In celebration of The Chairman

Dec 10, 2002 7:04 AM

   HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHEECH! I am sending this message in an open letter. I know it’s not your style, and I’ve always listened to what you had to say.

   This time, I must make an exception. I want everyone who read this to know (if they don’t already) how I hold you in high esteem. You have always been my hero and you’ll always be so.

   Your 87th birthday is at the starting gate. When the gate opens, do your thing and never forget you’re the very best.

   With love, Chuck Di Rocco.

   Several nightspots will pay tribute this week to Francis Albert Âí­Sinatra in celebration of his birthday on Thursday. Check out the action in our Going Out section.

   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.

   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 Âí­Nugget, 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.

   ODDS ON SONNY! Sonny was smiling. If someone had pulled a Sonny Reizner, there would have been a price on how happy he was at his service. Regardless of the price, take the was happy side. Sonny was sent off in grand style. He wasn’t in the crowd with mourners, but you can bet he was there.

   All the swells were in attendance and even some not so swells. Sonny was a man who touched all levels.

   Three friends had the honor of speaking: Lem Banker, Larry Grossman and Bill Friedman. His son, Adam, also added some personal remarks that touched all in attendance.

   Sonny, my friend, you’ll be missed.