A Tribute to Frank Sinatra, my favorite vocal artist.
"Let's start the
action!" -- Frank Sinatra
This quote pretty much sums up Sinatra's attitude to life.
style: It was all in the details
The Sinatra style: It was all in the details
NEW YORK (AP) -- Never yawn in front of a lady. Top your martini with two olives and give one to a friend. Make sure your trousers break just above the shoes.
Like the rock stars who knocked him (temporarily) off the charts, Frank Sinatra didn't just perform his songs, he lived them. Around swinging standards and lonely ballads he arranged both a broad, brash philosophy and an intricate set of codes and rituals.
``He believed in lecturing to others about how things should be done,'' said Bill Zehme, author of ``The Way You Wear Your Hat,'' an informal biography that compiles stories about Sinatra and his lifestyle. ``He wanted people to live up to his standards of class and elegance.''
The Sinatra Style was in the details. Some examples: Cock your hat -- angles are attitudes. Don't put on a brown suit at night -- wear dark gray. Better yet, wear black. Make friends with the sky. If black tie is optional, wear it. Except on Sunday. Never wear a tux on Sunday.
``I am,'' Sinatra once said, ``a thing of beauty.'' He owned more than a hundred suits and didn't want anyone ruining them, like the old man who grabbed his arm at the 1956 Democratic National Convention.
``Take your hand off the suit, creep!'' the singer reportedly snapped, not realizing (or caring) he was talking to Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House.
Sinatra had it all thought out: Tip big and tip quietly -- fold the bills three times into small squares and pass them in a handshake; let the ice sink in your glass so the flavors will blend; never drink a drink immediately after it's poured; better a carton of milk than a serving of warm vodka.
Women. When Sinatra dies, Dean Martin once joked, they're going to leave his zipper with the Smithsonian Institution. The Chairman liked sex, but he also cared about style. No miniskirts. Forget about topless. He admired poise, restraint, class. He hated chain smokers and too much perfume. He couldn't stand being nagged.
``Fun with everything'' was one of his mottoes, like in 1955 when he and his pals -- Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland and David Niven - spent four days in Las Vegas where they did just about everything but sleep. On Day 5, with all but Sinatra feeling like they had fallen out of an airplane, Bacall checked out the survivors and a gang was born: ``You look like a ... rat pack!''
The Rat Pack was Bogart's, but when he died Frank took over. Frank brought in Dean, Joey, Sammy and whoever else might drop by the steam room at the Sands Hotel. They wore monogrammed robes -- FAS (Sinatra), DAG (Martin), SON OF A GUN (Bishop) -- and spoke their own language. Endsville. Scramsville. A ``bunter'' was a drag. A ``gasser'' wasn't. Don't even ask what it meant to lose your ``bird.''
Of all the Rat Pack stories the best ones usually involved Martin, the laid-back ``Abruzzese'' Sinatra always wanted to be, the guy who could tell Frank where to go and live to tell about it.
There was the night in the mid-1960s when the Martins had everyone over for their anniversary. They had an orchestra and white-coated bartenders. By 11 o'clock, however, DAG was missing and the cops had arrived, saying there had been a complaint about the noise. Sinatra couldn't figure it out. All the neighbors were at the party. Who could have done it?
The call, he was told, came from inside the house.
Sinatra headed straight for the master bedroom.
``Did you call the cops on your own party?'' he said to Martin, whom he found lying in bed, holding a golf club, watching television.
Martin: ``Hey, they ate, they drank. Let them go home. I gotta get up in the morning.''
``You,'' answered Sinatra, paying the ultimate compliment, ``are one crazy bastard.''
Sinatra believed in God. But death, which he called the Big Casino, left him speechless. For days, Sinatra couldn't talk after the death of his mother, killed when the plane he hired for her crashed into a mountain. On the phone with a dying Sammy Davis Jr., the two old friends simply held onto their receivers, grieving beyond words.
He thought you should live every moment as it if were your last, that too much thinking wasn't good for a man. He fought, really fought, for his privacy, but he hated being alone. Anything but boredom, especially after hours.
``You only live once,'' he liked to say, ``and the way I live once is enough.''
Joseph W. Pitt.
Copyright © 1997 . All rights reserved.
Revised: September 10, 2004.