If you run in a certain crowd (or follow me on Twitter), you know very well that this year marks what would have been Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday. In celebration, the Sinatra Estate has been hard at work programming a variety of events leading up to the official day on December 12. I’ve been making an effort to go to as many of them as possible… which, let’s be honest, is not a huge imposition upon me, due to my bobbysoxer tendencies. Yet still, as the events appear to be increasing in number and scope, we’ll see how many I am actually able to commit to—but I figured it was time to start documenting what’s already happened, and look forward to what’s still to come.
It Was a Very Good Year:
My first piece of the centennial puzzle came in the form of the new Frank Sinatra Collection (BD) [Blu-ray] set, which brings together some of Sinatra’s most memorable films: Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, Guys and Dolls, Ocean’s 11, and Robin and the 7 Hoods. I already owned a few of these individually, but I had to trade them up for these editions. As pictured, it actually happened to arrive on the same day as my tickets for the next event, which made for a very happy mail day…
#Sinatra 100th Birthday Celebration at @hollywoodbowl A photo posted by Emily (@vintagecameos) on
Next up for me was the Sinatra 100th Birthday Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, which was part of their Jazz at the Bowl series. This was my first time at the Hollywood Bowl, and I was really impressed. The show featured a variety of performers doing Sinatra covers, including the current incarnation of the Count Basie Orchestra, jazz artists like Kurt Elling, José James, and Seu Jorge, and even Seth MacFarlane (yes, that Seth MacFarlane).
I was fairly surprised that they really seemed to make an effort to play more than just his greatest hits—which, considering just how many of those are, was a feat in itself. It was clear that most of the performers were big fans, not just contracted laborers. One singer even punctuated his performance with a classic “How did all these people get in my room?” Sinatraism. Another special treat was a clip from Anchors Aweigh, which was filmed at the Hollywood Bowl itself. It was great to be seated in those same seats that Gene and Frank were running up and down.
Sinatra shirts at #dodgerssocial A photo posted by Emily (@vintagecameos) on
Most recently was the Sinatra tribute at the Dodgers game, where fans who had purchased a special ticket package received special edition Sinatra shirts—in Dodgers blue, of course. Sinatra was a close personal friend of Dodgers legend Tommy LaSorda, and even sang the national anthem as a favor to him at Opening Day in 1977. This time, Frank Sinatra, Jr., took over the singing duties.
Throughout the night, Dodgers organist Nancy Bea Hefley treated the crowd to snippets of Sinatra’s greatest hits, and the night concluded with a fireworks show scored to his music. Before the fireworks show, they pumped up the crowd with a clip from Take Me Out to the Ball Game—clearly, there’s always an appropriate Sinatra song out there, no matter the situation. One of the many benefits of a lengthy career and wide discography.
The Best Is Yet to Come:
As a man of refined tastes, Sinatra’s drink of choice? Jack Daniel’s on the rocks. As perhaps the ultimate honor, Jack Daniel’s has brewed up a special Sinatra Select batch, which they boast has a “rich amber color, bold character and a pleasant smokiness, followed by an incredibly smooth vanilla finish.” It’ll also run you $180 for the pleasure… so if you’re grabbing one, make sure to send one over to me too!
Netflix is also getting in on the fun, adding a nice selection of Sinatra flicks to their streaming service, just in time for the celebration. Check out musical comedies like High Society and Pal Joey; all three of his collaborations with Gene Kelly: Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, and Take Me Out to the Ball Game; more dramatic fare like Some Came Running, Von Ryan’s Express, and The Devil at 4 O’Clock, as well as his Oscar-winning performance in From Here to Eternity.
Oct. 21 – Feb. 15:
If you anticipate finding yourself in the downtown Los Angeles area within the next few months, consider paying a visit to the Grammy Museum at LA Live, the site of the upcoming Sinatra: An American Icon exhibit. Presented by the Sinatra Family, Frank Sinatra Enterprises, and USC Cinematic Arts’ Frank Sinatra Collection, the exhibit houses lots of treasures, including family photos, correspondence, rare music, and, of course, a few of his Grammy Awards on display.
Oct. 23 – Nov. 8:
If you find yourself more permanently in Los Angeles, local excellent-university-for-accepting-me-into-their-film-Master’s-program USC is celebrating the centennial with a series of events spanning several weeks, organized by Professor Drew Casper and the School of Cinematic Arts.
- Oct. 23: The Voice at 100: The Musical Legacy of Frank Sinatra, 2pm
- Nov. 1: The Musical and Comedic Sinatra, 11am to 10pm (On the Town, High Society, The Joker Is Wild, The Tender Trap, Guys and Dolls)
- Nov. 6: From Here to Eternity, 7pm
- Nov. 8: The Dramatic Sinatra and Legacy Panel, 10am to 10:15pm (Suddenly, The Man With the Golden Arm, Some Came Running, The Manchurian Candidate)
In the book department, glam up your coffee table with Sinatra: The Photographs, which comes out at the end of the month. Featuring many of the images that came to define him—as well as the rarities—you can trace the Sinatra “look” over the years, with photographs from luminaries like Ted Allan, Bob Willoughby, Ed Thrasher, Sid Avery, and Bernie Abramson. Focusing on the postwar years (aka the Rat-Pack-partying, JFK-schmoozing years), the book was compiled by Andrew Howick, with a foreword by Sinatra’s widow, Barbara Sinatra.
You can’t quite capture Sinatra’s essence on pictures alone, so to round out your collection, grab A Voice On Air (1935-1955), the new 4-CD set of his radio recordings. It spans all the way from his first performance—as part of the Hoboken Four—in 1935, to the Frank Sinatra Show’s final episode in 1955. The set also preserves vintage broadcast announcements and advertisements for the “real” experience, plus includes a book with works by Nancy Sinatra and historian Charles L. Granata.
The big day! Several options have popped up so far, or obviously you may choose to spend such a special day with family and loved ones.