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Frank Sinatra and His Leadership
In the spoof film This Is Spinal Tap, a limo driver tries to engage the rock band with a joke about Sammy Davis Jr.'s biography being called Yes I Can!; he thinks it should have been called Yes I Can If Frank Sinatra Says It's Okay. This piece of satire points towards the truth.
The portrayal of Sinatra as the man who called the shots is pervasive. And it wasn't just because he owned the record company, or the film production who set the tone and started the action. This was clear when Norman Fell looked out of his hotel room window during the shootings of Ocean's 11 and saw Davis, Martin and Lawford all running somewhere fast. When asked where they were going, Sammy shouted: "Frank's up!". In the company he kept, once he was awake, the day began.
He was a man for whom others wanted to do their best partly from fear of his wrath, partly out of respect for his standards and partly because he inspired them to do so simply by his presence. "You feel an impact even if he doesn't do or say anything", said the singer Steve Lawrence, who toured with Sinatra in the 1990s. The film director Stanley Kramer, who had a difficult time accommodating Sinatra when on set, said: "When Sinatra walks in, tension walks in beside him".
But this charisma and aura of power, when carried without grace, could manifest itself simply as bullying. It was this side of Sinatra's authority that even Sammy Davis Jr. felt moved to criticize. After he was forgiven for the infamous radio interview, he would not only refer to Sinatra obsequiously on stage as "the Leader"; he would also jump whenever Frank called, whether for dinner at Puccini's or drinks at Jilly's. This did not please Sammy's second wife.
Professionally, it was often Sinatra's way or nothing. When shooting a film, his impatience with the process and unwillingness to do more than a single take if he could avoid it made for un uptight set; no one wanted to be the one to annoy him. He could be better in the recording studio, where he was often prepared to sing and sing until it was right. But no engineer would have wanted to inform him of a technical fault that was nothing to do with the music.
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