She trusted me and shared the deeply personal story of that fateful day, which marked a profound turning point in her life. It was a priceless moment of vulnerability and strength. 

I deeply admire American artists because they fearlessly address topics that are often considered taboo. They speak openly about drug addiction, imprisonment, and other challenging subjects, shedding light on important issues. However, conducting such interviews requires meticulous preparation. When the artists see that I am well-versed in their work and genuinely interested, they relax, and our conversations delve into their personal lives, resulting in unique and valuable content that resonates with audiences. 

Your program “Friday Evening” was very popular. How does it feel to have such a wide-reaching audience?  

I arrived in America in 1992 and joined WmW Radio. I worked there until the company’s closure in 2000. A year later, the company’s director, David Morrow, launched a television channel, and those of us with our programs transitioned to work there. My focus was on music and culture. Unfortunately, when that channel ceased operations, we all found ourselves unemployed. However, at that time, the RTVI channel was established, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join their team. Initially, I hosted only advertising programs, but since 2005, my original program, “Time-Out,” has been intermittently airing on the NTV America channel. Although the channel is currently not available on cable television due to sanctions, viewers can still watch our show online through TVNET, where I incorporate phone calls and music quizzes into each episode. 

Simultaneously, I also worked at Narodnaya Volna radio, which was launched by Valery Weinberg, the owner of the newspaper Novoe Russkoe Slovo, the oldest Russian-language immigrant newspaper that existed for 100 years. It was during my time there that I began collaborating with American artists. The radio station was located on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street, right in the heart of the city, making it easy to attract artists to our programs. From 2005 to 2010, I hosted a program on NTV, and from 2011 to 2018, I returned to RTVI. Later on, I went back to NTV America, where my program “Time-Out” continues to this day. A year ago, I also took on the role of the director of the advertising department for the non-news programs “American Stories” and the “Culture” segment on RTVI, so I am currently working simultaneously on both channels. 

“Friday Evening” was a program that aired from 2011 to 2018 on the RTVI channel. It was a half-hour show that provided me with the opportunity to interview highly renowned individuals. Guests included José Feliciano, who received a lifetime Grammy Award and wrote “Feliz Navidad,” Engelbert Humperdinck, Gloria Gaynor, famous for her song “I Will Survive,” Gino Vannelli, as well as other composers and musical authors. These interviews were interspersed with captivating musical performances. 

My original program, “Time-Out,” falls into the genre of biography. In just two weeks, we will release a new episode featuring the legendary American TV host Dick Cavett. This remarkable person had a daily show for 50 years, featuring iconic individuals from various fields. He was one of the first to invite not only musicians but also artists from different genres, writers, painters, and even politicians to his studio.  

It’s incredibly rewarding to produce such programs and then meet people on the streets who express their gratitude for being able to see artists whose work they grew up with. 

Nevertheless, the primary objective of all my programs remains educational. People must be familiar with the culture of the country they grew up in and where they currently reside. 

We would love to hear more about your concept album “Oleg Frish With My American Idols.” Can you share the inspiration behind it and tell us about your experience recording duets with some of your favorite artists? 

This album stands as the pinnacle of my discography. Before its creation, I had the privilege of working on a remarkable album with Patrick Williams’ big band, an artist celebrated with Grammy and Oscar accolades. We recorded that album at Capitol Records, the studio where the legendary Frank Sinatra brought his musical visions to life. These duets that grace my latest release are the realization of a childhood dream—a chance to collaborate with my idols. It’s no surprise that the USA is often referred to as the land where dreams come true, and indeed, it played a significant role in the realization of my aspirations. 

The inspiration for this album stemmed from my deep appreciation for songs in different languages, and a burning desire to embark on a personal endeavor. It was during this time that I crossed paths with Bob Mann, whose arrangements resonated deeply with me, prompting me to share my concept. Though Bob initially harbored doubts about the concept’s potential popularity, particularly considering the inclusion of multiple languages, his partner Alan Schwartzberg, who became a mentor and father figure to me, lent his hand in developing the idea. Recognizing my connections with numerous well-known individuals within the industry, Alan proposed the idea of recording duets with them. 

To my surprise, I questioned whether these esteemed figures would find interest in such a project, but Alan persuaded me to give it a try. While not everyone was able to participate, the contributions of those involved were immensely valuable. For instance, Connie Francis recorded a captivating introduction, wherein she graciously introduces me – a moment that holds immeasurable significance. The album boasts ten remarkable duets, including collaborations with B.J. Thomas, a five-time Grammy winner, and Ben E. King, a distinguished recipient of a lifetime Grammy. In a testament to the album’s diversity, Hollywood film star Lainie Kazan joined me in recording a Yiddish rendition of “Hello Dolly” titled “Shalom Dolly.” Upon hearing this rendition, the song’s author, Jerry Herman, expressed his amazement, noting that while he had encountered various interpretations of his composition, none had resonated quite like ours. As an American Jew, the notion of translating it into Yiddish had not previously crossed his mind. 

The album further includes collaborations with notable artists such as Melissa Manchester, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Wright Band, Peggi March, Tony Orlando, and Lou Christie. Each of these individuals has left an indelible mark on the history of music, be it through their Grammy-winning achievements or their enduring influence. I am profoundly gratified to have united these extraordinary talents and captured their essence in this album, immortalizing the magic we created together. 

As a performer, you have entertained audiences in various venues and markets. What are some of your most memorable live performances, and what do you enjoy most about connecting with your audience through music? 

One of the most unforgettable concerts of my career took place in Sydney, Australia. It was an incredible experience to see packed venues on the other side of the world. It turned out that people had discovered and enjoyed my music through the tracks I uploaded online, and they eagerly recommended my concert to their friends and acquaintances. The excitement continued with my initial concerts in the United States. I was offered a regular gig at the Metropolitan Room, a jazz club cabaret, where I performed twice a month. The very first concert had no audience, but the venue owner believed in my talent and assured me that we could achieve success together. From there, things started rolling like a snowball, gaining momentum and attracting more and more attention. The press began writing about my music, and I had the honor of being invited to the Joe Reynolds show on NBC a remarkable 11 times. Being in the studio at Times Square felt like being part of an authentic American channel. Unfortunately, the pandemic had a significant impact on my work, and concerts became less frequent. However, we are gradually resuming our activities, determined to bring the joy of live music back to the audience. Recently, we had the pleasure of performing concerts in Winchester and Connecticut, marking the beginning of a new chapter. 

Your television series “Walking the Streets of Moscow” allowed you to interview both Russian-born and American entertainers. How did these interactions shape your perspective on the similarities and differences between the two cultures? 

In 1997, I returned to Moscow to create programs about well-known Soviet artists. During that time, my audience primarily consisted of immigrants who had left in the ’70s and ’80s. In my first 10-day visit, we produced around 70 programs. I personally took charge of organizing the shoots. We conducted interviews with highly influential artists, composers, and politicians. Among the most memorable shoots was the one with Tatiana Samoilova, the esteemed actress and laureate of the Cannes Film Festival. Before the shoot, she inquired about my background and expressed disappointment upon learning that I was a musician, as she perceived it as a different realm altogether. Nevertheless, she agreed to grant me an interview on the condition that she wouldn’t read any poetry for us, making a show. However, our conversation was so captivating that by the end, she spontaneously recited poetry. Even now, the memory of that moment gives me chills. When individuals like her recite poetry, their enchanting talent has the power to make everything around them more beautiful. 

Presently, Russian artists exhibit a different approach. It has influenced my decision to abstain from interviewing them, as it lacks appeal. They fabricate scandals for the sake of publicity, lacking authenticity. Their stories, in a time where any fact can be easily verified, fail to captivate. Conversations with them tend to be superficial, as they rely on memorized, fabricated narratives and are afraid to venture beyond those boundaries. American artists, on the other hand, greatly differ in this regard. They are genuine. 

With your extensive experience in radio and television, how do you believe the entertainment industry has evolved over the years, and what do you see as the future of broadcast media? 

The media landscape has undergone a profound transformation with the advent of the internet. In today’s digital age, having a substantial online following and popular social media accounts, whether on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook, has become crucial for recognition. The next generation may not even be aware of you if you lack a significant online presence. On the flip side, achieving popularity on social media can grant artists, television presenters, and others a remarkable advantage. It’s no longer solely about being better or more professional; it’s about amassing a large social media audience. 

However, it’s important to note that simply having a sizable following is not enough. If your content is not compelling and captivating, it will be challenging to attract and retain an audience. This fundamental difference sets the tone in today’s industry. In the past, merely appearing on television provided direct access to your audience, establishing you as an exclusive and well-known figure in your field. However, the rise of the internet and its heroes has led to the decline of numerous hosts and television channels. They have been overshadowed by the internet’s pervasive influence and the emergence of new digital personalities. 

Apart from your successful entertainment career, you are also involved in philanthropic endeavors. Could you tell us about any causes or organizations that are close to your heart and why they hold significance for you? 

I actively support seniors by performing at special centers and organizing commemorative concerts that honor composers, poets, and other remarkable individuals. My commitment extends beyond New York, reaching out to various communities. I dedicate myself to the noble cause of preserving the memory of these great figures by engaging in archival work and expanding archives. This mission is deeply meaningful to me. I wholeheartedly invest significant resources, as I derive immense satisfaction from contributing to a better world. Currently, I am contemplating involvement in “Broadway Against AIDS” as this disease remains a formidable threat, taking numerous lives. It is crucial to join forces in combating its devastating impact. 

What can we expect from Oleg Frish in the future? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you are particularly excited about? 

I am eager to release another album, encompassing songs in various languages and once again reflecting my American dream. My vision is to record this album with an authentic American orchestra, incorporating songs in English, Japanese, Ukrainian, Serbian, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish, Romanian, Portuguese, and more. Alongside well-known hits, I intend to present new songs that will captivate listeners and instantly find a special place in their hearts. Furthermore, I am diligently preparing a new concert program titled “Songs Across the Planet.” This program will feature multilingual songs that have the power to unite people from all corners of the world through the beauty of uplifting music. My creative pursuits are deeply rooted in culture, social significance, art, as well as television, and they remain completely separate from the realm of politics. 

Interview was conducted by Iryna Tetera