|Frank Sinatra at the United Center October 22, 1994|
This post is the final installment commemorating Frank Sinatra's last concert on October 22nd, 1994 in Chicago's brand new United Center (home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks).
December of Frank Sinatra's Years. Along with many in the crowd, I had also attended a performance during Frank's previous 3 show Chicago engagement at the Civic Opera House in May 1993 where I did hear he was in fine form on opening night but it was painful to witness him stumble during his Saturday night performance where fatigue exacerbated by old age made him forget lyrics and occasionally mumble incoherently between songs. At the time, I didn't think he'd ever perform live again let alone come back through Chicago yet when the next concert date was announced I pounced on 4 tickets as I knew my buddy oDutch would like to go and we'd take a couple of English au pairs from the neighborhood who also hung out with us at Ranalli's (along with our mutual friend King mentioned in previous 2 posts). I forewarned the nannies of how Frank was now only a relic of the performer they heard on the Ranalli's jukebox and this concert was only to be looked upon as paying our respects. Ordinarily, I prefer to attend cultural events by myself rather than having a date whose presence far too often distracts and diminishes the evening often leading to post performance tensions. These two nannies had become genuine Sinatra fans and I knew they would also view this evening as quite special and always treasure.
Longtime Chicagoans like to think of Frank Sinatra as our own even though he's more often associated with New York. Frank spent a great deal of time in Chicago over the years particularly during the 1950s and '60s when he frequently made movies or did extended engagements at Chicago Outfit associated nightclubs. Everybody older than 70 has a Sinatra story to tell. One I've heard frequently was when he got in a fight at Chicago's famous rib joint Twin Anchors. At every sporting event in Chicago they wait to play the Sinatra classic My Kind of Town during a pivotal moment to rouse the crowd to a fever pitch as everybody knows the words and sings along.
While I was careful to tamp down expectations on Frank's performance, the United Center was another vexing issue. The brand new home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks had only been open a couple of weeks and had just hosted a Billy Joel concert. The acoustics were so bad that attendees were demanding their money back. We all were wearing our best suits and outfits and were prepared just to look at the evening as paying tribute to a once great performer and American icon.
|Frank with the smoking hot Barbara Rush in Robin and the 7 Hoods filmed in Chicago.|
|Johnny Sac & wife from The Sopranos. Over 20,000 people looking like their siblings were at Frank's last concert|
|The Paramount Theatre in NYC where my grandmother Dodie took her sisters to see the very first Pop Idol 1939-1940.|
As Sinatra entered, there was a thunderous ovation that he acknowledged and then quickly dissipated by turning and ordering the band to commence with Come Fly With Me which has no musical prelude. I could tell immediately that Frank's voice sounded much stronger and more sure of itself than during the previous year's performance and the United Center's acoustics issues had apparently been resolved. The nannies grinned over at me with looks of startled bemusement that said "I thought you said Frank was washed up...". Frank was off and running and while the songs didn't sound like the recordings from the '50s and '60s, his richer, more mature, if less powerful, voice gave those songs a deeper meaning that everybody understood. As the lights came up for intermission, the crowd noise went from eardrum piercing applause to an intensely animated din of electrified astonishment over what we had just witnessed. Dutch, the nannies, and I raced out as they were all in need of a quick ciggie to calm their overstimulated nerves. Everybody poring into the Main Floor concourse was abuzz with excitement and not even 5 minutes into intermission with Dutch and the nannies nicotine fix not yet sated we heard noise coming from inside the main floor which we soon recognized as Frank Jr's band striking back up triggering a chaotic stampede of people stomping out just lit cigarettes, abandoning just purchased drinks, and racing to get back inside. I later heard Frank was in his dressing room pacing back and forth like a caged lion and being very conscious of having the now fleeting capacities of his A Game at his full command barked to Frank Jr and the band: "Fuck this...Let's go!!!" and ready or not here 'Ol Blue Eyes' comes adding frenzy to all the commotion. Frank was every bit as strong after the short break and the night was reaching a crescendo as he did New York, New York, and My Way and he closed, just as we hoped he would, with My Kind of Town...and while there wasn't a dry eye in the house we each now had a sentimental journey to always help our lonely heart find a home.