Frank Sinatra Has A Cold

Gay Talese Sinatra Esquire 1Long ago, I found two copies of the April, 1966 issue of Esquire with Gay Talese’s cover story, “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold.” I tore the cover off one, had it framed and it hangs on a wall of my office, for inspiration [see image]. The article is, of course, the now-legendary profile of Sinatra at the height of his celebrity, approaching 50 and feeling poorly with a common head cold. He refused to be interviewed, so Talese arranged to be in a few public places where he could observe Sinatra from a discreet distance and talked to everyone he could within the singer’s orbit — friends, associates, colleagues, family members, the many hangers-on surrounding him. (Even the lady he employed to look after his toupees.) Today it’s seen as a pioneering work of literary journalism — methodically reported yet filled with richly dramatic scenes that read like fiction. Here’s a taste:

“The two blondes, who seemed to be in their middle thirties, were preened and polished, their matured bodies softly molded within tight dark suits. They sat, legs crossed, perched on the high bar stools. They listened to the music. Then one of them pulled out a Kent and Sinatra quickly placed his gold lighter under it and she held his hand, looked at his fingers: they were nubby and raw, and the pinkies protruded, being so stiff from arthritis that he could barely bend them. He was, as usual, immaculately dressed. He wore an oxford-grey suit with a vest, a suit conservatively cut on the outside but trimmed with flamboyant silk within; his shoes, British, seemed to be shined even on the bottom of the soles. He also wore, as everybody seemed to know, a remarkably convincing black hairpiece, one of sixty that he owns, most of them under the care of an inconspicuous little grey-haired lady who, holding his hair in a tiny satchel, follows him around whenever he performs. She earns $400 a week. The most distinguishing thing about Sinatra’s face are his eyes, clear blue and alert, eyes that within seconds can go cold with anger, or glow with affection, or, as now, reflect a vague detachment that keeps his friends silent and distant.”