Lame Adventure 351: The Booze, the Dames, the Hair Plugs

With all the gassing about today being twelve-twelve-twelve, click here for a story the New York Times published about a baby born in Gotham City at precisely twelve minutes after twelve noon, I have the Chairman of the Board, the Voice, Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frankie on my mind.  Had he not checked into the Big Nightclub in the Sky in 1998, Frank Sinatra would have turned 97 today.  I cannot say that I know many dames that are fans of Frank aside from my ex, Rockets Redglare, who loved Frank’s rendition of Luck Be a Lady from the musical Guys and Dolls.  Rockets donning her Sigmund Freud chapeau analyzed how Frank sang the lyric:

Frank: A lady doesn’t wander all over the room and blow on some other guy’s dice!

She was certain that Frank had blowjobs in the forefront of his thoughts, which is possible, but on this video, it sure looks like he has dice on the brain.

Another dame that remembers Frank fondly is his third ex-wife, Mia Farrow.  He married her when she was twentyone, he was fifty and suffering a pronounced midlife crisis.  Decades after their divorce, at the time that she and her former companion, Woody Allen, had their spectacular falling out, Frank gallantly offered to have Woody’s legs broken.  And to think, towards the end of my favorite Woody Allen film, Manhattan, Woody’s protagonist, Ike, is lying on a couch talking into a tape recorder about all the things that make life worthwhile, he mentions Frank.

Frank was extremely moody and he referred to himself as “an 18-karet manic depressive”.   His youngest child, Tina, wrote in her memoirs about her father, “… I believe that a Zoloft a day might have kept his demons away.  But that kind of medicine was decades off.”

In the early fifties Frank’s career hit the skids and for a while, it looked like he might be washed up.  His fan base, the bobby-soxers, had replaced him with Eddie Fisher.  Frank, although married with three kids, was wildly unfaithful and then he fell hard for screen siren Ava Gardner when she was at the top of her game in Hollywood.  After his divorce, their volatile affair segued into a disastrous marriage, but by all accounts she was the great love of his life.  He kept a statue of her from the film, The Barefoot Contessa, in his back yard until Barbara Marx, his fourth and last wife, forced him to get rid if it.  My gut feeling tells me that she was not nearly as much fun as Ava.

Recently, I was visiting my pal and dedicated Frank-o-phile, Martini Max in Fort Lee, New Jersey.  Max wanted to take a hike in the Palisades behind the George Washington Bridge.   I now have a pretty bum left knee, but since it was late fall, I resisted whining and didn’t even suggest that we were likely targets for deer ticks and debilitating Lyme disease. So, off we went.

Our hike started with a climb up this staircase that took us into the woods.

Not as daunting as it looks

Not as daunting as it looked to my knee.

We encountered some fallen trees that Max said survived Hurricane Sandy, but fell following the Nor’Easter that smacked the Northeast afterward.  There is only so much torture trees can withstand.

Another victim of climate change.

Another victim of climate change.

Then, we marveled at the George Washington Bridge.

George Washington Bridge on the Jersey side.

George Washington Bridge on the Jersey side.

Max reverently observed:

Max:  Thank God those idiots didn’t cover it in concrete.

Apparently, when the bridge was under construction planners had considered encasing it in cement.  After showing our respects to the GWB, we traveled on a path until we reached The Spot.

The Path.

The Path.

My tour guide announced:

Max: This is it!

Me:  How the hell do you know?  It was demolished before you were even born!

Seriously, what are we even looking at?

Seriously, what are we even looking at?

Max pointed downward at a surviving bit of sidewalk in these woods.  Never argue with a Jersey guy that knows his Jersey lore forwards and back.

I stand corrected.

I stand corrected.

What is it?  It’s this now.

The Spot today.

The Spot today.

And imagine back in the day, in the forties and fifties, in this same space it was this.

Bill Miller's Riviera. Image from bergen.com http://www.bergen.com/artsmusic/That_Was_Show_Biz.html

Bill Miller’s Riviera. Image from  http://www.bergen.com/artsmusic/That_Was_Show_Biz.html

Bill Miller’s Riviera was a bit of Las Vegas-style swank, but pre-Las Vegas, situated in the foothills of Fort Lee.  The Riviera attracted top entertainers of the era as both performers and guests, and those visitors included Frank and Ava.  Frank also performed at the Riviera in 1953 when he had his career comeback.  1953 was also the year that Bill Miller was bought out and the Riviera closed to make way for the Palisades Interstate Parkway.  The Riviera was demolished a year later.

Looking out at the clearing where this legendary nightclub once stood one can only imagine what it must have been like.

One can only imagine ...

One can only imagine …

Then, we noticed a deer in the brambles looking at us.

You're watching me.  I'm watching you.

You’re watching me. I’m watching you.

Max reflected:

Max:  Just think that deer’s great-great-great-great grandfather deer probably saw Frank and Ava here.

Me:  For all we know, Max, that deer is the reincarnation of Frank.

Max:  You think we’re looking at Sinatra the deer?

The deer looked straight at us and said:

Sinatra the deer: Do be do be do.

Then, it scampered away.

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108 responses to “Lame Adventure 351: The Booze, the Dames, the Hair Plugs

  1. Thank you for this reminder on such a momentous day. Frank Sinatra weighed 13 lbs when he was born. Not that I’m obsessed with him at all. He and Mia were married at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Vegas and that is where I am going to marry Derwood! Happy Frank Sinatra’s Birthday! xo

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  2. I’m so glad you’re back.

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  3. You have been sooo missed. (I’m writing this prior to reading… Just wanted you to know.). Martha

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  4. I am so glad you’re back! I would never read anything about Frank Sinatra except that you wrote it and I was desperate. I grew up in the 70’s when Frank was not very cool. Thanks for sharing your fascinating journey to Fort Lee. Now I will think of ol’ Blue Eyes every time I pass the exit.

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    • Thanks Jane. You and I grew up at the same time. I was not a fan of Frank’s personality at all. I thought there were times when he so crossed the line and was, for lack of a better word, quite a turd. But I always liked his music. I can’t deny the guy’s talent.

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  5. This is a great piece. The Riviera bit is so cool. How many more years before even the memory of that is lost to the generations?

    Just curious. Are you a fan of Frank’s entire career or just certain periods? I find myself more drawn to his post-depression-over-Ava-pneumonia voice rather than his higher-pitched crooning of the 40’s. Anyway, just wondering. 🙂

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Mike. You raise a good point about the Riviera fading completely from the collective memory, but my pal, Martini Max, and his cronies, are doing their part to see that it’s remembered.

      I am a fan of Frank’s comeback career starting in 1953 — when he starred in From Here to Eternity and started recording what I consider his best music through the sixties, what you spot-on refer to as “his post-depression-over-Ava-pneumonia voice rather than his higher-pitched crooning of the 40′s”. You and I are completely on the same page. If you have a moment, check out his 1951 recording of “I’m a Fool to Want You”, then check out his re-recording of it in 1957. He co-wrote the lyrics when he was deep in Ava-related agony. It’s very evident in his younger voice that he’s suffering. In 1957, after surviving years of hell with her, and coming out on the other end alive after the divorce, his voice sounds so much stronger. The Jack Daniels cure clearly worked wonders for him.

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  6. Wow — didn’t know the Riviera was back there. Thanks for the history and the tour. I went hiking back there once. You remind me I should do it again.

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  7. So glad to see you again! I’m an on again off again Sinatra fan. Or maybe, I just like a few songs and that’s the extent of my Sinatra fandom. Now, I’m going to go back and read the previous post. xox

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    • Hey Savannah, how cool to hear from you again! I don’t like every Sinatra song, too, but there are several he recorded in the fifties and sixties that I think are terrific. Thanks for checking in.

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  8. A wonderful tribute to a classic —- and I didn’t hear about him at all today – so well done. Interesting trek in the woods to The Spot. Glad to see you back in the saddle.

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  9. The moment I saw the email in my inbox, I rushed on over. Great post, V. So interesting about the Riviera with just a small spot of concrete left. Must have been an great place in its day. I can just hear that deer cruising the sight singing “New York, New York.”

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    • Gee, thanks for rushing over, Cathy. That’s very cool of you. The Riviera was a relic of a long gone era, but it sounds like it was quite the scene back in the day with a revolving stage graced with so many entertainment industry legends.

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  10. Welcome back. Luck Be A Lady has been in my head all day. Probably due to its use in a commercial for some vodka that’s been running nonstop. Our there group in colleg edid Guys and Dolls. The director asked me to work the lights and sound board. Must have heard me sing.

    Oh yeah I work in Hoboken. Karma.

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    • When I researched the YouTube clip of Frank singing it around 1965, someone mentioned the vodka ad — which I’ve yet to see since it’s not played on the main broadcasts that I watch — the news and SNL. If you ever see the film, Guys and Dolls, Sinatra’s co-star, Marlon Brando, sings Luck Be a Lady. I am a huge Brando fan, but that definitely is not one of Mumbles career highlights. Interesting that it became one of Frank’s signature songs. He was probably in so much torment over Brando butchering it, he simply had to re-record it himself.

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  11. Glad you’re back. I’m guessing the baby born at 12:12 on 12/12/12 will be some kind of Damian-like child.

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  12. And Guys and Dolls the Riviera is being preserved not only in memory but the Fort Lee Museum has the largest collection of Riviera Nightclub material in existence thanks to the generosity of the families of the clubs owners, first Ben Marden who owned it from 1930 to the start of WWII and Bill MIller who took it over in 1946. We even bought at auction the Riviera rug from the second floor Marine Room where all the gambling took place – this rug has images of the Riv and the GWB on it and it is quite the swinging site! Check out http://www.thefortleehistoricalsociety.org for more info or for notice of our next Riviera Nightclub exhibit. And up to 2 years ago and his death. Rocky Vitetta, the house barber at the Riviera still cut hair at Alberto’s / Frank’s barber shop in Fort Lee – I had my hair cut from the same guy who cut Sinatra’s! Dobe doo baby!!!!

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  13. And for more info on The Riviera see Amazon and order your copy of “Bill Miller’s Riviera America’s Showplace in Fort Lee, New Jersey” by Tom Austin & Ron Kase. Tommy Austin, from Fort Lee, co-write the song Shorts Shorts and was one of those Jersey Boys – his dad was a special cop at the Riv so Tommy as a kid had the run of the place – great read and great pics in this book.

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  14. Welcome Back, Lame!
    PS I just realized that Lame rhymes with MAME. It that too gay!!!

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    • Is that a hint from you that we should have a Lame Adventure with Auntie Mame, Milton? I’d welcome seeing that revived on Broadway starring, I dunno, how bout Bette Midler, if we want to flaunt how gay we are.

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      • You NEED to do this. Auntie Mame is one of my favorite movies. But only the Rosalind Russell version. Didn’t care for the Angela Lansbury/Lucille Ball versions as much.

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        • Is Mame being revived on Broadway? If so, I guarantee you that Milton and I will be all over that. I’ve never watched the film — any version — in its entirety. I have difficulty watching films on TV overall. I need to see them in a theater.

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  15. do be do be doooo….thanks for a great article Martini Max……

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  16. BTW Mr. Max…..are you a Fort Lee native? I am….;)

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  17. Nice to see you V. You were missed. xo

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  18. Queen of Pentacles

    Missed you *SO* much! Didn’t realise how addictive you are!

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  19. Glad to you’re back! Miss you! Missed my L.A. fix.

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  20. Fort Lee native from wayback Kathleen – Coytesville USA!

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  21. I think the most stiking thing about this post is the casual reference to your hike with Martini Max. You don’t “hike!”

    How great to have a post from you, my dear! I needed my LA fix.

    Hugs,
    Kathy

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  22. Welcome back!!! And you’re back with a beauty of a post, too. I come from a long line of Sinatra fans–my mother’s family, being Sicilian, thought Sinatra was god. And my aunt had a wild crush on him–she was one of his bobbysoxers back in the day. I don’t know how Sinatra could have been happy with any woman after Ava—she was HOT. And COOL. I love his style and his music, but I think he was probably a colossal ass as a person.

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    • Aw, thanks Weebs! My family seemed to have mixed feelings about Frank. They liked his voice, but not much else. As for Ava, she was seriously VA VA VOOM. How do you follow that? Short answer: you can’t so you don’t.

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  23. Love Sinatra, Love the new LA

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  24. While I was growing up every Saturday morning, after assigning housecleaning chores to us kids, Queen Mother blasted Frank or Barbara, sometimes show tunes. I preferred Frank.

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  25. Sorry to be so late to the party—we finally got moved into our new digs (as in digging out from under all the boxes) and I’m back on the interwebs. Glad to see you posting again! As for Frank, I think one of the secrets to his success was his phrasing. Nobody did it as well as he did. (By the way, one of my favorite songs from “Guys and Dolls” was Stubby Kaye’s “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.”)

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  26. Soooooo good to have you back, Lame. And a Riviera which disappeared and became overgrown – it is amazing to me that the coming of a road could decimate such an iconic place.

    Great you both tracked it down.

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    • Kate, Max has a nose for these kinds of obscure sites. In a past life I’m certain that he was a pointer dog. Thanks for stopping by buddy! I’m back but at a slower pace since I’m still working on my Manhattan Project that I anticipate will spill into the first few months of 2013.

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  27. If these pics were shot with your pocket point and shoot, then you didn’t do that bad yourself. I appreciate pics showing me what your neck of the woods is like. Next time I ever go near the Big Apple, I’ll know what to see: fallen trees and Sinatra spots. BTW, we have a kid (not mine, but he’s originally from our Cowtown) he’s playing with the NY Philharmonic this weekend, only 17. No kidding. My son used to attend the same music conservatory for kids as he years ago. That’s my sixth degree of separation with fame.

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    • Young Jan is quite the prodigy! Thanks for sharing the link. The musical talent fairy did not bestow me with an iota of musical talent ability, unless listening with hard of hearing ears can count. Yes, I did shoot those pictures in the Palisades with my pocket point and shoot Canon. Glad you enjoyed the visuals on my post Arti.

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  28. Glad to see you back, Lame. Even in the backwoods of Arkansas we enjoy a romp through the wilderness of New Jersey to view the remnants of once flourishing nightlife. I’ve been working on my Mayan Calendar bucket list, but I’m such a procratinator I may not have it finished by Friday. Maybe I’ll just listen to Frank sing “My Way” and call it good.

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  29. Absolutely. I did get the list finished and posted on my blog. It’s at
    http://russellgayer.wordpress.com/

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  30. Bill Miller’s Riviera was the place where I saw not Frank, but Eddie Fisher. Stop booing. He was adorable before he became a self-loving jerk who was a legend in his own mind.

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  31. Merry Christmas Lame in California … here’s the promised link. 🙂
    http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/on-gifts-2012/

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  32. Your hike into the wilds of Ft. Lee is a pretty cool adventure. I love it when people explore the “undiscovered normal.” I don’t do that enough.

    Although it does say something about the NY Area (I’m not sure what, exactly) that your woods have stairs leading to them. In most places the woods start and you just walk in. Still, it’s good you got to do it the right way before they put the escalator in.

    Regarding your delightfully-named ex, Rockets Redglare–I would think that her sobriquet would limit her profession to either stripper, professional wrestler or super-hero (I hope it was the latter, because that would be SO COOL!).

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  33. I hope you have a very Happy Christmas out there in Calif., V., with your family and Thurber. May all good things come to you in the New Year.

    It snowed here for a few minutes today; now we’re having a wintry mix. (Sounds like a salad, doesn’t it? “I’ll have the wintry mix with the romoulade dressing.”)

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