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This story first appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Frank Sinatra died in 1998, but you wouldn’t know it from the celebrations taking place in Las Vegas on and around Dec. 12, the day the legendary crooner would have turned 100. Ol‘ Blue Eyes’ spirit remains alive and well in the desert oasis. “Without dad, Las Vegas’ history would be very different,” says Tina Sinatra, the youngest of Sinatra’s three children. “He epitomized a lifestyle and an idea of glamour that made a genuine impact on Las Vegas in the 1950s and ‘60s.”
That impact will be on star-studded display at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas, where “Sinatra 100 — An All-Star Grammy Concert” will tape Dec. 2 to air as a two-hour special Dec. 6 on CBS. Tina, together with longtime Sinatra family attorney Bob Finkelstein, brought the idea of the concert to CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves two years ago. Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks are among those set to appear; Tina confirmed exclusively to THR that John Legend will perform “Young at Heart,” and Jamie Foxx will sing “In the Wee Small Hours” — both will use the original arrangements by Nelson Riddle. “These are some of the greatest arrangements of all time,” says Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy. “Using original arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Quincy Jones was one of the many elements we desired to create a truly authentic experience.”
The lobby of the Encore features Jeff Koons’ ‘Tulips,’ which Wynn bought for $33.7 million in 2012.
The location for the concert was a natural — few people in Las Vegas are as respectful of the Sinatra legacy as Steve Wynn: With the cooperation of the family, in 2008 he opened Sinatra, a restaurant at his Encore resort. Among other memorabilia loaned by the family, you’ll find Sinatra’s Oscar for 1953’s From Here to Eternity here. Wynn’s history with the entertainer dates to the 1980s, when Sinatra struck a deal to perform four times a year, a total of 16 shows, at Wynn’s Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, for the then-princely sum of $50,000 per show. “It was a small, intimate room, only 500 seats,” remembers Wynn. “Frank couldn’t understand how I could afford to pay him that much. I told him, ‘I’m not going to charge people; it will be invitation-only. Because with Frank Sinatra in my showroom, I’ll make it up in the casino.’ ” In the second year, Sinatra asked if Dean Martin could join the show. “Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in my showroom? Are you kidding me?” Wynn recalls thinking.
Legend will sing “Young at Heart” at the tribute concert, using the arrangement by Nelson Riddle, who introduced Sinatra to the song.
At Sinatra at Encore, a series of dinners have taken place throughout 2015 featuring Italian dishes that ranked high among Frank’s favorites, including “Ossobuco My Way” and a custom “Sinatra Smash” Jack Daniel’s cocktail. Two special “Sinatra 100” seatings, featuring a four-course prix-fixe menu ($195 per person), are planned for 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Dec. 12.
The Wynn Las Vegas.
Through Dec. 31 at the Golden Steer Steakhouse, on Sahara Avenue just west of the Strip since 1958, diners can sit at Sinatra’s favorite booth — Table 22, which accommodates four — and order “Frank’s Menu,” which includes clams casino and a New York strip steak, for $100 a person. On Dec. 12, Table 22 can be booked for $1,000 for a four-person reservation, with only three seatings, at 4:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; the night will include live entertainment. Rat Pack-era standards can likewise be found at Franklin at the Delano, where “Frank’s Drink” (two fingers of Jack Daniel’s, four ice cubes and a splash of water) will be served in a commemorative glass for $15.
Sinatra’s life in Las Vegas also is explored in a photo exhibition at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “Sinatra’s Centennial” (free and open to the public through May 31) includes 120 photos, many rarely seen, from the archives of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority’s News Bureau. “In our efforts to digitize the millions of images we’ve collected, we’ve come across photos we never knew we had,” explains Lisa Jacob, the News Bureau’s director. “You’ll recognize outtakes from performances and iconic Rat Pack moments at the Sands, but we’ll also show the side he rarely discussed, the quiet philanthropic efforts that made a real contribution to the community.”
Gaga (pictured), Usher, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys and Carrie Underwood also will perform.
The Chairman’s No. 1 NYC Hangout
For decades it was not uncommon to find Frank Sinatra at Patsy’s Italian Restaurant, located since 1954 on W. 56th St. in New York City. The spot held a table for him upstairs, in a corner partially hidden from prying eyes, and once famously opened on Thanksgiving when he mentioned he had no other plans. Since the singer’s death, the restaurant has celebrated his birthday each year with a menu featuring his favorite dishes, including fusilli with fileto di pomodoro and veal Milanese, “sliced very thin, just the way he liked it,” says Sal Scognamillo, grandson of founder Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo and the third generation to helm the kitchen. For Sinatra’s 99th birthday in 2014, Tony Danza, Danny Aiello, Vincent Pastore, Nick Jonas and Marky Ramone (yes, of those Ramones) turned up, while an onsite broadcast of Sirius XM’s “Siriusly Sinatra” included call-in interviews with Michael Buble, Frankie Valli and Frank Sinatra Jr. Demand for this year’s 100th birthday celebration became so intense — at one point, the wait-list topped 500 — that Scognamillo decided to expand the event to five dates: Dec. 7 and Dec. 11-14; the prix-fixe menu is $175 per person. You’re too late to book a reservation for Dec. 12, says Scognamillo — Sinatra’s birthday has been sold out since last year.
Actor Vincent Pastore (left) and TV host Bill Boggs at Patsy’s for Sinatra’s 99th birthday.
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