Good Life

OLLI COLUMN | The Rat Pack: Sinatra turns 100

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra — Frankie, Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Voice, the Chairman of the Board.

Sinatra was popular music’s No. 1 vocalist, over time surpassing Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, and all the rest. He appeared in movies, night clubs, concerts, on stage, radio, and television.

His recordings ran the gamut of 78s, LPs, 45s, tapes, CDs, and DVDs. He was in the penumbra of presidential politics and White House figures and affairs. He associated with everyone in show business and its correlative spheres, including shadowy figures from the gambling world, the Mafia and casinos.

One phenomenon which might not ordinarily come to mind when thinking about the Chairman of the Board is The Rat Pack.

Sinatra inspired this group, for which the world can be thankful (or not). They were a sensation on “the scene,” taking show business and the nation by storm. They were totally unexpected and erratic; never truly, fully recorded or filmed as such; a burst of energy and spontaneity and silliness and riveting entertainment; and always controversial for their style, material or shenanigans.

The Rat Pack’s venue was primarily the Las Vegas nightclub stage, where it sparkled brightly for a relatively short time and then faded, never to be matched or repeated since. The Pack’s slang, repartee, jokes, music, insouciance, schtick, and insider rebukes made for an over-riding style that the audience loved and couldn’t get enough of.

It was as if one was suddenly transported inside the box, listening and seeing these famous celebrity figures as they really were, witnessing how they really behaved, and experiencing the fun and laughter right alongside the admired icons.

This was a never-to-be-had-again occasion for anyone fortunate and privileged to be present.

I still get a thrill, perhaps something like the attendees did way back then in the 60s, when I hear and see them sing and perform on tapes, clips, and recordings.

That’s why I will be presenting “The Rat Pack and Their Music” — with an emphasis on the wonderful music — on July 13 and 20as one of the 2015 summer term classes for OLLI members. OLLI membership is open to all adults who love to learn. There are no grades or exams — just learning for the pure enjoyment.

To obtain a free summer catalog or to find out more about joining, call the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Penn State at 814-867-4278.

Bernard A. Kaplan has presented at numerous OLLIs in Pennsylvania, at Road Scholar programs, and for Senior Centers and Community groups on the subjects of Popular Music of the Golden Age, the Big Band Era, the Great American Songbook, and on famous performers, composers and show business celebrities.