Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Ol' Blue Eyes in Melbourne

In 1974 Frank Sinatra visited Melbourne to perform on stage. It was his last visit to Australia and although he earlier liked the country, this time he was quoted once back in the US that his only mistake when visiting Australia was to get off the plane. So what was this about? I only have a vague memory of the matter, so thanks to The Sydney Morning Herald for filling in the gaps.


Sinatra refused to do press interviews and was pursued relentlessly by the press who of course would reference his Mafia connections once he was in Melbourne, .

1974 was time of the advance of women's rights and feminism was on the rise as were the number of female press journalists.

At Sinatra's first performance in Melbourne's Festival Hall he came out with this, "The broads who work in the  press are the hookers (prostitutes) of the press. I might give them a buck and half, I'm not sure".

This made journalists rather cross, and many other people became cross. His second Melbourne performance was cancelled as staging and lighting workers, musicians and others black banned him until he apologised. Staff in the expensive hotel where he was staying refused to serve him in his room and he dare not leave his room. Airline staff refused to refuel his plane. Drivers would not take him anywhere.

It is suggested his plane had enough fuel to get to Sydney and so that night he managed to make the trip or he even travelled on a commercial flight under another name. But as it was a national ban by all the unions that mattered he was still in a predicament.

The following night he received a call at his Sydney hotel from Australia's Prime Minister Gough Whitlam who suggested to Sinatra there was only one man who could sort this out, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Bob Hawke who would go on himself to become Prime Minister in the 1980s. Hawke visited Sinatra at his hotel, no doubt sharing some strong drink (one report said Sinatra was very drunk) and a joint statement of regret by both Sinatra and the Unions was hammered out and read out by Hawke on the steps of the hotel, without either parties apologising. It was also agreed that his Sydney performance would be televised in Melbourne to compensate fans who missed his second concert.

He completed his tour and once home in The States performed at New York's Madison Gardens opening with the statement, "Ol' Blue Eyes is back, or as they say in Australia, Ol' Big Mouth is back".

No doubt he was a great performer and a reasonable singer, but as for being a nice person?

27 comments:

  1. Sadly he was a self entitled ego driven person. Increasingly I find it hard to separate talent from the person who wields it.
    (Which shows that I am becoming a poster child for grumpy old women.)

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    1. EC, yes regardless of his talent I doubt he was a very nice person. You can overlook some bad behaviour up to a point by talented people, but as you know the very talented Rolf Harris is now persona non grata.

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  2. Yeah, never a favorite of mine. I heard him sing, live on the TV and he was drunk and slurred his lyrics something awful. It also appeared he had no respect for anyone.

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    1. Maribeth, I wonder if I saw the same performance on tv? I seem to remember it and the subsequent media ridicule.

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  3. I remember the time very well. I've always been a fan of Frank Sinatra. And, I shall remain so. There will be only one Ol' Blue Eyes. His timing was impeccable.

    I am not a fan of the demanding, sometimes...oft times...rude, pushy, mike-wielding reporters and paparazzi-style cameramen jostling for a story...and hoping, by their actions, they will get one.

    Well, Cranky Frankie gave them what they wanted, and what they deserved!

    Streaming on Netflix at the moment is a brilliant bio-documentary on Frank Sinatra...it is worth watching.

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    1. Lee, the media and upcoming stars feed off each other like leaches. Then when at the top of their game, stars don't want the press anymore.

      My inaccurate post has kicked off an interesting discussion anyway.

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  4. Sure, Sinatra was pushy, rude, ego driven, had dodgy connections to the mafia and was not the most intelligent or well read scholar to emerge from New Jersey. But his classic swing and ballad recordings at Capitol Records will go down in history as some of the most iconic songs of the 20th century.

    I do have a video and CD recording of that Madison Square Garden 74 recording and I always wondered why he said on stage that night "Or as they say in Australia, ol' big mouth is back.'
    I feel I know more now. The odd thing though about the night they recorded that 1974 performance called 'The Main Event' was that Sinatra's voice was right off. Maybe he had a bad throat on the one night the cameras chose to film it all.
    Yet the CD version sounded okay....perhaps recorded on a different night.
    But yes, Francis Albert will always be the King of Swing.

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    1. Dee, you do indeed know now. I liked many of songs but back then I was so interested in old crooners. Thanks for your memories.

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  5. Fascinating. Frankie's problem was he never knew when to quit and those who paid dearly for his concerts resented his poor attitude and diminished voice in his latter years. I never liked his later self but his earlier recordings enchant me, before he battered and abused himself (and others).

    XO
    WWW

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    1. WWW, yes, much as I thought. Not a very nice person.

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  6. Sorry Andrew part of your first sentence is incorrect. Frank Sinatra toured Australia in the 1980s (with Sammy Davis Jn & Lisa Minelli) and also 1990s (with Steve Martin & Eyde Gorme). The Golfer and I couldn’t afford Melbourne 1989 but definitely were at the Tennis Centre in 1991.

    Frankie was ......well he just was. I was young when I first heard him and unlike a lot of my peers I liked all sorts of music, stuff they didn’t. Big band, ‘crooners’ trad and modern jazz. Other commenters have spoken in more depth than I can - he had good times and like many performers he had bad times. Like I said Frankie was......and we forgave him.

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    1. That should be....second sentence

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    2. It was Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Cathy. Wow! It's ages since I've thought of them, or heard their songs Thanks for reminding me. :)

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    3. But Cathy, I read it on the internet. It must be true. Nice memories for you.

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  7. His 'phrasing' was possibly the best ever, and he made it all sound so simple. However, his mother should have told him to never say anything he'd live to regret.

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    1. Cro, they would have been wise words by his mother.

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  8. "as for being a nice person", we'll never really know will we? I was never a Frank Sinatra fan anyway.

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    1. River, I think enough is know to judge his 'niceness'.

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  9. Further to...https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/frank-sinatra-down-under-20151116-gkzumd.html

    "The final Australian show was in Melbourne on March 6, 1991. It was declared an occasion, his band joined by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with his son, Frank jnr, conducting. The ABC broadcast it as The Final Concert. The performance only confirmed that this was wise.

    Trevor Jones was playing in the MSO that night. A fan, he was awestruck. "You could tell he was ailing. But the artistry was there – all his classic phrasing and breath control and all of those amazing skills. There was an aura about him that was quite overpowering."

    He opened with I've Got the World on a String and closed, inevitably, with My Way: "Regrets, I've had a few." He sure had, some of them right here, but none of it mattered by then. The fans – by now spanning three or four generations – had come for the moment. Sinatra could have come out and read the phone book. He did his best with what he had, basked in the applause, and took his leave. Strolling off, no need for encores, he was gone, an old master departing stage right, fading from sight like a dimming light.

    And that was definitely that. He died seven years later, at 82, as mysterious and confounding in death as he was in life. To repeat Paul Kelly: "His singing is still a deep mystery to me." Kelly has listened to a lot of Sinatra, trying to work it out. "He sings with a beautiful, long, relaxed breath, influenced by what instruments – strings and horns – do. But at the same time he manages to sound like he's talking to you. Though every word is precisely articulated, he still sounds conversational. As if it's only you he's talking to. It's this combination of great technical artistry with plain speaking that's so powerful. His singing sounds so effortless. But try singing like him and you realise how hard it is."

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    1. Thanks Lee. Lots of extra depth about him.

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  10. Oh gosh, I remember when he came and there was such a fuss but I didn't know what all the fuss was about, wasn't a fan of his - but he certainly could sing. Must have been up himself!

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    1. Margaret, he always seemed old and irrelevant to me, but I do like some of his music. Up himself is a good description.

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  11. I had no idea about this, but I agree that was very disrespectful of Sinatra!

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    1. Sami, just the year before Helen Reddy was belting out "I am woman".

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  12. Not a nice guy that's for sure!
    I usually wander around west of Yonge St around Bloor St but venturing up and down to Dundas and to Queen St W. I live around Bloor so that is my usual starting point. The Annex neighborhood is just north of U of Toronto and is one of my favorite places to wander as I love the old homes.

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  13. That'll teach him to mess with Aussies 😁😁

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Democracy is all very well, but why give it to the people? - Audrey Forbes-Hamilton.