By Shaeri Richards
Sedona AZ (September 1, 2014) – Tony Carito: the colorful man with the big heart and the smile to go with it. The unofficial mayor of Sedona, with his trademark orange fedora, offering old-timers and newcomers alike a warm Sedona welcome where ever he would meet them. Between his daily rituals in Sedona’s coffees shops and restaurants and his creative offerings as an artist, entertainer and comedian, almost everyone in town knew Tony. And to know Tony is to love him; he has a vibrant presence, full of laughter, full of song. He can entertain you with his wit, comfort you with his compassion, or just be there with you—present to whatever might be going on.
That’s why it was such a shock to learn on Friday afternoon that Tony was gone. The news of his death cascaded through Sedona on a wave of disbelief as people began discovering via facebook, e-mail, text and word of mouth that our special Tony had passed away.
“What happened?” friends asked in anguish. “ I just saw him.” “He looked so sparkling and alive.” Spontaneous memorials erupted all over Sedona as people gathered to mourn him, to celebrate him, to try to understand. Eighty people held hands in the parking lot outside the grand opening of Lulu’s Chocolate Lounge on Friday night. Thirty people gathered at Jose’s for an impromptu celebration in the afternoon on Saturday. An altar was set up for Tony at the Hoppy Grape Lounge as Mixtress Hava worked her DJ magic Saturday night. (A formal celebration of life is scheduled for September 13th at 12:00 PM at the Sedona Performing Arts Center.)
To say Tony was a creative person is an understatement. He lived and breathed creativity. First there’s Scarfarti Tony’s unique art form in which he would create high-resolution photographs of brightly painted chiffon silk. (You can see some of his work hanging in the “Hideaway House” restaurant on Hiway 179.)
There’s improv: Tony participated in many Sedona improvisational theater troupes, starting with The Vortex Players back in 1988, Off the Top in the early 90’s, the Abandoned Minds starting in 2002, and finally Zenprov where he’s been shining his comedic light since 2012.
There’s singing, which was Tony’s joy. He once mused that he would love to live in a world where all communication took the form of song, and every word co-existed with it’s own melody. Tony could make up a song in the moment that would both touch your heart and blow your mind.
Tony loved music and nightlife and was often spotted enjoying entertainment in Sedona wherever it might happen. Guitarist Anthony Mazzella says he would sometimes invite Tony up on stage after his shows at Casa Rincon (now the Barking Frog) and give him the mic. “He would just start dancing and rapping away at lord knows what and crack us all up. He was the only person ever to do that at my gigs and the only person I would ever let do that.”
Most recently Tony came back to his love of writing. It started with the 24-hour theater project in Sedona back in May where he teamed up with Red Earth Theater producing artistic director Kate Hawkes to write one of the 10-minute plays, which she directed. They enjoyed it so much that they decided to work together on the upcoming production of Recycling with a Unicorn, an original show written to perform at Sedona Recycles in the outside space as benefit for the theater and the recycling center. The show (scheduled for Saturday September 6th and 13th and Sunday September 7th and 14th at 7:30 PM) will be a tribute to Tony and his creative spirit. More information can be found at this link: http://www.redearththeatre.org/events/
Tony Carito was born September 28th 1950 and spent most of his childhood in Reno, Nevada with his parents and older brother John. Tragedy struck for him in the early 80’s when his brother died of a heart condition around the age of 35. His father and mother also passed away within the next few years and Tony was left alone. He wandered for a while until he found Sedona, which became his new home in 1984 and many of us became his new family.
We still don’t know exactly how Tony Carito died. We know that he reported having laryngitis on Tuesday the 26th and was unable to attend rehearsal for the play. We know that he was unresponsive to texts and phone calls for a couple of days. Finally Friday morning a friend called the police and had them check on Tony. They found him in the bed where he had apparently died in his sleep.
Tony was a late night person and would often entertain himself by posting and sharing with people on Facebook (since Friday his page has been filling up with tributes, a testament to how many lives and hearts he has touched during his years in Sedona.) His final post on August 24th was pure Tony: “Let’s get into nowness addiction, wherein the moment is everywhere and everything, evaporating the past and future before our very eyes, leaving us swinging in a hammock of love.”
Yes, Tony. We are swinging with you in love. May your spirit soar.
September 28, 1950 – August 29, 2014
I never met him in person but knew of his many talents and compassionate living. A true loss for his home of Sedona, but with so many treasures left behind to share and enjoy forever. Many Blessings, Tony, in your newest adventure.
Thank you for this wonderful, beautifully written tribute to Tony Carito.
blessings to you Tony… as we say fly high… luv Liberty and Viramo
This article was perfect. Nicely written. Missing Tony.
Thank you Shaerie, for a beautiful tribute. I still can not fathom that I will never see Tony in person again..he goes before us, to open the door..we can not really be consoled…not yet.
I’m in shock. I was out of town all last week and just found out today (Monday). I’ve known Tony for a long time. What a joy it was to run into him here ‘n there, all over town…and he, always out with a group of friends and others from the improv group he performed with. Tony – You ‘will’ be missed. LUV U! Sedona has lost an icon.
How the shock waves have reached us in
WNY…Our bright orange light now soars
Over us…Tony a universal spirit of creativity
& warmth …so connected with
All of us..And now
Wherever & whenever we gather in
Beautiful Sedona his smiling presence
Reminds us of why we are here…what a
Gift to have been touched by the Tony Light
Nobody could have written an article better than you. That was so well expressed thank you. Yes Tony was an amazingly creative and loveable man. I think all of Sedona has felt his leaving us here without his big smile and always witty comments like something is really missing…..
Yes fly high Tony…….
What a beautiful tribute to a man who spread joy and positive energy everywhere he’d go. We all know that Tony lived like you only live once. But we also all know that we don’t only live once, and wherever Tony is now he’s spreading the same joy and happiness that will always be a part of his nature, and wherever he is off to, they’ll be the richer for it, as were we.
Thanks Shaeri, for this beautiful, loving tribute to this wonderful man that was loved dearly by everyone. He will be SO missed by Sedona.
Thank you Shaeri for giving us this great synopsis of Tony’s world. He was
always a bright light in our community and will be truly missed.
Shaeri, I just read your “Tribute to Tony Carito”. Anyone who knew or even met Tony should read it! You captured my feelings and thoughts about Tony perfectly! Beautifully written! Thank you!!!
Shaeri, thanks for writing what was in all our hearts.
Tony, ah Tony you are an inspiration on how to be a true individual. God thru away the mold when he made you. Wish we could have had one more hug…Well, you died loved by many. Many! May we all live as total as you have!
I am shocked and hurting inside. Tony who was one of my first loves. Was back in my life after 30 years. We talked all the time the past few months. He was a huge comfort to me. I was so looking forward to visiting him in November.
Last time we spoke he had a sore throat. I cant believe he is dead. I have been trying to call him for days. Is any one going to take care of his house and personal effects? Let me know if its needed.
Jean a very close friend and bereaved.
I have heard about you from Tony over the years and was also looking forward to visiting him soon in Oct. He was the love of my life since 1985 when I met him on Maui. My family and I have had the same concerns about all personal arrangements and want to help. I was informed on Fri. evening by Sedona police, and of course am in shock, grieving, total disbelief that I will not ever see him again. Have not been able to get many answers as I am not technically family. Already cancelled my trip to come over in Oct., but would hop on a plane tomorrow if I could do something to help. The e-mail address is at my work at Lahaina Intermediate School, which I won’t get until Mon. ( old school ) Please call me on the phone at home (weekends or evenings) 808 244 0970; or cell; 808 242 7722. My work # is 808 662 3965 ext 238.just need to tell them to put the call through. (it is 3 hrs earlier in HI than Sedona)
my friend’s e-mail address if you get this on weekend is: firstname.lastname@example.org
My friend is sending this on her computer, because I do not have one at home. So please call me when you get this message.
Mahalo and Alhoa, Sunshine Powers
Thank you Shaeri for such a beautiful piece on such a beautiful man. I knew Tony for many years and he was our unofficial Mayor. He is at peace and will be so missed. All we will remember was the love he so freely gave.We know he is entertaining in Heaven!
Does anyone know what the cause of death was? Could a family member please contact me. I am an old girlfriend and very close friend of Tony’s. I live in Oregon and will not be able to attend his memorial the 13th.
530 210 6010
This is a man I consider a dear friend. He opened his home and his heart to me, hosting me during my holistic health crusade in Sedona AZ. He taught me so much in such a short time and the entire time was full of laughter. He had a very special disposition on life and was one of the most open minded and funniest people I’ve ever met. You will be missed in physical form Tony Carito! SmoocheZ xo GODspeed, & Akal all the way from NJ to where ever you are NOW! Love RenZi