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Sneed: Toast Sinatra to mark Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 100th


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The Sinatra story…

Ol’ Blue Eyes is back!

Well, not really.

To celebrate legendary singer Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday Dec. 12, the Pump Room — the iconic crooner’s favorite watering hole — is starting a new tradition.

For one year, Sinatra’s signature toast, “May you all live to be 150 years old, and the last voice you hear is mine,” will be intoned every day by a celebrity, patron or politician at the bar, which is now located at the Public Chicago Hotel.

“It’s a way of honoring Frank with what he said to his audience after every set,” said comedian Tom Dreesen, who opened up Sinatra’s act for 14 years. “Of course, it was accompanied by a little raised glass of Jack Daniel’s.”

“My pals, [actors] Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise, Dennis Franz, and Bill Petersen — all the Chicago guys — have already signed on,” added Dreesen, who will help kick off the event at 1 p.m. at the Pump Room on Sept. 24.

“Frank was a Pump Room regular for 50 years,” said Dreesen,  “Always accompanied by his two Chicago cop bodyguards, Mike and Mike. Both Italian guys.”

“He was nocturnal; never went to bed before dawn; held court in his private back booth, where a special bartender was stationed. The horseshoe booth is still there. He’d huddle up with his pals and tell stories until the wee hours of the morning — smoking unfiltered Camel cigarettes and drinking Jack and a splash. They locked the place up for him. It was quite a time.”

Well, hell. . . . Sneed has her own Frank Sinatra story to tell.

On Oct. 27, 1973, I got a phone call from my editor.

It was early evening, and my boss had a riveting question to ask me.

“Do you have an evening gown?”

“What?”

“Do you have formal attire?”

“Ah, sure. Why?”

“Well, would you mind putting it on and meeting me at the Pump Room in one hour?”

“What?”

“I just found out Frank Sinatra is going to have dinner there with Spiro Agnew and I’ve arranged for us to be seated in the booth next to them.”

Ah, eavesdropping.

The lights were dim and the music soft. The perfect setting at Table 43 for the golden voice, the king of barbs . . . and the female ear propped nearby.

So as Sinatra spooned creamed spinach and dolloped steak sauce onto his medium-rare steak, I watched Agnew, who had just resigned as Richard M. Nixon’s vice president, draw an imaginary map on the tablecloth and point to a piece of saffron rice he identified as “Russia.”

Rumors had surfaced that Sinatra and Agnew were planning to do business together.

My Australian boss kept asking: “What are they saying?” Hell. It was hard to understand what anyone was saying.

So while Agnew downed curried morsels of lobster, shrimp and crabmeat and quaffed a $45 bottle of red wine, Sinatra abruptly turned toward me and loudly spouted: “I know a guy who kept a sign in his office which read, ‘Don’t discuss work.’ ” Agnew shot a glance at me and stated: “I think that’s a good idea.”

OPINION


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Not to disappoint my boss, I attempted to corner the men when they left their table.

“What are you doing in Chicago?” (How’s that for a tough question?)

“No comment,” bleated Sinatra, who stuck his arm in front of Agnew.

“Can’t the vice president speak for himself?” I countered.

“I’m here to have a good time,” Agnew retorted.

“How are you feeling?” I said.

“Great, just great,” he said. “And you?”

What a parry. What a thrust. What a nothing story.

Sinatra is now dead. Agnew, who never again talked to Nixon, died in 1996. And my right ear has never been the same.

But still I ask myself this question: How in the heck did this story ever wind up on Page 1?

The peace lease . . .

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, the irrepressible peacemaker priest, is turning to a new ally to connect people in the community with jobs: Uber!

Look for Pfleger and top Uber execs to announce the company’s new car-leasing program at a press conference Thursday. The program, dubbed Xchange, will help low-income Chicagoans lease a car so they can drive with Uber and earn money.

Sneedlings . . .

Thursday’s birthdays: Arnold Palmer, 86; Misty Copeland, 33, and Karl Lagerfeld, 82.

Follow Sneed on Twitter: @Sneedlings

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