Frank Sinatra: His Kind of Town

Frank Sinatra has often been credited as one of the many men who helped build the empire that is modern Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra is also one of the most influential musicians of the century. However, what made Sinatra more than just a famous singer were his contributions to popular culture beyond just his music. Sinatra was noted as being tied to presidents like John F. Kennedy, was a member of The Rat Pack, and was even linked to organized crime. Although Sinatra passed away in 1998, his albums are still sold in record stores across the country and almost every impersonation show in Vegas has a Sinatra impersonator.

Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1915. Sinatra’s mother was a midwife who also performed abortions and his father was a fireman. His parents migrated to the United States in the late 1890’s from Sicily. At the age of 17, Sinatra left home because his parents did not agree with the fact that he wanted to become a singer. Sinatra started off his career in signing by joining a group called the Hoboken Four. He often had disagreements with group members and decided to split from the group. He then got a job as a singing waiter and his singing was sometimes broadcast on the local radio station. Sinatra was noticed by bandleader Tommy Dorsey and was asked to perform in his band. He recorded several chart topping hits while he was with Dorsey’s band. In 1943, Sinatra went solo and signed with Columbia Records.

Sinatra also began a prominent career in film in the 1940’s by co-starring with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. In 1953 he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in From Here to Eternity. After growing tired of his career on the silver screen, Sinatra headed to Vegas to join forces with friends Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford to create the legendary “Rat Pack.” The group sang together mostly in live performances and their all-time favorite spot was always Las Vegas.

Who had the most influence on the rise of Las Vegas? The debate on this subject will probably come up over poker tables across the city for as long as Vegas is Vegas. However, there is no doubt that Frank Sinatra was one of the front runners. One of the first headliners in town, Sinatra sold out theaters for decades. When he arrived for the first time at Caesars Palace to perform at the infamous (and long gone) Circus Maximus, the billboard out front read simply: “He’s here.” No introduction was necessary.

Sinatra and his crew also had a hand in helping with the desegregation of many of the hotels on the Strip. The Rat Pack refused to perform in hotels that didn’t allow full privileges to African Americans. The Rat Pack was such a hot ticket at the time that hotels couldn’t afford to lose their business. Everything they touched in Sin City instantly turned to gold and hotels were forced to stop segregation in their facilities in order to get the group to play their venue. Sinatra’s final performance in Las Vegas was at the Golden Nugget in 1987. Long after his death, two separate compilation albums comprised of some of Sinatra’s greatest performances in Las Vegas were released in 2005 and 2006.

In 1998, he suffered a sever heart-attack. His family rushed him to the hospital and was able to run red lights and stop signs with ease because the streets where almost empty. Coincidentally, Sinatra was being rushed to the hospital during the airing of the final episode of the hit TV series, Seinfeld. He passed away at 10:50 p.m. He was 82 years-old. The next night, the lights on the Las Vegas Strip went dim in honor of his passing. Sinatra was buried in Cathedral City, California. His family placed several personal items in the casket including: a bottle of Jack Daniels, a pack of Camel cigarettes, and a Zippo lighter. The epitaph on his tombstone reads, “The best is yet to come.”

To enjoy the musical stylings of the “original” Rat Pack check out The Rat Pack is Back at the Greek Isles Hotel and Casino.


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