TV news legend using singing skills to help others through COVID pandemic

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan -- Francis Scott Fitzgerald once famously wrote, "there are no second acts in American lives," but he never met Victor Neufeld.

The former executive producer at ABC News has found new purpose in retirement, and now has a job that puts him front and center after decades behind-the-scenes. Neufeld is helping folks get through this pandemic by entertaining them.

He ran "20/20" for decades, one of the most famous news magazines in prime time. This was Neufeld's life at ABC News, where he spent 30 years and won more than 20 Emmys as the person instrumental in making the show such a big hit.

So, it may come as a surprise to see him singing, "All of me, why not take all of me?" at Sapphire Indian Restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

"If you choose the right songs and you're communicating well: with delight, or humor, or pathos, or heartbreak, or yearning, it's the same as a great TV news story because it touches people and it's important in their lives," Neufeld said.

The former TV newsman has loved singing since he was a boy. He was still at ABC when he first started performing in the city's clubs and took to inviting staffers to come see him.

"I was the boss," notes Neufeld with a laugh. "And they were a wonderful audience."

At Sapphire on Broadway, patrons have embraced Victor and his band of top musicians. There may be better singers, but few can sell a song better than he, and fewer still can make you feel so good when he takes a tune, "Right to the very heart of it, in ole New York!"

Giving folks a chance to make merry and live a little after so many months facing COVID-19 helps restaurants devastated by the pandemic.

"He's very good...at a bad time," Sapphire co-owner Satish Arora said.

Neufeld sings for free and pays the musicians out of his own pocket, finding ample reward in the reaction of the crowd.

"I can see it in the faces, and I can see it in the response," he said. "I feel it, and that's my joy."

Tango dancers Nina Beliavsky and Sidney Grant sometimes perform with him, and Neufeld performs all over town. He's back at Sapphire on Friday evening, November 27. Patrons there tell me he gives them hope in troubled times.

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