I saw Sinatra last night, at The Purple Room
October 30, 2019
It’s 1971. The curtain is about to go up at the Purple Room, Palm Springs.
And at 2am, Frank Sinatra comes onto the stage for a final appearance, with an orchestra and his best friend, Jack (a bottle of Jack Daniels).
‘You only play this room twice in your career: once on the way up….’
He’s reached the end of the road; he loathes Rock ‘n’ Roll, he hates the press, he even hates some his own songs:
‘You all know Somethin’ Stupid, yeah? Well if you’re thinking of singing it on your way home, I’ve got some advice for you’
‘Doobie Doobie, Don’t’
There have been triumphs along the way: a leading actor Oscar for ‘From Here to Eternity’; his concept records for Capitol; then little moments of revenge, like leaving Capitol to found his own record label….
‘Reprise records; that’s pronounced Reprise, like Reprisal’.
And there have been good times too: nights with the Rat Pack, nights with his many lovers, and his obsessive love for Ava Gardner.
After a short break, he reopens the set with Come Fly with Me.
He gives us his views on Civil Rights, how he hated that Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr could play to white audiences but couldn’t walk through the same entrance as white artists.
He’s a Democrat who was going to support JFK for election to the presidency, but ‘Bobby pulled the rug on that, because of my supposed influence with The Mob’.
Then he takes requests:
‘My Way!’…. ‘I don’t think I remember the words to that one’.
‘New York, New York!’…. ‘Good idea; I don’t think I recorded it yet. Maybe if I ever come back from retirement’.
He pays tribute to his orchestra (of one), and the pianist stands to take a bow.
‘I sang a lot of saloon songs over the years, and before I bow out, I would like to perform a saloon song’.
Francis Albert Sinatra gives us One for my baby and leaves the stage, for the last time, to a standing ovation.
Of course there’s an encore: ‘New York, New York’ followed by ‘My Way.’
Returning to the stage, actor and singer Richard Shelton addresses the audience; ‘I wasn’t born in Hoboken, New Jersey, I was born in Wolverhampton, and this is how I usually speak. I first played Frank in Rat Pack Confidential in 2015, then I was asked to write this show to take to the Edinburgh Festival’.
Shelton inhabits Sinatra’s persona, capturing the voice, gestures, and most importantly the complex spirit of the man.
Sinatra: Raw has been touring the UK and finishes its run on November 3rd, at Wilton’s Music Hall. There are plans to develop the production.
Wilton’s Music Hall
Wilton’s is the oldest surviving significant Music Hall in the world. Built in 1859, it closed in 1881; it became a rag warehouse for a while in the 20th century, then fell into disuse and deteriorated towards dereliction.
It was due to be demolished, but a campaign and subsequent funding have allowed it to be repaired and conserved to its present condition. Some of the decorative features are faded but remain, the most distinctive being the barley-sugar pillars that support the gallery.
The building has been a location for many film and TV productions, Richard Attenborough’s ‘Chaplin’, and ‘Sherlock Holmes, Game of Shadows’ among them, as well as music videos, including Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’. (The band’s name derived from a poster of Sinatra, and a headline in ‘The New Yorker’)
This atmospheric space re-opened to audiences for a performance in 1997, Fiona Shaw in ‘The Wasteland’, and has been a thriving cultural centre since 2011.
Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London E1 8JB