When someone learns about my Frankie Laine association, I am always asked why I am interested in this singer from my parents’ generation.
I was a professional drummer for 16 years. I made my living (or tried to) by playing music. I learned very quickly that music is an emotional art. It can make you feel great; it can make you reflect; it can uplift you; it can make you cry.
When I first heard Frankie sing “Jezebel,” I could feel that there was something different about this singer. Even though Frankie was in his prime (and had been for 10 years) by the time I was born, I knew I had discovered, for myself, something special.
I was drawn to Frankie’s portrayal of emotion. It was there in every song he sang. He sang with such purpose. I knew I would meet him one day.
Of course, I realize that Frankie is a human being, just the same as all the rest of us. But I also believe he was one of the people I refer to as the “chosen ones.” God chooses certain people and places them on the earth to entertain the multitudes. I truly believe this is why we have famous movie and television stars, athletes, musicians, and singers. It seems a select few achieve worldwide stardom while others equally as talented, or perhaps even more so, cannot.
I can’t explain it, but I always felt a certain aura while I was with Frankie that further convinces me my theory is right. Frankie Laine was a special person.
What a thrill it was to listen to stories Frankie shared with me. I will always be amazed that I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down and chat with Frankie Laine.
In 1999, while visiting at the Laine home, Frankie and I were talking about the late great singer Mario Lanza. Lanza was always one of my favorites. He and Frankie were friends years ago. In fact, Lanza did a fairly good impression of Frankie in one of his movies Seven Hills of Rome, in 1957.
Frankie recalled being in a dinner club with Nan one evening several years ago, when a very intoxicated Lanza staggered over to the Laine table and invited them to his table for a drink. Warily, and secretly nodding to Nan and waving one finger, Frankie agreed. Apparently, Lanza was not fun to be around while in his cups.
I was captivated! Wow! Such a neat story!
Another neat story was told to me by Frankie in 1985, during my first visit to see him. Frankie shared his story about meeting Elvis Presley.
It was shortly after Elvis had begun his singing career. According to Frankie, Elvis was appearing at a hotel in Las Vegas. Frankie was there. Later, Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, brought Elvis over to Frankie’s table.
Frankie recalled, “We chatted about his performance. Elvis said, ‘Mr. Laine, I’ll be happy if I become half as successful in my career as you are in yours.’ ”
I was mesmerized.
“Wow, look at how big a star he became!” Frankie added.
Again, while at Frankie’s home in 1999, I related an incident regarding Frankie I had read about in Gary Crosby’s 1983 book Going My Own Way.
Gary wrote that he was with a group of people at the Desert Inn late one night joining Frankie Laine and his wife, Nan, at a table for an early breakfast. According to the account, an intoxicated man came up behind Gary, slapped him on the back, and shouted “Hey, Crosby!” (Gary stated that he later discovered the man was a rich hotel owner, and had mistaken him for one of his brothers.)
Gary relates that he became very angry and grabbed the guy and wrestled him to the floor. Then, using his thumbs on the man’s neck, Gary started to strangle the man. It took an appeal by Gary’s fiancée to bring the incident to an end.
After paraphrasing the details for Frankie, I asked him whether he remembered the occurrence. To my utter amazement, Frankie told me he had no recollection of this story, doubting it ever happened.
Interesting . . .