Sinatra: an American Icon

AWNY Member Jacinta Stewart writes about her experience of the Frank Sinatra exhibition in New York City.

Did you know Old Blue Eyes would have turned 100 years old last December? To celebrate his birthday, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, along with the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has curated Sinatra: An American Icon.

I had walked past the library’s promotional sign countless times – all the while thinking that I really ought to go and see it – and I presumed it would be a simple black and white photo history of Sinatra’s life by renowned photographer Herman Leonard, with perhaps a few mementos thrown in. During the long weekend, and with a bit of spontaneity and my best friend as company, I finally got around to visiting it. And what a surprise it was. I was absolutely blown away.

Presented in association with Jazz at the Lincoln Center, the exhibition examines 100 years of Sinatra’s legacy. It includes never-before-seen photos, family mementos, rare correspondence, personal items, artwork, and interactive listening stations. We got to peek inside his wardrobe, enclosed in a glass cabinet, and we hopped on a subway platform to experience his 1960’s commute to Hoboken complete with moving subway windows and simulated track vibrations beneath our feet. We experienced what it was like to be an audio engineer at a Frank Sinatra recording session, mixing and fading the sounds on the original track ‘Teach me Tonight.’

We recorded ourselves singing a duet of ‘New York New York’ with Frank inside the exhibition’s recording booth and we chose our favorite Frank songs from a jukebox placed in the middle of a recreated 1940’s living room. We watched the trailers to every movie he starred in and browsed the excellent Sinatra themed gift store. A highlight was watching a knock out duet with Ella Fitzgerald, recorded live on TV, with the very dress Ella wore for the recording displayed in the cabinet alongside.

Most people won’t know that Sinatra was a painter. Although he never sold a painting (he gave most away to family, friends and occasionally to fans), painting was an escape from the constant media attention that his singing and performing career generated. The exhibition includes a recreation of Sinatra’s art studio complete with the supplies from the real thing, and a recording of Amanda Erlinger (Nancy Sinatra’s daughter) sharing her experiences of when her grandfather taught her to paint.

Enjoy this is a fabulous free exhibit, and start spreading the word…

Event Essentials

What: Sinatra: An American Icon

Where: New York Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. 40 Lincoln Plaza, New York City

When: Mon-Sat from 12.00 midday. Exhibition runs until September 4th

Cost: Free

AWNY member tips: Allow at least an hour to take full advantage of this interactive exhibit. Pick up the free exhibit program and check out the ‘Sinatra Walking Tour’ of Hoboken and Manhattan. The map lists favorite hang outs (he preferred little-known Irish pubs over fancy restaurants), his family homes, and the venues where he performed.

Photo credit: Jacinta Stewart