© Esquire Magazine 1966

Frank Sinatra was not at his best…

…when Esquire magazine writer Gay Talese arrived in LA to do a profile interview back in 1966. Under the weather with a cold, Sinatra refused to do the interview.

Hopeful Sinatra was on the mend and might ultimately ascent to the interview, Talese decided to hang around.

He immersed himself in Sinatra’s eco-system of friends, support staff and hangers-on to get what he could in “B-roll” interviews and observe Frank at a distance.

Talese never got the sit down with Frank but the resulting “non-interview” piece  — “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” — is incredibly illuminating and widely touted as possibly the best bit of non-fiction magazine writing ever published.

Gay Talese was a master of delivering personal profile articles that read like fiction.

Here there is a story arch…

…with many major and minor characters … before your eyes the subject of Talese’s effort transforms from a two dimensional media icon into a complex three dimensional man; a man both familiar and inscrutable with depths of passion, the affectations and appetites that come with nearly unlimited power … and the human problems and foibles that no man can escape.

“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.”  Gay Talese, Esquire Magazine 1966

There are several scenes from “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” that stick out to me …  Talese’s story flow is best read-through rather than excerpted so I won’t ruin it by giving anything substantive away here.

Some innocent foreshadowing can’t hurt though 😉 …Talese’s take on Frank’s exchange with Harlan Ellison is both funny and sad, but great stuff … Frank’s entourage doing vegas is classic.

If you’re a “Frankophile” and have not consumed this article, you’re going to want to do so. Head over to Esquire’s website (the entire article is available here) and give it a read.