Sinatra’s songs will live on

GOOD MORNING: At Tuesday’s night vigil service at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills those friends and family who had applauded Frank Sinatra during an unmatched career sat silently, tearfully, and appreciatively at the start of services which will conclude today and which will lay to rest the greatest saloon singer the world has ever known.And so my friends, the story ends. And he did indeed do it his way. While the song is ended, the memories linger on. And we’re reminded of a few today by Frank Sinatra’s friends and family who have arrived from everywhere for today’s funeral services. The Gregory Pecks returned Tuesday afternoon from Paris, Ireland, Wilmington, Del., and Kansas City so Greg, an honorary pallbearer, can deliver a few remembrances, not a eulogy. Peck told me, “He was the method actor of singing — he drew on his own life experiences in song. That’s what the method is.” Peck remembers times together around the world — from palaces to kitchens where men were peeling potatoes — Frank knew all the entrances and exits. “I have a thousand memories — all wonderful.” Like the time Sinatra posed as a train station porter to meet the Pecks’ train at a deserted station near Monaco at 6:30 ayem — to lug a baggage cart for ’em. When I asked Greg howcum he didn’t become a member of the “Rat Pack,” he laughed, “Bad casting!” Kirk Douglas, who will also speak at today’s services, also said he’d known Frank 50 years. And although they were close friends, Kirk allowed, “There was a core inside him that no one got to.” The Douglases were close to Sinatra in L.A. as well as Palm Springs where they, too, have a home. Ironically, Tuesday, Anne and Kirk had dedicated another of the 400 (!) planned school playground projects in which they are involved, this one at the Canyon Charter Elementary School. “On one hand there is life starting — and on the other — ,” Douglas noted of this week. It was interesting that Douglas and Peck differed politically with Sinatra. At one time Sinatra had been a staunch Democrat until JFK turned down his invitation to stay at the Sinatra Palm Springs compound and chose Bing Crosby’s instead. From then on Sinatra supported Nixon and Reagan. Thus Douglas and Peck never discussed politics with pal Frank. Peck was a sometimes-member of the poker group that played at Barbara and Frank’s house — but without Frank in the past year. Other members included Jack Lemmon, Steve and Eydie, Larry Gelbart, Angie Dickinson and Jerry Vale. Vale will be among those speaking at the services today. He credits Sinatra with getting him his first job at the Sands — in the lounge, then moving on to the big rooms. Tony Bennett winged in from N.Y. to pay respects last night and today. He spoke at Tuesday’s “vigil” at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Bennett was Sinatra’s favorite singer — and he said so on many occasions. Tony told me, “He’ll never die — he’ll be like Caruso.” Thursday, Tony accepts the Sons of Italy Award for Frank in D.C., presented by President Clinton. Also in town, Vic Damone, who cheered up ex-wife Diahann Carroll, who is recuping after surgery for the removal of a very small cancerous growth in her breast Jack Jones drove up from his home in Palm Springs, where he’d sung at many Sinatra celeb golf tourney galas. At one, Jones recalls, he sang a parodied “I Am a Singer” to Sinatra — who led the standing ovation to Jones. “He was a great booster for me. He’d send over messages — through Jilly — telling me, ‘The old man says you’re singing better than ever!’ ”

THE RECOLLECTIONS ABOUT SINATRA are endless — mine included. But among them are these earliest: agent Frank Cooper, who celebrates his 86th birthday on Thursday , recalls noting the young Sinatra singing with Tommy Dorsey and bringing him into his agency, Rockwell-O’Keefe, getting him out of an outrageous deal with Dorsey, taking him to Paramount’s Bob Weitman, and, as they say, the rest is history. … And Alan Livingston, who remembers signing a down-and-out Sinatra to a Capitol Records six-year options pact in 1953 and launching Frank with Nelson Riddle — and the rest is history, again. And to this day, Capitol continues to release new and varied compilations of Sinatra’s songs from that early era Pierre Cossette (in his upcoming, incomplete autobiog) recalls Sinatra at the 1994 Grammys and Bono’s effusive, overlong introduction to Living Legend honoree Sinatra. Bono would not allow his remarks to be pre-typed on the TelePrompTer and he finale’d with: “A man heavier than the Empire State Building, more connected than the Twin Towers, as recognizable as the Statue of Liberty and living proof that God is Catholic, will you welcome the king of New York City, Francis Albert Sinatra.” Frank was so taken aback with the emotion of the moment — and the ovation — that he began to ramble on, writes Cossette. And they cut him off camera. Cossette says that neither Frank, Barbara nor his management team and children were upset by this. “Absolutely not. So it was with great confusion that every headline in America the next day said, ‘Sinatra cut off (Grammys) to go to commercial.’ We knew,” says Cossette, “that Frank is not at his best ad libbing onstage to 100 million people.” Well, maybe not in 1994, but I have some memories of scintillating Sinatra ad libs — in other times Wishes to be delivered today from President Clinton says they are “from a grateful nation.” Among those grateful is Marvin Davis, who with wife Barbara noted Sinatra “often came to the rescue where our charity functions were concerned and his arrival always made it a main event and put us over the top. When we had events in Denver, he would arrive even if it meant flying through a blizzard.” Despite frailty, Sinatra managed to attend the last Carousel Ball, and Davis says, “We were honored by his appearance, saddened that it was the last one” Jimmy Stewart’s 90th birthday is celebrated today and a plaque in his honor is dedicated at a flagpole in Griffith Park, site of his annual Relay Marathon benefiting Saint John’s Health Center. R.J. Wagner, who has taken over Stewart’s role at these relays, will not be able to attend — he will be a pallbearer at Sinatra’s services.

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