Frank’s Way


“Start spreading the news…I’m leaving today…”

In case you haven’t heard, Frank Sinatra died last week.  In the over-hyped world of journalism, the magnitude of print and television footage devoted to Frank’s  passing has gone way past overkill.  In an era where a worthless, ignorant nobody can garner national air time and newsprint just for refusing to pull over on a Los Angeles freeway, the passing of someone as monumental as Frank Sinatra seems somehow trivialized.  That’s too bad.

I find it sad that so many people are mourning Frank’s death.  There should be no tears for Frank.  We shouldn’t be sad that he’s gone on to that big band in the sky.  What we should be doing is celebrating his life.  Frank was “the kind.”

Let’s face it.  Frank wasn’t really a part of our generation.  He belonged to our parents…or grandparents.  At least, that was what we thought.  But Frank had the unique ability to transcend space and time.  The older we got…the better Frank sounded.  My grandfather loved Frank.  My daughter loves Frank.  Who am I to break the chain?

No matter how old you are, Frank Sinatra is cool…always was…always will be.

His music is timeless.  When you bring a date back to your house, dim the lights, light the fire and turn on Sinatra, it means only one thing.  You want to talk?  Turn up the Jazz.  You want to dance?  Try Disco.  You want to close the deal?  Put on Sinatra.

Frank always works

Frank lived a hedonistic lifestyle of the most outrageous order…and later had time to repent, reflect and become an elder statesman.  Who could ask for anything more?

Frank did it his way…asking no quarter and giving less.  It was his way or the highway…in business and pleasure.

Although glorified in The Godfather as part of the Mafia, it wasn’t true.  He had all of the positives without the downside.  Frank wasn’t a part of the mob.  He was the mob’s favorite singer.  How cool was that?

Much has been made of Frank’s friendship with Sammy Davis, Jr.  I don’t know how many specials I saw this weekend detailing the events surrounding Sammy’s plight and Frank’s rescue.  Most highlighted how Frank struck a huge blow for civil rights by refusing to perform at clubs that wouldn’t hire Sammy.

Those stories miss the point.  Frank wasn’t using his formidable pressure to advance the cause of civil rights.  Frank did it because Sammy Davis was his friend.  End of story.  If you liked Frank, you had to like his friends.  If you caused  one of his friends pain, Frank would be your enemy for life.  Frank didn’t care whether Sammy was black or white.  Color had no bearing on his friendship.  That says more about Frank than any civil rights message he could have delivered.

I had the good fortune to meet the man in the perfect setting…Las Vegas.  Frank was performing at Ceasars in the late ‘70s.  In  those days, when Frank headlined, high- rollers from around the world descended on Ceasars.  You couldn’t find a $5 table if your life depended on it.

I was with Wes Farrell, who was married to Frank’s daughter, Tina. After the show, Frank wanted to play blackjack.  Walking through the casino with Frank was like walking with Moses.  We were surrounded by bodyguards and the people parted like the water in the sea.  Nobody asked for autographs.  Nobody shouted, “You’re the man!”  It was if a deity was present…and indeed, one was.  The crowd was quiet and respectful.

Frank drew every ounce of energy out of that huge room.  All the focus was on him.  The dice rolled “snake-eyes” just so they could get a look.  And Frank didn’t seem to notice.  He was cool.

The three of us sat at a private table and began playing blackjack.  Frank and Wes were talking.  I didn’t say a word.  I was just happy to be there.  Unfortunately, I didn’t last long.  I was not yet 30, unseasoned in the world of finance and gambling…and way short of being cool.  I dropped the $300 in savings I brought in less than 15 minutes.

I mumbled something to Wes about just being a spectator for the rests of the evening.  Frank said,  “What’s the matter, kid? Don’t you want to play?”

I was embarrassed.  “I don’t have any more money,” I stammered.  “I’ve lost every hand.”

Frank flipped a $25 chip in front of me.  “Let’s see if this will work.”  He looked up at the dealer.  “He isn’t going to lose any more, is he, Bernie?”

I didn’t lose another hand.  I won all my money back and then some.  Frank always worked.

My other story is much less personal.  Or maybe not.  It shows how Frank’s music moves across all barriers.  Not long ago, my good friend Harry Nelson and I spent a wild Saturday night in Atlantic City.  Tapped out, blind and half-crazy, we jumped in the car at 7 am Sunday morning and headed for New York City.  We tuned in a radio station as we cruised past some tiny town.  Frank Sinatra was singing, “The Summer Wind.”

We both smiled, alone in our thoughts.  It was the perfect background to our weekend.  As the last few notes began to fade, the deejay segued into “The Core” by Eric Clapton.

I looked at Nelson.  He stared back at me.  “The Summer Wind” followed by “The Core?”  How could that work?

Five seconds later, we exchanged high-fives.  The segue was perfect.

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