Sinatra's local shows tempered by his politics Concerts: Though his loyalties swayed, the city swooned when the singer visited its haunts and VIPs.

May 16, 1998|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN STAFF

Frank Sinatra's appearances in and around Baltimore coincide more or less with the zigs and zags of his political affectations.

Presumably he was a liberal Democrat when he sang at a concert sponsored by Citizens for Humphrey in August 1968 at the Civic Center.

With a couple of beefy guys who looked like they were just in from Hoboken, N.J., he clipped the ribbons to open Hubert H. Humphrey's local headquarters on Charles Street, opposite the archbishop's residence. "We're going to get the nomination and elect Mr. Humphrey," he said. But his singing was better than his prognostication: It was not a very good year for Democrats.

At the home of Dr. Edgar Berman, Hubert's personal doctor, he ate dinner with Marylanders who'd coughed up $1,000 for the Humphrey campaign. The concert two hours later was probably the last public concert he sang in Baltimore City.

But by the 1972 campaign, he was one of Richard Nixon's biggest contributors.

In 1973, he appeared at a fund-raiser to help Spiro T. Agnew pay his legal bills after he resigned as vice president, charged with a long history of accepting bribes. Eva Gabor and Bob Hope came along, but it's unclear whether Sinatra sang.

Sinatra stood by his old golfing buddy through all his tribulations. They were great friends.

Agnew and his wife, Judy, and Henry Kissinger and his wife, Nancy, were in the audience when their friend sang at the Capital Centre, also in 1973.

At the Merriweather Post Pavilion in August 1975, Agnew was in the third row to cheer his friend's singing. After his performance he went to dinner with Agnew and his family at Sabatino's Restaurant. Sabatino's had long been Agnew's favorite spot in Little Italy, and Sinatra's too when he was in Baltimore.

Sinatra first sang in Baltimore in 1940 at the Hippodrome Theater, which survives as a tattered ghost on Eutaw Street. He was a band singer with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, sharing billing with Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers. But bobby-soxers were already swooning.

He didn't sing here again until July 1965, when he appeared at the Civic Center and broke the box office record previously held by folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. He may have been helped by the Quincy Jones and Count Basie orchestras and the Oscar Peterson Trio, who were on the bill with him.

He was 71 when he last appeared at the Cap Center in May 1987. His friend Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

"His voice never broke once," a fan named Mo Sussman assured reporter Sandra McKee. "And he only missed one lyric. I thought he was wonderful."

Pub Date: 5/16/98

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