Some entertainers captivate an audience while others captivate an entire city. Defining Las Vegas, the place that defines performers, Frank Sinatra was not only the ultimate entertainer, but was also the man largely responsible for setting the bar here in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
On the day that marks what would be Sinatra’s 100th birthday, December 12th in Vegas is turning all the spotlights on Ol’ Blue Eyes to remember the man whose legacy is what legends are made of.
“There was never really a more affable man,” said Albert Steele, former captain server at the Palace Court restaurant in Caesars Palace. “I’ve waited on many, many stars, celebrities, politicians, presidents throughout the years and Frank Sinatra was perhaps the most mellow of all of them.”
Kicking off his Vegas career as a lauded member of the iconic Rat Pack, Sinatra was a man of the people. Among the Rolodex of talent that Sin City continuously thumbs through, we can’t help but feel that Sinatra is not only an icon of his era, but a founder of the prestigious entertainment standards that we thrive upon to this day.
A dapper man that every man wanted to be, with charm capable of making any woman swoon and vocals that sang to the soul, Frank fever caught on in Vegas and that infectious charisma and stage presence run deep in Vegas’ veins to this day.
In an interview for the book “Sinatra Vegas” actress Angie Dickinson, who co-starred with Sinatra in “Oceans Eleven,” said, “Frank and Las Vegas were a perfect combination; it was magic! I love Las Vegas now, and I loved it then. But there is nothing like something at the beginning… Whatever it is… It only starts once, and Frank was there; he made Las Vegas what it is.”
Retiring from the Rat Pack only to venture into a solo career later in his life, Sinatra had exactly what it took to bring a crowd to their feet and provide countless evenings of entertainment unlike any other performer in history.
“His shows were electric,” said Steele, who has seen Sinatra perform on various occasions. “Even though he was more of a crooner, his songs were very well known and he’d encourage people to sing along with him… he would stay another hour, hour and a half [after his scheduled set] as long as the audience responded to him. He was just totally consumed in what he was doing and you’d almost feel as though you were sitting in [his] living room like at a Christmas party at their house. Maybe that will sum it up a little more accurately but certainly everyone was very involved. I’ve seen hundreds of entertainers and certainly you don’t find that in today’s crowds.”
And while Frank made his mark around town with his signature performances in the showrooms, the debonair crooner was also known for tableside serenades at some of his favorite restaurants in town — free of charge to simply satisfy his love for the art of entertainment.
Noting the days when Sinatra would meet up with Sammy Davis Jr. to play shows together, Steele said, “They would go dine out on their way to the Moulin Rouge and that’s how they came across the Golden Steer, it was on their way to the Moulin Rouge. But [Sinatra] would very kindly get up, they had a piano at the Golden Steer, and he would just be very humbled and would love to entertain. He would spend [hours playing to] a well documented 3 or 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning singing and entertaining.”
And in addition to his impromptu performances at the Golden Steer, he was known on occasion to dine at what is now Las Vegas’ longest-running steakhouse.
“He was very simple, always had the same thing, steak pizzaiola…” recalled Steele who served the singer approximately 15 times at Palace Court. “It was very well trimmed, not an ounce of fat was the only thing he ever demanded and it’s with fresh, diced tomatoes. It’s like a marinara sauce with onions, garlic and white wine. And then they would have pasta dishes of course and sautéed broccoli for vegetables… he was also a very, very generous guy. We’d always take care of a party of maybe four or eight and in those days he would give us one white chip, which at Caesars was $500 or if it was around eight to 10 people, he’d give us two white chips, which would be $1,000.”
And who’s to say but perhaps his generosity was encouraged by the whiskey, Jack Daniels to be exact, he seemingly swore by.
“All he ever had was three fingers of Jack Daniels bourbon and three ice cubes,” Steele recalled with great clarity. “Sometimes he would have a glass of Berola wine but he would do the Jack Daniels generally throughout dinner and then during his show, which probably made him more affable. I would personally bring down for he and his band, a bottle or two of Jack Daniels and he would drink and salute throughout the evening and he would probably polish off a bottle by himself and then another bottle with the band. Oh, but he could handle it. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood; believe me, I couldn’t say that of any entertainers of today’s day and age.”
However, while Frank Sinatra may not be around today to ignite a restaurant with candid performances or electrify audiences in the Sands showroom, there are some experiences offered around town that will nonetheless get you in that Sinatra state of mind.
Among the special offerings, the Golden Steer is offering a specially crafted menu with all of Frank’s aforementioned favorites. It was carefully designed with the help of individuals including Steele and other servers, chefs and friends who have had firsthand experience with the icon. In addition to the special menu, guests can really have the star treatment just as the man himself would by sitting in the only booth in which he dined — table 22, which seats up to four guests.
Additionally, keep your eyes peeled for other Sinatra specials around town including specialties prepared by Executive Chef Theo Schoenegger at Sinatra restaurant in Encore Las Vegas. Schoennegger has not only cooked for Sinatra himself but to honor his 100th birthday celebration, he has compiled a number of Sinatra’s favorite dishes into a five-course tasting menu experience.
Similarly, Jack Daniel’s and Delano Las Vegas will be honoring the legend with a special celebration at Franklin. The event will bring the memory of the singer to life by way of live music inspired by the Rat Pack Era, and of course, “Frank’s Drink” made with four fedora-shaped ice cubes, two fingers of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and a splash of water, all served in a commemorative glass.
So whether you’ll be celebrating this legend by singing “Moon River” to your shower head (or just in your head) or if you’ll be fully embracing The Voice with any and everything his Sin City stomping grounds have to offer on his day, let us be among the masses to pour three (or five) fingers of Jack and cheers to a very happy 100th to our friend, Frank Sinatra.
And now, we will let Frank sing…