In the fall of 1956 I started working at ABC television Hollywood. During my 33 years at that...
company I worked on hundreds of shows and thousands of broadcasts in many capacities. In 1957 I was assigned to be one of the two stage managers assigned to the Frank Sinatra show. Frank Sinatra was one of my heroes. I was a very big fan of his. I loved his whole classy presentation from his costuming to his laid-back performances on stage. He often appeared with a cigarette in his mouth and glass in his hand and he use these props in the most elegant way. His phrasing when he sang kept surprising you.
The show was supposed to be one half hour mix of comedy and singing with important guest performers. The very first show was at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood on Vine Street. We were scheduled to start rehearsal at 8 o'clock in the morning and I was assigned to be there at 7 AM to work with the crew on the floor.
The dancers and backup singers and other performers all arrived on time and the excitement began to build as we waited for Frank. While we were waiting the choreographer went through some dance routines and we moved some sets around. Director, Jack Donahue, amused us by demonstrating how he could crack a 21 foot bull whip. It was characteristic of directors from the silent film industry to wear riding garments and carry a whip. Jack took it to another level. This was a very costly rehearsal without a star. The band was conducted by Nelson Riddle and they ran through the numbers without Frank. But there were a lot of stagehands and lighting guys standing around doing nothing.
Nevertheless, I was so excited my heart was pounding. Although I had worked since 1952 with many famous people, no one was more important to me than Frank Sinatra.
A couple of Frank's friends from the Mafia arrived, including one of them who was going to be a stand-in for Frank, but where the hell was Frank?
Lunchtime came and went.
There was nothing to do but sit in the seats in the theater staring at the stage while we waited and waited and waited.
About 8 o'clock at night Frank finally arrived. Evidently his clock ran on a different time.
The Director, Jack Donahue, had many film credits and had worked on films with Frank before. Jack said to me, when you talk to Frank think of him like he's just a kid in the neighborhood. If you do that you'll have no problems. That was very difficult for me to grasp, but I took Jack for his word because he had worked with Frank many times before. The other stage manager, Walter, apparently didn't get the Word. When it was time for Frank to rehearse I went to his dressing room and just shouted through the door," Hey, Frank we need you on stage!"
When Walter was asked by Jack to get Frank on stage, Walter said gently, with trembling voice," Mr. Sinatra, sir, the Director is ready for you”.
Without looking up, Frank said," Get out of here you little creep! Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Indeed, Frank was a handful, but I loved working the show. I couldn't understand why Frank hated to rehearse and preferred to not to see his lines on the cue cards for the very first time until we were actually live on the air!
But the fact was that he had done this so many times before he knew by looking at the lights where he had to stand and what to do and he used all the props and all things around him as if he had been living with them forever.
One time on a Frank Sinatra Special, we were on the air and as Peggy Lee was singing “Fever”, I was looking for Frank. Frank was scheduled next to sing Night and Day". Peggy was in the last few bars of her song and I couldn't see Frank anywhere. I ran to his dressing room and he was standing at the dressing room bar with glass in hand watching a football game! I shouted "Frank, hey you're on! Get out there!" Frank looked at me startled like a deer in the headlights, and he then ran to the stage and slid into place as his downbeat to sing began. Without the least difficulty, he gave the performance of his life singing "Night and Day"