New York Today: Sinatra?s Stomping Ground

By Jonathan Wolfe 7-9 minutes
New York Today
Eliot Weisman, Frank Sinatra?s former manager, at Patsy?s Italian restaurant in Manhattan on Friday.
Credit…Rick Loomis for The New York Times

Good morning on this mostly cloudy Monday. It has been 20 years to the day since New York lost its adopted son, Frank Sinatra. The Voice was born in Hoboken, N.J., but he found his rhythm in our city. And we can still trace his operatic highs and lows ? professional or otherwise ? across dimly lit bar tops, white linen restaurant tables and opulent hotel rooms throughout the city. Arguably his favorite restaurant in the city was Patsy?s Italian Restaurant on 56th Street, where staff once opened on Thanksgiving Day just to cheer up a young, down-on-his luck Sinatra. At the restaurant?s bar, under a smiling statue of Old Blue Eyes, we recently met Eliot Weisman, Sinatra?s former manager, who told us about the side of the singer that few witnessed up close. ?Everyone saw him as a tough guy, but most of the time he was really quiet and even-keeled,? said Mr. Weisman, the author of ?The Way it Was: My Life With Frank Sinatra? and who has also represented stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli. ?He was the easiest guy to work with ? if you got it right.? ?And no one was bigger than Sinatra,? he added. Thanks to New York. Sinatra became the first modern pop star, in part, because of his early appearances in the 1940s at the Paramount Theater on 43rd Street (now a Hard Rock Cafe), which drew hundreds of teenage ?bobby soxers,? who would flout the 9 p.m. curfew established by the city and who started riots when they couldn?t hear him sing. The fever he incited in his fans was a precursor to the fandom that would later surround Elvis and the Beatles. Mr. Weisman, who began managing Sinatra in the mid-80s, said he was a ?true professional? who ?set the tempo? with those who worked for him. But even while he sold out concert halls across the globe, there was still one place that could make him nervous. ?Carnegie Hall, that?s the only place I ever felt him get the jitters,? Mr. Weisman said. ?He would say, ?Do you know the history of this place? All the greats who played here??? ?Backstage you?d notice strange movements and an impatience in him,? Mr. Weisman added, ?until he got out there and got through eight bars, then he?d get into it.? Sinatra, who had apartments at the Hampshire House on Central Park South and the Waldorf Astoria, eventually moved to Palm Springs, Calif., where he gave his final concert in 1995. ?He got older and his voice aged, but it didn?t take anything away from him,? Mr. Weisman said. ?Toward the end, even if he blew a lyric, people didn?t care. They just loved being in his presence.?