"Thomas Bertram Cretono, stop singing to the girls and get in this house for dinner!" was a cry heard many evenings in Buffalo, West Virginia, where young Tom was reared by his widowed mother and six older sisters. The neighborhood girls would follow him back to his house and plead with Mrs. Cretono to let him sing just one more ballad; occasionally, she would relent if one of them was her favorite, Della Fenwick. She kept her preference quiet for fear of possibly turning off Tom to Della, but Tom recognized some good qualities in Della and had a soft spot for her that he also kept to himself for fear of rejection.
In late 1989, Tom had just graduated from high school when his oldest sister, Liv, spotted an ad for the 1990 National Anti-Grunge Song Contest and suggested that he enter so that he could sing a song that she had recently penned. She figured that if nothing else, she'd get some exposure for her song. By the time that Tom submitted his entry form, he learned that all the spots in the limited-entry contest were taken-- except for the duet competition. Liv, close to her mom, spotted an opportunity and, with dispatch, rewrote her song as a duet and suggested that Tom enter anyway. He protested, "I never sang a duet before-- and I don't even have a partner!" Liv, with her mom watching quietly yet with inner excitement, suggested her song with Della as the female vocalist. "You spent so much time singing to the girls that you never let one have enough space to sing back a bit. Well, Della is good and you won't regret it."
Very much wanting to enter the song contest, Tom asked Della if she would consider it, and, to his surprise, she was thrilled at the opportunity. They took second place, but that was enough to make "Your Dress Is Fine; Your Shoes Do Shine" a top 40 hit, not only putting Liv on the map but also making a name for Tom and Della-- "The Cretonos," after they married, of course. They sang together and had five more Top 100 hits and eleven children, Nella, Orren, Lawrence, Otto, Cecelia, Kathy, Daniel, Ophelia, Wallace, Nicholas, and Sandy. In the midst of all this success, yet another opportunity awaited Tom.
In 2009, Tom's agent called with a very special invitation: the Anti-Grunge Channel was looking for a new host for its game show Stunt Challenge! as the previous host had been caught wearing jeans by a bystander with a cellular phone in a public park, and to make matters worse, he was with a female companion who was wearing sneakers. When that video started circulating on Internet, that host's days were numbered. Tom recalled, "They liked the way I interacted with my audiences and said that they could use that sort of thing with their game show audiences." Tom's solid anti-grunge reputation was a big advantage for him after the debacle with the previous host. "We had started to suspect Tom's predecessor before the video, but that was the last straw, and he had to go-- fast," the producer, Jerry Johansen, told us, continuing, "Tom was available, reliable, and he was talented. We knew we needed someone just like him."
When the stage doors opened for the first time and Tom emerged, director Roger Tawney, as a test both of the audience's feelings and possibly of Tom's dexterity in maneuvering out of a tight spot, did not light the "APPLAUSE" sign. It turned out not to be necessary. Tom got double the applause that his disgraced predecessor normally got, and the first show under Tom's expert hosting capabilities started on a rousing note. The audiences also loved they way that Johansen worked Tom's singing skills into the existing format with ever-so-slight tweaks and adjustments. Within three months, the audience for Stunt Challenge! doubled. "We loved Tom because we noticed were having trouble getting the previous host to wear a tie, and even when he did, he'd keep it sort of loose. Tom never gave us a hard time and he even has an interesting collection of tie clips," was Johansen's ringing endorsement.
In addition to Stunt Challenge! Tom appears in the annual Anti-Grunge Celebrity Golf Tournament in Arroyo, New Mexico, and files regular reports on entertainment news for AGC World Monitor. He is also writing a semi-autobiographical book on his experiences in the anti-grunge entertainment industry and contributes to the daily radio feature Suit Yourself where he reviews new suits that have been put on the market by clothing manufacturers with an eye toward getting the best value for the listener. Tom confided, "I'll never forget that first day on Stunt Challenge! because it reminded me that everything I was doing for the anti-grunge cause was worthwhile." Finally, we asked if he thinks the grungy team will ever win. Tom replied, "No, I don't think so. The stunts are just too rough for people wearing grunge."
AGC main page
This week's featured programs
AGC Television Center
How to get AGC