Hollywood Celebrates Frank Sinatra's 100th Birthday
Family, friends and celebrity fans attend the A-list musical tribute at the Hollywood Bowl
Ol’ Blue Eyes and the Hollywood Bowl, together again.
In 1943, Frank Sinatra was just 27 when he made his debut on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, amid some controversy over whether he was enough of a highbrow act to merit such a showcase. The adoring bobby soxers who filled the stands certainly knew he was a star, though they likely had no idea that both the singer and the venue would ultimately attain legendary status.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles musical landmark paid tribute to the late singer and celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth, in one of the first events planned this year for the “Sinatra Centennial” (Sinatra was born Dec. 12, 1915).
The Chairman of the Board’s youngest daughter Tina Sinatra and Mom star Allison Janney were among the celebrities in the audience who turned out to see an all-star roster of virtuosos perform, include animation guru and big band-loving vocalist Seth MacFarlane, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, jazz guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli, modern jazz/hip-hop stylist Jose James, Brazilian musician Seu Jorge, singer/songwriter Luciana Souza, singer Carmen Bradford, the Count Basie Orchestra and jazz/R&B bassist Christian McBride, who doubled as musical director.
“We all want to feel like Sinatra on this stage, but it’s kind of hard to feel like Sinatra when you’re taking Claritin for ragweed,” joked MacFarlane on stage. The Family Guy creator, a longtime Sinatra admirer, did manage to hold his own with the professional musicians, delivering expertly sung renditions of Sinatra favorites “My Kind of Town,” “The Moon Was Yellow” and “One For My Baby.”
“I wish Sinatra was here with us still,” said MacFarlane. “But at the same time, I guess, it’s better that he’s not because I don’t know that we would want to see him end the show with ‘My Way’ and then say, [perfectly mimicking Sinatra’s New Jersey accent] “Thank you, very much. Good night, everybody. Don’t forget to download my app. Why does everybody have so many tattoos?'”
Prior to the evening’s event, the Jose Iturbi Foundation – named for the famed classical pianist who was a longtime fixture at the Hollywood Bowl – hosted a private dinner at the Bowl’s rooftop restaurant attended by celebrities including Loni Anderson, Connie Stevens and daughter Joely Fisher, Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson and Doris Roberts, hosted by Iturbi’s goddaughter Donelle Dadigan.
Iturbi memorably appeared onstage at the Bowl alongside Sinatra and Gene Kelly in the 1945 musical “Anchors Aweigh,” and Kelly’s widow Patricia Ward Kelly was also on hand for the celebration, which brought back fond memories of the two stars’ long friendship.
“I’m so appreciative because Gene just adored Frank and really had terrific respect for him as an artist, and they started out together,” Kelly told PEOPLE. As young actors under contract at MGM, Sinatra and Kelly were first paired in “Anchors Aweigh,” where the famed screen hoofer helped the singer master some fancy footwork. “Gene teaching him to dance was amazing – even though Frank always turned that around and said that he taught Gene everything he knew.”
The pair would costar in two more films together – 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ballgame and On the Town – and remained friends through the decades until Kelly’s passing in 1996.
“Frank was a buddy throughout, but at the end of his life, he really helped Gene in quiet ways,” says Patricia. “He just loved Gene so much, and vice versa. To see the two and to see them looking at one another at that stage was probably one of the top, most powerful moments of my life, in witnessing their lives together.”