Marlene Ricci Interview
Sinatra's Corner

In May 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 remembrance of the singer by some of the people who knew him and worked with him.

Marlene Ricci is one such person. She was picked by Frank Sinatra to be his opening act, a position she enjoyed for two and a half years and 200 performances.

Q: How did you meet Frank Sinatra?
A: Through his bodyguard, confidante Jilly Rizzo. Jilly saw me at the first job I had at Tahoe. Then, when we came to Vegas, we ran into him at Caesars. My boyfriend then, who is now my husband said, do you remember that girl you saw? He said 'Yeah'. He had a thing for female singers. He prided himself on picking talented females. So, he actually got me an audition at The Aladdin. Then he said, I'm gonna bring Frank in to see you. I didn't believe it ‘cause eight or nine times they said they were coming and they didn't show up. And then finally one night comes the entourage of twenty people.

Q: After he saw you, what did he say?
A: He called me over to the table and said 'You're great! How'd you like to go on tour?' I was in shock. Then he said, we're gonna fly Don Costa in and I didn't even know who that was. When he speaks everybody moves. Next day he flew Don Costa in to do some arrangements for me. Within two weeks I was on tour. I opened for him at The Sunrise Theatre in Florida.

Q: Were you a fan of Frank Sinatra?
A: Well, you know, my mother was a big fan of his. So, I was familiar with him. But, he was a whole generation away from the music I was doing. I appreciated who he was, but, I didn't realize 'til later how big he was (laughs), and how unusual it was that he didn't take young people on tour with him all the time.

Q: What was it like to open for him? How did the audience treat you?
A: They were very receptive. Frank made sure your name was on the marquee. You were treated like a guest star. It was really great. I got good critical reviews. He came to me and said 'If they weren't critics, they'd be Charlie Mansons.' (Laughs)

Q: He might've been right about that.
A: He might. They'd always focus on the negative, because people like to read that I guess. By the time I got involved with him, he didn't have any violent outbreaks. He had pretty much mellowed out. I saw him when he was drinking, a little bit of that personality would come out where whatever you said if he disagreed with it, he could get excited about it.

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