American Idol lawyers nix Sinatra contest

Hoboken's 'Sinatra Idol' contest will be back next year under a new name

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Jerry Pearce, a former Sinatra Idol Winner, sang several Sinatra favorites, including "I've Got the World on a String."
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Former Sinatra Idol winners performed with the Swingadellic Big Band, including Zachary Alexander.
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Hoboken celebrated Frank Sinatra's music and legacy at a concert on June 13 in leu of the annual Sinatra Idol contest.
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Jerry Pearce, a former Sinatra Idol Winner, sang several Sinatra favorites, including "I've Got the World on a String."
  2 / 3 
Former Sinatra Idol winners performed with the Swingadellic Big Band, including Zachary Alexander.
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Hoboken celebrated Frank Sinatra's music and legacy at a concert on June 13 in leu of the annual Sinatra Idol contest.

Despite receiving about 30 unsolicited inquiries from performers wishing to enter the 12th annual Sinatra Idol contest, Hoboken will not host the event this year.

In the competition, usually 15 singers from all over the world perform songs made famous by Hoboken’s favorite son at Sinatra Park along the waterfront.

Frank Sinatra, who was born in Hoboken on Dec. 12, 1915, was one of the most influential singers of the 20th century and one of the bestselling recording artists of all time.

So, why not host this ever-popular show?

Last year, the city received a letter from attorneys representing the producers of American Idol, the hit TV show that originated on Fox TV and is now on ABC, that has launched several singing careers.

The producers challenged the Sinatra Idol name, threatening the city with a lawsuit for copyright infringement even though Sinatra Idol is not televised and does not offer recording contracts.

In a Sept. 17 letter to Cultural Affairs Administrator Geri Fallo, a Malibu-based attorney said his clients believe that the use of the word “Idol” for talent competitions “is likely to lead the relevant public to believe that there is some connection or association between SINATRA IDOL and AMERICAN IDOL. This likelihood of confusion is the test for trademark infringement and unfair competition and thus a violation of our client’s exclusive and extremely valuable rights.”

The name game

According to Cultural Affairs Administrator Geri Fallo, who organizes the event, contest lovers shouldn’t fear because the competition will reappear next year under a new, yet-to-be-determined name.

Last year, Mayor Ravi Bhalla said, “Sinatra Idol is a Hoboken institution, and Sinatra Idol is not going anywhere. We must preserve Sinatra Idol, but Hollywood will sue if we don’t change Sinatra Idol’s name. We discussed alternatives like ‘The Sinatra Voice’ or ‘The S Factor,’ but we thought it might be best for Hoboken to suggest new names for Sinatra Idol.”

The city launched a public survey for residents to suggest new names, receiving roughly 200 responses.

Names included Sinatra Sing Off, Sinatra Icon, Sinatra Star, Sing like Sinatra, The New Blue Eyes, Perfectly Frank, The Frankies, and Sinatra Sings Again.

The Sinatra substitute

Instead of hosting the contest, Hoboken held a concert on June 13 celebrating Sinatra as part of its summer concert series and showcasing former Sinatra Idol first-place winners, including Tony Correo, Greg Meyers, Zack Alexander, and Jerry Pearce.

The summer concert series is held in Sinatra Park every Thursday evening at 7 p.m.

“We are celebrating the longevity and popularity of the contest and giving the performers a chance to sing extended sets with an orchestra and really show off their talents,” said Fallo, adding that she had wanted to do a Sinatra showcase for several years but due to various time and scheduling constraints was unable to do so.

Fallo said the format allowed each performer at least four Sinatra numbers with live accompaniment by the Swingadelic Big Band instead of only one song with an instrumental recording which is the case with the competition.

The concert took place in the auditorium of Rue building on Third and Garden Streets due to rain.

It was packed with audience members young and old who enjoyed songs, including “Come Fly with Me”, “Summer Wind,” and “I’ve got the World on a String.”

Several audience members got up and danced.

“This is just such a Hoboken night,” said resident Angela Cortez. “I like the contest, but this was a fun evening too.”

For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.