Frank Sinatra: The Main Event (1974) Poster

(1974 TV Special)


On November 2, 1970 before his self-imposed retirement, Frank Sinatra (b.December 12, 1915), at age 54, recorded the last songs for his personal record label Reprise Records. Sinatra announced his show-biz retirement the following June, 1971 at age 55, at a concert in the Hollywood Bowl to raise money for the Academy of Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund. He finished the concert with a "rousing" performance of "That's Life", and stated "Excuse me while I disappear" as he left the Hollywood Bowl stage. Sinatra told LIFE journalist Thomas Thompson that "I've got things to do, like the first thing is not to do anything at all for eight months ... maybe a year" ... while his wife Barbara Sinatra later claimed that Sinatra had grown "tired of entertaining people, especially when all they really wanted were the same old tunes he had long ago become bored by". Frank's category of song material in his repertoire were his stand-by populist list. Ironically, Frank refused to learn new song material. Any composer offering Sinatra their material was usually turned away unless their song would guarantee Frank Sinatra a winning single chart performance. While he was in retirement, President Richard Nixon asked Sinatra to perform at a Young Voters Rally in anticipation of the upcoming campaign. Sinatra obliged and chose to sing "My Kind of Town" for the rally held in Chicago on October 20, 1972. A CBS TV prime-time special, arranged by his manager Jerry Weintraub, for Magnavox Presents Frank Sinatra, "Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" on a Sunday prime-time night on November 18, 1973, reuniting Sinatra with his MGM "Anchors Away" (1945) and "On The Town" (1950) feature film musical co-star Gene Kelly, each performing individually and again together. The studio audience members featured Hollywood elite-royalty star personalities including Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball and her husband Gary Morton, Richard Conte, Sammy Davis Jr., Jane Morgan Weintraub, his son Frank Sinatra Jr. and Barbara Sinatra. Sinatra, at age 58, decided timing was ripe for his return to his entertainment concert schedule, having his manager Jerry Weintraub contract ABC Television to book and produce an exclusive "live color televised concert" in New York City's Madison Square Garden. What is unusual for this televised exclusive engagement is that Sinatra's usual 1960s prime-time network color television specials had always been video-taped on a "closed set" at NBC's two largest Burbank color television studio stages, on stage 2 and 4, never with an audience present. The network specials were edited and given an air date several months after being video-taped. On a Sunday prime-time night, October 13th, 1974, an ABC exclusive television entertainment "Frank Sinatra special live concert event" was staged and televised by "ABC's Wide World of Sports - The Main Event", for his triumphant exclusive return to show-biz and out of his self imposed retirement, televised in color and broadcast "live" from New York City's Madison Square Garden arena. The televised "live" show's audience featured many iconic and famous personalities from the Broadway stage, from the Hollywood film and television entertainment industry, important professionals from social, political and sports society elite. The New York City's Madison Square Garden televised concert was later released as a Reprise Records' album under the title "The Main Event - Live". Backing Sinatra was bandleader Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd, who accompanied Sinatra on a European tour later that October month. Sinatra initially developed problems with his vocal cords during the comeback due to a prolonged period without singing. That 1974 Christmas he performed at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, and returned to Caesars Palace the following month in January 1975 (at age 59), despite previously vowing never to perform there again. He began what Barbara Sinatra describes as a "massive comeback tour of the United States, Europe, the Far East and Australia". There-after Frank Sinatra resumed performing on a regular schedule at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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"The Wide World of Sports - The Main Event" - an "ABC exclusive television prime-time Sunday night Frank Sinatra concert special event" was produced primarily by the ABC News Division. After his self imposed theatrical performance exile and "retirement" - Sinatra, at age 58, decided to initiate a "come-back celebration event" asking his manager Jerry Weintraub (age 36, b.9:26:1937-d.7:6:2015, d.77yrs) to make the exclusive deal. Sinatra and his business manager Weintraub, as the Executive Producer, approached ABC Television News Division director Roone Arledge with their exclusive television special concert offer. ABC's news sports-caster Howard Cosell acted as host. As Producer, Roone Arldedge's primary second in command assistant, Roger Goodman, acted as the event's coordinator, supervisor, and as an assistant director, planning and staging the television concert special. [Roone Arledge, at age 30 in 1961, began employment with the New York City DuMont Television Network as a stage manager. Roger Goodman, at age 30, began his television career at Chicago's ABC affiliate WBKB as a television stage manager]. Both Arledge and Goodman, joined the New York City ABC news division about the same time. Roone Arledge's aggressive talent was recognized and was promoted to the position of director of the ABC News division. Arledge promoted Goodman to function as his sport-news division first assistant. Roger Goodman's ambition was to direct, and considered himself a designer - a frustrated scenic stage designer, commandeering a network title for the "look" of ABC news programming. Roger Goodman helm-ed the production package conceptual meetings. Sinatra wanted the Madison Square Garden arena because of the enormous audience capacity to stage the live color television special broadcast. Sinatra and Weintraub, and the ABC sports-news division came up with the show's-specific title from the boxing-ring events usually staged at the "Garden Arena's" showcase boxing ring events. In early preliminary production meetings, a Hollywood Art Director chosen by Weintraub was flown to New York City, to design the Sinatra stage and orchestra setting. Goodman and the west coast designer-art director did not get along because the designer would not follow nor agree with Roger Goodman's design concepts for the "look" of the Sinatra concert special. When Roone Arledge was told by Jerry Weintraub, the Hollywood Art Director John DeCuir's over-scale fee - to design and art direct the Sinatra show, Roone Arledge sent Weintraub's Mr. Hollywood Art Director back to Los Angeles. John Braden, one of ABC News' staff unique creative and imaginative production designers (an IATSE #829 art director-scenic designer), was anointed to design the Garden Arena's center platform performance and orchestra stage area following Roger Goodman's orders. Braden knew how to get along with Roger Goodman. The television event stage setting would appear like a boxing ring. Roger Goodman dictated that the Madison Square Garden arena center ring be the focal point for all of the color television cameras televising the concert event, The color television cameras were located around the circumference of the Garden Arena. Roger Goodman insisted that the center white circle with-in a black square stage should have a cartoon-style-Frank Sinatra-black line painted-caricature, to be painted in full scale on the stage's center ring white circle dais-stage floor. During production meetings, John Braden advised Roger Goodman "that like a Busby Berkeley overhead shot, a television color camera had to hang directly over the circle's caricature drawing in order to view the painted detail properly, and would exhibit the scope of the Garden Arena audience foot-print". Roger Goodman could not deal with any one coming up with an idea that he hadn't thought of first. Goodman brushed off, ignoring Braden's suggestion, for an over-head camera shot of Sinatra standing below performing in the center circle ring surrounded by the arena's spectators. Goodman dictating that "his one camera location" would be sufficient for the "best shot" of the featured Sinatra caricature. Roger insisted his ring-side camera positions were all that was necessary to focus and view the stage floor painted caricature. John Braden asked one of ABC's staff graphic division's excellent caricature artist-designer members to illustrate Frank Sinatra's profile. This caricature was painted on the center white stage floor. The ABC engineering department, lighting division, and carpenter shop prepared the Madison Square Garden installation, which was coordinated with the Madison Square Garden's professional Broadway union house stage technicians. Camera and the concert performance rehearsals were scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and a complete cast rehearsal on Friday, the 12th, all directed by Bill Caruthers. A complete video-taped show dress rehearsal transcription recording, with an invited audience, was performed on Saturday night, October 13th. This video-taped performance was archived and studied the following Sunday morning. After Saturday night's initial dress rehearsal concluded, Roone Aldredge ordered Roger Goodman's "Sinatra center ring caricature" be painted OUT of the stage's dais-circle floor. Not taking responsibility for the caricature set creation, Goodman blamed the caricature on their ABC production designer. Roone Aldredge opposed the caricature's intrusive look because the caricature design did not visually read as a caricature with Bill Caruther's camera angle coverage. With Broadway union jurisdiction, ABC network studio scenic artists were barred, not allowed to paint out the floor caricature. Only Madison Square Garden "Broadway in-house union scenic artists" were allowed in the house, performing the caricature's total wipe-out at Broadway's double-time union rates. Roone Arldedge's wave of the wand cost the network an enormous added over-run expenditure. The following Sunday night's performance was performed on a simple white center ring circle floor. Roger Goodman, who always refused to acknowledge his production team, as usual, took all the credit for the Sinatra concert's visual production concept, "look" and style.
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