Saturday, December 12, 9 p.m.
"Will you be dining with us tonight?” the hostess inquires from her podium, but I am already sweeping past her to the one empty seat available at Encore’s Sinatra restaurant bar. “No, thank you, just a cocktail.” I only have an hour to spend alone with the Chairman of the Board, so I need to make it good.
The cocktail menu arrives. Hmmm, WWFD? What would Frank drink? Ah, yes, Jack Daniel’s—good ol’ “Gasoline.” I see that Jack Daniel’s “Frank’s Way” is on the menu, but it’s been Encore-ized with Gentleman Jack, a generous slug of it, served on the rocks with a tiny glass bottle of Classic Coke. Gentleman Jack wasn’t even around until 1988, and Sinatra passed away in 1998, but I’m doubtful that Frank would ever abandon his trusty sidekick Jack for this newer model, however smooth and delicious it is. I believe he was even buried with a little bottle of Old No. 7. One for the road, I suppose.
“I’ll have the Sinatra Smash,” I tell the bartender. “It just seems, appropriate tonight ...” I trail off with a wink, hoping to strike up a little convo, hear some Sinatra trivia or listen to wild tales of Vegas in the time of Sinatra, who is prominently featured in the front of the menu alongside a very raven-haired Steve Wynn. The bartender smiles and starts muddling my blackberries, but doesn’t get my meaning.
I sigh into my cocktail but savor it nonetheless. Far from lacking things to celebrate this time of year—Hanukkah, Repeal Day, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, the winter solstice—I humbly wish to further crowd the calendar with a holiday all-too-often overlooked: Frank Sinatra’s birthday. The Chairman of the Board is gone, but he never really left Vegas.
“What’s that you’re drinking?” my neighbor inquires. So I try again: “It’s a Sinatra Smash. I wanted to come here and have a Jack Daniel’s cocktail...”
At this point, he is no longer listening.
“… it being Frank Sinatra’s birthday and all …”
Life stops for an imperceptible moment of “Huh?” and then speeds back up to find the group to my left quickly ordering another round from the bartender, this time all Jack Daniel’s-based cocktails. The group to my right takes a sudden and reverent interest in the flat-screen TV behind the bar, which is currently showing the 1958 classic Some Came Running.
Thanks to eHow.com, I’m armed with a handy five-step guide, "How to Celebrate Frank Sinatra's Birthday." Strangely, the guide never mentions actually listening to Sinatra’s music. While eHow has it that Step 2 should be lighting up a fat cigar, I take a pass. Rather than rent old Sinatra flicks as the site further suggests, I will celebrate the Sin City way and head off to a Vegas showroom to hear a modern-day crooner tip his hat to Frank his way.
The tout Las Vegas, that is, the upper crusts of various circles, have packed into the Palms’ tiny Gossy Room. There are suits aplenty, cuff links and cocked hats, ladies in rhinestones, taillure, plunging this and mini- that … “Back in the day,” singer Matt Goss says, slightly out of breath from his last song, “people used to actually get dressed up to go out. You people look amazing!” He himself looks rather amazing—and trimmer than when he first debuted—in a pink satin-lined black suit with a bowtie, pocket square and hat.
His tribute to Frank takes us from “You Make Me Feel So Young,” to “Luck Be a Lady,” to “I’ve Got the World on a String,” and Goss’ voice is perfect for covering Sinatra honorably without outright imitating. Getting into it, I seriously consider curling up in the lap of the gent next to me—a dead-ringer for George Clooney—and purring, but he has no smiles tonight, except for his glass of something and the busty blond between us.
“Stay,” they say after the show, “stay as we retape the Sinatra set for broadcast!” The band plays “Auld Lang Syne” for the cameras, which are taping this for Fox News’ New Year’s Eve coverage, but I’m a confirmed MSNBC gal, so I make for the door.
And anyway, I have another holiday party to attend, one where it’s de rigueur to get blasted and make bad decisions. I am three-for-three on the former from the last three years of this party, but only two-for-three on the latter. Tonight I’ll have to try to even the score and make Frankie proud.