“Old Blue Eyes” at the Waldorf Astoria

Frank Sinatra performing in the Wedgwood Room, 1944.

“Old Blue Eyes” at the Waldorf Astoria

Many types of people have graced the halls and rooms of our glamorous hotel – princes, movie stars, famous singers and dancers – however, there is only one major figure that not only began his career in our famous hotel, but chose to reside here as well. That person is none other than Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

On a hot August day in 1944, MCA talent agent Sonny Werblin burst into the office of Frank Ready (the manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel) sharing his concern of being unable to find a new act to open for the Wedgwood Room; which he had promised Lucius Boomer he would do within 24 hours. Frank Ready replied calmly, “Your problem isn’t so difficult. I have a suggestion for you…It’s Sinatra! After all, you manage him!” The next day Werblin had proposed the idea to Lucius Boomer. Boomer was hesitant.  At 29, Sinatra was very young and the youthful crowd he attracted was not consistent with the traditional Waldorf clientele. A few nights later, Frank Ready sat down with Lucius Boomer and his wife in the Starlight Roof. Over a cocktail, Ready asked Mrs. Boomer what she thought of Frank Sinatra she replied – “He is absolutely wonderful!” . The next day Werblin received instructions to book Frank Sinatra at the Waldorf Astoria for one show after midnight.

Frank Sinatra performing in the Wedgwood Room, 1944.

Frank Sinatra performing in the Wedgwood Room, 1944.

Sinatra’s effect, while controversial, was momentous. He attracted “the kids” but Park Avenue people came to listen to him as well – in fact, the velvet rope on the Wedgwood Room was never more strained! Immediately after his debut in our hotel, Frank Sinatra’s career took off booking shows all over the country and eventually the world. By 1964, after the death of Cole Porter, Sinatra was world renown. He and his wife Barbara moved into The Cole Porter Suite – Suite 33A as permanent residents of The Towers where they resided until 1988. Frank Sinatra’s talent and those charming blue eyes attracted fans from all walks of life both young and old, the nostalgia and excitement that comes from hearing his music is experienced by most, if not all.

Below is a video of Sinatra performing his classic hit “New York, New York” in our hotel on January 2, 1992 for the birthday party for NY politician Andrew Stein.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LxzgVyAJrM

(video courtesy YouTube – Harold Kramer)

Imagine if Lucius Boomer had decided against booking Frank Sinatra in the Wedgwood Room on that August evening? As the hotel’s archivist, I obtain information on some of the “grand debuts” and first moments that have occurred within these walls since 1931 but the history behind Frank Sinatra’s debut is by far my most favorite. Frank Sinatra once said “the best revenge is massive success” and massive success certainly was achieved!

For more information about Frank Sinatra, please visit our archive website  http://www.waldorfarchive.org. Also, excerpts from Frank Sinatra’s debut are included in the novel “Confessions of a Grand Hotel” by Horace Sutton.

 

- Erin Allsop, Archivist of The Waldorf Astoria New York

 

Twitter: @WaldorfNYC   Facebook: Waldorf Astoria New York

 

 

Erin is a graduate student in the Masters program of Library and Information Science at CUNY – Queens College, where she is focusing her studies on Archival Management and Preservation. You may contact her by email at erin.allsop@waldorfastoria.com with any inquiries or questions you may have.

EA