Sinatra saluted on starry night

GOOD MORNING: It was quarter to three and no one in the place except — who else but Frank Sinatra, wife Barbara, Gregory Peck and wife Veronique, Steve Lawrence and wife Eydie Gorme, Bob Wagner and wife Jill St. John early Monday morning. The place was no saloon but a private, back dining room at the Four Seasons where the small black-tie’d group had segued from the Shrine following the taping of “Sinatra: 80 Years My Way,” the ABC spec to air Dec. 14, two days after his birthday. The show is skedded for two hours — three hours were taped. … The night raised $ 1 million for AIDS Project L.A. and the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center at Eisenhower Medical Center and featured both pre-show and post-show receptions in the adjoining Expo Center, where Sinatra, the cast and attending celebs later crowded into a VIP, roped-off area. The Don Rickleses plus the above latenighters were invited to join Sinatra’s table there before taking off into the night. Sinatra, looking very well, said he was touched by the outpouring of song and affection. He was particularly pleased by the young performers’ familiarity with his songbook plus their versions. Cameras came in close regularly to get his reactions — including catching a tear as he watched Patti LaBelle deliver her rendition of “The House I Live In,” which Sinatra had so effectively — and differently — delivered in the 1945 special Oscar-winning 10-minute short plea for racial tolerance. The camera also caught Sinatra’s happy reaction to Ray Charles’ inimitable delivery of “Old Man River” following a film clip showing a white-tuxedo’d Sinatra singing in “Till the Clouds Roll By” (1946) with an all-white chorus set in a lavish, all-white set! “If you don’t mind, I’m going to sing it MY WAY!” Charles said. “I had a great time — laughed some, got teary-eyed a bit — I was quite touched by the whole evening,” Frank told me. “I was overwhelmed by the generosity of all those on stage and everyone involved in the show.” His pal George Schlatter exec produced the $2.4 million show, which no doubt will get a large overseas play and video sale as well … I asked Frank whether he would ever work again? “I’m working — on the 30th,” he said. The work involves a personal appearance in N.Y. for the release of Capitol’s “Live in Concert” album release. He also is expected at the Society of Singers’ tribute (the Ella Award) to Steve and Eydie Dec. 7 at the BevHilton. No singing by F.S. is planned — at any time. But he broke out into the final phrase of “New York, New York” in the all-star finale at the Shrine. He was brought on stage from his front-row seats by Tony Bennett. On stage with the group, Sinatra held the final notes longer and louder than the group surrounding him. There was no mistaking — he sounded strong — on those two notes!

IT WAS A MIRACLE THE SHOW started close to the forewarned prompt 7:15 curtain — traffic surrounding the Shrine was a nightmare, reminiscent of nights at the Oscars there when ladies had to jump from limos and run, holding their evening shoes in hand, hurrying to get into the theater on time. Bruce Springsteen opened the show, introducing Barbara and Frank on stage, as the “Patron Saint of New Jersey.” Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced an 80-second montage of F.S. history. Natalie Cole called Sinatra “my second favorite male singer,” sang “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” laughingly recalled she’d sung on “Duets” with him. “But I didn’t get paid and you weren’t there.” Patrick Swayze and wife Lisa Niemi introduced Paula Abdul and dancers in “Luck Be a Lady” (Marlon Brando sang it in “Guys and Dolls”), and it was one of the very few glitches in the otherwise perfect taping by ace director Lou Horvitz with nine cameras to juggle. Danny Aiello and Chazz Palminteri intro’d Tony Bennett for a great “Foggy Day.” Dennis Franz’s intro of “A Very Good Year” showed clips of Frank with wives Nancy S., Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow and Barbara. Little Richard offered a great “Old Black Magic,” and Tom Selleck showed “Magnum, P.I.” and other toughie clips with Frank, then came down to the stage apron to plant a kiss on the “tough guy’s” cheek. Young Luis Miguel duetted with Sinatra (onscreen) to “Come Fly With Me” to the delight of the younger crowd. And Roseanne noted, “You beat somebody up, I beat somebody up, you fire somebody, I fire somebody, you sing the Star Spangled Banner — and I’m asked NOT to sing it”… Sinatra pal Tommy Lasorda was followed by Salt ‘N’ Pepa on “Whatta Man” and Hootie & the Blowfish with “The Lady Is a Tramp”… A dramatic tribute came from Gregory Peck in a piece written by Buz Kohan, “Reckless Rogue, Sentimental Softie,” within the framework of “My Way.” Then, Steve and Eydie trio’d with Vic Damone, medleying tunes. There were clips from Pavarotti, from U2’s Bono and the Edge, and Barbra Streisand. Norm Crosby, of course, garbled congrats. And Bob Dylan sang “Restless Farewell”– for the first time in public.

FAMILY REACTION to the show was uniformly great. Nancy Sinatra Jr., there with daughters Amanda and A.J., is readying a feature docu on her father. She has a roomful of tapes, private recordings and films for the biodocupic, which Jack Haley Jr. is working on and Chuck Braverman is also asked to join … Tina Sinatra had just gotten the first draft for the year 2000-set “Manchurian Candidate” remake for WB … Frank Sinatra Jr., who had been working as conductor for many years for his father, returns to the Boulder Station in Vegas with his band Dec. 26 and is readying an album, “As I Remember It” (Angel), with “my recollections of great Sinatra songs and a story book.” And the beat goes on.

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