SECTION TWO

The Blacklisted Journalist Picture The Blacklisted Journalistsm

COLUMN THIRTY-FOUR, JUNE 1, 1998
(Copyright 1998 Al Aronowitz)

FATHER DEATH NEVER SLEEPS


Frank Sinatra once took 30 minutes to tell me he wasn't going to talk to me. I wanted to interview him for a feature series I was about to write for the New York Post, but Frank wanted to let me know how much he hated the press. As an entertainment phenomenon, Frank was of an earlier era. As an entertainment phenomenon, he was the Elvis Presley, the Beatles and the Bob Dylan of his day, except, like Elvis, he didn't write his own songs. It was only when he sang the songs that they became his own. The teenyboppers of Frank's day were called bobby-soxers and, as was to be the case with Presley and the Beatles, female teens went wild for Frank. I am not the only one to think that Frank was one of the greatest song stylists this planet has ever known. Because of my love for talent, I loved Frank, too. He hated what I eventually wrote about him in my New York Post series and he let me know about that, too, later, on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter, Nancy, to singer Tommy Sands. Hurricane Donna was hurling its fury at the filthy windows of the Post when I phoned the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, where the marriage had taken place and where Frank was celebrating. I asked the person who answered the phone at the Sands for some details about Nancy's marriage. Who should come to the phone to talk to me but the Chairman of the Board himself. "I just want to know where you get the fucking nerve to call me after what you wrote about me," Frank said. He had been called away from his table, where he was having drinks with his "Rat Pack" buddies. When he learned I was on the phone, he jumped at the chance to let me know what he thought of me. Yes, he was looped, but it took a lot of looping for any drunkenness to show on Frank. He kept telling me he had $3 million and he didn't need me. No, he didn't! He didn't need anybody! I told him I just wanted to write a good story about Nancy's wedding and needed some details. "I'm not going to tell you a fucking thing," he said at the end and of his 20-minute tirade. This was the second time he had ever talked to me. "You're a cop and you're a fink and you're a parasite. I've got $3 million, Al, and I don't need you. You can bleed, Al, because I'll never tell you anything, you fucking fink!" And then he hung up on me. The manuscripts of the series I wrote about Frank Sinatra, which went over big more than 40 years ago, have long been buried in my dead storage vault. I haven't reread them since eons ago, but I suspect they were more flawed than I thought when I wrote them. I suspect also that, as much as Frank hated the series, my manuscripts also reflect the love, the admiration, the respect and the awe that a star-struck and ingenuous young one-time police reporter had for Frank and for his artistry. As soon as I can dig into my dead storage vault and find the manuscripts, I plan to offer the unedited version of my New York Post Frank Sinatra series in future BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST columns. Along with this, those manuscripts will be my tribute to Frank, one of the greatest performing artists of all time. ##

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I hope Eric Clapton, Linda McCartney's inheritors or anybody else doesn't mind if I cop Eric's photo of Linda from her book, SIXTIES, PORTRAIT OF AN ERA to exhibit here. Linda was always so gracious about allowing me to use her photos in these BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST columns. I'll always treasure the note she sent me saying so. For me, this picture shows the Linda I knew, Linda the photographer. She was a beauty who stood out among all the others. When I met her, in millionaire Deering Howe's rock-and-roll salon, featuring a mix of Stones, Beatles and Dylan fans hanging out in a fancy East Side apartment high above Manhattan's skyline, I mistook her as a groupie posing as a photographer. Like the lascivious idiot I'd always been, I couldn't help making a pass, which she smoothly dodged. I think I've already told you about seeking refuge with her in Chuck Berry's rented car from a thunderstorm which wiped out a rock festival at a Florida racetrack. Chuck made a pass at her, too, which she also artfully dodged. She had nobody but Paul on her mind in those days. She wouldn't stop asking me questions about him. Together, they've shared what seems to've been an ideal marriage. Thinking of the death of my own wife from metastasized breast cancer at the age of 40, I wrote Paul: "Thankfully for you and for them, your children are older than mine were at the time of their mother's death. Linda's death resurrected the memories of what happened to me and my children in her absence, and, really, I was moved to tears thinking about you and Linda because my own experience gave me an idea of the grief you are going through. Eventually, I went out of my nut. The absence of their mother devastated my kids. "At the age of 70, I've grown wise enough to know what an asshole I've been all my life. When I first met Linda, I was attracted to her, too. She coolly parried the clumsy passes I made at her. Since then, she has become a leader in many of my beliefs and causes (besides being a storybook wife in a storybook marriage) and she not only earned a great respect from me, but, in the end, I became one of her fans who now joins you in mourning." ##

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I would feel remiss if I did not take this opportunity to pay tribute to the late Tammy Wynette, who helped me introduce live country music to New York's Lincoln Center and to Manhattan in 1973. Photographed by Anthony de Nonno, here she is, sitting backstage in an Avery Fisher Hall (Wasn't it called Philharmonic Hall back then?) dressing room with her singing partner, the legendary George Jones, and with a beStetsoned yours truly prior to the first of my Country In New York concert series. ##

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THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ