This Story Time entry features an excerpt lifted from a 2015 post, Saturday Odds & Sods: Sinatra Centennial Edition. It was an all-Frank post that included the story of our brief meeting sometime in the 1970’s. I don’t exactly remember when. Oh well, what the hell.
I wish I had a picture to mark the occasion, but it was before camera phones, selfies, and all that jazz. But I dig the featured image of Francis Albert in his natural habitat, the recording studio.
Enough with the preliminaries.
I didn’t really become a fan of Sinatra’s music until the 1980’s. It was often in the background at my parents’ house but when my musical tastes formed, I was a hippie. Hippies did not listen to Frank Sinatra at that time and place. And Frank was openly hostile to hippies. I was a rebellious kid and my folks were Sinatra fans, so what else could I do? I knew, however, in the back of my mind that he was fucking good.
I met Sinatra once. It was short but sweet. My father, Lou, met him on 4 or 5 occasions and encountered belligerent asshole Frank twice, and charming, warm, and friendly Francis Albert the other times. Sinatra was both dudes: he was a complex and highly emotional man. I think almost everything written about him has some basis in truth.
Back to our brief meeting. My father and I went to the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco to visit Telly Savalas. According to Lou, Telly was a cousin, but he never bothered with levels of consanguinity. His perennial refrain was: “We’re Greek. A cousin is a cousin.”
Yeah, whatever. I really should call Skip Gates but I don’t want to ruin a good story with the facts. Facts are pesky things.
We located Maybe Cousin Telly in the bar. No surprise there. Telly liked a drink as much, if not more, than the next fellow. We were surprised, however, to find him sitting with Frank Sinatra and his wingman/goon Jilly Rizzo. We met smiling, charming Francis Albert that day. I guess he was imbued with the Kojakian muse:
For once I decided to behave. I was tempted to ask some unwelcome questions but resisted. I didn’t ask about the horse’s head story in The Godfather or why he became a Republican. I knew I’d get asshole belligerent Frank if I did that, especially since I had shoulder length hair in those days. Repeat after me: Sinatra hated hippies.
Instead, I asked him about From Here To Eternity, which I had recently seen at the Strand Theatre. He winked and said, “You’re okay, kid.” Then he and Jilly got up and left.
I told Telly about my evil thoughts and he laughed his best movie villain laugh and said: “I’d like to hear those answers myself.”
Lou shook his head and said, “Glad you didn’t, son. He might have kicked you in the slats if you had.”
The slats were a mysterious place that Lou liked to threaten to kick folks in. I asked him repeatedly where the slats were. His stock reply: “If I ever kick you there, you’ll know.”
He never did. The mystery of the slats continues to this very day.
The last word goes to the Chairman Of The Board with an Arlen-Mercer saloon song: