Pages

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Star for Hoboken

December 12, 2008

I looked for Frank Sinatra's house before I even moved to Hoboken. I had the address, 415 Monroe Street, and I had my walking shoes on. I knew the house was no longer there, but I wanted to see the neighborhood.

What I saw was a nicely-scrubbed row of houses, some quite old, but all in good shape, and some new buildings that clearly Frank Sinatra never saw. I found the star on the sidewalk in front of where the old tenement building of Frank's early years had been. I walked around the neighborhood and saw an old man walking into a place called Antique Bakery, with its storefront window piled with the rightly famous rounds (all sizes) of Italian bread. I could have been walking on a street in Florence or Rome.

No question about it, Frank Sinatra walked these streets. It's his birthday today, and I'm going to have a marathon of his music in my own home--old records like "In the Wee Small Hours" and some going back to the years when he sang for the Tommy Dorsey band. I'm sure there'll be Sinatra movies on the tube, maybe Young at Heart, the remake of Four Daughters, in which he played the John Garfield role and made it his own, or dancing with Gene Kelly in On the Town. At least in my imagination, I'll raise a glass to him in the old Rat Pack days, when he lit up Las Vegas with his band of talented drinking buddies.

Sinatra and Hoboken had a tenuous relationship after he moved on. The more the town liked him, it seemed, the less he liked it. Many locals were hurt by his ambivalence about Hoboken. When I talk with my blog-buddies about Frank in Hoboken, their admiration for his talent is tinged with bitterness about his personality and his behavior as a big star. The Hoboken in which he grew up was a different place from the little jewel we know today. It was tough and grimy, and though he had it good--with a doting mother and enough pals who were connected with the powerful mob of the day--his character had been forged in the blue-collar Hoboken world and tempered by early success in show business. Everybody has a Frank Sinatra story or two, and not all of them are pleasant. But some of them are wonderful.

His songs were the soundtrack of my early days. My mother used to sing, "It was just a neighborhood dance," (which I was later to learn was Frank's "Oh, What It Seemed To Be,") as she did chores around the house. When I was a little girl, the Swoonatra phenom was in full swing, and we thought it was hilarious that teenagers would keel over at the skinny guy's concerts, saying, "Oh, Frankie!" I wonder if they ever said that. Soon I was a teenager, riveted by his performance as Maggio in From Here To Eternity, and swooning a little myself as his casual swinger Charlie is hogtied by Debbie Reynolds in The Tender Trap.

Complex and fascinating, Sinatra the man has been the subject of many books and articles. Whenever a celebrity on a talk show has a Sinatra anecdote, I sit up and listen well. There's simply something about the guy. And it's something to think about, at least on his birthday.

15 comments:

Hoboken Kid said...

The Sinatra star...a nice thought, but poor workmnship--broken concrete, cracked. It's all dirty. Stained. Sinatra deserves better than that. Hoboken should FIX IT before some kid takes a screwdriver pops it out of the ground and sells it on eBay.

Mary Lois said...

Don't give my readers any ideas! Should be cleaned up, no doubt. The star was installed by the Hoboken Museum, and I guess nobody is in charge of its maintenance. I took the picture over a year ago, I'll check and see if anybody has scrubbed it yet (if not, maybe I will!).

slezak said...

o.k ya got the job ..report for work 5 am sharp ..bring ya scrub brush and windex...I'll call the news papers to take a picture ..you will make the front page ..scuby duby doo- da da da da ..THANKS MARY LOIS love frank

Jerry Andersen said...

Re the reference to mob connections, I saw on the History Channel that Sinatra has the honor of having the largest file at the FBI as the most investigated person. They never got anything on him except that he "associated" with known mobsters.

downtown chick said...

I would think that from 1944 (kindergarten) to 1952 (8th grade)
we must have seen this film a thousand times.

Notice please, this particular view of America is very tolerant of everyone EXCEPT the "Japs".

Ask Slezak & Dennis is they were the kids in the film.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMM6BOPSNGc

Mary Lois said...

Thanks, Downtown Chick! And Sinatra fans, once they copy and paste and go to your link, will be able to feast on all those other clips of Ol' Blue Eyes singing all kinds of stuff.

P.S. Those kids don't look like Hoboken ragamuffins to me. More like the Hollywood, cleaned-up version.

Benedict S. said...

Did your marathon include "Slow Boat to China"?

Nan said...

In college I took a biography course, and I learned that there are shifts between times when we admire just the work of an artist, and then times when we want to know the life of the artist and judge everything according to those details. It's tough to separate the two. With Sinatra, I'm pretty much the former. I listen and love his songs without giving a lot of thought to the man. I did read the great Life magazine issue about him, and found it interesting, but mostly it is those songs, those movies that I care about. I'm with you - Young at Heart is one of my faves. Great writing, Mary Lois, and a nice remembrance on his birthday. Oh, and I think slezak has a great idea! Why not do it?!

Mary Lois said...

Maybe when the weather gets better, Nan. It's snowing like crazy here.

Hoboken Kid said...

Some years back in the 70s or 80s, a deejay named WILLIAM B. WILLIAMS station WNEW New York played Sinatra songs, he played every song Sinatra ever recorded. He titled the show "Sinatra from A to Z" even "Slowboat to China" AND A SONG CALLED "I Got a Floor in my Flue." Sinatra recorded it as a joke ...about a fireplace...he sung it well and from the heart...but the words were very funny...it was only played once and never again. Nancy Sinatra has it in her record collection...YOU CANT BUY IT...I'm sure station WNEW has that program taped...a great find if ya can find it on the computer. What a show that was!

Mary Lois said...

As a matter of fact, I have that song on an album I bought in Europe. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I heard it, all romantic and sweet. There's a line in it "Smoke gets up your nose..."

Wonder what I could get for the album...When I pry up that Sinatra star from the sidewalk, and put 'em both on eBay. Whaddaya think, Slezak?

Mary Lois said...

Oh, and the song title is actually "There's a Flaw in My Flue" and the lyrics are available on Google.

And if you're from Hoboken, "flaw" is pronounced "floor"!

Hoboken Kid said...

I almost fell of my chair when I read that you have the Sinatra recordings of "I got a floor in my flu" and (smoke gets up my nose) a rare find...$$$$ Them songs must have made the top 10 charts in SLOBOVIA or maybe TRANSYLVANIA.

O.K., get the screwdriver...and find da record $$$$ happy days are here again...E BAY here we come (ya notice I said WE.). Don't I get a piece of da action...finders fee?

barbary kid / charles said...

Hoboken is proud of Sinatra and having it's name linked to him. About 15 years ago I was there and there was a little store next to 415 Monroe St. That sold Sinatra Collectibles I wondered if it's still there? My Dad and he were friends since Frank was 5 years old. They hung out together for years and were partners on thier first car. My Dad and Frank celebrated their birthdays together for years as they were both born on the same date, but two years apart my Dad being the oldest. My Mom and Dad both knew him and his family well. I met Ol' Blue Eyes when I was a child 13 years old in 1949. It was the day after Hoboken's 100th Centennial Celebration. We went to see him the day of the parade. He was in a parade that started at the City Hall on Washington Street. He said a few words then got on the back of his father's fire truck waving at the crowd. As soon as he got on the truck he spotted my Dad and I standing on the corner of First Street across from the City Hall. He yelled to my Dad "Hey Legs" He gave my Dad that nick name when they were kids. "I'll see you at Dolly's tomorrow night." We went there the next evening (Frank's mother and father's house). I met his mother and father for the first time. But that was the only time I met him, and boy was I impressed my Dad knew Frank Sinatra. They sat around talking and drinking shots and beer for hours with Franks mom, dad and a lot of other people. I was the youngest one there at 13 years old. Wow! did I get an ear full of adult talk. Here it is 60 years later and I'm still a fan of Francis Albert. His mother Dolly would frequent the local tavern's on Hudson Street from time to time after her husband Marty passed away. She remembered me and we would chat. I never met Frank again after that night but saw him in live concerts. My Dad would visit Frank now and then in NY after his shows. I have pictures of Frank and Dad together with other friends at Palisades Park. I think Frank was about 16 years old in the pictures.
I don't think Frank ever was mad 'at' Hoboken. I believe there was a governor of NJ that said something about him that made him mad. I'm sure Slezak, Rabbi or others who read this could shed some light on it. They may remember what I'm talking about. He stayed away from NJ for years. But early on in his carrier when he came to Hoboken he was flocked by so called friends seeking money and favors. He wasn't always wealthy and didn't have the connections to help others out in their careers and jobs. He wasn't a man that liked to refuse anybody in need of anything. I guess the next best thing was to stay away. I don't blame him for staying away. The friends he wanted to be around he let them know where he would be so they could visit. I remember him giving his time to do Concerts at the Garden State Art Center on the NJ Parkway, Holmdel, NJ. All the money went for Senior Citizen's Benefits. He was a very generous man. One of the times my Dad went to see him at a Hotel in NY. They saw a house fire on the news. The house burned to the ground leaving a mother and two children without a home. It was around Christmas and all the kids gifts burned with the house. Dad and Frank were drinking and it was getting late. Frank told his body guard to call Jilly and tell him that they (Frank and Jilly) were buying a house. Then the guy drove my Dad home. Two day's later on TV they said someone bought a house for the women whos house had burned down. It was fully furnished with a tree and lots of presents for the kids. The buyer wanted to remain anonymous.

Dominic Pace said...

I am going to Hoboken tomorrow.. I've been documenting a book around the country of famous Movie Spots.. On The Waterfront in Hoboken.. Any other sites besides Monroe street to see anything 'Sinatra'? Thanks so much.. pacedominic@yahoo.com