Murray Garrett Interview
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 remembrances
of the singer, by some of the people who knew and worked with him.
Murray Garrett is one such person. A professional photographer, Mr. Garrett
first met Frank Sinatra in the mid 1940's in New York City. He photographed
Sinatra at charity events, recording sessions, radio and television studios,
and private parties.
Q: Mr. Garrett, how is it that you were able to get backstage at the Paramount
Theatre in New York to photograph Frank Sinatra?
A: Well, let's start at the beginning. It was war-time and I was in high-school.
I was working for a firm that did publicity pictures. He could not get out
of his dressing room 'cause he had just left Tommy Dorsey and he was doing
his own thing at the Paramount, first time. They wanted to get pictures of
him in his dressing room. He couldn't get out, so we went up. We met and the
circumstances were very favorable. You know, we were all trapped. We got to
talking and he wanted to know what I was doing, and I told him I was still
in high school. He thought that was kind of cute. We talked about the crowd
and how impossible it was to get out. He couldn't even get out for lunch. They
had to bring it in. I made the pictures and after that our paths kept crossing.
Finally, I got sent out to Hollywood in '46. That friendship that we had briefly
in the dressing room rekindled and I was amazed 'cause he remembered me. He
said, 'Hey, you're the kid.' I kind of laughed and I said 'Yeah.' He said,
'what are you doing out here?' It was really funny 'cause all the other photographers
were kind of awestruck 'cause I was new, yet he made a thing of talking to
me. And so, we just chatted and I told him I got sent out here (Hollywood).
He said he thought that was great and said he, thought that was great and said
I'll see you. I took some pictures and these guys were standing there like
I was some kind of Big Deal, which I certainly wasn't. I was just twenty and
a half when I came to Hollywood. And then, our paths kept crossing whether
it was on movie sets, at parties, at nightclubs. As my career changed, and
as the magazine business changed, I became a hired gun as well as a photo journalist.
I started by a very fortunate association with Bob Hope. I became Bob Hope's
photographer. I photographed all his radio shows, all his t.v. shows. So naturally,
Frank would guest on the show and he would kind of get a progress report on
what was going on. I told him I was having kids. It was great. We would have
these conversations from time to time. If you know anything about him, and
I presume you do, there were times I'd see him and he would not know who you
were. It used to hurt until I found out that this was really a terrific guy,
but, that was just one of his things.
Q: Didn't he once describe himself as a manic-depressive?
A: Yeah, well, I've read lots of stuff about him, but, let's face it, the
guy was my youth. I grew up when he grew up. I'm 74. It's hard for me to think
of anybody other than Bing Crosby or Perry Como who impressed me like he did
as a singer. He was an incredible man. Then, I got hired to do personal things
for him. We did Nancy's wedding. He hired me to do Natalie Wood’s first
Birthday party which he gave as a surprise for her. We had a wonderful relationship.
He would sit down and talk to me. At that party he said, ' Sit down. You've
been working to hard.' We'd chat for ten or fifteen minutes, about kids, about
business and how are you doing. A week later I'd see him at a recording session
and he didn't know who I was. He was an interesting guy.
Q: Frank Sinatra worked very hard at what he did, didn't he? Whether it was
onstage, in a recording studio, or on a movie lot.
A: You better believe it. He was the toughest guy on himself in the recording
studio. He would sit in front of these big, huge Altee speakers and listen.
He could hear stuff that would amaze the guy producing the session. In his
later years it was usually Jimmy Bowen. In his hit years it was Reprise. He
would just look at him and say 'Frank, I didn't hear it,' but, he'd hear it.
Making a motion picture, he used to know his lines. He had 'em cold. He knew
his craft. He didn't settle for anything less than the best.
Q: I don't want to be a metaphysical here, but, when Frank Sinatra entered
a room, did people automatically look up and turn their head? Did he have an
aura about him?
A: It was electricity. There are a few guys like that. In the 30 years I
worked I never saw anybody with more charisma and more electricity. There were
a few people. This could happen with (Clark) Gable, with Sinatra, with Marilyn
Monroe, Kathryn Hepburn. Very few people this would happen to. It was like
the old E.F. Hutton commercials. Everything would stop. He was without a doubt
one of the most charismatic people I have ever photographed.
Q: Is there any special memory you carry with you about Frank Sinatra?
A: Watching Frank work with Nancy. My friend Lee Hazelwood wrote 'Boots.'
So, I was there at the recording session. And just watching them work together.
Watching him be a father. There's just a totally different human side. Here's
Frank Sinatra, but, when you get down to the bottom line, he's a father. He
was as worried about her getting through this session, and her not being nervous.
It was absolutely fascinating to me.
Official Website: MurrayGarrett.com
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