The 103rd anniversary of the birth of Hoboken’s favorite son Frank Sinatra was last week, and to commemorate the special occasion, City Clerk Jimmy Farina threw an annual birthday party in his offices on Wednesday, Dec. 12.
And this year the Hoboken Historical Museum got new items of their own for the Sinatra Lounge, two paintings Ol’ Blue Eyes himself painted.
For the small birthday celebration in the clerk’s office, Farina displayed his personal Sinatra memorabilia, including magazine covers, Frank Sinatra books, a replica of Sinatra’s key to the city from 1947 and personal photographs.
George Palermo, a local Korean War veteran, did the honors of cutting a cake made by Carlo’s Bakery and blowing out the candle along with Farina and Director of Health and Human Services Leo Pelligrini.
Gone but never forgotten
A handful of attendees enjoyed cake and celebrated Sinatra’s memory, sharing stories and personal connections to the man of the day.
Farina said his love of Sinatra stemmed from his uncle James Petrozelli who used to perform with the famous crooner.
“My uncle James Petrozelli was one of the original Hoboken Four,” said Farina.
The Hoboken Four was the group Sinatra got his start with before going solo.
Farina said he grew up listening to his uncle tell stories, including his time entertaining with Sinatra.
“Every Sunday they went to my grandmother’s house to rehearse because she had a piano,” said Farina. “They would have the meatballs and my grandma would cook pasta and serve the traditional family meal. Sinatra loved it.”
Farina said after the group won the Major Bowes talent scout radio program, they started to travel and tour the country, but “My uncle got homesick and wanted to come home,” and the group broke up.
“They remained friends,” Farina smiled, “but he always regretted not keeping in touch.”
Palermo said he was actually delivered by Dolly Sinatra, Frank Sinatra’s mother who was a midwife in town in his family’s home on Adams Street in 1928.
“She was as tough as a truck driver,” he said.
“Over the last 30 years people whose parents may have passed away who had Sinatra memorabilia didn’t know what to do with it so they would just drop it off here,” Farina said of his growing collection. “I probably have more than the museum.”
On Dec. 11, just in time for Sinatra’s birthday, the Hoboken Historical Museum hung two oil paintings created by the crooner himself as part of their permanent exhibit dedicated to the singer, the “Sinatra Lounge.”
The paintings were donated by Warren Steinberg, an art collector based in Atlanta, who wanted to see them returned to the singer’s hometown.
“Typically it is really difficult to get a genuine Sinatra artifact because the family controls most of it still, and when it is sold it is for quite a bit of money,” said Bob Foster, executive director of the Hoboken Historical Museum.
Several works of art created by Sinatra were included in a sale at Sotheby’s auction house in New York on Dec. 6, one of which was sold for $100,000.
“It’s actually quite a coup for us to get these paintings,” Foster laughed.
One painting, titled “Rancho Mirage,” is an abstract painting created in 1980 and the other is an untitled self-portrait created in 1985.
Both paintings prominently feature the singer’s favorite color: orange.
The self-portrait is included in a book published by Tina Sinatra as a tribute to her father’s passion for painting as an artistic outlet.
“He gave paintings as gifts to friends and acquaintances,” said Foster. “As the story goes he gave these paintings to his dentist, [Dr. John Lake] and the two dots in his mouth are the two teeth his doctor worked on.”
Foster said of the estimated 10,000 people who visit the museum from all over the world about 3,500 are from other countries who are interested in learning more about Frank Sinatra.
Another new addition to the museum is a 275 lb. traffic light hung by the entrance to the Sinatra Lounge.
The traffic light dates back to 1938 and is one of the oldest still operational lights in the country.
“We coordinated with the city and this group of traffic light historians to have it hung in the museum. We joke that Sinatra could have run this light,” Foster laughed.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com or comment online at hudsonreporter.com.