It seems like only yesterday that Frankie Laine held his last big birthday bash in San Diego. I had been to his 80th and 85th.
My wife, Marlene, and I booked a flight to San Diego to attend the celebration of Frankie’s 90th birthday on March 30, 2003, in the Grand Ballroom of the U. S. Grant Hotel.
The day we arrived, I telephoned Frankie hoping to set up an interview with him for an idea I had for this book. He was happy to oblige, and we set up a time to meet the next day.
I phoned Frankie the following day. Unfortunately, he was ill. Therefore, we couldn’t get together. Even though he wasn’t feeling well, he offered to answer a few of my questions. I refused. Never would I impose upon Frankie when he was sick. I told Frankie I’d chat with him at the party the following afternoon. He agreed to that. I was humbled that Frankie was willing to accommodate me even though he wasn’t feeling well.
I never had the opportunity to speak with Frankie during his party either. The crowd was too big, the commotion too overwhelming, and Frankie left the party early because he still wasn’t feeling well. I saw Frankie from the stage where he spoke briefly, giving all in attendance an update on his throat condition. In a roundabout fashion, he also announced his retirement. I was somewhat dejected. I didn’t get to visit with my dear friend in person.
Marlene and I had the pleasure of meeting famed singers Patti Page and Herb Jeffries, who both attended Frankie’s party. Jeffries had begun as a jazz singer before becoming an actor and singing cowboy in a series of movie Westerns during the late 1930s. Those movies featured an all-black cast. He also had sung with Duke Ellington’s orchestra.
It was enjoyable to give my best wishes to old friends, such as Mary-Jo Coombs, Tony Cooper, Marcia Laine, and Jimmy Marino. It was especially nice to see Norman Foster and Stephen Fratallone. I enjoyed introducing all my friends to Marlene.
Marlene and I left the festivities early and headed back to our hotel a few blocks away. We invited Norman and Stephen to our hotel to join us for drinks. When they arrived, we sat in the lounge and enjoyed chatting about Frankie Laine. We all had a merry time. When we parted ways, I was melancholy.
“I treasure my ‘Frankie Laine’ friends,” I admitted to Marlene.
“I know, honey,” she replied. “I wish they lived closer so that you could see them more often.”