I’ve been a fan of Frank Sinatra’s music for a long time. And as other fans, I have heard about his bouts with the media.
But I just read a beautiful book about Frank Sinatra written by his daughter, Nancy Sinatra, entitled FRANK SINATRA-AN AMERICAN LEGEND. In her book, she shares a side of her father that fans didn’t get a chance to know. After reading this book, I consider him a kind, loving, principled, generous man.
Granted the book’s view is from a devoted daughter who obviously adored and deeply loved her father. But the things that he did during his life are so impressive…like sending people in need, whether friends or acquaintances, blank checks to pay medical or living expenses; the many times he gave benefit concerts to raise money for medical centers and other worthy causes; and his unfailing devotion and love for his children despite a demanding professional and personal life.
As many of his long-time fans, I love his music, especially his hit songs: NEW YORK, NEW YORK; CHICAGO; BUT NOT FOR ME; MORE THAN YOU KNOW; and on and on. I also admired his performances in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. And I’ve enjoyed seeing his performances on TV with his Rat Pack friends Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford.
He Soars Again
We know about his great success when he started out in the 1940s and how bobbysoxers swooned and hysterically shouted for him at his performances at the Paramount in New York City. And when the taste for his music later changed and Frank’s popularity waned around the early 1950s, we cheered for him in 1953 when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his powerful performance as Maggio in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY…a role he had to fight for because nobody thought he could play it.
Then we watched as his career soared again…higher than ever before and he stayed on top. Even when he “retired” for a couple of years and came back to show business because he was bored, he assumed his position-a position he held for the rest of his life-as a powerful, extremely talented, phenomenal star.
His popularity was sensational. In 1980, Sinatra had a two-week engagement at Carnegie Hall in New York City. As Nancy Sinatra said, “Tickets for the entire engagement sold out in one day, breaking all previous sales records in the landmark theater’s 90-year history.”
I Saw Him in Person
I had the great pleasure of seeing Frank Sinatra in person! I attended one of his Paramount performances In New York City when I was a teenager. My Uncle George (a film buff) and I went to see a western Sinatra had starred in because he was appearing onstage. Well, the movie, JOHNNY CONCHO-I have to say-was boring, but we were there to see Sinatra perform with the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey Band.
When the stage show was to begin, there was an announcement that Sinatra was too ill to appear-but Dean Martin was there to do a show. Well, we stayed through the movie again hoping Sinatra would appear later. He didn’t-but Sammy Davis Jr., did; so did Joey Bishop. And finally, after having seen the movie four times-at about 11 p.m.-Sinatra finally appeared and what a great performance…so worth the wait.
I saw Sinatra again some years later-this time up close in Las Vegas. He wasn’t performing, but stopped by the hotel lounge where Count Basie (I think) was playing. He and Sinatra joked back and forth, and then Frank sat down at a table close to the stage. In person, and so close to us, Frank’s charisma just shot out. You couldn’t help yourself-you had to watch him. I was mesmerized and can’t be sure what band was playing-I was so captivated by Sinatra. And when he got up to leave the lounge, half the audience followed him out to the lobby.
His Special Friends and Special Deeds
He had deep friendships with celebrities considered “Hollywood Royalty”-Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Rosalind Russell, Judy Garland, and Claudette Colbert who was quoted in Nancy Sinatra’s biography of her father: “Frank has had a very special corner of my heart for a long time.” They all felt strongly about him: they loved him and were great supporters of him. He was also a proud friend of Presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy, and the Reagan inaugurals he produced were hugely successful. He remained a good friend to the Reagans during and after his presidency.
Reading about Sinatra’s life, I was impressed by the tremendous number of benefit performances he gave constantly throughout his life for various organizations. A partial list includes: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Center, the United Nations Fund for Refugee Children, Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, Eisenhower Medical Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and The Barbara Sinatra Home for Children, which Frank and his wife built in Rancho Mirage, California.
In 1962, he even paid all the expenses for the World Tour for Children to help underprivileged children. And to honor his father, he built the Martin Anthony Sinatra Medical Education Center in Palm Springs, California.
A truly caring man, he gave blank checks to friends in need, never expecting any repayment. Sinatra won a special honorary award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1946 for his 10-minute short film entitled THE HOUSE I LIVE IN urging tolerance to a group of boys.
Frank Sinatra Honored
The “Greatest Voice of the 20th Century”-that’s what BBC Radio called Sinatra in 2001. And according to Encyclopedia Britannica: “Through his life and his art, he transcended the status of mere icon to become one of the most recognizable symbols of American culture.”
Sinatra was truly honored and appreciated during his life. In fact, he was honored with more than forty awards for his extraordinary talent, for caring, for being the man he was. Here are just a few awards: Presidential Medal of Honor, 1985; Distinguished Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, 1971, for “his lifetime of public philanthropy and private kindnesses;” and three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in film and music.
Sinatra was nominated more than 30 times by The Grammy Awards and won 11 Grammys and was a four-time Golden Globe Award winner. Other awards include: the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, 1972; the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1980; the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame, 1980; and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, 1983.
Buildings were named in his honor, too: the Frank Sinatra Hall at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, 2002; the Frank Sinatra International Student Center at Israel’s Hebrew University in Jerusalem, 1978; and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, 2001.
He received three honorary degrees: Honorary Doctorate litterarum humanarum from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1976; Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University, 1984; and an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology,1985.
His hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey honored him, too, with the Frank Sinatra Park and the Hoboken Post Office. There is also a residence hall at Montclair State University named in his honor.
Always In His Life…His Children
Most of all-what touched me deeply-was that Sinatra never forgot his children. Through four marriages and a constantly busy and demanding professional life-he was always a part of his children’s and grandchildren’s lives. He attended their graduations, sports games, marriages, special events…he even took them with him on some of his concert tours.
It is kind of wonderful that Frank was always there for his children and grandchildren with support, help, and most of all-his love. They could always count on him and he made sure that they were always part of his life.
His Beloved Home
In a great article written by David McClintick in the December 1998 issue of ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST, there’s a photo of Sinatra on the cover and a spread on his beloved home in Palm Springs, California. According to this article, and Nancy Sinatra’s biography, this home was very special to Frank. He lived there for about forty years and he loved it.
Over the years, he expanded it and made it a cozy, comfortable home, unpretentious and full of personal memories. He seemed to pour his heart and soul into his home…his refuge. He liked to name the rooms in his home-one room was called ALL ABOARD. This was his train room where he replicated a train depot from his hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey. He loved trains and in 1971, a few of his employees gifted him a caboose, which became his “man cave.” He installed a full salon, including a massage table and sauna; it was where he and his friends hung out.
Sinatra was a great host and loved to entertain. His favorite color was orange and there was a lot of it throughout the house until his wife, Barbara, and her friend, interior decorator Bernice Korshak, made subtle changes. Frank also liked to paint and his paintings are beautifully hung throughout his home.
According to Sinatra’s younger daughter, Tina was quoted in the ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST article: “It was the place of the happiest time we ever had with him. That was his home, and you could feel it. It was full of great times. I met the world in that house.”
Toward the end of his life, Frank decided sadly that it was time to sell his cherished home. But he found it hard to leave even after it was sold. Frank and his wife asked the new owner if they could rent the house for a little while. The new owner let them stay as long as they wanted as his guests. And when Frank finally decided it was time to leave, the ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST article describes how his staff of twenty-six people formed two lines down the driveway as Frank, driven by his driver, slowly rode past them.
David McClintick ended his ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST article with these touching words: “Giving up his home devastated Sinatra. He never got over it, and he died in Los Angeles three years later-on May 18, 1998-without returning to the compound. He did come back to the desert, however. His remains are interred alongside his parents’ near his former estate.”
Frank Sinatra…The Man
When I finished reading Nancy Sinatra’s biography of her father, I was so impressed with Frank Sinatra. What an extraordinary life he led…what an extraordinary man he was. I wish I had known him…I wish I had a friend like Frank Sinatra.