“I wanna tell you boy, we had some time over there [in Australia]. I thought we had nickel and dime garbage dealers and columnists in this country: they’re worse over there than they are here. They’re murder. They make Rona Barrett look like a nun. They’re all alike: they’re parasites, all the garbage dealers with the columnists. They’re nothing.”
— Frank Sinatra at Madison Square Garden, NYC, in Oct. 12, 1974.
Did you get the point there? Man, you know Frank Sinatra had a lifetime war with the media, or as it was simply known for the early part of his 60-year-career, the press. As gracious a man that Sinatra could be — especially to the composers, arrangers and fellow-artists who both fueled and benefited from his career — he had little time for most reporters and would sometimes rage over news stories between songs. Many of his fiery, ad-hoc monologues are preserved in the live recordings of his concerts where he performed before adoring fans who could never get enough of both the man’s superb musicality and his blunt assessment of the world around him. Sinatra was perfectly honest as both a singer and a human being, always saying exactly what was on his mind and precisely what he wanted to. This particular rant, featured above, which pops up just before he does a tender and poignant interpretation of the jazz standard Autumn in New York, is from a marvelous night in New York City that was part of his “comeback” show after a two-month “retirement.”
I can’t help thinking of Sinatra whenever President Donald Trump takes up the fight with the foe of the U.S. media, the members of which he clearly enjoys insulting, baiting, challenging, demeaning, questioning and demanding accuracy from. I think that’s what first impressed me about Trump during the Republican campaign: I couldn’t remember a politician running for major office daring to face-down the press and not once, or twice but regularly. I had to admit that I found it refreshing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked in, around and sometimes — when working in government — against the media for the last 25 years or so. Nobody will tell you with more insistence and with greater sincerity that a free press is an integral and essential part of our democratic society but having hung around with reporters for the most of my professional life, I can tell you that the mainstream media has developed an arrogance and a self-assurance about its own righteousness and correctness that has become positively pompous and ill-founded. There were so many instances of this in the last presidential campaign, where journalists appointed themselves not as the reporters of events but as interpreters of the truth, that it just seemed to confirm Trump’s visceral distrust and contempt for so many of the “garbage collectors” that Sinatra dissed.
Do you remember that classic CNN moment when host Chris Cuomo instructed his very naive, stupid or very patient audience that it was illegal for them to read the WikiLeaks of John Podesta’s emails and that they should let qualified talking heads like Cuomo do this dirty work and not to try this at home? Cuomo didn’t intend to, but he exquisitely encapsulated everything so many Americans despise about the supercilious news media and its annoying habit of always telling you that you aren’t quite smart enough, sufficiently hip, or aptly-connected to figure this out for yourself.
I’m enjoying the Sean Spicer news conferences and his abject refusal to recognize the Washington order of things and pay adequate respect and worship to the liberal media who have come not to praise Trump but to bury him. He’s giving internet news a chance too and he’s not so much bestowing credibility upon us as he is recognizing that credibility and authenticity.
It’s the same authenticity that Trump exhibits when he strays from the script, drops the talking points and tells us what’s really on his mind.
When he does that, my mind returns to Chairman of the Board Sinatra — another guy who never pretended to be anything that he wasn’t — grabbing his glass of Jack Daniels, jabbing his finger at the audience and telling us about the “two dollar whores” who wrote lies in the newspapers. Then he’d roll right into My Way and deliver those lines with the same spirited integrity.
At the close of the evening he’d wish the audience “bona salut,” or as Sinatra translated it, “good luck and happy days and all of that other jazz.”
Yeah, I’m with ya Frank.
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