Davis, Rat Pack sing and play again at Kiel
By Daniel Durchholz
Special to the Post-Dispatch
The 1965 appearance in St. Louis of (from left) Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. marked the only time the trio of Rat Packers were captured on camera in a live concert perormance. Carson was replacing Rat Pack member Joey Bishop.
On June 20, 1965, Johnny Carson, only three years into his stint as host of "The Tonight Show," stepped to a microphone on the stage of St. Louis' Kiel Opera House and introduced Frank Sinatra by saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, I present our hoodlum singer."
Somehow, his kneecaps remained intact.
The line was actually a pretty good in-joke. Sinatra's appearance -- along with his other Rat Pack pallies Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. -- was a benefit for Dismas House, a halfway house for ex-convicts founded by Father Charles Dismas Clark, who was immortalized in the 1961 film "The Hoodlum Priest," which was set and shot in St. Louis.
"The Frank Sinatra Spectacular" -- for which ticket prices ranged from $10 to $250 (the latter amount granting patrons a champagne dinner and preshow cocktail party with the entertainers) -- was broadcast to 10 cities via closed circuit. According to a report published in the Post-Dispatch in 1965, approximately $300,000 was raised for Dismas House.
More significant to fans of the Rat Pack, though, is the film of that show still exists. It was lost for decades but found in 1997 and shown at the Museums of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills and New York. Later, it aired twice on the cable channel TV Land.
Now the film has been restored and is being released on Tuesday as part of a CD/DVD package, "Live and Swingin': The Ultimate Rat Pack Collection" (Reprise Records; suggested retail price, $24.98; available Tuesday).
"It was discovered accidentally," says Bill Zehme, author of the best-selling appreciation "The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'."
"CBS had done a documentary on Sinatra. It was written by Andy Rooney and narrated by Walter Cronkite. They followed Frank through his whole St. Louis experience. Some footage of the concert was included in that documentary, which is also available: It's called 'Sinatra: Off the Record.'
"That tape came to light around 1996. A friend of the Sinatra family was watching it and said, 'Look, there are cameras on the stage.' That made them wonder if film of the entire concert existed somewhere."
It did, and Nancy Sinatra had it in storage. Even under normal circumstances, the film would constitute a major find. What makes it the mother lode of Rat Pack worship, however, is that it's the only time Frank, Sammy and Dean were ever captured on camera in a live concert performance.
"It's amazing," Zehme says. "Here are these four kings of the night -- three from Las Vegas and one from the television screen (Carson was a last-minute replacement for an ailing Joey Bishop) -- who all descend on (St. Louis) and make history."
The DVD looks great -- "You're so close to these guys you can smell their cologne," Zehme says. "You can see Frank's forceps scars." It also contains incredible performances. Martin appears first and croons some of his hits, all the while doing his lovable lush routine. At one point he belches and comments, "I got enough gas to go to Pittsburgh."
In sharp contrast, Davis practically explodes on the stage. He reminisces about playing a vaudeville house in St. Louis with his dad and uncle; he sings (backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, no less), dances, does impressions and tells jokes on himself. "I'm colored, Jewish and Puerto Rican. When I move into a neighborhood, I wipe it out," he says.
"The cool thing about it is, he always wins," Zehme says of Davis. "People forget when they see Dean and Frank go off on him -- the politically incorrect stuff -- Sammy is always allowed to win. His performances shine. Both of the other boys stand back for him, he's that powerful. And ultimately he gets the last laugh."
Sinatra does his set last (backed by Basie and conductor Quincy Jones), and then all four entertainers bring the show to a rollicking conclusion, with Carson even gamely singing a few lines.
The CD in the package isn't nearly as astounding, but the circumstances surrounding its recording are. It's from a weeklong stand the trio performed at the Villa Venice, a nightclub on the outskirts of Chicago that was owned by gangster Sam "Momo" Giancana. The trio didn't get paid for their engagement. It was allegedly payback for the favors Giancana had done for Frank (and, in turn, the Kennedy family, who asked for the help) in fixing the 1960 presidential election.
"That place got torched within a year of the gig," Zehme says. "Imagine that."
Radio City Entertainment's
Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way.
Postponed until October 14
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--10/06/2003--Radio
City Entertainment announced today that Sinatra:
His Voice. His World. His Way. has been postponed
until October 14, due to complications with technical
aspects of the show. This postponement will allow
additional time to prepare the innovative and complex
production. The first performance will now take place
Tuesday, October 14, at 8:00p.m.
"This show is an ambitious, ultra-technical, first-of-
its-kind tribute to perhaps the greatest musical icon
of our time, and additional preparation is necessary to
present this innovative production." said Seth Abraham, president, Madison Square Garden/Radio City
Entertainment. "We're confident that when the show
debuts on October 14, it will be an overwhelmingly
emotional experience for our audience, and we believe
that our producers were correct in asking that the opening
of the show be deferred to achieve that goal.
Radio City intends to schedule an additional run of "Sinatra"
for February, 2004. We apologize for any inconvenience this
delay causes ticket holders and will make every effort to accommodate them," Mr. Abraham concluded.
Tickets that have been purchased through Ticketmaster
outlets or at Madison Square Garden or Radio City Music
Hall Box Office for the shows originally scheduled from
October 8 - October 12 may be exchanged or refunded
at the point of purchase. Purchases made through
Ticketmaster, phone charge and internet (Ticketmaster.com)
for these shows will automatically be credited back to
the credit card used to purchase the tickets. Tickets for
the full run of the show, from October 14 - October 19,
which now includes three new performances, can be
purchased through Ticketmaster (212/307-7171);
Ticketmaster.com; Ticketmaster outlets; the Radio City
Music Hall and Madison Square Garden Box Offices; as well
as at www.radiocity.com.
Revised show schedule:
Tuesday, October 14: 8:00p.m. (new show)
Wednesday, October 15: 2:00p.m.
Thursday, October 16: 8:00p.m.
Friday, October 17: 2:00p.m. (new show)
Saturday, October 18: 2:00p.m.
5:00p.m. (new show)
Sunday, October 19: 2:00p.m.
All performances will take place at Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas.
CONTACT:Radio City Entertainment Susie Arons, 212-631-4340 Mikyl Cordova, 212-631-4337 Mary Pat Clarke, 212-465-5935
SOURCE: Radio City Entertainment
10/06/2003 23:23 EASTERN
THE NEW YORK TIMES
It Wasn't the Final Curtain After All
By JOHN ROCKWELLPublished: October 5, 2003
FRANK SINATRA was always larger than life. Now he's larger than death. "He's back . . ." trumpet the ads for a new spectacular, "Frank Sinatra: His Voice, His World, His Way," to be unveiled on Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall.
Of course, unless you believe in literal resurrection, or unless you harbor sinister, pagan desires to unearth the dead, you might rightly assume that he's not really back. But his music is, and his images, and a roughly 100-minute musical, theatrical, terpsichorean video extravaganza.
Whether it will please both nostalgists and audiences new to the Sinatra mystique, or whether it will come across like some Oscar-show necrology meets earnest bio-documentary, we shall see. But a lot of expertise and energy and genuine love have gone into this effort.
The show will be a revue performed without intermission and centered on still and video images of Sinatra throughout his career, with performance footage drawn almost entirely from the late 1950's, when he was at his peak. This is where the creative and technical ingenuity comes in, although whether it will really offer "three-dimensional, life-like images of Frank performing and moving around the stage," in the words of the show's news release, seems doubtful.
The immediate impulse for the show came from James Sanna, who is executive producer of Radio City Entertainment. He went to Tina Sinatra, Sinatra's younger daughter, who now oversees Frank Sinatra Enterprises. She signed on, had long conversations with Mr. Sanna's creative team and provided access to family photos and films. But this is a Radio City production.
Mr. Sanna's team is led by Des McAnuff, whose Broadway directing credits include the original "Big River," "The Who's Tommy" and the revival of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
Ms. Sinatra, Mr. Sanna and Mr. McAnuff are as clear about what they didn't want as what they do want. They didn't want, on the huge Radio City stage, an honorable but intimate cabaret/Off Broadway show like "Our Sinatra," which seems to be poised for revival. Or a travesty with Sinatra impersonators. Or the seamless patching in of famous dead people in the manner of "Forrest Gump." Or, indeed, despite the news release, the whole familial-dead-singer-resurrection fad, with Frank Sinatra Jr. channeling his father in the manner of Natalie with Nat (King) Cole.
The flow of images in this new show will both tell a compact (and no doubt gently sanitized) version of Sinatra's life and present him in performance. The jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli will serve as what Mr. McAnuff calls "our troubadour," recounting the Sinatra life story and also conducting a 40-piece orchestra and a gospel choir. There will be newly choreographed interludes for 26 dancers (including a Sky-cam for Busby Berkeley-style perspectives), and giant props, like a 35-foot limousine. For better or worse, there will also be testimonials to Sinatra from the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Mario Cuomo and P. Diddy.
While both Mr. McAnuff and Linda Batwin, who oversees the technical aspects of the show, agreed that its technology will include no outright innovations, they suggested that the lavishness of the image display (17 projectors) and the ingenuity of the production will have a striking impact.
Most of the projections will be seen on movable screens in a large gold frame set within the curve of the Music Hall's proscenium opening. Others will spill out beyond the frame, including a montage on the walls of the hall itself. Sometimes front projections on one screen will be complemented by rear projections on another, creating "a layering of ghost-like images," as Ms. Batwin put it. Mr. McAnuff promises other surprises he doesn't deign to reveal.
The real innovation of the spectacle, however, comes with Sinatra in action. For a series of ABC television shows in the late 50's -- some of them never telecast -- Sinatra took the expensive step of recording his performances directly on 35-millimeter film, to circumvent ABC's kinescopes, or films of transmitted video images. And not just recording on film, whose soundtrack, Mr. McAnuff says, is superior to anything otherwise available at the time, but with separate orchestral and voice-and-piano tracks.
Through a venerable process called Rotoscoping, the images of Sinatra can be cut out, frame by frame, from what Mr. McAnuff called the "artificiality and cheesy backdrops" of the TV shows. Ms. Batwin added that the images had been cleaned up and enhanced and would be projected in high-definition video so that "the texture of his suit just pops."
With the piano-vocal track isolated, Sinatra can be accompanied by Mr. Pizzarelli and his orchestra, playing the original charts by Nelson Riddle and Sinatra's other arrangers. Sometimes the transitions between those arrangements will be tweaked by Don Sebesky, who has also provided new orchestrations for the dance interludes. But Mr. McAnuff says that "85 to 90 percent of the show is just Sinatra singing."
The question remains, just who is this show's intended audience? Mr. Sanna reported that unscientific observation suggested an older audience predominated among the early ticket-buyers, but that now younger people had started lining up. That doesn't mean hip-hop obsessed teenagers, even if there will always be an audience of all ages for ballads and melody and sophisticated singing. But it does mean people of Mr. Sanna's age, 42; he conceded he had initially inherited a taste for Sinatra from his parents. Or like Mr. McAnuff, 51, who reports that he first saw Sinatra in his shaky old age and is thrilled to have a chance to build a show around his prime.
Although Sinatra was concerned about his place in posterity -- witness his documentation of the very television shows that form the heart of this celebration -- he was also nervously insecure that musical fashions were passing him by. "I know that it mattered to him to keep in the running," was the way Ms. Sinatra put it. He recorded a clutch of 60's songs, including an entire LP of embarrassing efforts to sound like that soppy 60's balladeer Rod McKuen. In his later years he almost literally phoned in his part of two CD's of duets with famous pop and rock singers.
He probably shouldn't have bothered, even if some of the duets have a certain poignance. What young artists and audiences value in Sinatra is the real deal, the classic belter and balladeer of the 50's and 60's, the one who, according to Ms. Sinatra, "sells a million units a year to this day."
There is also a revival of interest in Sinatra as an actor, especially the restored print of his best film, "The Manchurian Candidate," and its forthcoming remake with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, directed by Jonathan Demme. Tina Sinatra had a big hand in both those projects.
But it is as a signer that Sinatra will always be first remembered. In his Los Angeles den around the time of the ABC television shows hung a saying of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: "Music is the only form of art that touches the absolute."
Glitz and pizazz aside, one hopes the Radio City Sinatra tribute will reintroduce us, sharply and thrillingly, to the legendary singer on a stage where he actually performed, alive for real. Ms. Sinatra says she hopes the show tours the world. Maybe even all the way to Las Vegas.
THE 2004 CALENDAR
The 2004 Frank Sinatra Calendar is being released by
Pyramid this month and is scheduled to be in stores by
CHANNELING THE SINATRA SPIRIT
by John Petrick
Bergen Record, October 3, 2003
Sitting at Frank Sinatra's favorite table at Patsy's Italian
Restaurant in Manhattan, 29-year-old A.J. Azzarto points out
that her legendary grandfather sold about 1 million records
last year. This despite the fact that he's been dead since
"Just the idea of him is so pervasive in American culture.
He's made such an impact," says Azzarto in between
courses of Ol' Blue Eyes' favorite meal -- an appetizer of
clams and a main course of fusilli pasta with prosciutto
and tomato sauce. And cannoli for dessert, of course.
What would lunch with Frank be without cannoli for
The big table, in the rear of the second-floor dining room
at Patsy's, is known as The Hollywood Square. It is here
that Frank would sit with celebrity friends, straight up
until the last years of his life. Between the meal, the table,
and memories shared by his granddaughter, the restaurant's
chef, and others, it's as if Sinatra is seated there this very afternoon.
That's the same kind of feeling Azzarto and her
collaborators hope to create for audiences seated in
nearby Radio City Music Hall -- minus the fusilli, clams,
and cannoli. A new multimedia extravaganza titled
"Sinatra: His Voice, His World, His Way" begins
performances Wednesday with the bigger-than-life
projection of Sinatra himself.
"The impression we want to give is that if you squinted
hard enough, you would see Sinatra singing with the
orchestra -- almost like seeing Springsteen on a
Jumbo-tron, but more artistic than that," says Colman
DeKay, writer of the show.
The production took some two years to develop and
features rare vintage film clips of Sinatra performing;
filmed interviews with stars about Sinatra's life; a live
orchestra led by Bergen County native and renowned
jazz musician John Pizzarelli (who also serves as
narrator for the show); a gospel choir that will rise
on the stage's elevator; and, of course, the Rockettes.
Before "sliding projection fields" and other technology
were put together for the show, there was the basic
search for never-before-seen Sinatra footage. DeKay
makes it sound like a treasure hunt that led to gold.
"The main boon was getting access to the Sinatra
archives," he says. "Frank was a real collector of his
own material.... He knew that somewhere down the
line, someone might do a show like this.... We were
looking for footage from a variety show from the
Fifties that he did."
Finding the show itself was one thing. But he expected
to find it in Kinescope form, a low-quality reproduction
of a television broadcast commonly used in that era.
Instead, "What we found in a dirty corner of the archives
was a bunch of dusty pretzel cans with those Fifties TV
shows on 35-millimeter film," DeKay said, noting about
50 performances were uncovered. "The family didn't even
know they had these pristine, 35-millimeter filmed
Footage like that -- in its highest quality -- is what forms
the core of the show. The production team, he says, has
taken great care to make sure Sinatra himself is not
upstaged by all the live elements.
"We built it like a book musical in that the songs inform
the story and the story informs our choice of songs,"
DeKay said. "We do it through narration and some
fairly impressionistic staging. There are a lot of moving
parts. There is orchestration, also, throughout. The
Rockettes will be dancing with Sinatra. And there are a
bunch of surprises I don't think people will expect."
Azzarto, who has been involved with the show's
creative team, says "Sinatra" is more than a nostalgia
act. It's a way for people of all ages to experience
her grandfather as if he were alive.
"The performances are some of the best versions of
these songs anyone has ever seen or heard," she
says. "I really feel like it's the first time people are
going to see so many facets of him at once."
The production will also feature some of Sinatra's
rarely seen monologues. The show puts such clips in
perspective, offering audiences of today the hindsight
their original audiences lacked. In some cases, just the
look on his face and tone of his voice reveal the inner
demons Sinatra was wrestling with at certain points in
his life, producers say.
Beyond the high-tech, resurrected version who stars
in this show, what was Sinatra really like?
"What it was like to be with him was feeling like the
most important person in the room at any given
moment," Azzarto says. "But mainly, it was about
being in the presence of someone great."
By Rafer Guzm
NY Newsday Staff Writer
It is Wednesday afternoon, and Frank Sinatra's "Pennies From Heaven" fills a third-floor studio at Radio City Music Hall. A pianist and drummer provide live accompaniment for the piped-in music, but they're nearly drowned out by the rhythmic thumping of several dozen feet belonging to a line of high-kicking Rockettes. To one side, several male dancers prepare for the next number by grabbing props from a table strewn with tumblers, cocktail shakers and Zippos. It's a real-live rehearsal for a deceased star. But even though Ol' Blue Eyes died five years ago, they're still doing it His Way.
"When you come in on eight, come in just a little bit late," director Des McAnuff tells the out-of-breath Rockettes after the song ends. "Because that's where Frank's coming in." The show, "Frank Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way," which opens Wednesday, will attempt to breathe life into a dead star, but Sinatra
isn't the only one being revived these days.
Next month, rapper Tupac Shakur returns with "Tupac: Resurrection," a documentary in which he seems to narrate his life from the grave. Shakur also has a new single, "Runnin'," in which he trades rhymes with another dead rapper, Notorious B.I.G. Along with releases of newly discovered tracks by Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix, plus a summer tour by The Doors (minus Jim Morrison), music fans could be forgiven if they lose track of which artists are dead and which are alive. Whether these revivals will come off as respectful tributes or mere exploitation remains to be seen.
While fans seem to have an insatiable appetite for certain artists - any Presley disc is virtually guaranteed to sell thousands of copies - they can be touchy about others. When Kurt Cobain's diaries were published after his death, many accused his widow, Courtney Love, of tomb-robbing. Hendrix's handlers have come under fire for, among other things, tampering with his original recordings and selling memorabilia of questionable taste, such as boxer shorts and golf balls. "It's a very delicate balance between how much is too much," says Charles Cross, who wrote a biography of Corbain, "Heavier Than Heaven," and is working on another of Hendrix. "The rule of thumb is: Don't overdo it. Once you do, you've ruined it, and it becomes a joke."
This isn't the first time the entertainment industry has tried to bring back the dead. In 1991, Natalie Cole scored a hit with "Unforgettable," a duet with the voice of her late father, Nat "King" Cole; while touring, she even brought along a large-screen video of him.
Ten years later, a celluloid image of Presley "toured" with members of his original band playing live on stage. By digitally jiggering old footage, the Sinatra show aims to create the illusion that the singer is alive and interacting with musicians and dancers.
It helps that the producers have good source material: When Sinatra recorded his ABC series in 1957 and '58, he also prerecorded high-quality, 35-mm films of himself singing while pianist Bill Miller played almost inaudibly in the background for use on the show, although many never aired. The result is a collection of pristine performances that are nearly a cappella, all the better for adding live accompaniment.
The show is built around these forgotten reels: As Sinatra sings tunes from his post-World War II, pre-Rat Pack heyday, he'll be joined on stage by a 40-piece orchestra, the Rockettes and even a 30-foot limousine. But then there's this eyebrow-raising claim from a press release: "Sophisticated projection technology on 40-foot-high movable panels and blocks will create three-dimensional, lifelike images of Frank performing and moving around the stage." Just how lifelike? The public won't really know until the first concert.
"There is a little surprise at the end, where he makes an appearance," McAnuff says. "But I don't want to give too much away." The recent rehearsals, however, offered some clues. In one example, footage of Sinatra singing "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" has been altered to strip out parts of the bar where he sits, allowing jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli to be superimposed, live, in the background. At one point, Pizzarelli even walks behind Sinatra's seated figure, as if they were in the same room.
Then again, some of the tricks are as old as cinema itself. For instance, when Sinatra removes his fedora and throws it to one side, another movie clip shows a hat landing perfectly in the hands of Bruce Willis. (Willis is one of several celebrities who provide pre-recorded testimonials to Sinatra's voice, charm and partying prowess.)
No matter how good the technology, though, it's important not to give the impression of a fake or surrogate Sinatra, says Roger Richman, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in marketing famous faces from the past. (Among his clients are the estates of Mae West, Albert Einstein and, as it happens, Sinatra's longtime orchestra leader, Nelson Riddle.) Richman says he's seen too many illustrations, sculptures and wax figures of stars that don't quite hit the mark. "If this technology does not result in a very realistic rendering of Sinatra," he says, "it's going to be panned by critics and by crowds."
Meantime, the most posthumously prolific artist of all time, Presley, will deliver at least three releases this year, one of them a four-disc treasure trove of previously unavailable material from old films, Nashville studio sessions and a 1972 concert. Despite the fact that Presley has released about two discs each year ? some with new material, some merely repackaging old songs ? there's no danger of oversaturating the market, says Michael Omansky, the consultant who oversees RCA's Presley catalog. "Not as long as you have a hard-core fan base that wants the stuff," Omansky says. "I think as long as you handle the entertainer with class and make sure everything is done right, with no cheesiness and good value for the consumer, you're OK."
It's possible that even the tackiest tribute is better than no tribute. Richman notes that many film stars of the 1920s are unknown today. "Families try and keep the memory alive," he says. "But most of these people, they do eventually die, believe it or not."
WHERE & WHEN: "Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way," begins Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall and runs through Oct. 19. Tickets are $40-$295.
Call Ticketmaster at 631-888-9000.