On Frank Sinatra

On Frank Sinatra

It was just about ten years ago that I began to think about God and Frank Sinatra. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, animals, plants, and you-name-its. Finally, He created a man and woman in His own image. We are told He did this because He was lonely.

The story goes that God turned against Adam and Eve when they disobeyed His orders. They went ahead and ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, after Satan had told them it would render them God-like. In their quest for God-likeness, having been created in His own image, they did the logical thing. We’re told we’ve all been paying for their original misdeed ever since.

So what is God? God is a Creator. One who creates in His own image. By corollary, Marlon Brando must be God to James Dean. James Dean must be God to Sal Mineo, Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper. Jack Kerouac must be God to thousands of eager acolytes with thumbs akimbo and St. Christophers carefully safety-pinned to their own knapsacks. Then there is Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra, who beget Sammy Davis, Jr. Who beget Dean Martin. Who beget Vic Damone. Al Martino. Bobby Darin. Steve Lawrence, Steve and Eydie, Jack Jones, Harry Connick, Jr. And as His progeny grew, mimicked, increased, and multiplied, Frank Sinatra didn’t banish them to the Land of Nod, East of Eden. He didn’t drive them from the Garden, to scatter seeds upon an unforgiving earth, and to give birth to little no-neck monsters in pain and suffering. Sinatra was bigger than God, more magnanimous. He was willing to let you be God-like, pat you on the back, welcome your audacity.

I set out to write a song that would explore the Creator role of several cultural icons, notably James Dean, Jack Kerouac, and Frank Sinatra. I imagined I would need three verses, one per Deity, to explain how each had created a world of imitators in his own image. For no particular reason I decided to start with Sinatra. It took all three verses to get the story told, and I never did work on the other two gods.

Happily Ever After (West of Eden)

Once upon a swinging time, Frank Sinatra looked around

And he said “I’m lonely for some cats and kitties.”

So he built himself a man, out of clay, the story goes,

Then he made him a groovy chick so they could mingle.

The cat surveyed the lady fair; he purred, “I’d know you anywhere.”

He introed, “Madam, my name is Adam.”

And she said, “Buddy, you’re all covered in mud, head to toe.”

And Frank said, “Now you will be man and wife.”

They said, “Oh, do we hafta?”,

And they lived Happily Ever After.

First a week to dig the Falls, then they made the Poconos,

(Every room a heart-shaped haven, ooh, them bubbles!)

Next, the recess ding-a-ling turned that Chevy to the left,

Vic Damone at the Frontier Room and there’s no cover.

This chick adored her shining knight; they cuckooed till the morning light.

She segued, “Lovey, my turtle-dovey.”

And he said, “Sister, let’s us savor this bliss evermore.”

And Frank looked around and he saw it was good,

Dug the kicks and the laughter,

And they lived Happily Ever After.

By the pool one afternoon, chicky met the Record Man.

He said, “Check my apple pie, I think you’ll dig it.”

Those kids took a little bite, and reaching for their darkest shades,

Before you could say “Jack Robin,” they were swinging.

That chick turned into Peggy Lee. Thus Bobby Darin came to be.

They sang out, “Blue Eyes, here comes us new guys,”

And they said, “Frankie, we’d just like to thank everyone here.”

And Frank said, “I always knew you’d be stars,

Here and in the hereafter,

Why don’t we happily-

Let’s make that swingingly,

We’ll all live Happily Ever After.”

• •

So I recorded the song and released it on my first album. I figured it was infinitely coverable, and sent it to Harry Connick, Jr. twice, Mel Tormé once, Columbia Records once, and even to a Frank Sinatra owned radio station in Casa Grande, Arizona. I hoped it might eventually migrate into the hands or into the ears of Frank himself, or failing that, Frank Jr. or Tony Bennett. To date, my version is still the only one out there.

Back in `80 or ’81, I almost saw Frank Sinatra live. I was in Las Vegas, visiting that year’s girlfriend, and Sinatra was at Caesar’s Palace. We got as far as a table, when I turned into a penurious ass, balking at the $50.00 ticket and the lousy seats we’d been dealt. I insisted that we leave, which we did, figuring I’d catch him some other time.

In the early 90’s, my wife and I treated her mother and stepfather to tickets to a Sinatra concert in Dallas. My mother-in-law, who was beginning to die of cancer, was wheelchair-bound, but tried her best to get a tape of my song past the legions of human insulation that separated The Little People from Blue Eyes. I don’t even remember anymore whether she was able to hand the tape off to some official goon or not. Whatever the case, the result was the same.

But what I do remember very clearly is all the hours, days, weeks, and months I spent with Frank’s Only the Lonely album back in the late 70’s, when I was trying to get over a divorce that made no sense to me. Without benefit of a support group, or close friends I was willing to talk to, life became a blur of days turning into nights turning into late nights, falling asleep in that green chair in the living room, with the black and white cat in my lap, afraid to go into the bedroom where the bed had just become all too enormous.

Before I did my nightly pass out, I’d start at the left side of my carefully alphabetized record collection, scanning again for one single recording that seemed to possess even one mustard seed of honesty and sincerity behind it. And inevitably, drawing nothing but blanks until I finally reached the “S”s- “S” for Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely. As God had been lonely, as Frank had been lonely, and as it was my turn.

So that was my group. Just me, the chair, the cat, the frozen dinner, the ashtray, some bad burgundy, and the turntable spinning Frank Sinatra, who created the world in His own image. And never regretted it. And didn’t get pissed off when any of us tried to be God-like. And who just `scused himself and disappeared from a world which is suddenly too old and tired, a world which precludes the possibility of any more Sinatras, a world which can’t ever be the same.

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