Frank Sinatra, singer, actor, and sometimes producer was considered one of the most powerful figures in the entertainment industry. Little known, however, is Frank Sinatra’s role in many famous events in world history. In light of the upcoming anniversary of his birth, here are just a few examples of the influence Sinatra had on the course of human events.
The Creation of the Universe
And God said,” Let there be light…if that’s all right with you, Frank.”
Moses at Mt. Sinai
God: Here are the 9 commandments.
Moses: Frank thinks I should have 10.
God: All right.
The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Caesar (being stabbed to death by the conspirators): You too, Frank?
Michelangelo inside the Sistine Chapel
Pope Clement IV: When do you intend to start painting the Sistine Chapel?
Michelangelo: Frank thinks we should paper.
Pope Clement IV: Who cares what Frank Sinatra thinks? I am the pope, the Holy See, the Vicar of Christ on earth!
Michelangelo: I’ll see Frank later tonight. Maybe I can change his mind.
Columbus Discovering the New World (1491)
Columbus: I see land!
Sinatra: I forgot my sunblock. Let’s turn back.
Although Columbus saw land in 1491, he and his crew made a quick turn around and headed back to Spain to get Frank Sinatra’s sunblock. Thus, it was not until 1492 that Columbus and his men actually set foot on the New World.
The First Telephone Call
The first telephone call was made at the World’s Fair in Philadelphia in 1876 between the inventor, Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson.
Bell (on the phone): Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.
Watson (answering): I can’t right now. Frank needs me for something.
Lt. General Douglas MacArthur upon leaving the Philippine Islands on March 11, 1942 by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, uttered these immortal words:
I shall return…
Mild applause among Philippine citizens.
The First Man on the Moon
On July 16, 1969, three astronauts-Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins boarded Apollo 11 for the first lunar landing. On Sunday, July 20 Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and spoke these immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Here for the first time is the behind the scenes story of those words as I was able to obtain, through the Freedom of Information Act, a recording of a conversation between Armstrong and Collins held on July 15, one day prior to lift-off.
Collins: So Neil, have you decided what you will say when you set foot on lunar soil [note Collins’ reference to the ground as lunar soil, the scientific term, not simply as the moon which proves the authenticity of this recording]?
Armstrong: Yes, do you want to hear it?
Collins: Sure, go ahead [note the friendliness and informal nature of their conversation in spite of the enormous pressure they must have been feeling that day. No doubt they had the Right Stuff].
Armstrong: Here goes: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind and Frank.”
Collins: Frank who?
Armstrong: Frank Sinatra.
Collins: You’re gonna step on the moon and mention Frank Sinatra?
Armstrong: That’s right.
Collins: Are you out of your mind? It’s a monumental event. You can mention him when you get back, not on the moon, you moron!
Commotion ensues making the rest of the recording unintelligible.
We are the World
On January 28, 1985 Frank Sinatra joined over 45 recording artists including Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, and Bruce Springsteen at the A & M Recording Studio in Hollywood, California to record the single We are the World to help raise money for those suffering from famine in Africa. The song was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones. Here is a transcript of some of what transpired that day. Quincy Jones is at the control panel.
Jones: Let’s go into the last verse. I think you all know your parts. First, Michael [Jackson], then Huey [Lewis], followed by Cyndi [Lauper]. After Cyndi comes you, Kim [Carnes] and then Frank [Sinatra]. Okay, let’s go.
Jackson (sings): When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all.
Lewis (sings): But if you just believe, there’s no way we can fall.
Lauper (sings): Let’s realize a change can only come
Carnes (sings): When we stand together as one
Sinatra (sings): I am the world.
After multiple takes, Frank Sinatra was still unable to sing We are the world instead of I am the world. Jones thus decided to have the entire cast sing the last chorus which, of course, is the version we are most familiar with.
Famous Documents in American History
The Declaration of Independence
On July 2, 1776, just 2 days before the official reading of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, the chief writer of the document, presented a draft copy to Benjamin Franklin for his perusal. The document read in part: We and Frank hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. Franklin thought the reference to Frank Sinatra was a bit unseemly for such an important document and was able to persuade Jefferson to excise it. Thus, the document today is without the Frank Sinatra reference. Interestingly, on July 11, just one week after the official reading of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin’s lifeless body was found under the Liberty Bell with this cryptic note hanging around his neck: Ring a ding this, pal.
The Gettysburg Address
On November 18, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln set out for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to deliver his now famous speech. On the way, he let his Secretary of State, John Seward, look at the text which read in part: Four score and seven years ago our fathers and Frank brought forth on this continent a new nation… Though Seward found the bulk of the speech brilliant, he nevertheless felt that the reference to Frank Sinatra was a bit unseemly for such a hallowed occasion and was able (after a night of fierce haranguing) to have the Sinatra reference excised. On November 26 just one week after Lincoln gave his address, Seward’s lifeless body was found swinging from the recently completed dome of the United States Capitol Building with this cryptic note hanging around his neck: Come fly with me, pal.
President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
On January 18, 1961, just 2 days before President-elect Kennedy was to give his inaugural address, he gave a copy to his advisor, the famed Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. for his perusal. It read in part: And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country and Frank. As a historian, Schlesinger was taken aback by the reference to Frank Sinatra and was able to convince Kennedy to excise it from the text.
On February 7, 2007 Arthur Schlesinger was a guest on the Charlie Rose show. Here is an excerpt from that conversation.
Rose: Let’s go back to January 18, 1961.
Schlesinger: Do we have to? I thought we agreed not to go there during our pre-broadcast meeting.
Rose: I know. But you are a historian and I think history deserves some answers.
Schlesinger: This is intellectual sabotage, Charlie.
Rose: It is but as you know the public has been fascinated with this story for years and you are perhaps the last living person who can provide some clarity as to what really happened. So let’s begin. Kennedy gives you a draft of his inaugural address.
Schlesinger: That’s right. January 18, 1961.
Rose: And it contains…
Schlesinger: That famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Rose: But that’s not exactly what’s written.
Schlesinger: No, it’s not. Can we now change the subject?
Rose: No, we can’t. What is written?
Schlesinger: Do I have to?
Rose (forcefully): Yes!
Note: Notice Rose raising his voice at this point which is quite uncharacteristic since he is better known for monopolizing an interview to such an extent that guests often feel a burning desire to walk off the set. In fact, once a guest actually did walk off the set in mid-interview and Rose continued without noticing.
Schlesinger (taking a deep breath): It read: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country and Frank.”
Rose: Frank being Frank Sinatra.
Schlesinger: That’s right.
Rose: Then what happens?
Schlesinger: I tell President Kennedy it’s a powerful speech, but I thought the reference to Frank Sinatra was not appropriate for an inaugural address. So I advised him to take it out.
Rose: And so he did.
Rose: So Kennedy gives the speech without the Frank Sinatra reference. How did you feel at the time?
Schlesinger: Terrified. I knew of course what had happened to Benjamin Franklin and John Seward.
Rose: You believe those stories?
Schlesinger: Yes, I do. There are enough primary sources indicating as such. In addition, although my expertise is American history, some of my European colleagues mention the strange death of Pope Clement IV who was pope during the time of Michelangelo.
Rose: So you thought you might suffer the same fate.
Schlesinger: That’s right. In fact, I heard that Sinatra was furious but fortunately for me Peter Lawford, President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, was a member of Sinatra’s rat pack. He interceded on my behalf so nothing happened.
Rose: But there was a falling out between Sinatra and Lawford.
Schlesinger: That’s right. President Kennedy decided not to stay at Frank Sinatra’s home in California due to the insistence of Bobby.
Rose: Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General.
Schlesinger: That’s right.
Rose: Why did Bobby object?
Schlesinger: It had something to do with Sinatra’s alleged ties, and may I stress the word alleged, to the underworld.
Rose: How did you feel after their falling out?
Schlesinger: Absolute panic.
Rose: But then on May 15, 1998 Sinatra dies. How did you react to the news?
Schlesinger: To be honest, although I greatly admired him as a singer and actor, I felt a certain sense of relief. Like a great weight was off me and I could thus continue writing about Andrew Jackson without having to look over my shoulder all the time.
Rose: Thank you. I know this was not easy for you but let me just say that I admire your courage and forthrightness.
Schlesinger: Thanks, Charlie.
Rose (to audience): That’s our show for tonight. Until next time, goodbye.
Author’s note: Three weeks after appearing on the Charlie Rose show Arthur Schlesinger was found dead in his office at Harvard University with this cryptic note hanging around his neck: You’re history, pal.