Welcome to Songs, Stories, and Spirits. We’ll be jamming unwanted opinions on good music, good stories, and good booze down your ears, eyes, and throats on a weekly basis. We hope you enjoy. And if you don’t, there is a comment section below that we more than welcome you to ignore! Cheers!
By Daniel Ford
Song: “I Have Dreamed” by Frank Sinatra
It’s probably sacrilege to choose this song over all the other classic Frank Sinatra tunes, but I’ve been ensorcelled by the old crooner’s cover from “The King and I” for the past couple of weeks. My personal creative director, the lovely and talented Stephanie Schaefer, implored me to write a love story she might actually want to read, and listening to great love songs has been part of my research process. As an old soul, I’ve gravitated toward older ballads because there’s no way to write an original romance to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” I have a vintage vinyl of Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours,” but the love featured on that album is bitter, tortured, and lonely, and more suited to my previously published short stories. I needed music that was exuberant and optimistic. You know, like a spirited number from a beloved musical sung by a honey-toned voice in a tuxedo! This is what the beginning of love should sound like; sweeping, wistful, hypnotic. Oscar Hammerstein II struck romantic gold when he put these lyrics to paper:
Alone and awake, I've looked at the stars/The same that smile on you/And time and again, I've thought all the things/That you were thinking too
I’m sure the song got a rousing applause during its first run on Broadway, but, my god, there’s no way it could have possibly topped the majesty of Sinatra belting it out while backed by an orchestra. I know my future story is unlikely to reach the soaring heights of this ballad, but it’s always nice to have something to aspire to when sitting down to write.
Story: “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Gay Talese
Gay Talese’s Esquire feature “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” ran in April 1966 and “became one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published, a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism.”
New Journalism, for those that don’t know, is a style of news writing that reads more like fiction. Think Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, or Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The style was developed in the 1960s and 1970s and can be electrifying if used for the right subject. Frank Sinatra proved to be one such subject.
See if you can dig Talese’s opening line:
Frank Sinatra, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something.
The entire piece is pure poetry, but the following paragraph transcends the bonds of any classification:
Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel -- only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence, and it affects not only his own psyche but also seems to cause a kind of psychosomatic nasal drip within dozens of people who work for him, drink with him, love him, depend on him for their own welfare and stability. A Sinatra with a cold can, in a small way, send vibrations through the entertainment industry and beyond as surely as a President of the United States, suddenly sick, can shake the national economy.
I won’t spoil any more of the rest for you. Since the weather in the Northeast appears bleak this weekend, turn on Old Blue Eyes, pour a classy cocktail into a glass, and devour the rest of this feature.
Spirit: Old Fashioned
If Frank Sinatra is providing the music, who better than Don Draper to handle the booze?
I recently finished re-watching the entire “Mad Men” series, and have been jonesing for fedoras, sharp suits, dames, and an Old Fashioned, Draper’s favorite cocktail. The handsome bastard looks so damn cool ordering one, never mind when he’s knocking it back in preparation to charm the skirt off the waitress.
According to Los Angeles Magazine, the perfect Old Fashioned can be found at Eric Alperin’s The Varnish. The bar’s recipe “is closer to the original because the bar uses block ice, a sugar cube as opposed to simple syrup, and bourbon.” Alperin also states, “What’s great about the Old-Fashioned is that I feel like it’s a drink you get a relationship with. It’s like a cigar. When you light a cigar it’s not in its perfect spot. Only 10 minutes later you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s where I want my cigar to be.’”
But who are we kidding? Don Draper makes the best Old Fashioned:
Also, according to Draper, an Old Fashioned is best enjoyed while grabbing your favorite copy chief and swaying to Sinatra.