Tom Williams AT LARGE:
Here comes Old Blue Eyes again.
This month Frank Sinatra, who died in 1998, is being celebrated as the 100th anniversary of his birth approaches. It is coming up on Saturday.
There was a TV special on CBS Sunday. The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has an exhibition of highlights from Sinatra’s career through February. And, on Saturday in Hoboken, where he was born, the town will hold a birthday bash at Stevens Institute of Technology.
Sinatra has ties to the Atlantic City area. He appeared on the Steel Pier with the Harry James Orchestra and was a regular visitor to Skinny D’Amato’s 500 Club. When Sinatra was appearing, D’Amato would rent billboards that simply said, “He’s Here!”. Everybody knew what that meant.
Award-winning author Gay Talese, who got his start writing for local newspapers while growing up in Ocean City, was honored this week in New York for his Esquire piece almost 50 years ago that many feel was the ultimate Sinatra story.
In 1978, Sinatra gave a benefit concert to help the Atlantic City Medical Center. The event raised $600,000 and a wing at the hospital was named in his honor.
He also became a regular at Steve Wynn’s Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, frequently renting homes in Ventnor and Brigantine while performing there. And he looked into the possibility of purchasing a gated estate in the Gardens section of Ocean City.
Sinatra had many careers. He was the heartthrob singer during the Big Band Era, singing primarily with bands led by Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. He moved out on his own and continued to produce hit after hit. When his singing career hit a slump, he got a part in the film “From Here to Eternity” and won an Academy Award.
Many more movies followed and Sinatra emerged as one of the top night club singers in the country.
During his years in New York and after, Sinatra was frequently in the camera lens of award-winning photographer William “PoPsie” Randolph, a resident of Ocean City. PoPsie was known as “The Legend of Broadway” because he was on hand whenever a significant musical event was taking place. He took photos of stars from the big band era right through the British invasion of rock and roll. A book of PoPsie’s photos was successfully produced eight years ago and is still available online.
In honor of Sinatra’s 100th birthday another book has been produced of PoPsie’s photos, most of them exclusive shots of Sinatra. Mike Randolph, PoPsie’s son and an Ocean City High School graduate, has gathered these photos into a coffee table book with a forward by Barry Singer, renowned author and columnist on The Huffington Post.
Randolph, one of the most respected people in sports broadcasting, travels the world organizing boxing events for HBO and Showtime. But during the next week he will be signing copies of the book he produced of his father’s Sinatra photos.
The first signing will be on Saturday, the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birthday, at Chartwell Booksellers on East 52nd Street in Manhattan.
The next day – Sunday from 1-5 p.m. – Randolph will be at Gregory’s Restaurant in Somers Point. And, on Dec. 18, he will appear from noon until 2 p.m. in the lobby of the medical facility hosting Atlantic Gastroenterology on Fire Road in Egg Harbor Township. That lobby has always displayed photos by PoPsie on its walls.
“The last time I saw Frank in person,” Randolph says in the book, “was at his coming-out-of-retirement dinner party at the good old Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami Beach. Great show. After his performance, my date and I jumped into the Corvette, put the top down and headed for South Beach.
“It’s easy to stay in touch with Frank. His spirit is with all of us…when I’m editing my father’s photographs of him…when I’m playing his anthology of songs on the piano…when I’m listening to the Sunday broadcasts hosted by Sid Mark.
“It was Frank’s voice, his intimate posturing and his facial gestures that carried his lyrical rhapsodies to his worldwide audience. And it was PoPsie’s photographs that captured the memories in intimate portraits for the world to embrace forever.” If you are a Frank Sinatra fan, or are close to one, Mike Randolph has created a book of photos by his legendary father that you need to see.