Frank Sinatra, Jr. passed away this week.
First, for those under the age of, say, 35 who are saying "uh, like, wow, I thought he died a long time ago...that dude must have been, like, a hundred years old", allow me the privilege of setting you straight.
That was Frank Sinatra.
It was his son, Frank, Jr. who died.
And, no, Frank, Jr. wasn't like, a hundred years old, he was only 72.
Yes, I hear you.
"72? Wow, that's old, too."
I understand why you feel that way.
Trust me when I tell you that when you hit 71, you won't feel that way anymore.
At first, I was tempted to begin here with something glib and self serving (since that seems to be the way we're doing things now, at least if you want to be a front runner for a presidential nomination) and say something like "we've had a death in the family."
But, the truth is I'm not in any way, shape, form or strain of DNA related to the Sinatra family.
What is true, though, is that I have a history with them.
One dear surrogate father in my life, who we also lost much too soon, was Billy Strange. Although the name doesn't ring a bell, unless you're a dedicated pop music trivia geek, you have certainly heard his work, if only randomly, no matter what age you are.
A world class arranger and guitarist, Billy's work was instrumental (no pun intended) on a whole lotta the great pop records of the 1960's, everything from The Beach Boys "Fun, Fun, Fun" to his unique and what turned out to be iconic idea for a way to grab listener's attention from the get go when Nancy Sinatra recorded the original version of her big 60's hit, "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'".
A simple, but catchy, little guitar lick.
In the mid 90's as the result of my association with Billy and his association with Nancy, I had the Trivial Pursuit-ish privilege of having one of my songs recorded by Nancy, herself, for an album entitled "One More Time".
Okay. So it wasn't Eleanor Rigby.
But it was Nancy Sinatra, okay?
Nancy's dad actually recorded a song of mine, as well, in the years before his passing in 1998, but you'll just have to take my word for that one because it's one of those "never released but somewhere in the vaults" recordings that are common in the biz.
Hey, why would I lie? I'm not running for anything.
As far as Frank, Jr. was concerned, I had no musical connection with him but did, in fact, meet him in 1994, as he traveled around the country doing industry meet and greets to hype his dad's album "Duets II", a collection of songs sung with other vocal celebs, actually, the sequel album to an earlier collection very cleverly titled....
...can you guess?
The second collection featured such "partners" with Frank as Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, Jimmy Buffett, Gladys Knight and Nashville country pop-ster Lorrie Morgan (who we'll get back to momentito)
Frank, Jr. even did a duet with da dad on the unofficial Chicago anthem, "My Kind Of Town".
The junket gathering took place in a relatively small conference room of an upscale downtown Nashville hotel, the kind of room that, once supplied with a wet bar and a nice spread, allowed for only forty or fifty of the local movers and shakers to stand and chat and drink and nosh and wait for the obligatory always five minutes too long speeches followed by the obligatory working of the room and shaking of the hands.
In those days, I was supplementing my staggering broadcasting income with a management gig with Tower Records, one of the, then, nation's largest and most powerful music retailers.
Ergo, my plus 2's and I were sufficiently able to move and shake to qualify for entry, as well as a drink and a nosh.
And the obligatory always five minutes too long speeches followed by the obligatory working of the room and shaking of the hands.
Frank, Jr. didn't arrive until Schmoozapalooza was well underway. I remember thinking at the time that there was no shortage of pretentiousness from the get go, since we knew, for a fact, that Jr. was, in fact, actually staying in that very hotel.
I mean, I totally get the concept of "making an entrance", but, the amount of time between the opening of the wet bar and the arrival of the heir to the Chairman would have had you thinking that he was flying in from Burma.
Now, more commonly known as Myanmar.
All these twenty years later, I don't remember his actual arrival and I don't remember anything at all of what the three or four various and sundry pre-Frank speakers offered up in their always five minutes too longs.
What I do remember is Frank, Jr. living up to every comical stereotype that I had ever had of a second generation Rat Packer who was alive and well, standing right in front of us, in the year 1994, but in attitude, appearance and, did I mention attitude, was like a delightful character plopped into our midst by Rod Serling from straight out off the Vegas Strip, circa 1961.
He was wearing a dark suit with a metal gray tie, the suit made of that fabric that was both undoubtedly no less than three grand per and right up to but not overly shining in that way that makes you just know that it would have been considered classy and tasteful for clothes horses like Tony Soprano.
In one hand, an ever present cocktail (and I never heard him say so, but I'd be willing to bet my Nancy royalties that he referred to it as a "highball"), in the other hand, the ever present cigarette, smoke wisping just enough to complete the look without offending the tightly packed crowd of movers and shakers.
The smoker who stopped a long time ago in me couldn't help but feel just a twinge of irony mixed with poignancy at my memory of that cigarette, given the news that he died of a massive heart attack.
But, the coup de grace?
The moment that we were all waiting for even though we had, at the time, no idea of just how much we all waiting for it?
The speech, baby.
Standing behind the small, hotel furnished tabletop podium, underneath those ceiling track lights that always walk a fine line between providing quasi mood/criminal interrogation lighting and keeping your French Fries good and hot, Frank, Jr. was, with whiskey and Winston in hand, the stuff that Saturday Night Live writers live for.
And he hadn't even spoken a word.
That's when things got classy.
And stayed classy, my friends.
The speech itself was the usual assortment of "happy to be here", "thanks for being here", "wonderful to be in Nashville", "wonderful to talk about this great new album" kind of thing.
With a couple of very special splashes of unique.
First, the words "wonderful", "great", "stupendous", basically any and all adjectives that might be synonymous in that context were almost without exception replaced by a word I've always suspected might have long ago been officially trademarked by the Sinatra men
Pronounced, though, in that special Sinatra way that only a Sinatra could pronounce it.
And as there can be no pancakes without syurp, no Abbott without Costello, no Kanye without narcissism on a galactic scale, there can be no "mahhvuluss" without, "ladies and gentlemen".
So, everything, album, city, gathering, even the wet bar and the nice spread were, surely, and repeatedly...
"...mahhvuluss, ladies and gentlemen, mahhvuluss..."
Oh, one more thing in that list.
Lorrie Morgan's boobs.
And not that the rest of the assembled movers and shakers, not to mention anyone who had ever come into any kind of contact with her hadn't noticed that Ms. Morgan was a healthy, fair to say, bosomy woman, not on a Dolly scale but certainly in the category that made cleavage seem like a slightly inadequate word.
But Frank, Jr. looked, acted and most obviously Vegas Strip circa 1961 spoke about, and to, those breasts as though they were part of the mammary equivalent of Larry, his brother Daryl and his other brother Daryl.
I'll give you a sec to figure that one out.
".....and I'm very proud of the mahhveulous artists we were able to have join us on this project," Jr. regaled the assembled in his best ring-a-ding rhetoric, "but none quite so talented and lovely as the mahhvuluss and vahlupchewus Ms. Lorrie Morgan, ladies and gentlemen....(cue the slight, courteously offered applause)...that's right, let's hear it for the vahlupchewus Ms. Morgan."
Junior's smile was the broadest and most sparkling that money could buy, his left hand set the highball down to wrap the entire arm around his mahhvulous and vahlupchewus co-hostess and his twinkling, dancing eyes twinkled and danced...
...and never for a single second looked away from either Daryl or Daryl.
The plus 2's and I, along with a couple of close business friends, several of them females, were, and are, no prudes or virgins in the ways of the world.
And each and every one of us would qualify to appear in any future issue of Homes and Garden's "Glass Houses of the Movers and Shakers".
But even we found ourselves alternately giggling and grimacing as we commiserated quietly to each other something along the lines of "uh, he knows we can see and hear him, right?"
Then again, the drinks were good and the spread was nice.
And, all in all, we all had a mahhvuluss time.
I've read, in recent days, more than one essay written by people who either knew, or knew well of, Frank, Jr.
And for the most part, they paint a picture of a guy who really wasn't very happy in his life.
I imagine that growing up in the shadow of an entertainment icon is no easy road.
And having to live up to the legend was surely made, at least subliminally, more difficult by being not only the son of the icon, but carrying both the blessing and burden of his name, as well.
Like I said, I never really knew the man.
Just met him the one time.
At a nice party with a wet bar and a nice spread.
Along with my friends, Lorrie Morgan.
All in all...a mahhvuluss memory, ladies and gentlemen...