Thursday, March 3, 2011


I was sitting at my desk one day in September of eighty two reading the paper while I ate a sandwich when an advertisement caught my eye.  It took a fourth of the page and I could not pull my eyes away from it.  It was a picture of Frank Sinatra, The Voice and The Chairman of the Board, dressed in a perfectly fitting tuxedo standing in a spotlight with a microphone in one hand and a cigarette in the other as he was singing.  Sinatra was making an extremely rare tour of the States bringing his magic to the people instead of the people going to Las Vegas to see him.  In truth I swear my heart skipped a beat.  I wanted to see The Chairman and hear The Voice.

I began reading the advertisement.  He would be in Kansas City for one show at the Municipal Auditorium.  The Auditorium was downtown and was built as part of Roosevelt's WPA program.  It was one of many concrete buildings downtown that included the Music Hall, The County Courthouse and City Hall.  I had been there to see a lot of college basketball and a few concerts.  The acoustics in the Auditorium were not very good but the Music Hall next door would not meet the demand that Sinatra would bring.

The date that Sinatra was going to be in town was even better.  He would be there on October twelfth, the day before my birthday.  If ever I wanted to get myself a birthday present this was it.  Sinatra for my birthday.  It was perfect.  The timing was perfect.  Then I saw the price of a ticket.  It was not so perfect.  They were asking twenty dollars with a five dollar surcharge for each ticket.  Twenty five dollars to hear the most perfect voice in the world.  If I were to take my wife with me it would be fifty dollars for a single night.  I could not justify to myself spending that much money on one night.  The month before I had paid fifteen dollars to see a pro golf tournament plus travel expenses to cover hotel and gas down to Tulsa and back.  My heart sank as I came to the logical conclusion that I would miss out on this chance of a lifetime.

I went home that night and told Barb about Sinatra coming to town.  She didn't seem as excited as I was but after she thought for a second or two she firmly stated that we should go see the man.  This was when I began a week long argument with myself over whether to spend all that money on probably two hours of entertainment.  Logically I knew we needed the money and shouldn't go spending it at things like this.  Emotionally I wanted to go and I could justify it with as many reasons as I could not justify it with.  How often would a chance like this come along.  If I were to see Sinatra after this tour I would have to go to Vegas and then pay big money for tickets anyway.  This was a chance in a lifetime.  It was an expensive chance of a lifetime.

I cut the advertisement out of the paper and taped it to my office wall.  Everyday I would go to work and spend the entire time running the arguments both pro and con inside my head.  Each night I would go home and sometime during the evening mention to Barb how it was too bad it cost so much to see Sinatra because I would go if it were less expensive.  Barb never let me down.  She kept saying exactly what I wanted her to say and what I wanted to hear.  We should go.  It's Sinatra after all.  Let's go.  I would go to bed thinking that she was right and then the next day at work look at the price of the tickets hung on my office wall and start to argue with myself once again.

Barb finally got tired of the back and forth and insisted that we go for my birthday.  These tickets would be my birthday present from her.  So I headed out to buy my birthday present.  Two tickets to see Frank Sinatra in Kansas City on October twelfth.  I drove down to the box office and walked up to the window with a wad of cash in my hand.  Most of the good seats were already purchased by this time but that was okay.  I got two tickets about halfway up the third balcony at the Auditorium.  I had never sat this high there.  When I would get basketball tickets I would either be on the floor or the first balcony at most.  That was okay though.  The lady handed me my two golden tickets and I headed out to my car.

I sat there for while just looking at the tickets.  "An Evening with FRANK SINATRA" was printed in huge letters across the face of it.  Then under that was a smaller "October 12, 1982" and then the one thing I did not want to see as it listed how much this little piece of cardboard was worth "$20.00".   I had one more pain in my stomach as I looked at the price but the deed was done.  No returning the tickets now.  Barb and I were going to see Old Blue Eyes sing his heart out for us.

The night of the concert took forever to arrive.  When it did I was so excited.  Barb and I decided that going to see Sinatra required a nicer level of dress than if we were going to a typical rock concert so I wore a sports jacket with slacks and Barb dress herself up and off we went heading downtown.

When we walked into the Auditorium I noticed something I wasn't use to seeing.  There were a lot of older people attending the concert.  It made sense though.  Sinatra had been around for decades.  He crossed generations with his voice and his musical interpretations.  He had recorded Beatle's tunes as well as Hogey Carmicheal and Johnny Mercer songs.  The man could sing anything and make it sound like gold.

As we found our seats way up high and started to settle down I started to soak in the feel of the crowd.  It was an exciting feel about it.  Everyone had come to see this one man.  Soon we heard some instruments beginning  to tune up and so I started taking in the whole of the scene.  In the middle of the floor was a raised square platform clothed in orange carpet.  There was one stool and a microphone stand in the middle of the square.  On the floor next to the square was a small big band that would be providing the music.

Suddenly the lights went dark and the hum of people talking went silent.  Then the spotlight came on and there he was standing in the middle of the square holding the microphone and he began to sing.

How does a person describe what it was like to hear Sinatra live.  His diction on the words he sang were perfect.  The pitch was perfect.  The voice had that deep rich sound that made the sound so pleasing to the ears.  He swayed as he sang.  He put everything he had into each and every song.  He would tell a story before a lot of songs explaining what it was about.  He would belt out swinging songs and would pour his heart out on songs of pain.  At one point some women threw their bras up on the stage. Later when I wasn't concentrating so hard on soaking in Sinatra I wondered how old these ladies were that were throwing their under garments up on the stage.  This is not a pretty thought when you stop to really think about it.

Frank Sinatra eventually ended the concert.  It was a solid two hours of the most perfect voice in the world.  I can't remember all the songs he sang that night but I remember the feel of the night.  I remember how that voice would draw you into each song almost magically.  It was the best birthday present I had received for a long time and would be for a long time to come.

That night has become one of the big highlights of my life.  Nineteen Eighty Two was now a complete year as far as I was concerned.  Little did Barb or I know that this magical year had yet one more surprise to spring on us.

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