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Polka Hero

Local writer uncovers the true story of Frankie Yankovic.


Forget what you know about polka. It's not just riff-repeating dance music played by accordion-wielding drunks, argues Bob Dolgan, author of America's Polka King: The Real Story of Frankie Yankovic. It was an integral part of post-war culture. In a way, polka was the hip-hop of its era: It celebrated hedonistic good times, its stars were blinged-out egomaniacs, and the whole scene copped a carpe diem attitude. And nobody embodied that ethos more than Cleveland's Yankovic. Says Dolgan: "He was a grade-A character."

Dolgan, who helped pen Yankovic's autobiography in 1977, says that America's Polka King came out of his desire to tell the truth. "Like all autobiographies, Frank sugarcoated things," he says. "I wanted to tell the honest story." Yankovic became a millionaire after scoring nationwide best-sellers with songs like "Just Because." He'd stuff his pockets with cash, flaunting his riches like Diddy on a Saturday night. He burned through two wives before settling down with the third. And one of his sons killed himself, while another spent time in prison. "Frank came from humble beginnings," says Dolgan. "He would've ended up a factory worker if it wasn't for polka."
Sat., Nov. 25, noon

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