Mar 30, 2017

The Gay World of Frank Sinatra

The first teen idol, Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) had bobby-soxers and gay greasers swooning  with syrupy-voiced romantic ballads like "Night and Day" (1942), "Begin the Beguine" (1946), and "I've Got a Crush on You" (1948).  

Like all teen idols, his fan base aged with him, so by the late 1950s, his songs had become "old favorites," the songs middle-aged couples danced to while they reminisced about when they first met: "My Blue Heaven" (1961), "I Love Paris" (1962), "It Was a Very Good Year" (1965)

By that time, he was making a splash in Hollywood, as the romantic lead in buddy musicals like Anchors Aweigh (1945), On the Town (1949), and Guys and Dolls (1955), in serious dramas like From Here to Eternity (1953), The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), and Von Ryan's Express (1965).

By the 1960s, he had re-invented himself as a fast-talking middle-aged sharpie who loved the fast life and had connections with disreputable types.  He played parodies of himself in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), Tony Rome (1967), and The Detective (1968), which apparently contains some savage homophobia, even by 1960s standards.

He was also in Las Vegas, singing, boozing, and clowning around with the fabled Rat Pack: Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop.

He continued to perform though the 1980s, although more and more often as a relic of the past, an American institution whose work was revered rather than enjoyed.  His last studio album, released in 1994, included "Come Fly with Me," "The Best is Yet to Come," "Embraceable You," and "My Funny Valentine."  One imagines that the elderly couples who first danced to his songs as teenagers fifty years before were sitting on rocking chairs, reminiscing.

The gay connection: Frank was quite homophobic in real life, but he had strong emotional ties with the mostly-bisexual Rat Pack, he starred in many gay-subtext movies, like On the Town, and his daughter Nancy Sinatra is a gay ally.  She tweets: "Tell me if you are homophobic and I will unfollow you.  Don't like bigots."

See also: The Gay Rat Pack; On the Town

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