December 12: Frank Sinatra

FrankSinatraOn this day in 1915, Francis Albert Sinatra was born in an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. But, did you know that little Francis almost didn’t make it into this world?

When Sinatra was born, he was blue and not breathing. The child was thought to be dead, so the doctors placed the body on a kitchen counter. As the doctors went to console the worried mother, Sinatra’s grandmother ran the body under some cold water, and then, like something out a Greek myth, the body began to move and Sinatra let out his first notes.

As you should know, Sinatra would grow up to become a well-respected singer and actor and the leader of The Rat Pack. But did you know that Sinatra’s gang wasn’t the first group of celebrities to be called The Rat Pack? The original Rat Pack was actually centered around Humphrey Bogart!

The story goes that sometime in the 1950s, Bogart and his friends returned to Bogart’s home in Los Angeles’ ritzy Holmby Hills neighborhood after a night in Las Vegas. Upon their arrival, Bogart’s wife, the actress Lauren Bacall, dryly commented “You look like a goddamn rat pack.”

The name stuck, and soon the group of friends who regularly hung out at Bogart and Bacall’s house became known as the Rat Pack. Notable members of the original Rat Pack included Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Nat King Cole and director George Cukor. So, how does Sinatra fit into this? Well, he was a regular member of this Rat Pack, and even earned the informal title of “pack master.” Alas, when Bogart died in 1957, the gang unofficially disbanded.

Shortly after the end of the Rat Pack, Sinatra started regularly palling around with  Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. The Hollywood gossip sheets assumed that these five entertainers were the new Rat Pack and dubbed them as such. Sinatra and the gang however weren’t big on that nickname and in fact actually preferred to call themselves the Summit or the Clan. Anyway, during the Swingin’ ’60s the members of the Summit made several movies together and frequently dropped in during each other’s concerts in Las Vegas. This in fact became such a common occurrence that one night the Sands Hotel’s marquee advertized “DEAN MARTIN – MAYBE FRANK – MAYBE SAMMY.”

The members of the Summit were noted drinkers, and Sinatra particularly enjoyed Jack Daniel’s. In fact, in 2013 Jack Daniel’s created a limited edition Sinatra Select whiskey to celebrate The Chairman of the Board’s 98th birthday. Sinatra had a very specific way of drinking his Jack; taking two fingers worth and mixing it with four ice cubes and a splash of chilled water. So, today put on some Sinatra (I suggest Sinatra at the Sands, the live album he did in 1966 with Count Basie and his orchestra under the direction of Quincy Jones.) and mix Whiskey a la Sinatra.

Whiskey a la Sinatra

  • Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey

Place four ice cubes in an Old Fashioned glass, and then pour the Jack Daniel’s into the glass just as high as two fingers, wrapped around the bottom of the glass. Add a splash of chilled water. Sinatra would let the whiskey sit for about two minutes and then only hold it with a cocktail napkin.

Tomorrow: The last men on the moon.

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