|Title||Sinatra article: Close-Up. Frank Sinatra. In: Life (Magazine), Vol. 14, No. 18, May 3, 1943.|
|MULTIMEDIA LINKS||CLICK HERE to view the PDF; note - please be patient while file opens.|
|Scope & Content||
Sinatra article: Close-Up. Frank Sinatra. In: Life (Magazine), Vol. 14, No. 18, May 3, 1943, pages 55-62.
Article about Sinatra starts on page 55 with continuations on 4 pages ending on page 62 . Five photos. PDF on file. Text is in notes.
Includes his family life with: photo of wife Nancy, daughter Nancy (then 3 years old) and Frank in breakfast room at home; daughter Nancy and Sinatra at pinball machine in basement. Also a view of Sinatra exercising in his home gym - punching a heavy bag.
Life (Magazine), Vol. 14, No. 18, May 3, 1943, pages 55-62.
[caption for top photo]
AT THE RIOBAMBA FRANK SINATRA. WITH HAIR MUSSED AND SHIRTFRONT BULGING, SINGS “AS TIME GOES BY" INTO THE MICROPHONE. IT IS HIS MOST POPULAR NUMBER
“Bedroom singer” from Hoboken rose from 70 c [cents] to $2,500 a week through voice that makes women swoon
by GEORGE FRAZIER
Frank Sinatra, a gaunt, 25-year-old resident of Hasbrouck Heights, N. J., is what tired press agents refer to as the current singing sensation. His fans, who are tireless, have become so bold as to announce flatly that he is the new Bing Crosby. Inasmuch as there appears to be nothing wrong with the old Bing Crosby, this is a little perplexing. But Sinatra fans are a breed apart. The result of their purposeful worship is that in this, his first year as a solo attraction, Sinatra will earn approximately $2.50,000 from his work in night clubs, theaters, motion pictures and on the Lucky Strike Hit Parade radio program.
Sinatra's fan mail averages between 2.,500 and 3,000 letters a week. This June dozens of high-school yearbooks will carry his picture; in one of them it will be a full-page likeness captioned with simple eloquence, “Semper Sinatra.” Throughout the U. S., women whose insides become jelly when Sinatra opens his mouth to sing have formed Frank Swoonatra Fan Clubs. Every Saturday noon the sidewalk outside the CBS Playhouse at Broadway and 53rd, where he rehearses for the Hit Parade, is jammed with girls who want to bask in the radiance of his smile. Some nine hours later the scene is repeated. Sinatra's present popularity is so great that newspaper
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[caption for top photo]
Women grow dreamy-eyed when he sings at the Riobamba. He was hired as an "added attraction” by this club, is now one of the biggest draws in any New York club.
FRANK SINATRA (continued)
columnists wanting to stir up reader reaction need only run an uncomplimentary remark about him. The resultant mail is as large as it is vitriolic.
Amateur psychiatrists who have attempted to explain Sinatra’s popularity invariably arrive at widely divergent conclusions. Some insist that it is a manifestation of wartime degeneracy; others, that it is a product of the maternal instinct which his voice arouses in women. All of them, however, agree that his voice does something extraordinary to women of all ages. At the Riobamba, the New York night club where Sinatra is now appearing, a man remarked the other night that what Sinatra’s singing does to girls is immoral. “But," he added, surveying the sea of ecstatic expressions throughout the room, “it also seems to be pleasant."
Three times an evening Sinatra, wearing a dinner coat that would horrify Lucius Beebe, steps into the baby spotlight that splashes onto the dance floor. In a come-hither, breathless voice, he then sings such songs as You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To, That Old Black Magic, She's Funny That Way and Embraceable You. As he whispers the lyrics, he fondles his wedding ring and his eyes grow misty. A hush hangs over the tables, and in the eyes of the women present there is soft contentment. The lights go on and Sinatra bows, slouches across the floor and is swallowed up by the shadows. The applause thunders and he slouches back again. The lights dim and he announces that he would like to sing a little number from a picture called Casablanca. The women “ooh” and “ah” and then “sh-h-h-h!” their escorts, and the wonder boy sings As Time Goes By, and for a little while the world — or rather that part of the world known as the Riobamba — is a lovely place, a wonderful place.
He believes his own songs
Students of popular singing who have tried to analyze Sinatra’s success agree that it stems in part from his complete sincerity. He has the ability to believe implicitly the rhythmic goo he sings. He is utterly convinced that a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh still a sigh. Technically, Sinatra’s singing bears a striking resemblance to Tommy Dorsey’s trombone playing. Both evidence complete ease and astonishing breathing capacity; Sinatra builds up his by road work. Sinatra’s admiration for Dorsey's instrumental fluency dates back to 1936 when he heard him at the Roseland ballroom in New York City. With long study he learned the trick of breathing in the middle of a note with his mouth open, which gave him the extraordinary ability to preserve the continuity of a lyric without breaking it for a detectable breath.
One factor that the experts appear to ignore, when analyzing Sinatra’s success, is his appearance. “I look hungry,” he says of himself. He weighs 137 lb., is 5 ft. 10 in. and looks as if a square meal would help him. He has a mop of mussed hair, hollow cheeks
CONTINUED ON PAGE 58
FRANK SINATRA (continued)
and sunken eyes. His ears are too large and his neck is scarred. These deficiencies are probably as indispensable to his success as his vocal stylistics. Contrary to a widespread opinion, the most popular male singers are rarely either tall, dark or handsome, but painfully ordinary-looking people on the pattern of Hubert Prior Vallee and Harry Lillis Crosby.
Sinatra himself, who would appear to be in direct apostolic succession to these two, feels that his appeal for the younger generation is directly attributable to the fact that the kids regard him as one of their own. “I wear bow ties, sport jackets and sweaters, and kids like ’em,” he says. “I’m their type. ” A few weeks ago a high-school girl approached him outside the CBS Radio Playhouse and began to finger his Glen Urquhart plaid topcoat. “It took me two weeks to find a piece of material like this,” she said, “but I finally found it.” She sighed dreamily. “And now I’m having a coat made exactly like yours.”
He looks like a Sinatra fan
Frank Sinatra looks like nothing so much as he looks like a Frank Sinatra fan. He favors big knots when he wears four-in-hand ties, and the collars of his shirts are either very short (like Cary Grant’s) or very long (like George Raft’s). He refers to his ties, shirts and socks as accessories. His speech is filled with youthful awe and he constantly describes people or things as being “so terrific” or “so sensational.” Of Tommy Dorsey he says, “The guy is so terrific, ” and of circus-trumpeter Harry James, “The guy is to sensational.” A band or song that excites him is “solid.''
Sinatra, the son of middle-class parents of Italian descent, was born in Hoboken, N. J. His childhood, as he remembers it, was not especially eventual. “I was just an average kid,” he says. “But I always wanted to sing.” His summer vacations were spent with his aunt at a New Jersey beach resort. At moonlight bathing parties he used to play the ukulele and sing. All available sources fail to indicate that either his voice or ukulele playing were anything out of the ordinary. But it was an age of crooners — an age of Crosby’s Where the Blue of the Night and Vallee’s Vagabond Lover — and Sinatra responded to the influence that was everywhere around him. That it was, at the moment, a subconscious response in no way lessens its importance.
Unlike most entertainers who have skyrocketed to high estate, Sinatra does not try to plead that he is bewildered by it all. Instead, he admits that it has happened pretty much as he planned it. In high school he used to book bands for the school dances. This power of purchase, he confesses, gave him the prerogative to step up on the bandstand and sing whenever he wished. But it wasn’t until 1933 that he decided to take up singing as a profession. That occurred when he heard Bing Crosby in a Jersey City theater and immediately
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At breakfast in “Warm Valley,” his spacious New Jersey home, Sinatra answers the phone. Since it is almost 5 in the afternoon, his 3-year-old daughter is having supper.
[caption for top photo]
The pine-paneled playroom of the Sinatra home has a well-stocked bar and numerous games for his guests. Here Nancy, his 3-year-old daughter, plays the pinball machine.
FRANK SINATRA (continued)
threw up his job as a cub sports writer on the Jersey Observer. For a while he sang with the various amateur units that were in vogue at the time. This led to his appearance on a Major Bowes program and subsequently to his touring with one of the Bowes units. He was making $65 a week and was vaguely dissatisfied with his progress. Leaving the show in California, he returned to New Jersey where he sang on as many as 18 sustaining programs a week over small local stations. His gross income was 70c [cents] a week, which the Mutual Broadcasting System gave him for carfare. When a job at the Rustic Cabin in New Jersey was offered him, he gave up the broadcasts.
At the Cabin he received $15 a week and as much air time as he had had on the sustainers. His job there consisted of more than singing. Being a native of the region, he attracted a number of friends who felt deeply insulted unless he greeted them at the door personally and escorted them to their tables. In February 1939 his salary was increased to $15 a week and he got married. He had been at the Cabin a year when he was offered and signed a two-year contract to sing with the newly-formed Harry James band at $75 a week. That was in June 1939. On Dec. 13 of the same year he got a release from the contract and joined Tommy Dorsey.
The Dorsey three-ring circus
With Dorsey, Sinatra’s popularity began to spurt. His voice was on every juke box and the words "vocal refrain by Frank Sinatra” on a record were sufficient to insure it a tremendous sale. He realized, however, that he could go only so far with the Dorsey three-ring circus. For one thing, he was the featured, but not the only vocalist. He was but one of a group of young men who sat up on the bandstand with their arms folded until, at a signal from Dorsey, they would suddenly rise like trained seals and walk to the center of the stage. Locking arms and grinning inanely at the cash customers, they would make with the doleful prediction that they would never smile again. Sinatra says of it now: "We were like puppets and Tommy was the guy who pulled the strings." Last November he quit Dorsey to go on his own.
In the early part of this year he was booked into the Paramount Theatre for one week and stayed eight. When he returns on May 19 it will be at a $1,250-a-week increase. He received $800 for each of his first three weeks at the Riobamba; $1,500 a week when his contract was renewed. His work on the weekly Hit Parade brings him $1,000 more. In June he reports on the RKO lot in Hollywood for a picture that will add another $15,000. All this is not gravy, however. Sinatra pays his bookers a stiff commission. His press agent comes in for another cut. His arrangements, which he pays for himself, are made by high-priced Axel Stordahl, who infuriated Dorsey by leaving him after seven years to work for Sinatra. In addition to these more-or-less routine expenses, he faces the prospect of forking over 33 1/3% of
CONTINUED ON PAGE 62
FRANK SINATRA (continued)
his earnings to Dorsey, an old horse trader, and 10% to Leonard Vannerson, Dorsey’s personal manager. Sinatra, who feels that Dorsey is putting the bite on him a little too tightly, is having his lawyers seek an adjustment.
But even with these slices out of his income, Sinatra will probably get along nicely. His material demands are fairly simple. He has been married four years and has one child. This is a fact that the women of America find disturbing but not insuperable. Each of them knows deep in her heart that Frankie’s songs are meant just for her. When he sang You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To at the Paramount, the girls agreed ecstatically and the more demonstrative among them practically baked cakes in the aisles. Sinatra is no fashion plate and has yet to become as excited about the Brooks Brothers No. 3 sack suit as do most nouveau riche entertainers. His proudest possession is a gold identification tag which he wears on his wrist. If the time ever arrives when he is stampeded to death by his fans, the police who recover the body are likely to find themselves in a quandary. For the tag carries the name of "Tami Mauriello,” a heavyweight boxer, who gave it to Sinatra when his draft number came up.
He wants to be a fighter
Mauriello is only one of Sinatra’s many cauliflower-eared intimates. Sinatra, who would rather be a championship prizefighter than anything in the world, works out regularly with Mauriello’s trainer. This hobby has brought him into close association with a good many fighters. During his eight-week run at the Paramount he was visited by so many of them that his dressing room resembled Stillman’s gym and smelled like an ad for Sloan’s liniment.
In the qualified opinion of these men, Sinatra would make a good fighter. He throws a lot of leather and he’s smart, they say. His Italian temper has sometimes got the better of him and he has proved that he has the makings of a good lightweight. Once, at a party for the opening of the Dorsey music-publishing firm, he flattened three husky inebriates for making uncomplimentary remarks about some of Dorsey’s guests. Another of his knockout victims was the cantankerous Dorsey drummer, Buddy Rich, who angered Sinatra by his rudeness to autograph seekers.
Toward his own work Sinatra has managed to remain completely objective. He realizes that he owes his popularity to the kids and he goes to endless bother to keep them on his side (“Those kids are so wonderful’’). Inasmuch as he doesn’t get to bed before 6 in the morning, this often proves a trying ordeal but one which he regards with great seriousness as part of his duty. His chief source of worry these days is the Hit Parade. He feels that the high-pressure, regimented style of the program hurts his style. “After all,” he says, in what is probably the most cogent description yet made of Frank Sinatra, “I’m a bedroom singer.”
[caption bottom photo]
Punching the heavy bag is a passion with Sinatra who has a completely equipped gymnasium in his home. He hits hard but his hands have a tendency to swell up quickly.
Sinatra, Nancy Barbato
Sinatra, Nancy Sandra
|Year Range from||1943|
|Year Range to||1943|
|Caption||pg 55: Close-Up. Frank Sinatra. "Bedroom singer" from Hoboken ...|
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