I climbed aboard a butterfly when Sinatra sang one of his songs

December 11, 2001 8:12 AM
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A FOUR-STAR SALUTE TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD. The city pays tribute to Francis Albert ­­Sinatra this week on what would have been his 86th birthday. It’s about time. No other entertainer put a mark on this town like Ol’ Blue Eyes. He was an original, refreshingly original. Cheech never pulled punches. He was a Michelangelo masterpiece. Sinatra was Sinatra. The Voice. The sound. The interpretation of a lyric. The phrasing. The Swagger. The hats ”” oh yes, the hats. Cool. Hip. No one will ever sing a song the way he did. Sinatra didn’t just sing a song, he sold it. Whoa, what about his loyalty to friends? His perseverance. His tenacity. We all wished that some of it would rub off.

Sinatra In Person is gone. But, thank God for the hundreds of albums, CDs and a few recent videos. They’ll outlive us all. It wasn’t like losing a next-door neighbor. Most of us never really knew Francis Albert on a personal level. It wasn’t really necessary. What he gave us was an identification, something to be proud of, a bookmark to flash back to, a bygone era when reward followed hard work, camaraderie and lyrics ”” oh, my, so many songs, so many beautiful lyrics.

“IF I DON’T SEE HER each day I miss her . . .” (Nancy). “Flying high in April, shot down in May . . .” (That’s Life). “In llama land there’s a one-man band . . .” (Come Fly With Me). “Excuse me while I disappear . . .” (Angel Eyes). “When somebody loves you it’s no good unless they love you . . .” (All the Way). “Out of the tree of life I just picked me a plum . . .” (The Best is Yet to Come). “It was great fun, but it was . . .” (Just One of Those Things). “Won’t go to crap games with barons and earls . . .” (The Lady is a Tramp). “I saw a man, he danced with his wife . . .” (My Kind of Town, Chicago). “There were times I think you knew . . .” (My Way). “Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today . . .” (New York, New York). “Like painted kites, those days and nights ”” went flying by . . .” (Summer Wind). “Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all . . .” (I Get a Kick Out of You). “We rode in limousines . . .” (It Was a Very Good Year). “You make me feel there are songs to be sung . . .” (You Make Me Feel So Young). “Fairy tales can come true . . .” (Young at Heart). “All the day and nighttime hear me cry . . .” (I’ve Got a Crush On You). “I’d have been aware that this love affair was too hot not to cool down . . .” (Just One of Those Things). “The children’s carousel, the chestnut tree, the wishing well . . .” (I’ll Be Seeing You). “The way you wear your hat . . .” (They Can’t Take That Away From Me). “For heaven rest us, I’m not asbestos . . .” (I Won’t Dance). “Isn’t it rich, aren’t we a pair? . . .” (Send In the Clowns). “. . . Funny, that rainy day is here.” (Here’s That Rainy Day).

SINATRA IN LAS VEGAS. I caught at least one of his performances each and every time he came to town since the early days of the Sands. Then at Caesars, the Golden ­­Nugget, the Riviera and even the Desert Inn.

There was one occasion at Caesars where I was raking in the chips at the blackjack tables. Frank heard that Con ”˜Scamp’ Errico, a jockey out of New York, was at the table serving as my rooting section. Well, Frank’s right-hand man, Jilly Rizzo, came by and said Frank wanted us backstage. Of course, I couldn’t leave the hot deck, but Scamp went back and had a great time.

The last time I saw Frank In Person was at the DI. The Summer wind had come and gone. he was less than in his prime. But, as someone said, only 205 of Sinatra is still double what any other singer has to offer. I still watched in awe. I was sad when it wasn’t easy for him to read the Tele prompter. He missed a few beats. So? The Roman coliseum is long gone, but the world is still inspired by the ruins. Yes, The Voice, the great gift God had given him, was fading. But, he made up for it with charisma ”” ah, that charisma ”” it was always there.

Who will ever replace him? No one! And, Las Vegas ”” the city he put on the map ”” will be forever indebted to his memory.

HOW DO I CLOSE MY TRIBUTE? It means so much. I know . . . I’ll get lost in a lyric. One comes to mind. Maybe Ol’ Blue Eyes never sang it, but it fits:

“Climb aboard a butterfly and
take off with the breeze.

“Let your troubles flutter by and
do the things you please.

So many times, so many marvelous times I climbed aboard a Sinatra tune. I floated down to Peru, flew to the moon, strolled on golden sand, got away from it all, flew high in the sky, went ring-a-ding-ding, felt icy fingers up and down my spine. Truly, Frank, you did something to me . . . to all of us.

Happy Birthday, Frank, and God bless you.