• Shailja Kapoor

Frank Sinatra Has a Cold

Shailja Kapoor

Frank Sinatra Has A Cold ran in the April of 1966. It was a work of rigorously faithful and vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction. It was a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism. The essay’s author, Gay Talese writes an astute retelling of the time right before Frank Sinatra’s 50th birthday providing a carefully moulded insight into the singer’s life.

Talese succeeds in finding a balance between superb hyperbole and realism. His colourful and microscopic profile on the musical legend, for Esquire magazine, allows the reader to walk for 36 pages in the celebrity’s shoes. Talese depicts Frank as the epitome and combination of masculinity, class and power. “Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel—only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence”— A personal favourite line of mine.


Frank Sinatra was idolised, loved and appreciated for the majority of his life, he played his duties as friend, boss, son and as an inspiration, yet there was a lurking sense of sadness that never seemed to wipe off his back. Talese, in his profile, broke down one of the ‘most guarded figures’, as he vividly recounted the intricate details of scenes and conversations that he witnessed which were shared by those in Sinatra’s circle.


The Beverly Hills bar acts as a microcosm in the world of the rich and famous. Those featured alongside Sinatra are written as caricatures who live flamboyantly. His press agent is revealed to be a ‘chunky man’ who wears ‘expensive continental suits’. Sinatra’s own personal pride is epitomised in his own appearance, as his shoes ‘seemed to be shined even on the bottom of the soles’. The concept of Sinatra is depicted as him ‘dwelling simultaneously in two worlds’— the world of people pleasing and the world of constant self-loathing. As mere and trivial as a cold may be, it is still highly infectious. This comparison holds true and fits accurately in the bemusing lie of Sinatra. His troubles and his various forms of contemplation led him to a devastating state of depression. His voice formed a large part of his personality; the loss of his jewel took away his

identity and majorly, his fame. His peers, parents, lovers and admirers often pondered as to why he showed a drastic decline in his disposition. This question, or rather thought, is unanswerable.


My takeaway from this beautiful masterpiece was that— sadness and the shifting wavelengths it comes with is never constant nor does it require an adequate reason. Sometimes sadness puts us into a ruminative state that allows us to learn from (and therefore not repeat) terrible events. Persistent sadness then just becomes a pathological outcome of this useful behaviour. The power of acceptance is what Sinatra lacked.

At the end of the day, sadness serves an evolutionary purpose, and like Sinatra, we’re all merely human- sensitive and sentimental.


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