Sunday, November 01, 2015

Hear Tom Driessen Tell a Contender for the Greatest Sinatra Story of Them All: The Heart-Breaking, Inspiring Recounting of How a Fan Bailed Out a Fading Frank Sinatra, and Gave Him a New Lease on Life

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

Edited by Kirk Noland.

Transcript: Tom Driessen with Kevin Nealon

Tom Driessen: The first time I heard that voice, I was eight years old.

I was shining shoes in a bar on the south side of Chicago. In the end, I was a pallbearer at his funeral. He was like a father to me.

At age 78, we're all wondering, “When is he gonna lay it down, when is he going to quit?

He would have hit-and-miss nights, but crowds loved him, they couldn't get enough of him. And they were really coming to say goodbye to him. In every city we went to, they were coming to say goodbye.

And one night in the Mark Auditorium, there's like twenty thousand people in the arena, and I did my show, and it’s good audience and everything. He went out, he did three songs, he was rollin.’ He got to the fourth song, and he totally blanked on the lyrics. And the orchestra was down in the pit and they kept playing, not knowing that he was lost, and he started whispering into the microphone, “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.”

Now, when I saw that happening I went, “Oh, shit. This is it.” We were always wondering when is he gonna lay it down, but this is the night. He’s whispering. The orchestra started to realize that he wasn’t with them, and they started to wind their instruments down, one at a time, to an eerie silence in this huge arena.

And now he's whispering, “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm sorry.”

By that time I was stage left, and I thought, “Okay, this is it.” You know he's gonna come off stage and I'm gonna say, “Let's go home, Mister S, it's been a great career but it's time to go home.”

And he turned around and there was dead silence, and he had tears in his eyes and he looked like he was going to come and lay the microphone down, and a guy way up on top of the audience stood up by himself and he hollered out, “That's alright, Frank, it's alright, we love you, Frank. It's alright, ‘cause we love you,” and he started to applaud. And the guy next to him started to applaud. And a couple of…

Kevin Nealon: I'm getting chills. I'm getting chills. Go on.

Driessen: Soon hundreds of people stood up, then thousands, and pretty soon the whole arena was cheering, cheering and cheering. He got to the edge of the stage, and I thought he was gonna go home, and he turned around and went back to center stage and they wouldn't stop cheering.

So he picked up the mic, and he went to the next number, which was “Mack the
Knife,” and he absolutely drilled that song. He hit every nuance and every lyric.
It was like he was 19 years old again. Now, when he finished that song, the people wouldn't stop cheering, and he was ready to go into the next number, when he quieted them down, and he started to sing and he stopped and he pointed up to the guy and he said, “I love you too, pal,” and he sang for two years after that.

That guy doesn't know; that fan brought him from the ashes that night.

[I dunno. Maybe he did know.]

Published on 12.12.2013 by Yourlifeinaminute.

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