7 fascinating facts about Frank Sinatra on television
Ol' Blue Eyes sang on the small screen throughout his career, but did you know he was also a vigilante ex-cop and favorite of Laverne & Shirley?
December 12 marks what would have been Ol' Blue Eyes' 102nd birthday. A titan of the 20th century, Sinatra had great influence on pop music, the record industry, cinema, civil rights, politics, fashion, celebrity and beyond.
As the world is rightfully swept up in a celebration of the man, there is so much to be said — too much to fit in one article. So we are going to focus on his relationship with television.
Like most music stars, Sinatra got early exposure on TV as a performer on talk, musical and variety shows. In the early 1950s, in the infancy of the medium, he sang on gigs like The Saturday Night Review with Jack Carter, The Jack Benny Program, Cavalcade of Bands, The Faye Emerson Show. Of course, in 1950, merely four years after his debut album, Sinatra was already an idol in his own right and landed a role hosting his own series, The Frank Sinatra Show. We begin there in our abbreviated tour of Sinatra on the small screen.
1. He performed a skit with The Three Stooges on 'The Frank Sinatra Show.'
Also known as Bulova Watch Time, his first series served up one New Year's episode riddled with legends. In a skit, Frank is throwing a party to ring in January 1 and hires the slapstick threesome as servants. Moe dances with the Chairman, and the Stooges proclaim themselves as the singing Fishmarket Trio: "We sing just for the halibut." Nyuk nyuk. Louis Armstrong also pops in for this episode, but sadly all five do not share the screen at once.
2. Elvis' first post-military performance was on a Frank Sinatra special
After his release from the US Army, Elvis returned to television in 1960 as the special guest on The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis. (Watchmakers really loved Sinatra.) It was a momentous detente, considering Sinatra had once written that rock & roll was "sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons." Perhaps it was here that the two realized just how much they have on common, both eventually becoming fixtures of Vegas. The King sang "Witchcraft," while Frank tackled "Love Me Tender."
3. The groundbreaking magazine profile "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" is centered around his 1965 TV special
Perhaps the most famous piece of magazine writing of the 20th century, Gay Talese's meticulous profile — in which he had no access to Sinatra — heralded a new form of journalism. The title was no joke, either. Talese was hovering around the sprawling Sinatra entourage as Frank put together his 1965 special A Man and His Music. If you watch that special closely, you can tell he has a cold, coughing and clearing his throat. He still knocks it out of the park, of course.
4. He appeared on an episode of 'Make Room for Grandaddy'
It should come as no surprise that Danny Thomas, who portrayed a New York nightclub performer on television, would have his character bump into Sinatra. Yet it would not happen on the classic Make Room for Daddy, rather the short-lived 1970 revival Make Room for Granddaddy. The crooner plays himself in "A Hamburger for Frank," and breaks into song on the sitcom. He sings "All the Way" and… "Baa Baa Black Sheep," as lullabies for the grandson.
5. "High Hopes" was the favorite song of Shirley Feeney
On Laverne & Shirley, Frank was nearly as beloved as Boo-Boo Kitty by Shirley. This song choice perfectly summed up the optimism of the character. The roommates even sang the song together in the second episode, "The Bachelor Party." It's a touching moment. Oh, and speaking of Frank and Elvis together, "Hound Dog" was also heard playing on the jukebox in this one.
6. His last role was a retired cop on 'Magnum, P.I.'
Making for one of the more fascinating moments in his later years, Sinatra would return to dramatic acting one final time for this Hawaiian cop series in 1987. In a role one would expect Liam Neeson to fill these days (or even Bruce Willis in a new Die Hard), the singer is a justice-seeking former police Sergeant hunting down the baddies who kidnapped his granddaughter. It's a reminder of how good he could be hard boiled.
7. Frank Sinatra, Jr. was on 'The Patty Duke Show,' 'The Love Boat' and 'Adam-12'
Jr. would have his fair share of guest spots, too, if not more. On The Patty Duke Show, he shows up in "Every Girl Should Be Married," when Patty fears her parents are arranging her marriage to a dinner guest. He was a popular singer named Preston Maddox on a third season voyage of The Love Boat. He would have the most screen time on Adam-12, however, appearing three times, as three different characters. Most enjoyable, perhaps, is "The Late Baby," as he shows up alongside younger sister Tina Sinatra and Gary Crosby, son of Bing!