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Thursday, December 10, 2015

George Will, "The Frank Sinatra we remember": When I Was Seventeen, It Was a Very Good Year

It's been a sad week for me with the passing of two of my personal heroes: US Medal of Honor winner Tibor Rubin (the biography of Rubin, "Single-Handed" by Daniel M. Cohen, sits on a shelf opposite me as I type this blog entry) and columnist, Member of Knesset and former Israeli Education Minister Yossi Sarid. I never had the honor of meeting Rubin, whose life serves as an exemplar of courage. On the other hand, I knew Sarid, a model of integrity, who was there to help when I engaged in a one-man war against a corrupt government bureaucracy.

I also never knew Frank Sinatra, and although I grew up in the Sixties and immersed myself in the music of The Doors, The Byrds and The Who, whose music I still play at full volume while driving to business meetings, I also came to admire the songs of Frank Sinatra, which have equally become a part of my inner self.

In a splendid Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The Frank Sinatra we remember," George Will writes today:

"In today’s culture of hyperbole, born of desperate attempts to be noticed amid the Niagara of Internet and other outpourings, the label 'genius' is affixed promiscuously to evanescent popular entertainers, fungible corporate chief executives and other perishable phenomena. But it almost fits the saloon singer — his preferred description of himself — who was born 100 years ago, on Dec. 12, 1915, in Hoboken, N.J."

. . . .

In spite of the spectacular vulgarity of Sinatra’s choices of friends and fun, he bequeathed to postwar America a sense of style, even male elegance. His Las Vegas cavorting with 'The Rat Pack' (Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford) was an embarrassing manifestation of 1950s arrested-development masculinity — adolescence forever. But never mind his toupees and elevator shoes, his loutish flunkies and violent bodyguards, his many awful movies and public brawls, his pimping for Camelot.

His "pimping" for Camelot? Yes, he introduced women to John Kennedy, who complained to British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, "If I don’t have a woman for three days, I get a terrible headache." Revolting? Yes. However, Kennedy was also a president capable of facing down Russian aggression - unlike the invertebrate currently occupying the Oval Office, who has destroyed American overseas credibility and deterrent power over the course of his seven years in office.

Goodness, how I've grown old! I don't know if "I've done it my way," and I have no longings to return to de Blasio's New York, but somewhere deep inside, I think I can still remember how, "When I was seventeen, it was a very good year . . ."

1 comment:

  1. George Will knows better than to use the word 'pimp', not applicable to the more than willing who awaited a 'matchmaker'.

    When my mother was 19, in 1939, a secretary taking her lunch in a downtown diner, drummer Buddy Rich started to do more than 'flirt'. Sinatra walked in, and 'protected her honor' by telling Rich, "that's enough"

    always wished she had told me that story sooner...