|me and sinatra*
|I never met Frank Sinatra. But I am an
authority on the subject. I grew up in Buffalo.
It was the fifties. We had Eisenhower in the
white house and Sinatra in Hollywood. In
Buffalo we took our cue from Sinatra.
Some men are granted a license to live their
lives as children-—from the day they are born
until they drop dead 80 years later—-the
concept of instant gratification. The opposite is
delayed gratification—-life as an adult.
For example: Picasso. Picasso is the classic.
Picasso would say: I want to paint—-and he
would paint. I want to eat-—and he would eat.
I want to fuck-—and he would fuck. Etc etc.
And Sinatra qualifies as well. What was the Rat
Pack—Sinatra, Dean martin, Sammy Davis,
etc--but a group of men, 45 years old, who
reject the concept of delayed gratification?
Another word is fun. It was fun, fun, fun and the
rules be damned. There were no rules. Its hard
not to like that.
Lets talk about the voice. He was called “The
Voice” for a reason. Bing Crosby had a joke. He
said ”A voice like that comes along once in a
lifetime. But why did it have to be my lifetime?”
There was something about it—a tone and a
flavor to this tone-— exciting and intimate--that
produced an extraordinary compelling effect--a
narcotic. This was the voice I used to seduce
my second wife.
There was a bar on the west side, the Campus
Lounge, called such because two blocks away
was Buffalo State Teachers College. But the
name was misleading. The Campus didnt draw
the collegiate preppy types. It drew the
neighborhood greaseball types like yours truly.
Inside it was the shrine concept and the object
of worship was Frank Sinatra. There was a
jukebox with 50 records, 40 by Frank, pictures
on the wall, movie posters, framed newspaper
clippings featuring photographer punchouts, etc.
That was The Campus-—Franks place. We
talked like him, we dressed like him, we drank
like him (Jack Daniels on the rocks.) Now we
needed to get laid like him. If Sinatra decided
to play Buffalo and pay a call at the Campus it
would have been a cosmic event. The place
would have gone up in a puff of smoke—-
vaporised. It cannot be explained. You had to
be there. We were Sinatra junkies and it was at
the Campus we gathered to get our fix.
I mention all this because I have just returned
from a Sinatra memorabilia exhibit on display
at the Doheny Library at USC. Sinatra was a
pack rat type, nothing was tossed and during a
career in show business spanning 60 odd years,
especially this career, you tend to accumulate a
lot of shit. His daughters decided to divert a
fraction of it to present this exhibit.
Its well worth a visit. Its all there sorted into
categories: Sinatra the crooner, the actor, the
TV performer, the radio star. There is Sinatra
the family man with the kids and grandkids,
Sinatra the humanitarian, Sinatra the
presidential intimate. The only missing
categories are Sinatra the Mob crony and pussy
There is the young Sinatra, the human golf
club, with this amazing head of hair, to the old
Sinatra, complete with jowls and meticulous rug
cemented in place.
There are the awards: citations,
commendations, proclamations. There are the
honorary degrees, The Medal of Freedom, by
act of Congress, and an American flag that went
to the moon, compliments of Gene Cernan, the
guy from NASA ground control. There are
notes--from Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston
Churchill and Jackie K. Letters from Truman,
Nixon, Johnson, Reagan.
There is the Rat Pack—and a Rat Pack glossary
of lingo. (“gasser”—-noun, an exciting thing:
“the act is a gasser”. “Charley”—noun, a man,
very square, non-exciting. “Let’s lose Charley”.
“duke”--verb, meaning to tip: “I duked him
You name it, Frank did it, and its all there.
They have a DVD player set up and I watched
part of Pal Joey, the quintessential Sinatra film
with Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak. He plays
himself-—a singer/pussy hound type—in a bit
of a slump career-wise but he has a dream--
his own club. Enter Rita Hayworth, a society
dame, recently widowed, needs to get laid.
He makes a pitch—a partnership, her to
provide the bread and he runs the club, and
also, by way of a perk, an offer to resurrect her
dismal sex life. She replies by slapping his face,
there is a pause and he says: “You can hit
harder than that—-partner”.
I loved that line.
Maybe you dont like Sinatra. I have friends,
younger friends, younger women friends, and
the subject pops up from time to time and the
verdict is non-flattering. He was 1) a pussy
hound; and 2) a bully.
Both true—and they tend not to dilute with a
brilliant fame and the accumulation of wealth.
But as I say, it was Buffalo in the fifties, he was
Sinatra and there was a saying: “Its Franks
world, we only live in it”.
*this story was originally written for LA Weekly but