I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII

NOTE:  More of the same, with a seemingly endless array of books of all types flooding the market with more, MORE, MORE Sinatra: some are useful, some are suspect, some are flashy, some are cheap rip-offs.  It's nice to see the Sinatra Family taking more of an interest in Frank's legacy, yet at the same time, the dirt continues to be shoveled, strange-and-stranger theories begin to crop up, and books about Frank continue (presumably) to sell.

Frank Sinatra
By Chris Rojek;
Polity Press, 192 p.
Released November 30, 2004


"Sinatra's capacity for self-discipline was quixotic.  He could be careless, imperious and inscrutable, but if a project took his fancy, or if he wished to create a good impression, he could be punctilious to an excruciating degree.  For example, he involved himself in all aspects of his famous Columbia and Capitol recording sessions in the 1940s and 1950s, taking pains to ensure that he had eye contact with all the orchestra, and not hesitating to challenge the arranger if he was dissatisfied with the sound.  He acquired the reputation of being a military martinet in the recording studio at this time.  The pianist Stan Freedman comments: "I remember him being very aware of what he wanted, and getting it!  If he thought a lute or oboe part should be left out of one section, he would say so.  He didn't have to take charge, but nominally he was in charge - and everybody knew that." (quoted in Granata 1999:56)."  [pg. 96]

REVIEW: Labeling itself a 'cultural biography' of Frank Sinatra, author Chris Rojek damns himself early in the preface by proclaiming himself disinterested in Sinatra as an artist or personality, and when approached by a publisher to consider Sinatra as a subject for a book, along with others, Mr. Rojek placed Sinatra at the bottom of the list.  It was not until, in an informal polling of his students, and discovering their high regard for Sinatra as cultural icon, that he decided to tackle the subject.  But while he writes with all the skill and armaments of his impressive vocabulary, the author essentially is here to 'tear down the myth' of Sinatra in the eyes of his readers, and again, fans are left to disseminate the true scholarship from the self-proclaimed bias of the author.  What makes this book a cut above other such leaden portraits is the skill of the author in examining several different aspects of Sinatra's impact - this truly is a look at the cultural effect which Sinatra has had on popular opinion, and even though the author often descends into the role of sniper, taking pot shots at Sinatra's power and influence, and bogs down in weighty psychological and sociological dialogue, at least the book makes a serious attempt to examine Sinatra's influence and impact. He examines the mystique of Sinatra's alleged Mafia ties, the condition of celebrity upon Sinatra's psyche, and the unique blend of racial and pecking order overtones in The Rat Pack. This is not an easy, quick read, written as it is in a dense, super-literate style that often postures and plays vocabulary roulette, but the author makes some fine points, and if you enjoy a thicker slice of intelligentsia from your Sinatra studies, this might do you just fine.

Frank'ly Dickens: A Pop Culture Myth Reinvents Itself
By Patricia A. Vinci;
Xlibris Corporation, 124 p.
December 22, 2004

"With a career that allowed him to set his own working hours, Dickens was able to live on impulse.  It wasn't unusual for his friends to receive a last-minute note asking them to join him on a horseback excursion to some pub, in the outskirts of London, to take in a pint of ale and a hot chop.  At other times, it was an invitation to go even further on extended trips to places where Dickens could procure ideas for his books...
...With a career that allowed him to set his own working hours, Sinatra also was able to live on impulse.  It wasn't unusual for his friends to receive a last-minute note asking to to join him on an airplane excursion and be sure to bring along their passport.  You were never sure where you would end up with Sinatra, but there was no need to worry about bringing any clothes along with you for the trip.  Sinatra would buy you new ones when you got there!
[pg. 42-43]

REVIEW: Author Patricia A. Vinci, ostensibly a huge fan of both Charles Dickens and Frank Sinatra, apparently has seen enough similarities between the two men to pen this compare and contrast book, drawing numerous parallels to their lives, and attempting to find mimicking patterns in their life experiences.  It's not as far-fetched as it may sound, since similar personalities tend to seek out similar experiences, no matter the era in which they're born, but this book, independently published, is too remote and tenuous to be taken seriously, although as a primer on the lives and personalities of both Dickens and Sinatra, it's an OK read, with enough biographical information on both men to shed a pale light on each.  But the conclusions the author reaches seem to be more suitable to UFO sightings or Bigfoot phenomena than credible analysis.  Comparisons both intriguing and tenuous fill the this thin book, from noting that each man wore a special ring on their little finger (although the supposed name-link associated with it is laughable); to the fact that both men grew to be relaxed, effortless performers (practice makes perfect, I guess); to how Sinatra was held under cold water to revive him after a difficult birth, and Dickens would splash his face with cold water to wake himself up in the mornings.  This kind of slap-dash comparisons would be more palatable if the author refrained from ending nearly every paragraph with an exclamation mark, as if she had stumbled upon some great truth, but the breathless writing style, and (more telling) the lack of any annotation to the sweeping claims held herein, dooms this book to be cherished only by the credulous, and by those who hold firm to the belief of reincarnation, which, although the author stops short of espousing, seems to be the clear path she's walking here.  A fringe book which will only be of interest to the curious.

Frank Sinatra: The Real Story Of Ol' Blue Eyes - A Narrated History [Docubook]
Request Audiobooks, [3CD]
Released May 1, 2005

Book Description
There are few lives lived more over the top than that of the man known as the "Chairman of the Board," leader of "The Rat Pack," and the "World’s Greatest Entertainer." This DocubookTM narrated documentary provides a candid account of the private relationships, heartbreaks and triumphs so astonishing and intriguing that parts sound like fiction. Frank Sinatra’s friends and fans recount the story of his life on stage and behind closed doors. Sammy Davis, Jr., Henry Winkler, Juliet Prouse, Edie Albert, Ann Miller, James Bacon, Ernest Borgnine, Shirley Jones and others talk about his generosity, his passion for song, and his penchant for temptation. The legend and the legacy, the secrets long hidden from the public eye, money and morality are all revealed here. Most of all, this is the story of the man who did it his way.

REVIEW:  Somehow, in all the hoopla surrounding the release of Sinatra: The Life (reviewed below), this sneaky little audio book was snuck onto the market without any fanfare at all.  Unfortunately, for me, and for any fan of Sinatra's who has had to endure the increasing flood of shoddy "tributes" which have inundated the marketplace since his death, Frank Sinatra: The Real Story of Ol' Blue Eyes is yet another slap in the face.  Instead of creating a new documentary about Frank, all ReQuest Audiobooks has done is take the already horrific documentary They Were Very Good Years (which is available on DVD), and transcribe it onto audio CD.  That's right - it's the exact same documentary, only now you can listen without any of the bother of actually seeing Frank.  So, basically, somebody stuck the DVD into a player and pressed the record button on their audio player.  Ugh.  For your convenience, here's the gist of the quality of this 'documentary' (taken from my review of the DVD):

One of the worst documentaries I've ever seen, They Were Very Good Years is to documentary films what Ed Wood (the creator of such anti-films as Plan 9 From Outer Space) was to independent cinema.  Grossly edited together, painfully narrated by someone who sounds like Walter Cronkite with a bad cold, showing no regard for historical time lines, and written without any style or intelligence, this five-part miniseries is a hacked-together disaster, and has unfortunately shown up in many guises over the years, in five, three and this two-disc edition.

So here, we have just the latest attempt to repackage and resell this extraordinarily inept product.  So just to warn anyone who's thinking of splurging on this piece of garbage, this is the bottom of the barrel in both production and performance.  Consider yourselves warned.

Sinatra: The Life (May 17, 2005)
By Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan;
Knopf, 592 p.
Released May 17, 2005

"A star is a special thing," the social scientist Leo Rosten said on the Walter Cronkite program to mark Frank's fiftieth birthday.  "A Picasso.  Frank Lloyd Wright.  Frank Sinatra.  We shower them with special license, like the royalty of an earlier time.  We say 'Gratify your desires.  Satisfy every whim.  Don't resist temptation.  Live for us.  Live as we would live is we were beautiful or brilliant or lucky and very, very rich.'
"Mr. Sinatra generates excitement.  He tantalizes the public and defies it with his private escapades.  He's a complicated man... He has an animal tension.  A suggestion of violence, even of danger."
The public forgave Frank his flaws and "shenanigans," Rosten thought.  At the time, though, people did now know the full extent of the simmering violence of the man, nor how often it manifested itself."
  [pg. 321]

REVIEW: If a man is to be judged by what he has become during his lifetime, then the most important years of a man's life must be his last, and this book, which the authors are touting as the most fully documented examination of Frank's life, do him, and the reader, a vast disservice by rushing through the penultimate years of Frank's life in order to dredge up every scrap of rumor, hearsay, and pop-psychological sound-bites they can muster, tying it together with what passes these days for journalistic integrity, and clumsily sluicing this information through the greasy filter of modern-day marketing. It's hard to say where the offenses really begin: with the shamefully misleading quote from Bob Dylan in the opening page which states that the truth of Frank Sinatra can be found in his voice, and then pointedly ignoring Frank's artistry throughout the text? The opening chapter, which cites the lawsuit-happy nature of Frank's family concerning his earliest recording? The second chapter, which casts doubt on the Sinatra Italian lineage? The unending barrage of salacious stories told from old girlfriends, lawmen, politicians, and hangers-on? The later chapters which (again) attempt to paint Sinatra as more than a Mafia admirer, but an actual henchman? The authors, again lacking any information from close, personal acquaintances, are left to comb through dusty FBI records (again), wade through acres of previously published accounts, and a few crumbs of new allegations, including an assertion of rape and being a courier for the mafia, which can neither be proved or corroborated, but are thrown in regardless. This book is nothing more than a cold recasting of Kitty Kelly's book from two decades before - a flagrant raping of journalistic ethics, and a sore disappointment for me, who, like other reviewers, was hoping at last for a biography with balance, foresight, wisdom and intelligence, and perhaps a little humor. This book has none of those qualities, instead wallowing in its own regurgitated vat of rumor and innuendo. The extensive notes, which run on for 133 pages, are clumsily placed at the back of the book, making it a chore to flip back and forth and see where the specific references are taken from, but that's probably the intent of the authors, to wear the reader out, so they don't really care whether the tabloid tales they read are reliable or not. Nothing less than a sordid sales pitch, with the crushing bias of the authors the most prominent feature.

The Rough Guide To Frank Sinatra: The Songs, The Style, The Voice
By Chris Ingham;
Rough Guides, 400 p.
Released August 29, 2005

"There are many Frank Sinatras to consider.  From when he first became a star in 1943 until his death in 1998, the different manifestations of the man have created a variety of images.  Yet the crooning idol of the "bobbysoxers" seems to bear little resemblance to the consummate actor of From Here To Eternity, the stylish, swinging bachelor of Songs For Swingin' Lovers!, the leering lush of the Rat Pack years or the faintly bitter tuxedoed monolith of the 1970s and 1980s.  With every season there's another Sinatra."  [from the Introduction, pg. v]

REVIEW:  The Rough Guides have long been revered for their acerbic takes on popular culture.  Whether skewering the latest trend, or mocking long-held traditions, the Guides take their pound of flesh by being the callous voice of the everyman in their publications.  But in their take on the life and career of Frank Sinatra, author Chris Ingham steps back from a truly brutal assessment of Sinatra, and offers a concise, clear guide to his life and works which few other books have managed to accomplish.  A small, easy-read, this 400 page pocket book manages to cram a lot of information and opinions into its small space, and also throws in several additional "factoids" into the mix, making for a book that is both thorough and concise.  Divided into biographical, musical, film, and "other" categories, I found the biographical sketch adequate, touching on the highs and lows of Sinatra's life apart from his music, with chapters broken up into chunks by decade or tenure at a record label.  The author feels that Sinatra's rap sheet is as important as his career, but everything is kept so brief that the writing never becomes onerous - the moments of Sinatra's life are for the most part skimmed over in about a hundred pages.  The next major section of the book, "The Inner Circle," give capsule biographies for many of Sinatra's friends and associates, from Humphrey Bogart to Jimmy Van Heusen, and mentions arrangers, players, lovers, and pals in the lineup.  Finally, we get to the meat of the book, which is an album-by-album rundown of the major discs, and the author does a very credible job of dissecting each platter's worth.  You may not find yourself in agreement with Mr. Ingham, but that's part of the fun of books like these, comparing your own judgment against the author's.  Not every single recording Frank made is covered, however, with live albums particularly getting the short shrift, as well as Frank's conducting efforts just allowed a two-page side bar.  The earliest recordings as well are examined only in brief, with Dorsey's and James' recordings, as well as the Columbia Years, receiving lengthy overviews, rather than an album by album analysis, which are accorded to the Capitol and Reprise discs.  After the album reviews comes some peripheral chapters, including a subjective "50 greatest songs-and the stories behind them" section; a filmography with concise reviews; reviews of various TV shows which have shown up on video; reviews of books and websites, and some various "FrankFacts" and such.  Not an essential read, but a fun book to browse with if you're looking for your next Sinatra purchase.

Frank Sinatra: When Ol' Blue Eyes Was A Red
By Martin Smith;
Redwords Press, 117 p.
Released September 1, 2005

Purchase from Amazon.co.uk
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"Sinatra returned to politics and made friends among a new class of gangsters - the Republican Party.  The million-dollar question is: why did he do it?  There is no simple answer.  Sinatra did not suddenly lurch to the right - it was a long, drawn-out process.  He had wealth and fame beyond most people's dreams.  Bit by bit it distorted his view of the world and of himself.
. . . The contradictions in Sinatra's life grew wider until, in April 1973, he resolved them by nailing his colours firmly to the Republican mast.  Nixon asked Sinatra to sing at the White House.  One of the songs he asked Sinatra to perform was 'The House I Live In'.  The irony was not lost on some - one of the great songs of the Popular Front era was being sung to one of the movement's most vicious opponents.  But any song that survives its historical beginnings can be turned into its opposite."  
pgs. 100-101

REVIEW:  This book ought to play very well with today's political mobocracy.  Despite being written in 2005, the distemper on display will fit in very nicely indeed with the demagogues who litter the landscape of both parties extreme fringes.  Mr. Smith's acerbic prose is dense with accusations, pillories, slander, and a virtual minefield of rapacious bile directed solely against the Republican Party.  But this book, written for a Communist-leaning audience, only manages to shoot itself in the foot with it's unending stream of vindictiveness.  By the author wearing his heart so clearly on his sleeve, he shows exactly how black it is.  In many ways, this book reminds me of Donald Clarke's similarly myopic All or Nothing at All - it too, pulled in Sinatra's name in a book that clearly could exist without Sinatra's presence; but where Clarke's book was a historical treatise masquerading as a biography, Smith's book is a hysteric political rant.  The author builds up Frank's early leftist leanings, from his reading of Karl Marx, to his bombastic, (and naive) statements about political and ethical disparities.  And despite his supposed high-mindedness in pointing out Sinatra's political stances, the author isn't below dredging up Frank's mafia ties, his romantic dalliances, and his professional ups and downs.  I was impressed only with the author managing to stuff so much propaganda into such a slim tome.  More a childish tantrum than a meaningful tract, When Ole Blue Eyes Was a Red ultimately deserves the same fate as the Berlin Wall.

Frankly - Between Us: My Life Conducting Frank Sinatra's Music
by Bob Popyk and Vincent Falcone;
Hal Leonard Corporation, 256 p.
Released September 5, 2005

"I was at home in the kitchen with my wife when I got a phone call.  It was Mr. Sinatra's manager.  We were supposed to go to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and, of course, I was planning to go as the pianist.  I guess he chose that engagement to see if I could handle the conductor spot.  He was testing me.  He believed in trial by fire, so there was no breaking me in slowly.  He wanted to start me as conductor at Radio City Music Hall, with every dignitary and famous New York musician in the audience.  That was the kind of confidence he had, not only in me, but also in himself.
His manager called me up and said, "Hey Vinnie, Frank wants you to conduct, can you handle it?"  I thought for a couple of seconds.  What am I going to say? No?  I knew I had only two choices.  If I said no, I would never get another chance.  If I said yes, I would either make it or fail.  Failing wasn't an option for me, so I said, "Yes, of course, yes!"
  [pgs. 64-65]

REVIEW: What purports to be an insider's look at the music and performances of Frank Sinatra is, in actuality, a dry look at the life and career of Vincent Falcone, who graduated from being Sinatra's pianist to his conductor of many years.  This slim book may be of interest to those who want a peek into the personality of Mr. S, but don't expect any profound insights or gossip.  Falcone, for all his name-dropping (and there is puh-lenty of it to be found in these pages), is not a member of Sinatra's inside circle, merely a hired hand, and as such, his observations are strictly that of an outsider.  His actual conversations with Frank are few and far between, with much of the information being sent through Sinatra's many layers of go-betweens, leaving most of Falcone's insights into his boss mere assumptions on his part.  In fact, for fans looking for Sinatra in these pages, you might be disappointed, since this book is first and foremost a career biography of Falcone himself - he rips through his childhood and schooling in a scant two chapters, briefly touches upon his army career, and recounts in short, leaden prose the winding path which eventually leads him to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and eventually to playing for Sinatra.  By this time, you're into chapter ten - a full third of the way through the book, and the glimpses we get of the Chairman of the Board are scant; Falcone is much more interested in relating his impressions of his fellow players, conductors, and the stars he meets than in throwing much of the spotlight onto The Main Event.  In that way, this book is a bit of a tease, since the cover and title would lead the reader to believe that this is going to be an insider's take on Frank, but by the  time Falcone shows up on the boards, Frank keeps everyone outside of his inner circle at arm's length, and despite Falcone's insistence that he and Sinatra were like "father and son" he offers no proof of this, and recounts with bewilderment the day he was called by Sinatra's management and fired, and then, later, hired back for a second go-round.  Sinatra never explained his motives to Falcone, and the author is left to weave insubstantial theories as to why Sinatra treated him with such indifference.  To me, it was pretty clear from the get-go that Falcone was nothing more than a hired hand, and that his basis for writing this is very thin, indeed.  This book could have been far more valuable if Falcone had found it in himself to write knowledgeably about Frank's music, or his performing style, but despite his obvious credentials in this area, there's not a scrap of light shed on the music itself, and precious little on the performer.  Frankly, (just between us) I found it a tiresome book, with writing that rarely rises above cliche, and no illumination to shed on Frank's character.

Frank Sinatra: You Only Thought You Knew Him
By Ted Schwarz and Nick Sevano;
S.P.I. Books, 450 p.
Release Date Unknown

The authors reveal:
  • The truth behind Sinatra's remarkable movie career from the films where he sang a song that had nothing to do with the plot, to his great success in From Here to Eternity, to the myth of the Johnny Fontane role in The Godfather.
  • Frank did it "his way" only when he stayed within the Mob's rules. When he got out of line in Las Vegas, Frank was the subject of a sit-down and Nick was present while Sinatra was told to shape-up or die.
  • How Joe Kennedy, in the 1960 JFK Presidential campaign, used Sinatra, Sammy Davis, and other Sinatra contacts, and then refused to allow them to get near JFK fearing their Mob affiliations could disparage his son.
  • The inside stories of the businesses that Nick owned with Frank and that he witnessed as an insider: from a music publishing company, to restaurants, to the Cal-Neva Lodge where Marilyn Monroe failed in her 1st attempt at suicide.
  • Plus the many insider stories of, the scandals, the women and the triumphs.

Press Release: Co-author Nick Sevano was a life-long friend of Sinatra’s as well as his manager for 23 years. He was in a unique position to know everything that went on in Frank’s life and reveals much never-before-told information in this stunning book.

Nick was initially hired by his mother's close friend, Dolly Sinatra, to act as Frank's chauffeur and Dolly's pay-off man when she still had to bribe club owners to let Frank sing. Nick was present as Sinatra truly learned his art, as he raced through every beautiful woman who was willingly bedded, and as he handled the tough guys Frank liked to challenge but was too weak to fight.

He promoted Frank’s records, rigged music popularity polls at Down Beat Magazine, worked on Frank’s behalf with the club owners, and became intimate with the Mob bosses who were the real powers behind the leading night clubs and performance locations.

All the major Bestselling biographers have interviewed Nick, but he felt it was prudent to say little about Sinatra that was not publicly known—until now. Nick can now tell what really happened because most of the dangerous characters he dealt with over the years are either dead of near-dead! And now that the threats are gone, many others are telling their stories to Nick's co-author, Ted Schwarz, and everything can be properly documented. The true story of Sinatra is at last becoming available.

Frank Sinatra: The Man, The Music, The Legend
by Jeanne Fuchs (Editor), Ruth Prigozy (Editor)
University of Rochester Press, 208 p.
Release Date: June 1, 2007

"...Sinatra was the very embodiment of beatness, and his voice resonates throughout many of their seminal works.  Jack Kerouac's novel about Buddhist enlightenment and the San Francisco poetry scene, The Dharma Bums, quotes no fewer than three Sinatra songs, "Learnin' the Blues," "We'll Be Together Again," and "Wee Small Hours," seamlessly and not ironically integrating them into its mediations on Eastern religion.  Kerouac's close friend Allen Ginsberg also drops allusions to Sinatra freely and follows his music well into the sixties.  His 1971 volume, The Fall of America, ... tracks Sinatra's evolving style in the mid-sixties, notes the elegiac melancholy of September of My Years, as well as the flirtation with Black vocal styles in That's Life."  [Roger Gilbert, "Singing In The Moment" ~ pg. 60]

REVIEW:  This book, the result of a Frank Sinatra Conference at Hofstra University, is a typical exercise in recent efforts to meld popular culture with scholarly exercises in dissection, and boasts several interesting, amusing, and occasionally absurd essays ranging from Sinatra's musical phrasing, to his questionable dancing skills.  The book is divided into two major halves: Part 1: Sinatra and His Music contains such overheated topics as Joseph Fioravanti's "Hanging on a String of Dreams: Delirium and Discontent in Sinatra's Love Songs" to Ruth Prigozy's intriguing "Dick Haymes: Sinatra Stand-In or the Real Thing?"  David Finck tackles "The Musical Skills of Frank Sinatra" and David Wild addresses "Frank Sinatra and His Curious but Close Relationship with the Rock 'n' Roll Generation".    Part 2: Sinatra and Popular Culture continues the trend with Roger Gilbert's "Sinatra and the Culture of the Fifties," Blaine Allan's "Frank Sinatra Meets the Beats" (quoted above), Philip Furia strains with "Sinatra in (Lyrical) Drag" and Jeanne Fuchs contributes the why-bother essay: "Frank Sinatra: Dancer."  There's more, but you get the picture: imagine a bunch of Sinatra-holics and intelligentsia gathered in a large auditorium and showing power-point presentations and reading from their notes, all to polite applause and occasional muted laughter.  I enjoyed several of the essays, especially Ron Simon's informative "Sinatra Meets Television: A Search for Identity," Walter Raubicheck's "Bogart's Influence on Sinatra's Film Career" and Patric M. Verrone's "Sinatra Satire: Fifty Years of Punch Lines."  But for every finely-turned paper, there are also a handful of stiffs: the laborious "Dancing To Sinatra: The Partnership of Music and Movement in Twyla Tharp's Sinatra Suite" and David Finck's been-there, done-that "Musical Skills of Frank Sinatra" which brings nothing new to the table.  A decent (and decently priced) compilation of essays which might appeal to the Sinatra Brain-Trusts out there.

Frank Sinatra: The Family Album
by Charles Pignone;
Little, Brown & Co., 144 p.
Released November 1, 2007
Family Album
Asked once late in his career to name a favorite song or album, Sinatra said, "I've sung and recorded so many wonderful songs over the years it would be impossible to name one in particular as my favorite.  Many of them are special to me for one reason or another.  It's difficult to pick a favorite album.  The ones that stick in my mind are Only the Lonely, Wee Small Hours, and Come Fly With Me because I think the orchestrator's work and my work came together so well.  [pg. 67]

REVIEW:  The latest in a continuing series of gift books authorized by the Sinatra family, Frank Sinatra: The Family Album is a welcome, attractive photographic journey through Frank's personal and private life.  Divided into chronological eras, the book falters perhaps in the earliest years, offering only a scattering of personal snapshots of what must be the rarest photographic period of Frank's life, his growing up and early marriage years.  There are a few shots of Frank at home with his first wife, Nancy, but even these seem to be posed stills for the fans - and in fact, there are several shots here that are publicity shots, but these are interspersed with more candid, personal pics which flesh out the very public persona which Frank was developing, and which would only increase with his burgeoning stardom.  Favorite pics of mine include an intense young Sinatra with tie undone relaxing after a recording session (pg 28); early shots of Frank posing with his Major Bowes buddies (pgs. 12-13), and Frank straddling a bicycle on a studio back lot while stopping to chat with arranger Nelson Riddle (pg. 55).  Besides photographs of Frank, there are also a smattering of pictures taken by Frank, of his young bride, of various locations which he traveled to in Rome and Hong Kong, and friends and relations.  There are wonderfully candid shots of Frank chowing down a wedge of watermelon, or tweaking the nose of daughter Nancy during the recording of "Something Stupid".  Later in the book we have warm photographs of Frank with his grandchildren, or palling around with his Rat Pack buddies, and other famous friends.  The diversity of subjects, and the inclusion of relevant quotations by Frank, as well as others, makes this book the perfect browsing book for those fans who still miss Frank and want a peek into both his public, and private lives.

Frank & Friendly: A Unique Photographic Memoir of a Legend
by Terry O'Neill, edited by Robin Morgan;
Evans Mitchell Books., 128 p.
Released October, 2007
"When I look back on our times together I remember Miami in 1968.  He'd arrived on the set at noon, work through till seven at night then go back to the Fountainbleau Hotel and prepare for a concert.  And he did that day after day, week after week.  Think about his career; the Oscars, the No 1 singles, the hit albums, scores of movies, thousands of concerts - nobody will ever come close to Frank."   [pg. 126]

REVIEW:  Sinatra: Frank and Friendly is one of those books that screams CLASS!  A hardcover book boxed in a heavy slipcase, and printed on heavy, gloss photographic paper, this book is clearly meant to be gift-quality material.  Fortunate that it's been released just in time for the holiday season, eh?  These black and white photographs, taken by Terry O'Neill and pulled together with brief quotes from various sources by editor Robin Morgan captures late-period Sinatra, when he was working on Lady in Cement with Raquel Welch onward.  Within the pages, there are several striking images, iconic in their starkness, with a silhouetted Sinatra wreathed in cigarette smoke (pg. 12) or a riveting action sequence captured in split-seconds; pensive moments when Frank seems lost in thought, unaware that a camera was trained on him, or explosive guffaws that reveal the adeptness of O'Neill's trigger finger.  Besides the on-site movie pics, O'Neill also followed Frank on a couple of his concert dates, and shows a canny ability to capture the essence of Sinatra: the performer in action.  It's clear that Terry O'Neill, whose is noted for creating posters for James Bond films, as well as Versace fashion campaigns, has a rare photogenic eye, and allows the viewer to see aspects of Sinatra that only those close to him have seen before.  The book's subtitle, "a unique photographic memoir" reveals that the majority of these photographs haven't been published before, and for fans, this book is a rare, and precious look at not just Sinatra the legend, but Sinatra the human being.  A perfect (albeit somewhat pricey) gift for fans.  

Sinatra: ...but buddy, I'm a kind of poem
edited by Gilbert Gigliotti; 
Entasis Press., 174 p.
Released January 26, 2008

Product Description:
GIlbert L. Gigliotti's anthology of verse referencing Old Blue Eyes in every possible way will delight both Sinatra fans and poetry fans alike.  The sixty poets Gigliotti has included offer a multiplicity of views that are, as Gigliotti says in his introduction to the book, "as contradictory as the man himself . . . at times harsh, satiric, sentimental, erotic, comic, and tragic."

Poets include:

Gerald Early                               David Lloyd
Landis Everson                         Kathleen Norris
Maria Mazziotti Gillan                Diane Raptosh
Allen Ginsberg                           Jack Ridl
Beckian Fritz Goldberg             Ravi Shankar
William Hartman                       Ruth Stone
George Jessel                           Virgil Suarez
David Lehman                           Robert Wrigley

REVIEW:  This latest entry in the Sinatra literary canon is nothing if not unique; a first-ever collection of poetry with Frank as the author's primary muse.  I'm not entirely sure what to think of this secondary use of an artist as inspiration for art.  I know that Andy Warhol is famous for starting the trend of using celebrities as pop art, but is it really worthwhile, or even necessary?  Sinatra ...but buddy, I'm a kind of poem, edited by Gilbert L. Gigliotti brings together a raft of poetic talent, whose names, unless you're an English poetry major, might not ring many bells, despite the inclusion of familiar spirits like Allen Ginsberg and Ravi Shankar.  And, to be honest, I'm not certain how to review this little tome - poetry is, by its nature, subjective, and unless you're a huge Sinatra fan, and a reader of poetry, I'm not certain that this volume has much interest or value outside of its seemingly limited audience.  The poetry itself is all of a modern bent, with the abandonment of rhymes or meter all the rage at the moment, leaving most of the poems reading more like prose; and faintly grim prose at that.  The mood of most of the authors appeared to me to be one of discontented regret; the Sinatra invoked here is a lingering memory which recalls a brighter past, or an unrealistic ideal, while spotlighting how stark and empty modern reality has become.  This tone creates a Wasteland-like acrid taste which I didn't find terribly compelling, although for fans who enjoy listening to Frank's bleaker
platters such as Only the Lonely or Where Are You? may find these poems similarly enjoyable.  But I think the strongest criticism I can throw on this collection is that despite invoking Sinatra's name, I didn't find much of Frank in the pages - his moods, his spirit, (for lack of a better word) is absent - I would've liked to have felt more of the heartbreak or Joie de vivre which Frank brought to his art in the pages here, but it's here only fleetingly: the apt portrait found in Landis Everson's "Our Boy, Sinatra" or the faded romance found in Maria Mazziotti Gillan's "My Funny Valentine."  The book contains some brief notes about some of the poems, as well as author biographies and a helpful introduction by the editor.

When Frankie Went To Hollywood: Frank Sinatra and American Male Identity
by Karen McNally; 
University of Illinois Press., 248 p.
Release Date: March 6, 2008

"Beyond these connections with female-oriented lyrics and performers, many of the, in Sinatra's terminology, "saloon songs" with which his is most closely associated express personal loss from a specifically male perspective.  By labeling these songs "saloon songs" rather than "ballads," Sinatra distinguishes himself from his earlier emotionally expressive performances, and places them firmly in the male domain.  Their narrative style means that Sinatra' s performances have a cinematic quality even outside a film setting, and they often connect Sinatra to a sense of modern urban anxiety.  Both "Angel Eyes and "One for My Baby," which appear on the 1958 album Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, function as male laments to the loss of a relationship."
~ pg. 99

REVIEW:  Anyone who's read this site regularly knows how I feel about socio-psychological attempts to define what made Frank Sinatra unique in our culture.  If you can't make such an attempt entertaining, then don't waste my time.  My gut was telling me from the get-go that Karen McNally's When Frankie Went to Hollywood: Frank Sinatra and American Male Identitywas going to be about as much fun as a root-canal, and I was painfully right.  I was hoping that the author would perhaps take the tack of investigating Sinatra's film roles, and how they dove-tailed into post-war societal roles, but even that was setting my hopes high.  McNally writes with all of the charm and style of your least favorite English teacher, dropping power-words like "American Male Identity" and "Italian-American Male Identity" as if they were A-bombs, slathering the text with dry-as-toast aphorisms which failed to engage or interest me in her thesis.  And what is her shockingly new idea that she's presenting?  That Frank Sinatra was a curiously sexual, Italian-American Male!  Whew!  The author plows through several films, albums, and statements culled from interviews to point out every crumb that supports her mantra, (and she's not shy about repeating the point ad nauseum), that Frank's political, social, and professional life was riddled with distinctly Italian-American Male viewpoints, as if she's stumbled upon the Holy Grail.  But as she labors page after page of pointing our how virile, sexual, and Tarzan-like (naked to the larynx) he is, at the end of reading it, I felt ready to give myself a cleansing purge to wipe the taste of this heartless, numbing read out of my mind.  The truth is, that this subject has been covered already, and with considerably more charm, style and humor in The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin' by Bill Zehme, and if you're craving a peek into what made Frank such an American Male icon, that you check out that amusing tome, and leave this one to gather dust on the shelves of University bookstores, which is where it's aspirations lie.

"My Life - My Way" - Frank 'Ol' Blue Eyes Sinatra
by Ed Starkey; AuthorHouse Press., 208 p.
Release Date: July, 2008


"I wake up quite alone in the half acre of bed, in the soundproof, shadowy expanse of bedroom.  I feel the bulge of pain behind my eyes, the sourness of tongue, the painful, bitter effects of a hangover.  With willful effort, I swing my legs out and sit up slowly making a wry face while scrubbing at the thinning harshness of my dark hair.  Worming my feet into the fur of the thick white rug, I see myself in the distant mirror, the slender doll-man in the bright pajamas.  Reaching for the big button board set into the headboard, I punch the one for the drapes.  An electric motor whines as it opens the heavy drapes that cover the big window sill, letting in in [sp] a flood of sunlight.
In a gesture of agony, I instinctively shield my eyes while holding out the other in defense.  I gasp, "Not the torture of floodlights!  I beg of you!  Take them away!  Take them away!""

~ pg. 36-37

REVIEW:  OK, this one was sheer, unmitigated torture.  I guess I'd have to classify this book as easily the most puerile, painful read I've ever had to endure for the sake of this site.  How to describe it?  My Life - My Way by Ed Starkey is what I guess you'd call a "fictional autobiography" - yep, that's right.  Written in the first person, and psychotically attributed to "Marty Tanner" in the introduction, this book is reputedly Frank's own story, in his own words, as written by "Marty Tanner" yet authored by Ed Starkey.  In fact, the introduction states that this is Frank's own story, not to be published until after his death.  Huh?  So who really wrote the book?  Marty, Ed, or "Frank"?  Well, disregarding that for the moment, the book quickly dives into three preludes - and "Introduction" (by Marty Tanner), a "Prelude", which rips through Sinatra's early years in a super-brief two pages, and then, a "Prelude to the Fifties" which sets up the ACTUAL beginning of the book: "The Fifties" and later on, the Sixties.  OK, so whoever wrote this book tries to capture Frank's voice, but I find it hard to swallow that Frank would be so enamored with dull recitations of facts about the decades he lived in, or would display such an affinity for purple prose, which is slathered onto every page with all the delicacy of a tar brush on a Picasso painting.  The melodrama flies fast and thick, with Frank intoning: "Ava!  Ava! AVA!" (in undoubtedly his best Malon Brando tone).  But not only that, the author(s) also reveals a prurient interest in literary pornography, graphically panting through innumerable, lurid play-by-play accounts of Frank and Ava Gardner's trysts, all of which are written with a surfeit of detail, but a modicum of style. Between these two extremes, My Life - My Way paints Frank as an insecure, whining sycophant, constantly worrying about his image, his voice, his record sales, his torturous relationship with Ava and the press, and filled with dry lists of "this is what was popular in 195_".  This book was so inept, so raw, and so licentious, that it's no wonder the author had to self-publish it - no legitimate publisher would ever touch it.  And if the Sinatra Family gets a whiff of it, I have no doubt that their lawyers will quickly come salivating.  It's the Pavlov's Dog of the publishing world!  My Life - My Way might be hysterically funny if you can get past the aching sincerity of it, but I couldn't; it was a dire read, and a book I was only too glad to get to the end of.

Sinatra In Hollywood
by Tom Santopietro; 
Thomas Dunne Books, 530 p.
Release Date: November 11, 2008

"With his sinewy, tightly wound body, Sinatra's physicality reveals a man on the edge; as M.A. Schmidt, the Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times, reported after watching Sinatra during filming, "He tenses... but the tension is caused by concentration, not by uncertainty... When the action was over, his whole body seemed to melt into relaxation."   Like any first-class actor, Sinatra conveys volumes of information through a subtle movement of his eyes, precisely delineating his character's combination of psychosis and overweening confidence.  The smallest physical movements all speak to that same psychosis, the sudden sharp hand gestures suggesting the barely suppressed violence of a seriously disturbed character."  pg. 149

REVIEW:  This book reminded me a lot of Rhino's thunderously extensive box set devoted to Frank's film music (the similarly-titled Frank Sinatra In Hollywood) - über -complete, but not a lot of fun to wade through.  Sinatra In Hollywood, by author Tom Santopietro is for the fan who loves Sinatra, the actor.  Easily the thickest tome ever devoted to Sinatra's screen work, ...In Hollywood doesn't shy away from any of Frank's films, but treats each one to close, analytical scrutiny - which works fine for dynamite films like The Man With The Golden Arm or Pal Joey, but left me gasping for air while treading through pages of detail for lesser films.  The book doesn't content itself with being simply an examination of the films, the author interweaves details about Sinatra's personal and professional life as well, giving the films context, which is something previous books of the same stripe lacked.  The author's writing is fluid and clear, making this an easy read, despite its thickness, but for my tastes, it could've used more judicious editing; the author tends to gush with unabashed enthusiasm over Sinatra's acting prowess, sounding at times like a giddy schoolboy, but for those of us who view many of Frank's film roles with a more critical eye, it can quickly become tiresome.  The other big sticking point with this book (and it's been mentioned by other reviewers) is that many of the films plots are described in painstaking detail - pages and pages of movie storyline are included, which begs the question, is the author assuming that whoever buys this book is unfamiliar with the plot of From Here To Eternity?  Do we really need a blow-by-blow account of Can-Can?  It pads the book considerably, not just the rehashes, but the author's own commentary on the film plots.  To my way of thinking, this book isn't quite sure what it's supposed to be; part biography, part filmography, but not really useful as either, Sinatra In Hollywood ultimately proves itself be too much attention paid to a hit-and-miss part of Frank's career.

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