In October of 1974, to celebrate his post-retirement comeback, 59-year-old Frank Sinatra appeared in a televised concert at Madison Square Garden, New York. Reviews were mixed, but one person who was particularly unkind to Ol’ Blue Eyes was critic Rex Reed, who immediately savaged Sinatra’s voice, supposed arrogance, and appearance in his syndicated column. He even called Sinatra “Porky Pig.”
Below is a brilliant letter sent to Reed in response to his attack, by a good friend of Sinatra’s: Jerry Lewis. It was accompanied by the voucher seen above.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Jerry Lewis Comedy.
December 19, 1974
The term “butt out of what isn’t any of your business,” I think, is a cop-out! Because if you have any responsibilities….at least to your fellow man, as saccharine as that sound, but if it’s true…..then you must challenge injustice, intolerance and every other ugly individuals attack on any other individual…..no matter what…or spend the rest of your “weak, gutless and pointless life doing what most people do”….”butting out of what isn’t any of their business.”
Well….as the song says….
That’s okay for some people, but some people ain’t me!
Hence this note.
SUBJECT: Frank Sinatra
REASON: That’s what friends are for….plus said attacker needs a slap on wrist (take that any way you want!)
From an old movie! (Not necessarily mine) So you can label: “SOUR GRAPES.”
Actually, you made it my business when the newspaper that carries your by-line took my hard earned money and made me pay for it! So the following is my opinion, and mine alone….starting with: “the way you write it could be hazardous for your health.” Not because you picked on, slandered, and out and out maliciously ripped apart one of America’s heros, but because you chose to hide behind the mask of the fourth estate to soothe what was apparently a heavy, deep-rooted hatred..probably motivated by a “turn-down” by Frank for one of your precious tete-a-tete luncheons so you could ask the heavy question: “what brings you to town?” I repeat, Frank Sinatra is an American hero, and has been for longer than you’ve JUST BEEN.
And not because he did “All Or Nothing At All” with Harry James at the Rustic Cabin in New Jersey….and continued on and did all the things most people in this country dreamed about doing, but never could, and never would do. Consequently, he became their hero who they could identify with…plus being the best singer of lyrics that ever lived….didn’t hurt anyone either. But all that really had very little to do with the love identifying that prevailed. It actually was provoked by the underlying feeling audiences have had watching and listening to Frank Sinatra perform all of these years. And that feeling came from the mystique of the “man”…..a beautiful man, a caring man, a man who made the words “man’s man” something to shoot for, or dream about being. Sure, he did some things wrong, except for all the right reasons….reasons like principal, integrity, concern for his fellow man….etc…etc.
“The man that does nothing, makes NO mistakes.” Well, what about the things that Sinatra did that benefited more people than most people know about? And when will someone write about the “good stuff” people do? And the only reason no one knows about all the “good stuff” is because he chose to keep it all quiet. Never did he allow any of his people to spread word about dollars to those who were in trouble (more dollars than you’ll earn in a few lifetimes.) The shows, benefits, personal out-of-the-pocket contributions to various charities….in many cases…..when doing a personal appearance for one of many of those charities, he gave dollars out of his own pocket to help them, plus his work, plus his staff, plus his untiring efforts to get things done for the express purpose of just helping. Can you say that? Can anyone you know say that? You bet your ass you couldn’t….and I doubt that there are many that could…or ever will be able to ever come close.
All of the above never really needs to be mentioned…because it doesn’t make things any better. You did a hatchet job on another human being, the likes of which I doubt we will ever see again in this lifetime…..and why??? Simply because people like you..that seem harmless and certainly timid enough not to cause too much concern….are dangerous! Yes…dangerous! Because you believe, like so many…”it was yesterday’s news”…well..it may very well have been yesterday’s news, but the stigma that surrounds an attack like that can scare a man….no matter who he is…..a scare that creates pain, un-due soul searching, and mental fatigue…only because no matter who writes a piece like that…the recipient of that shot to the heart must, if he has any feelings at all, react sub-consciously, or otherwise it takes a toll. Because it was a dirty, viscous, unfair attack that cannot be answered, or debated, because Frank has no typewriter….at least he hasn’t one that gets reproduced like yours does!!
I guess I could go on and on…and I almost feel stupid trying to get through to the brain of someone who might very well be lacking all of the elements which constitute a brain…but nevertheless, I would have felt remiss if I didn’t at least let you know what a schmuck you are, you have been, and how sad I feel for you…in the knowledge that you will never be anything else.
I enclose the quote from a rather terrific man, who said it all years ago…..which makes it even more apparent that people like you have been there before, and will be again….and since that is our ultimate fate, this letter really does no more than ease my inners a little bit.
Until I hear from you, and I doubt that I will (I’m told cowardice never shows its ugly head), I hope this letter find you just as you have been, for that’s about as great a retribution I know. You can’t escape what you are…or do anything about it.
Unless you wish to use the enclosed gift certificate to Menningers Clinic….just fill it in….you need all you can get.
I am, sincerely,
A proud friend of someone you wouldn’t ever understand.