Walbrook High grad Ricardo basks in new-found success


December 20, 1990|By Henry Scarupa

"Everyone is a star," says Ricardo, an 18-year-old vocalist, dancer, illusionist and entertainer from Baltimore, "but you have to turn your lights on."

In the past year, the Walbrook High School graduate has turned his lights on. High beam.

Last spring, Richard Burton -- as he's known offstage -- completed a 12-inch single, "Girl, I Want To Give It Up," released in September on Muhammad Ali's Millionaire Records label.

Next he did a music video, partly shot in Baltimore, due for airing this month on cable TV's "Video Jukebox." He had been touring as lead singer with the group AP-4, and followed with a solo show of his own which took him in October to The Sands ballroom in Las Vegas.

He is being considered for the role of an entertainer who gets hooked on drugs in the movie "Getting It Straight," scheduled for shooting early in 1991.

Through all this he found time to perform during last summer's Afram festival in Baltimore.

"I've always had that get-up-and-go," says Ricardo, while on a quick trip to his hometown last month, combining business with visiting family and friends. "A lot of people say I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that, but they sleep and sleep and the only thing that comes from their sleep is dreams."

Articulate and unabashedly ambitious, he displays a maturity that belies his youthfulness. Eyeglasses with a heavy gilt frame give him a sober, even owlish, mien, contrasting with a casual, showy wardrobe of mustard-colored jacket draped over a black T-shirt, and mustard trousers tucked into black boots.

In his act, which lasts from 20 to 28 minutes, Ricardo comes on disguised as an old man toting a large box and cracking jokes about his other persona, Ricardo. Thunder and lightning suddenly shatter the mood and the old man runs into the box to hide. Two dancers appear on stage, gyrating to the throbbing rhythm of a four-piece band. Thirty seconds later, Ricardo reappears as himself in a white outfit, to do a non-stop routine of dance, rap, vocals, patter and illusion.

"He was one of the first artists I'd seen locally in whom I saw a lot of potential," says WWIN radio deejay Harold Anthony, who used to host the "City Line" show on Channel 13. "I definitely saw a light in him that I didn't see in most of the other entertainers."

Growing up in a single family home in West Baltimore (his mother works as a secretary at Bethlehem Steel), Ricardo has set his sights firmly on fame and success. But he hasn't forgotten where he came from, and he makes a practice of meeting with young people to urge them to strive to make something of themselves.

"I'm not trying to be just a goody-two-shoes," he says. "But my biggest turn-on is being able to help others. A lot of kids are growing up lost and they need someone to go into schools and talk to them.

"I want to educate them about drugs and teen-age pregnancy. If I can save just one person from being in a gang or taking drugs, or one young lady from becoming pregnant, that's one person you won't have to add to the statistics."

Discovered by Voris Hakim, an associate of ex-boxer Muhammad Ali and now his mentor and manager, Ricardo reflects on his good fortune and vows to help others in the same way.

"I'm on a mission," he says, resolutely. "My goal is to go out and make a success and come back to Baltimore and start my own production company. I want to help others the way Muhammad Ali helped me."

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