Recent news is that teen idol Bieber’s in trouble again. This time his anti-authority rantings got him kicked out of an historic Mexican religious site. His frequent misbehavior reminds me of a similarly antsy young singer from my long-ago past.
I remember way back 75 years when young Frank Sinatra misbehaved and posed for his police arrest mugshot. Later, as a star, he was often in the news because he had punched someone or was accused of Mafia ties. It’s interesting that in each situation, the notoriety actually boosted their popularity with young fans.
Las Vegas and other cities recently celebrated the late great Sinatra’s 100th birthday with concerts and other promotions. Frank died in 1998, before most of today’s Bieber fans were born. Further, not many people under age 30 actually remember Sinatra at all. However, his music and image are still very popular today, especially in Las Vegas, where he’s still a revered entertainment icon.
Stroll the sidewalk in front of the Bellagio Resort fountains, day or night, and hear Frank’s recorded hit, “Luck Be A Lady”, from dozens of in-ground speakers. His voice also rings out in hotel lobbies, restaurants, swimming pools and dozens of other Las Vegas locations. The New York New York Resort on the Strip was named for a hit Sinatra song.
Frank’s enormous popularity with teenagers of his era started a few years later in his life than the huge pop following 16-year-old Justin attracted when he first appeared on the music scene. Young Frank was just a traveling band singer until the ripe old age of 23.
In 1942, there was no online social network for millions of young fans to Tweet and turn the boy singer into an instant superstar. However, a clever promotion that year made Sinatra a sudden teen sensation.
After singing with the then-popular Tommy Dorsey and Harry James bands, Sinatra hired a talent agency and went out on his own. Following a year of playing night clubs with moderate success, he was booked into New York’s Paramount, a major Broadway theater. In those days, entertainers performed live on stage between showings of major movies.
Sinatra was not yet well-known and ticket sales were lagging, and his agents had to find ways to boost attendance. One day, as they stood outside the Paramount, they noticed teenage girls demonstrating in front of the theater. It was a fan club from Sinatra’s home town of Hoboken, New Jersey. They waved photos of Frank, rubbed their faces against them and shouted loud exaggerations of love.
At that moment, Sinatra’s career was assured. His agents bought tickets and paid the girls and a dozen more to attend performances. They were instructed to sit close to the stage, and when Frank began to sing, they were to react dramatically.
With the first number, “All or Nothing at All”, the girls cried and shouted “Oh, Frankie!” Several pretended to faint. The agents had arranged for fake uniformed medical attendants to run down the aisles and carry the allegedly unconscious girls away on stretchers.
Tickets for ensuing performances sold out quickly, and Frank Sinatra’s name was all over the daily newspapers. The agents had arranged for news photographers to capture the most dramatic gestures, fainting and stretcher moments in the theater.
Thereafter, from that first memorable day, Sinatra’s agents didn’t need to hire fainting girls. The publicity attracted thousands more to the theater, and they were caught up in the feverish emotions.
Think of how much more popular Frankie would have been if there were social networks then. The media would have been inundated with millions of Bieberishly tweeting fans.