Originally created 05/17/98

From Palm Springs to Picadilly, fans hum to memories of Sinatra



PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Don the Beachcomber's and other Sinatra haunts are gone. But Sorrentino's is still thriving and a message on the side of the building speaks for many in this desert resort that Frank Sinatra called home for much of his life: "Frank Lives in Our Hearts."

Here and around the world, fans old and young Saturday celebrated the life of the skinny singer who became pop music's Chairman of the Board, tuning into radio and television tributes and snapping up his greatest hits in a buying binge that could rival those that followed the deaths of Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

"I love his music. It's romantic," 34-year-old Rosina Garcia said as she thumbed through the Sinatra collection at the Wherehouse music store in Palm Springs. "All my friends back East are devastated."

"He lived a bold and wonderful life," said Margie Cromier, a 30-year-old Los Angeles area resident who's riding a wave of youthful nostalgia for the music of the Swing Era. "It's a loss, but he had a day in the sun."

Las Vegas remembered the man who drew millions to stage shows and casinos with his aura of smoky, whiskey-tinged good times by dimming the lights on the famed Strip for one minute Friday night. In Hollywood, Capitol Records marked the passing of one of its biggest stars by draping black bunting around the top of its headquarters high-rise that resembles a stack of records.

TV news coverage gave way to a flood of hastily assembled tributes and medleys featuring Sinatra's songs, movies and television work.

And the rush was on at music stores, where Sinatra never really went out of style.

"You wouldn't believe it, there's like six people looking through his stuff right now," said Ed Chavey, a salesman at the Tower Records store in Hollywood.

At Barnes & Noble on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, 42-year-old Joe Mangano of Brooklyn paused at a nearly empty display of Sinatra-related books labeled "Remembering Frank Sinatra." He picked up a copy of "Rat Pack Confidential."

"It wasn't unexpected, but the fact he died puts the real importance of his career in perspective," Mangano said.

In Britain, the rush on music stores that began with Sinatra's death late Thursday night in Los Angeles was in full flood Saturday, with fans favoring compact discs of his early favorites or greatest hits.

Sinatra's wife, Barbara, and children remained at the family's Beverly Hills home, where celebrities called to pay their respects in limos, passing knots of fans who stopped outside to lay flowers or just gawk.

Sinatra, whose innumerable "signature" tunes included "My Way," "New York, New York," "Strangers in the Night," died of heart failure at 82 after months of declining health and frequent death rumors. Funeral arrangements weren't complete, said family spokeswoman Susan Reynolds, but plans were believed to include a private service and burial at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, near Palm Springs.

In this desert town he helped put on the map, blue ribbons tied around the trunks of stately palm trees billowed in the warm breeze Saturday.

The local chapter of the Sons of Italy, named for Sinatra's mother Dolly, planned to serve pasta and meatballs at a public memorial tribute Sunday afternoon. At the Palm Springs Wall of Stars, visitors left candles and flowers at Sinatra's star.

Sinatra first bought a home here in 1947 and over the years, joined the likes of Bob Hope in making this a retreat for the heroes of the World War II generation. The street signs reflect the town's claim to fame: Frank Sinatra Drive, Bob Hope Drive, Gene Autry Trail. There's the Eisenhower Medical Center, home to both the Betty Ford Clinic and a charity dear to the late singer, the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, which provides treatment for abused children.

"They underrated him, how nice he was," said Bill Sorrentino Jr., whose parents entertained Sinatra and his pals at the eatery that bears the family name.

"He gave a $100 bill once to a couple that had just been married and said, 'Have a nice dinner,"' said Sorrentino, 44. "He was just a gem."