Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter's Tribute to Frank Sinatra

Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter

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Lee Solters, a short, cigar chomping gentleman who had been Frank's publicist for three decades, told us that the world would never know the extent of his philanthropy. Frank simply wanted it that way. Perhaps his desire for anonymity was a natural result of someone who had, after all, been famous for so very long and who had absolutely no need for further notoriety. Or perhaps, as we had long thought, Frank knew that it was impossible to curry favor with the public at large; he had learned that those who liked him had always liked him and those who didn't never would.

In a large sense, Frank knew, as do all entertainers, that despite his fame, his power and wealth, he would always be an "outsider," the hired entertainer who "sang for his supper" and who remained, to the very end, vulnerable and never quite "acceptable." Jack Kennedy's famous snub of Frank's public offer of hospitality was but the most highly publicized example of this. Indeed, his friendship with a number of underword-connected types was never a surprise to those in show business who always understood how overmatched they were when confronted by powerful agents and assorted, corporate impresarios. Frank's friends were unswervingly loyal, and they "knew the score" and they insulated him from abuse. And their loyalty earned his. Unswervingly.

Aside from inspiring several generations of singers with his brilliance, his sense of craft and sheer musicality, he gave us an added sense of self-respect because he demanded respect. If Sinatra did not want to enter the stage through the kitchen, he did NOT enter the stage through the kitchen. This attitude influenced countless performers and changed the way many performers were treated. Sinatra demanding to be treated like an artist allowed others the same luxury far from the glamorous showrooms of Las Vegas,

Both as a performer and as a musician, Frank Sinatra helped to define that word "class." He always used the best arrangers, orchestrators and musicians. With exceptions so few that they glare out, his taste was was his vocal phrasing. And of course his sense of class crossed over into his personal life. Soon after we had released out first album, we received a call from the Sinatra office. They wanted five copies. At first we thought the call was some kind of joke but we soon verified that it was the real thing. We called Lee Solters back and told him that we would be sending along five complimentary copies. He immediately protested, saying that Frank insisted upon paying for every single one. And he did.

When we first performed in Palm Springs, California, where Frank lived, we got to know a brilliant pianist, Joe Masters. Joe told us that Frank had wandered into the lounge where Joe was playing one night. Unfortunately, Joe was playing an old clunker of a piano. Apparently, Frank said something to the owner because the very next evening, when Joe came in to play his gig, the clunker had been replaced by a new, ebony, six foot Steinway.

One final thing: I remember, a very long time ago, going to the Newport Jazz Festival. There was controversy that year because Frank Sinatra had been invited. The jazz afficianados resented the invitation because they did not consider Sinatra to be a jazz singer. Sitting on the vast lawn in front of the stage, I watched as Quincy Jones, the leader of the band, landed via helicopter...amidst a sustained chorus of hisses and boos. Then Frank's helicopter was seen and the boos intensified as he landed and took the stage. As he snatched the microphone and began to sing, the cacaphony increased.

Frank kept singing, whipping the microphone cord around the stage in his characteristic manner, absolutely ignoring the almost riotous disruption around him. He just kept singing. And then, almost as if someone had turned off a faucet, the hissing and booing died away. And he kept singing and singing. And then talking to the guys in the band. And whipping that cord. And then singing so softly you could hear your heart beat. It was a miracle.

And by the time he left the stage, everyone was standing, cheering, cheering. Cheering as his helicopter disappeared. Francis Albert Sinatra.  Frank Sinatra. Frankie. My God, we loved that man.

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