James Darren Interview
In May of 1998, one of the greatest singers of the Twentieth Century, Frank
Sinatra passed away.
In tribute to Frank Sinatra, we thought it would be fitting to offer up remembrances
of the singer by some of the people who either knew or worked with him.
Actor/Singer James Darren is one such person. He was a close, personal friend
of Frank Sinatra.
Q – Jim, were you always a fan of Frank Sinatra?
A – Always. From Day One.
Q – When did you get interested in him?
A – When I was 13, 14 years old. Maybe earlier. I played Sinatra. I played
Nat Cole, on my little 45 R.P.M. record player. Frankie Laine. The Mills Bros.
Perry Como. But, Sinatra was always my favorite. I loved all those guys.
Q – What did you like about Sinatra?
A – I don’t know. It’s a magic about him. I wish it was really
definable. To me, he’s the best pop singer ever. There never was anybody
and never will be anybody who can ever come close to him, as far as I’m
Q – When did you first meet him in person?
A – In 1954. I wasn’t even in show business. I was in Las Vegas.
I was at a dinner party that Frank was hosting. I was there with some friends
from Philly, and that was the first time I met him.
Q – You must’ve been in awe of him at that moment
in your life?
A – Well, I certainly was thrilled to be at the same table as Frank Sinatra.
But, he was a very generous and kind man. He was very nice to me, even though
I meant nothing to him, as far as importance. I was just there with some people
that had known him. He was a gentle man. He was a sweet man.
Q – After that initial meeting, you must’ve met
him again many, many times?
A – I spent almost every day on the “Pal Joey” set when he
was doing “Pal Joey” with Rita Haywarth and Kim Novak. I used to
go down and visit him every day. It was shot at Columbia Pictures and I was
under contract. That’s when I got into showbusiness. That was ’57
I believe. Then I became friends with Nancy (Sinatra) and we would celebrate
our birthdays together, because it falls on the same day. Frank and Dean Martin’s
birthday falls the day before mine, June 7th. Nancy and I are June 8th. Frank
would have parties and I was always part of that party. I was always invited.
He’d celebrate Nancy’s birthday, Dean’s and mine at these
parties at the Sinatra house or a restaurant. I was always included.
Q – That really must’ve been nice.
A – Yeah. He was a great guy. As far as his talent, even beyond his singing,
his acting talent -----he was just a great actor. I can listen to Frank Sinatra
literally for days on end and never, ever, ever get tired of listening to him.
Everytime I listen to him I just blossom inside. He’s magnificent.
Q – Where was the last time you saw him? Do you remember?
A – Yeah. Well, the last time I saw him he had passed away.
Q – You were at the funeral, the church then.
A – Well, I was at the church. I got up and spoke at the church. After
that, there were only, I think the family and maybe one or two friends. I saw
him when he was lying in state so to speak. Nancy took me down to where he
was. I was with him for about 45 minutes, or an hour. Nancy and my wife left
the room. She said, “Let Jimmy be alone with Daddy for awhile”.
So, that was the last time I spent with Frank Sinatra.
Q – And before that?
A – Oh, we’d have dinner at whatever restaurant-----La Dolce Vita
or Trader Vic’s. I’d see him at Nancy’s house. Or at lunches.
With the family usually.
Q – You never performed in a movie with him, did you?
A – No.
Q – Or on the same bill?
A – No. I was only backstage with him.
Q – Jim-what was Frank Sinatra’s contribution
to Pop music?
A – I think he made Pop music forever contemporary. You know, you could
listen to some great singers, people like Bing Crosby. But Sinatra remember,
when he started; today, his music is as contemporary today as it was when he
started. So, it is forever. He’ll just go on forever and ever. They’ll
never say that sounds dated. He’s got an incredible voice. Incredible
range. Incredible pitch. If you listen to a Sinatra record, whatever mood he’s
in, whatever mood the song is about-----is where you’re gonna be.
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