Tag Archives: Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra Has A Cold

Forty-five years ago, Gay Talese redefined essay writing.

I came across this yesterday – hadn’t seen it in years – when I was writing about Harlan Ellison. Ellison plays a small role in the story, a then lesser-known writer who just happened to be sharing a poolroom with Frank Sinatra when Frank was in one of those moods. It’s a scene in a film-length story about Talese trying to get access to Sinatra for an article assignment from Esquire. Sinatra declined to be interviewed. So Talese wrote around him.

I don’t know if it lives up to its reputation as one of the greatest article ever written, but it is damned good, with a pulse and cadence that combines humor, pathos and even a bit of suspense here and there.

Read the article here.

On a much smaller level I had to do the same thing once, when assigned to cover The Hives on their first tour. Although a band member did pick up the phone, they were so disinterested in participating, every question was answered with two or three words. No comebacks. No tangents. No plugs for new material. In fact the only time there was any exchange was when I asked them about their fictitious Svengali, who they purported wrote all their material and choreographed their every move. But even after that two sentence retort, there was nothing. So I tossed it and wrote around them, angling the piece as if I were a paparazzi eavesdropping on “a day in the life”.

Another favorite, although there was probably no interview scheduled, was Joe Queenan’s toxic Mickey Rourke For A Day. Now I’m as big a Rourke fan as you’ll find – never abandoning him even through the really bad days – but I could appreciate the observance of a train wreck from Queenan’s perspective.

Talese is correct – our media culture today is a machine that gobbles up rumor and gossip and innuendo and regurgitates it as news and fact, only retracting and apologizing when they need to. Society is fascinated with observances of the rich and famous, especially when they falter. That appetite has always been there, but the line between fact and fiction is now murky. Most blur the line purposefully, because they are sensationalists.

Gay Talese did it artfully, because he has talent.

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And R.I.P. Jeff Conaway, dead at 60 from pneumonia and bacterial infections after being comatose for over two weeks.  He played Kenickie in Grease but was more famous as the struggling actor and part-time cabbie Bobby Wheeler in Taxi. He left the show after three years – in fairness, they had run out of things to do with his character – and never really landed anything else of significance. That void led to depression and substance abuse, as it does for many who lose the limelight.

I abhor reality shows, and the lowest in the slime pit are celebrity rehab shows; they are sad and parasitical events that prey on desperate subjects for the entertainment of worthless people. Conaway had been a regular face on shows like these. I prefer to remember him from the glory days, when I was watching the man’s craft, not his public evisceration.

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R.I.P. Dana Wynter

The name Dana Wynter probably won’t roll off your tongue of asked to name ten actresses from the ’60s and ’70s; she never attained the superstar status that many of her contemporaries did. But in three of my favorite films, Wynter played a convincing supportive role and radiated a quiet beauty. Ms. Wynter died Thursday at 79.

I just recently come across a DVD copy of The List of Adrian Messenger, one of the more unusual mystery films ever made. In addition to a murder plot, several of the biggest stars of the day (Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra) appeared in small or walk-on roles in disguise and are “unmasked” at the end of the film. George C. Scott and Kirk Douglas are among the leads, and it’s no wonder that both are enamored by the beautiful Wynter.

If you do see The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers make certain it’s the one filmed in 1956 starring Wynter and Kevin McCarthy. One of the most frightening horror movies ever made, its a suspenseful and unnerving film that eschews gore and violence for pure dread, and the ending of the film gave me nightmares as a child.

One of James Cagney’s more underappreciated films was Shake Hands With The Devil, sadly not yet on DVD. The IRA drama also starred Don Murray and Glynnis Johns and was directed by the also-underappreciated Michael Anderson.

Wynter’s resume is heavy on television shows and only peppered with memorable films, but if you grew up in the ’70s you likely were very familiar with her work. Check out the three films above, all highly recommended.

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New Album! The Dahlmanns

Short, sharp and sweet – this four track EP from The Dahlmanns is a blast of crunchy pop bubblegum. The EP kicks off with a great cover of Amy Rigby’s “Dancing With Joey Ramone”, which takes the hook from “I Fought The Law” and covers it with a bright pop sheen.  That’s followed by the lightning-paced  “I Want You Around”; an original, not the Ramones tune, but it sounds like the seminal punk band. Both songs (like the closing track “Didn’t Tell The Man”) are effervescent punchy pop;  chunky guitar chords and great hooks slathered with sing-along harmony vocals.

But I would expect nothing less, considering Andre Dahlmann is from The Yum Yums, one of the best powerpop bands around (and sadly not as well known in the States as they should be). Guitarist and vocalist Andre is joined by his wife Line Cecile Dahlmann on vocals; I’m not sure if the two other listed band members  (Christian and Ole) are real Dahlmanns or whether the adopted surname is a tribute to The Ramones, but no matter – whoever it is playing on these songs, they’re tight and fun.

The fourth track is a cover of Lindsey Buckingham’s classic “Holiday Road” (from National Lampoon’s Vacation), complete with spirited harmony vocals and infectious guitar. The webpage states that a full length is on the way this year, and if it’s anything like this four-track EP, powerpop fans are in for a real treat.

The Dahlmanns page at Pop Detective Records

The Yum Yums on MySpace

*****

Ever feel that the day is  just…weird? From the moment I got up today it seemed like things were a little off. Took a peek at what events have happened on June 17th across history and found out some odd pairings…

In 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor, a representation of all the good America had to offer. But in 1972, five White House operatives were arrested for breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee and Watergate was added to our lexicon.

Today also marks the anniversary of the last public use of a guillotine in France, outside Versailles in 1939, because modern society deemed decapitation too gruesome even for criminals. But fifty-five years later, a nation watched a white Ford Bronco chased by police cars in slow motion; its famous passenger accused of a comparably heinous act.

On a lighter note, June 17th is also the birthday of a three TV sketch comedians. Michael Showalter from The State is forty, while Saturday Night Live player Joe Piscopo is 59 years old. And Will Forte, ironically, turns forty.

(And for the record, although it was Phil Hartman’s version who said it, not Piscopo’s… Frank Sinatra has chunks of guys like MacGruber in his stool.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Elvisisms

King my ASS, Mr. Jackson. THIS is The King.

Happy Birthday, Elvis Presley! I know you’re making the donuts somewhere up in Minnesota and it was difficult to stay hidden when your daughter got married to that pedophile. But you have your priorities, and one of them is not surfacing so they can force you to do a duets album like they made Frank Sinatra do. Good for you, sir.

So as you celebrate your birthday today, allow me to thank you for ten things. I could list more, but the line at Graceland is pretty thick today, even with the snow, and I think those weeping fans deserve a turn too. So for everything you did for rock’n’roll, E…thannkewwvurrrymushhh.

1. Hip Shakin' madness

2. Gave Caddys to your friends

3. Sweet, sweet Priscilla.

4. King Creole. Damn, you COULD act!

5. Made your mama proud.

6. The Billion Dollar Quartet (with inflation)

7. Ann-Margaret. Yeah, you did that too.

8. Gave Kurt Russell the role of his life

9. The great '68 comeback

10. Peanutbutterandbananasandwich

So go listen to some vitamin E(lvis) right now. (That means you, Al and BillyMac.) And most importantly, remember what Mojo Nixon said

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The King…

elvis presley grave

…and this one had his title bestowed upon him by his accomplishments. He was, simply, The King. Unlike a later entertainer who made up his own titles, shamefully appropriating a royal moniker for himself. Hell, he even misinterpreted a birthday cake from MTV as an award for Artist of the Millennium. (If there were such an award, even Even Presley wasn’t that – I’d have to vote Frank Sinatra or Charlie Chaplin). But I’m not going to kick a man when he’s down.

If you don’t know much about Elvis Presley at this point, you probably don’t care enough to learn about him. So I provide the links below as a courtesy for those of you who wax nostalgic this weekend and want to pick up an old album or hit Netflix up for a movie. Hard to believe it’s been 32 years since Elvis died at 42; he’s gone but will never be forgotten.

But if you visit a certain donut shop in Minnesota, look closely

This one’s for you, Al Kohler.

Elvis website.

Elvis filmography.

Elvis discography.

Elvis Wiki.

Kurt Russell played Elvis, and well.

Uhh…so did Andy Kaufman – amazing!

Not The King

Not The King

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Magnet (Magazine) – Opposites Don’t Attract

I used to really enjoy reading Magnet, one of the few magazines that really seemed to go out on a limb and find some new bands to trumpet. Their year-end take on important groups and albums – like any such list – was an enjoyable read, chuckles be damned, and I’d always scribble a name or two to follow up on.

But then I remember stopping whatever I was doing when Rolling Stone arrived in the mailbox so I could devour it cover to cover. Do that these days and you’ll get (1) paper cuts from the eleven free-floating subscription cards, (2) nausea from the perfume and cologne samples and (3) even more nausea from the words found buried between the fashion pages. But I digress…we’re talking Magnet today.

I get their teaser emails announcing what’s in the upcoming issue. Normally I glaze past the bullets without anything reaching out and catching my eye; another Sleater-Kinney feature or perhaps the newest adventures of the bass player who used to roadie for Walt Mink but now is producing six bands out of his Astrovan…I get it, he’s really, really indie. But today, I could not forgive the following:

The Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique just turned 20. MAGNET re-examines one of the greatest pop albums of all time, right up there with Radiohead‘s OK Computer, the BeatlesRevolver and Bob Dylan‘s Blonde On Blonde.

Exfuckingscuse me, but what??

Unless this list of “greatest pop albums of all time” is on a one-page-a-day calendar, you do not mention The Beastie Boys in the same breath as The Beatles or Bob Dylan, ever. Ever! It’s not that I don’t find the Beasties entertaining; I wore the grooves out of “She’s On It” and I will always fight for my right to party. But Hey Ladies, get serious –  one of the greatest pop albums of all time? To paraphrase what  Joe Piscopo as Frank Sinatra would say…”I got pieces of albums like that in my stool!”

See? Not lyin'.

See? Not lyin'.

So how can I take their other offer seriously – the one where their “resident expert” will tell me which Replacements tracks I need and which I am wasting my time listening to? I don’t think so. So for God’s sake, Magnet… Let It Be. You Stink.

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