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Sinatra gets first-class honor -- the gentleman is a stamp

December 13, 2007|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

Coming to a mailbox near you: Ol' Blue Eyes himself.

As Frank Sinatra's three children looked on Wednesday in Beverly Hills, Postal Service officials unveiled an oversized replica of a stamp commemorating the iconic crooner.

The Rat Pack ringleader is depicted smiling, sporting his trademark fedora with his signature scrawled across the bottom of the 1950s-era image by Mill Valley artist Kazuhiko Sano. And popping from the center of the portrait are -- what else? -- Sinatra's electric-blue eyes.

"I am certain that anyone receiving a letter with Frank Sinatra's smile on it will smile back," said his daughter Nancy, 67, her voice breaking.

Wednesday would have marked Sinatra's 92nd birthday; he died in 1998 of a heart attack.

The postal service plans to issue 120 million of the first-class stamps next spring.

Sinatra joins other cultural luminaries -- including magician Harry Houdini, artist Andy Warhol and vocalist Ella Fitzgerald -- who are enshrined on the fronts of envelopes. To be honored with a stamp, subjects must be deceased for at least five years, with the exception of former presidents.

Actor Sidney Poitier was on hand for the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, as was Sinatra's first wife, Nancy.

Organizers assembled video montages with images of a young Sinatra performing; there was also footage of him sinking his hands into wet concrete at Grauman's Chinese Theatre set to classic hits like "Come Fly With Me."

Photographs of Sinatra with President Kennedy, Yankee great Joe DiMaggio and fellow Rat Packers Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. lined the walls.

Master of the American songbook, Sinatra entertained for six decades, earning Grammys, a best supporting actor Oscar for "From Here to Eternity" and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The short-tempered "Chairman of the Board" was a Las Vegas fixture in the 1960s, and contemporary pop stars like Justin Timberlake have imitated his elegant-cool style.

Sinatra's son, Frank, also a musician, marveled at the success of his father, the son of Italian immigrants raised on the streets of Hoboken, N.J.

"This is the American dream," Frank Jr., 63, said. "He loved this country more than anything."

The stamp "sets him right up there where he belongs," said Sinatra's daughter Tina, 59.

The elder Nancy loved her former husband's image on the 10-foot-high stamp, but complained that he was wearing a traditional necktie instead of the floppy bow ties she used to make for him.

His neckwear, however, didn't dampen her enthusiasm.

"I'm going to buy sheets!" she said.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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