Editor's Letter

Reliving the Classics



Dear Editor:

Reading Barbara Sinatra’s reflections about her husband (“Doing it Sinatra’s Way” (February 2008) reminds me of one afternoon in the early 1940s when I drove 75 miles from my home in Topeka to Lawrence, Kan., to hear the Tommy Dorsey band play at Kansas University. On arrival, I found that the dance sold out. But as I was about to leave, Dorsey’s band pulled up with players disembarking. I approached trumpeter Zizzy Elman and told of my plight. Ziggy, who had replaced Bunny Berrigan, handed me his horn and said, “Here, carry this for me.” I strutted in, with Frank Sinatra beside me.

I recall that the skinny Sinatra (with bow tie and a scar on his right cheek that I later learned was the result of a birth injury) sang the Lucky Strike hit of the day, “I’ll Never Smile Again,” backed by the Pied Pipers with Jo Stafford. When the band played another Dorsey hit — with Ziggy taking Berrigan’s legendary solo — Tommy admitted that “Marie was the lady” that had really propelled his band to fame.

A year later, I heard Sinatra when the Tommy Dorsey band played Meadow Acres ballroom in Topeka. I was following Frank, walking aside Buddy Rich, to the back entrance of the dance hall, when a young woman asked for their autographs. Frank obliged, but Rich refused. This irritated Sinatra, and the former bantamweight boxer decked Buddy.

Now living in the Palm Springs area, I often drive on Frank Sinatra Drive, past the Sinatra compound at Tamarisk Country Club, where Frank had a pad paved for President Kennedy’s helicopter, scheduled to arrive for New Year’s Eve. JFK reneged because of Jack’s familiarity with mob members. The president spent the night at Walter Annenberg’s mansion, also on Frank Sinatra Drive. Sinatra changed his support to Ronald Reagan and was observed destroying the unused helicopter pad.

I occasionally stop at the Cathedral City cemetery to show visitors Sinatra’s gravesite with the small stone marked, “The Best Is Yet To Come.” On Frank’s birthday, Dec. 12, I once found that the single red rose often placed there had been supplemented with an array of flowers and birthday cards. Within putting distance is the grave of Frank’s close friend, Jimmy Van Heusen. A little farther away is the [grave of] former Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono, marked “The Beat Goes On.”

William H. Smith
Palm Desert

Palm Springs Life

Related Articles

Palm Springs Modern Committee to Host Annual Preservation Awards

Palm Springs Modern Committee’s Annual Preservation Awards Gala on Oct. 4 will honor contributions in preservation, restoration, renovation or adaptive reuse of a midcentury modern residential or commercial property.

10 Reasons to Attend Modernism Week Fall Preview

Here are 10 reasons to attend Modernism Week's Fall Preview in Palm Springs over the Columbus Day holiday weekend, Oct. 10-13.

McCallum Theatre Presents Palm Desert International Dance Festival

On the heels of a successful first venture, the McCallum Theatre is presenting its second annual Palm Desert International Dance Festival, Nov. 6-15.

What to Do Labor Day Weekend in Greater Palm Springs

Labor Day Weekend marks the symbolic close to summer, but it's also a long weekend filled with music, food, and a host of activities in Greater Palm Springs.

"Top Rock" Commands Stage at Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

"Top Rock" brings a brash, rockin' musical tribute to the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs on Friday and Saturday nights through September.

Promotions + Contests

Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter just once for a chance to win tickets to one of the second annual Palm Desert International Dance Festival performances.