Hazel Sobti dashes to center stage carrying a microphone pole, barely skirting a collision with another contestant. Two beautiful women follow her. As a guitarist in a Hawaiian shirt hams up "Rollin' on the River" for an audience bathed in blue light, the luminous beauty from India shimmies in a black dress and gold eye shadow. The three women rock their hips, belting out the song in the 2,000-seat theater at Church by the Glades in Coral Springs. Behind her, on a jumbotron, flashes the name of a reality-TV show: Recreating a Legend.
"This show gives me the chance to show my talent to the world," Sobti says in a later segment, flipping her long dark hair for the camera. "What better opportunity do I get than this?"
But the 24-year-old songstress' big opportunity turned out to be a huge disappointment. And two months later, in October 2011, Sobti found herself more prisoner than star. She says she was exploited by Recreating a Legend creator Roy Anthony Sciacca, an eccentric ex-hair-metal singer and pop memorabilia collector who has been sued dozens of times by everyone from dentists to realtors to the Beach Boys. Sobti, who always dreamed of coming to America from Southern India, says that when she finally got here, Sciacca wouldn't let her leave.
"I was stuck in Coral Springs for months, and it was tragic," she says. "The electricity would go out. We had no food. My credit card was from India, so I couldn't even use it." Billed as a cross between American Idol and the Olympics, Recreating a Legend was the latest entry in Sciacca's series of failed entertainment ventures. But unlike some of his other shows and festivals that never got off the ground, six episodes of RAL were actually filmed. Famed singers Olivia Newton-John and Betty Wright judged the contestants, as is done on The Voice. But Sciacca's twist was that he helped the women craft original songs.
"I wanted to show the world a true artist," says Sciacca, who has stunningly white teeth, Listerine-blue eyes, and thinning blond hair that cascades over his shoulders.
The wanna-be media mogul's interest in showbiz began young. Roy Sciacca (pronounced "Shocka") was born in the Bronx in 1951 and started singing when he was 2. He moved to L.A. with his artist dad and hairdresser mom at age 9 and began tooling around on the keyboard, the guitar, anything he could get his hands on. "I thought I was gonna be another superstar," he says. "And that's been stuck in my head my whole life."
His mom died when he was young, and Sciacca didn't get along with his dad. But he found a role model in his uncle, a singer in the mold of Dean Martin who was signed to Decca Records.
Sciacca became obsessed with hard rockers Van Halen, moved out of the family home at 15, and fronted bands called the End and Sciacca. He wanted to join the Air Force but "chickened out," he says. "Hair bands were my scene," he adds.