Hoboken celebrates Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday

12 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After 100 years, Frank Sinatra remains Hoboken’s blue-eyed gift to the world | Farmer.

That was an early nickname for Sinatra in the Hoboken neighborhood in the U.S. state of New Jersey where he grew up because, as a youngster, he wore nice clothes. Some young-at-heart residents of Hoboken might be raising a glass to the award-winning singer and actor on Saturday on what would have been his 100th birthday.

PHILADELPHIA — In 1995, Sid Mark and Frank Sinatra agreed that the former’s radio show consisting of the latter’s material should strive for 50 years. The birth date of Frank Sinatra, the skinny, blue-eyed crooner from Hoboken, New Jersey, who would change the face of American music like few artists before or since. Hoboken today is a city of pricey condominiums and shops, upscale restaurants, spruced-up parks and more than a little money — a far cry from the blue-collar, waterfront town of Sinatra’s day, dominated by shabby bars and run-down ethnic clubs huddled along the west side of the Hudson River. For those of us who were lucky enough to have attended a concert or two of his over the decades, he was the complete package: The style, the swagger, the glimmer in his eyes and above all, the voice that breathed incomparable life into the Great American Songbook as few other artists ever would.

According to WPHT 1210 AM, Mark recently signed a contract extension which means the 16-year-long relationship with the Philadelphia radio station will continue. “My thanks to the management of WPHT, our sponsors and, of course, my listeners for making this possible. Even though the family initially lived in a cold-water apartment at 415 Monroe St., they eventually had such luxuries as a radio, telephone and car while his mother made sure her son had nice clothes, Hoboken Historical Museum director Robert Foster said. Sinatra’s ties to Chicago are legendary, and they run deep.There was his public debut with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1940 at Rockford’s Coronado Theatre. The car — and a driver’s license in which his name was misspelled SINTRA — helped gain him a spot in 1935 with the singing group the Hoboken Four. He became a singing waiter at The Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, where he met songwriter Cole Porter, and forgot the words to Porter’s hit, “Night And Day,” the 100 Sinatra website said.

A special program to celebrate The Voice’s birthday — which will feature dedications, birthday wishes and content that Mark has never aired before — can be heard Saturday on WPHT from 8 to 11 p.m. The old Hoboken of the seedy bars and clubs that provided Sinatra’s first stages — and the tenements that housed their Irish and Italian and, before that, German patrons — has vanished like Brigadoon, the mythic Scottish village of the old Broadway play. There were dates (most as a solo, some with his famous Rat Pack in tow) at the Sabre Room in Hickory Hills, the Arie Crown Theatre, the Chicago Stadium, The International Amphitheatre, The Hollywood Casino and the Civic Opera House. It showed Sinatra felt there was an opportunity to “do some good for his country under the direction of the FBI.” He was “willing to do anything even if it affects his livelihood and costs him his job,” the memo said. It was Sinatra who was among the first three artists ever to perform in concert at the then newly opened United Center (the other two being Billy Joel and Eric Clapton) in 1994.

Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to block the imminent execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, rejecting the notion that the founder of the murderous Crips gang had atoned for his crimes and found redemption on death row. (Williams was put to death early the next day.) During an impromptu question-and-answer session before the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, President George W. So, too, have the factories like Bethlehem Steel, the Todd Shipyard, and the plants of Maxwell House Coffee and Lipton Tea that employed its blue-collar inhabitants.

As a high school student in downtown Jersey City, the notorious Second Ward, the old Irish “Horseshoe,” my pals and I would amble across the railroad tracks to go “slumming” in Hoboken. (Took some gall if you were from downtown Jersey City to think of Hoboken, or any place, as slumming.) The buildings along Washington Street, Hoboken’s main drag, looked pretty spiffy when I last saw them a couple years ago, like maybe they’d been sand-blasted clean. The file also contained Sinatra’s mug shot, taken by the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office in 1938, after his arrest on a seduction charge that was later dropped. Five years ago: An explosives-packed minibus blew up at the entrance of a joint NATO-Afghan base in southern Afghanistan, killing six American troops and two Afghan soldiers as they prepared to head out on patrol. But when I went slumming there in the early and mid-1940s, the town and its public buildings, including City Hall, wore a shroud of ancient grime at least a century old, I suspect.

Sinatra’s Rat Pack persona is associated with Las Vegas, but he gets credit for filling Atlantic City’s casino showrooms with top talent after he appeared in 1979 at the city’s first casino, Resorts International. City Hall and the life of the city were dominated by Mayor Barney McFeely, a big-time boodler who held the Democratic Party franchise in Hoboken for boss Frank Hague’s Hudson County Democratic machine, which dominated the state. Following a show at Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget in 1983, Sinatra and Dean Martin demanded a blackjack dealer break the rules, costing the casino a $25,000 fine.

Sinatra scrapped an engagement and his lawyer issued a statement saying, “He will not perform in a state where appointed officials feel the compulsion to use him as a punching bag.” People left flowers near the plaque where Sinatra’s first home once stood when he died in 1998 at age 82 and the city held a memorial Mass at St. Here’s one more tribute, maybe with a hope that a new generation will discover not only the singer, but the songwriters, the arrangers, the band leaders who helped frame Sinatra’s 60-year career. So with a nod to Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Mel Torme, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Jimmy Van Heusen, Jule Styne, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Quincy Jones, and so many others, who, like Ol’ Blue Eyes, gave us some of the greatest music of the past 100 years, here’s a sampling of Sinatra through the ages. Tough call to make, with hits such as “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week” (1944), “Night and Day” (1942; he would record it five times over the course of his career); “I’ll Never Smile Again” (1940; his recording with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra and the Pied Pipers would be inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame 42 years later). “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers” remains one of his all-time great albums (a must for any collection). But for a saloon singer who usually had a drink on stage, Sinatra’s ultimate honor came from Jack Daniel’s, which introduced Sinatra Select whiskey in 2003.

Songs from the decade, such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Come Fly With Me” (1954) and “You Make Me Feel So Young” (1954,) further solidified his hitmaking prowess and his legendary way with incredible arrangements. To honor the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth, Jack Daniel’s produced 100 barrels of 100-proof Sinatra Century, which retails for $499.99 and includes an unreleased Sinatra recording.

Frank’s mother, “Dolly” Sinatra, the former Natalia Caravanta, was a Democratic ward leader prominent in the town for many reasons, including as a midwife and, according to author Kitty Kelly, as a provider of abortion services for Roman Catholic girls who got “in trouble,” as we used to say. Oh, and there was that other hit that just made the decade cut-off — 1969’s “My Way,” which became Sinatra’s anthem (whether he liked it or not). Sinatra releases the epic triple-disc compilation,”Trilogy: Past Present Future” (1980), and “New York New York” becomes (for better or worse) another of his signature tunes and one of the biggest hits of career. He was Dolly’s boy, as his contemporaries remembered him, usually dressed better than his pals because Dolly, conscious of his career aspirations, saw to things like that. No trip to Hoboken during Sinatra’s time and later was complete without a visit to the Clam Broth House — now closed but scheduled to reopen, I’m told — where the clam broth was free if you bought a beer.

Many local bars in those days provided something loosely described as a “free lunch” (hard-boiled eggs, ham and cheese, nibbling stuff), especially for regulars. Cheap rooming houses dotted the street and, at one end, as if put there by Divine Providence, stood the Seaman’s Rest Home, where what was left of many of the seafaring revelers wound up. By the mid-’40s, Sinatra had left Hoboken and became the pied piper for a generation of teenagers — the zoot-suited boys and bobby-socks girls of my generation who flocked to the Paramount Theatre in Manhattan, especially the girls, to see and hear him.

I was assigned to cover Hoboken police at night — fortuitously, for the Bi-State Waterfront Commission was closing in on the International Longshoremen’s Association, with its Mafia links, extortionate hiring “shape-ups” and massive organized cargo theft. Thought for Today: “If you possess something but you can’t give it away, then you don’t possess it… it possesses you.” — Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). A punctured ear drum suffered at birth made him a 4-F, but Army records also portrayed him as “unacceptable material.” He dropped out of Demarest, where he was deemed unruly.

And as Hoboken real estate values declined, gentrification began turning the city into a destination for the upwardly mobile young and a kind of outer borough of New York City.

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