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It Happened In Hoboken—Frank Sinatra

I am one ot those people who attracts little troubles. My life is full of petty tragedy. I leave umbrellas in busses, my plants all die, and every time I have a party, my neighbors call the cops.

The only difference between me and others similarly afflicted is that I never learn. I keep expecting everything to turn out great.

If my boss comes in and says, “What are you doing tomorrow night?” I am always sure he is going to give me two tickets to Oklahoma, and I am always wrong.

A few weeks ago, this very thing happened. He asked, and I smiled cheerfully, and said I was doing nothing.

“Well,” he said, “there’s a ‘March of Progress’ over in Hoboken. Been going on for a month. Frank Sinatra’s going to show up tomorrow night, and bring the whole thing to a glorious close. They’ll have a parade, and floats, and Frankie will sing. We thought we’d send you and Bert Parry to cover it.”

Bert Parry is a photographer, and his good fortune is exceeded only by my own. When we sent him to England on the Queen Mary, so that he could get pictures of Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor promptly became ill. It is a standing joke in our office that we could never send Bert Parry on an assignment in an airplane. It wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the passengers.

And now we two were to go to Hoboken, and try our luck. I went first, and got passes from the Mayor’s secretary. Supposedly, these would see us safely through all the police lines.

When I called Bert up in New York to tell him I had them, he said that was nice, but that a fire had just broken out in the Hudson Tubes, and he didn’t know if he could get over.

“Naturally,” I said bitterly, and settled down to wait outside a nice, shiny cigar store.

Bert showed, for a wonder, laden down with flash bulbs, a raincoat, and a look of woe, and at eight o’clock, the appointed hour, we made our way back to City Hall. It was beginning to rain, but the steps were swarming with people waiting for Frankie to come out, curiously oblivious to the fact that they were getting soaked.

We shoved our way in, and upstairs, to the Mayor’s office. There seemed to be hundreds of people there, and most of them were taking pictures. Frank posed with his father, Fire Captain Martin Sinatra, who was in a blue uniform and cap, and the resemblance between the two men was unmistakable. Captain Sinatra’s face is rounder and fuller, and he only comes up to Frankie’s shoulder, but the blue eyes are the same, and their smiles are alike as two peas in the proverbial pod.

Mrs. Natalie Sinatra, Frank’s mother, wearing a black dress, a white fur coat, and a small black satin hat, smiled, as people passed, and waved, or called to her. “I feel sorry for myself tonight,” she murmured, at one point, but her face stayed smooth and cheerful, and you could see she was happy.

She talked about Frank a little; said he was East quite often, and always dropped in for “mother and son visits, in the house he gave us—”

Frank came over to her. “Pop and I are going out to ride the fire truck now. You go in one of the closed cars, so you don’t get wet.”

(Originally, cancellation of the parade had been broadcast, and now the other floats had to be quickly reassembled, when the word got around that Frankie was going to ignore the rain.)

a fair exchange . . .

Surrounded by police, Frank walked out to the steps, and took a huge dummy key from the Mayor. The onlookers screamed, and he grinned, and swallowed. “In return for the key to Hoboken—I can only give Hoboken the key to my heart.”

They screamed again, louder, and on the lower steps, the photographers knelt, shooting, as Frank started down the flight of steps.

There was a surge toward him, and the policeman grabbed at him, but he freed himself. “It’s okay, fellows. Don’t hold my arms.” He walked easily through the mob with his father, and they hopped onto the truck.

Photographers were permitted on the truck, too, and we all raced for it.

Up in front, Frank and his father waved, and grinned, and called out greetings to people they recognized. “Hi, Gus,” Frankie’d yell. “How-ya doing?”

By then the truck was rolling, and the answers came back disjointedly through the noise and the rain, and the cameramen hung on the running boards, getting pictures and colds indiscriminately, and wondering if there weren’t better ways to make a living.

A few soggy floats rode ahead, and behind the truck, the cordon of police kept hundreds of children from getting too close.

People filled the windows on both sides of the street, and in the apartments where the lights were out, the figures had a strange look, like wax dummies in a clothing store.

It had really begun to pour, when the truck stopped. Frank seemed to have disappeared, but the photographers sloshed on over to Veterans’ Field, where the ceremonies were supposed to be held.

Frankie wasn’t there. A detective told us that. “He’s back at City Hall,” he said. “I’ll drive you over.”

I collected Bert, and the detective drove us .back to City Hall, explaining. along the way how sympathetic he felt toward newspaper people. “Used to fancy that line of work myself,” he said.

His name was Joseph Marotta, and as it happened, he was an old pal of Frankie’s, and lived with the Sinatras.

landlady sinatra . . .

He called Frankie’s mother “my landlady,” jovially, and he seemed really upset about how badly disorganized the evening had been. There were people waiting for Frank at the Field, there were people waiting at one of the schools, but somehow the whole system had broken down, and Frank, as bewildered as the rest of us, had been taken back to City Hall, as soon as the fire truck had stopped.

Delivered to the City Hall by Special Officer Marotta, we raced up to the Mayor’s office one more time.

There were a few more pictures of Frankie, some with his mother and father, some with a boy named Eugene MacMasters, a paraplegic, and then Frankie had to go. He was:apologetic, but he had to get back to New York because he was appearing in a benefit for Bellevue Hospital at Madison Square Garden, at eleven o’clock, and it was already after ten.

He kissed his mother and father, and went out, looking tired, but still smiling. The room emptied slowly after that, and a few people walked around, talking quietly about what a guy Frankie was, and that was it.

A couple of days later, there were pictures in the New York papers of Frankie at the Metropolitan Opera, hob-nobbing with all the blue-bloods, and looking very much at home. But if you were one of the fans who’d watched him get his head soaked and his feet wet, and his heart warmed on a certain night in Hoboken, you knew there was a difference. The blue-bloods, he may like; those Hoboken crowds, he loved.





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