A couple of weeks ago, Comedy Central telecast its celebrity roast of Justin Bieber. Pop music’s young icon was lambasted for his numerous dust-ups with the paparazzi, neighbors, fans, and the law. And while Bieber’s bad behavior has sealed his reputation as one of this generation’s “bad boys,” he’s got nothing on Frank Sinatra. The difference–besides buckets of actual talent–is that despite his own “bad boy” image, Sinatra was beloved by most and remains a giant in pop culture history.
As the anniversary of Sinatra’s 100th birthday approaches, New York’s Lincoln Center is featuring Sinatra: An American Icon, showcasing 100 years of Sinatra’s life and legacy. Although I know relatively little about the man and his music and movie career, I had the pleasure of seeing this superb event.
Before visiting the exhibit, I watched a four-hour HBO documentary titled “Sinatra: All or Nothing At All“, where I both learned and confirmed what I do know about Frank Sinatra– or at least about his public image. This was an Grammy- and Oscar-winning entertainer who, through dogged determination, worked his way from his hardscrabble upbringing as the only child of immigrant parents to become one of the biggest superstars of the 20th century.
Frank Sinatra was hard drinking and hard partying, had numerous brushes with the law and the paparazzi, was close friends with presidents and mobsters, was married four times, and had multiple affairs. Yet despite his very publicized bad behavior, during his lifetime Sinatra also championed racial equality, supported hospitals and scholarships, gave to disadvantaged and physically challenged children, and was extremely generous to his friends and family.
Although he was relatively modest about his countless acts of kindness, perhaps it was this good PR that helped enhance Sinatra’s image and kept this “bad boy” in the public’s good graces. By nearly every measure, Justin Bieber doesn’t compare to Sinatra, and my guess is Bieber and other bad boys and girls in today’s pop culture won’t be remembered with an exhibit at Lincoln Center a century after their birth. Your thoughts?