Thursday, October 23, 2008

Busy busy busy, but Frank Sinatra has a cold

What I mean is I'm so busy these days, but can't help reading--and admiring--Gay Talese's brilliant piece about the life and work of legendary American singer and actor Frank Sinatra. In less than 15,000 words and published in 1966, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" is considered the best profile ever written of Sinatra and one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever.

Probably the most famous magazine profile ever written (according to The New York Times) and the best story Esquire has ever published (according to this extensive Wikipedia entry on the story), any journalist or writer serious about his/her craft should not miss reading this one.

This piece made me remember that I still have to read Talese's 1969 book The Kingdom and the Power, considered as his first bestseller. Too bad that despite having two copies of the book (an old one from my boss Melinda Quintos de Jesus, and a new one I bought two months ago from Powerbooks--completely forgetting that I have an old copy), I haven't gone beyond the first chapter. If only I could ask for a month-long leave to read all the unopened books I have in my dusty cabinet. (Still, I prefer having books this Christmas. You guys know who you are. Haha.)


Frank Sinatra Has a Cold
Source: Esquire
By Gay Talese
Oct. 8, 2007

"Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" ran in April 1966 and became one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published, a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism -- a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction.

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In the winter of 1965, writer Gay Talese arrived in Los Angeles with an assignment from Esquire to profile Frank Sinatra. The legendary singer was approaching fifty, under the weather, out of sorts, and unwilling to be interviewed. So Talese remained in L.A., hoping Sinatra might recover and reconsider, and he began talking to many of the people around Sinatra -- his friends, his associates, his family, his countless hangers-on -- and observing the man himself wherever he could. The result, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," ran in April 1966 and became one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published, a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism -- a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction. The piece conjures a deeply rich portrait of one of the era's most guarded figures and tells a larger story about entertainment, celebrity, and America itself.

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FRANK SINATRA, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra's four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.

Sinatra had been working in a film that he now disliked, could not wait to finish; he was tired of all the publicity attached to his dating the twenty-year-old Mia Farrow, who was not in sight tonight; he was angry that a CBS television documentary of his life, to be shown in two weeks, was reportedly prying into his privacy, even speculating on his possible friendship with Mafia leaders; he was worried about his starring role in an hour-long NBC show entitled Sinatra -- A Man and His Music, which would require that he sing eighteen songs with a voice that at this particular moment, just a few nights before the taping was to begin, was weak and sore and uncertain. Sinatra was ill. He was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Sinatra it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage. Frank Sinatra had a cold.

Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel -- only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence, and it affects not only his own psyche but also seems to cause a kind of psychosomatic nasal drip within dozens of people who work for him, drink with him, love him, depend on him for their own welfare and stability. A Sinatra with a cold can, in a small way, send vibrations through the entertainment industry and beyond as surely as a President of the United States, suddenly sick, can shake the national economy.


Read more here.

4 comments:

joseph israel laban said...

i just read this artic a couple of weeks ago... :) good read.

bryant said...

Yes, a good read indeed. :)

So how's New York?

rencalago said...

nice article.
http://rentale.blogspot.com

Debbie Uy said...

I bought "The Kingdom and the Power" during my recent US trip and finished it thanks to hours of waiting and flying. It's an excellent book, a must-read for journalists. Gay Talese's writing style is very engrossing. Not one page bores. I hope he updates it! Hehe! I read that he's currently co-writing a documentary about the New York Times.

 
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