Over the years during my association with Frankie Laine, I have had several talks with him. Some of these chats were official (I’ve conducted a few interview sessions with Frankie, both in person and over the telephone). A few of our conversations were casual—either in person, or on the telephone.
Many famous people of today, or during Frankie’s lifetime, wouldn’t give a person the time of day. Frankie was quite willing to converse with me from the very first moment I met him in 1985.
I recall having lunch with Frankie at a Japanese restaurant in San Diego during my first meeting with him in 1985. Frankie wanted to know about my life. He was genuinely interested. Additionally, this charismatic gentleman was also constantly chatting with people in the restaurant who had recognized him. This was rather amusing to me because Frankie and the restaurant patrons were just “shouting” their conversations around the room at the various tables. The restaurant became sort of a party atmosphere.
Frankie and I talked about famous singers. I asked him who his current favorite singer was. He said, “Kenny Rogers.” He went on to add, “Kenny’s pretty hot right now.” He also said he liked Barbra Streisand, but he admitted that she came across as “cold.” I did not actually understand what he had meant by this, but I assumed he had meant that she could have perhaps lacked a warm, believable emotion while singing.
Frankie had performed with Aretha Franklin during the 1974 Academy Awards television show. He really must have admired her voice. He described her to me with these words: “She has balls!”
One of my favorite singers was, and still is, Billy Eckstine. Frankie summed up Eckstine’s voice in later years as having developed a “wobble.”
A few years later, during a telephone conversation, Frankie asked me whether I was going to pursue a career in journalism. I had just graduated from college and had been hired as a writer for a local newspaper. In one of the newspaper corporation’s large-market magazines, I had written a lengthy article about my first meeting with Frankie. I’d sent a copy to Frankie, and he loved it. In fact, after receiving it and reading it, Frankie had called me, leaving a message on my home answering machine asking me to call him. Of course, I called him back as soon as possible. His first words to me were “Hi, Craig! How the hell are ya!”
It was during this telephone conversation that Frankie asked me about my career. I told him I would stick with journalism until something more lucrative came along. His advice was wise: “Craig, you’ve got to do what you love to do. As long as you’re putting the effort into what you love, the money will come.”
Once, while I was at Frankie’s house in San Diego, I asked him who his greatest singing influence was. He replied quickly, “Nat King Cole.” I also asked him whom would he choose if he could meet anyone living or dead. His quick reply was, “Jesus Christ.”
In 1999, I was visiting Frankie at his home. I had brought along several of my favorite Laine album covers and several of his Mercury Records 78s for him to autograph for me. I had a special white marking pen for him to sign his name over the grooves of the records. Looking back, I chuckle. On the 78 rpm discs, Frankie had begun to sign his name carefully on the black Mercury label. When I saw this, I stopped him by telling him I wanted him to sign his name larger, directly over the grooves of the disc. He said, “Well then you won’t be able to play the record.”
In July 2000, my girlfriend, Marlene (now my beautiful wife), and I visited Frankie at his house in San Diego. One of my favorite statements from Frankie came that day. Regarding Marlene, Frankie said to me, “You’ve got good taste.” He smiled, then added, “She’s beautiful!”
Right on, Frankie!
A Year of Blogs
This is my 12th monthly Frankie Laine blog. I have had a blast writing these during my first year on this wonderful site. It has been an honor to be part of Team Frankie Laine and to share my Laine thoughts and stories. I hope readers are finding them interesting. —Craig Cronbaugh