My First Laine Interview
I first met Frankie Laine in person on November 20, 1985, in San Diego. I had taken a Greyhound bus from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to San Diego, California.
At one point during my day-long visit with Frankie, we went to a very special place where Frankie was videotaped giving an important Public Service Announcement.
When the taping session was over, Frankie drove me back to my hotel. While still in Frankie’s car, I made an audio recording of my first interview with the great Frankie Laine. Here is an excerpt from my book Reaching for a Star, published in 2005:
Excerpt from My Book:
As we were getting back into the car, I again readied my tape recorder and asked Frankie a few questions. His answers were enthusiastic as he drove along the various San Diego streets. I first asked him to say a few words to Latisha, who would be five years old in a few days:
“Hello, Tisha. This is Uncle Frank. I guess I’d have to call myself that now, since I got to know your daddy. We’ve had a marvelous time today. We went to a radio station where we were supposed to do a program. Unfortunately, management canceled it because of an emergency. We have spent most of the afternoon filming a cassette tape for the St. Vincent de Paul Center for Father Joe Carroll. . . . This is a place where personnel feed and clothe and teach homeless and down-on-their-luck people. And we just finished the taping now, so I’m taking him back down to the hotel.”
As the interview continued, I asked Frankie to say a few words about Helen Snow for me. He was very formal as he spoke about Helen and all of her efforts for society:
“Well, Helen has been a fan now for quite some time and apparently has done an awful lot of good work for us in the New York area, especially in the Long Island area. She has a friend there . . . who is a disc jockey on WHLI. And this guy has a jazz program on which he features an awful lot of our records. Helen, of course, is directly responsible for most of the good work that he has done for us. Of course, I’m ever so grateful. She really is going to work now on the new album, Place in Time. I hope that you like it when Craig brings it home to play for you all.”
Two of my favorite albums of Frankie’s are Foreign Affair and Reunion in Rhythm, under the arrangement and direction of the great Michel Legrand. I wanted to know what it was like working with Michel Legrand:
“In the beginning, Craig, it was very scary because I knew he was such a fantastic talent. I had no idea whether or not my musical endeavors and talents could measure up to what he was going to hand me to do. Of course, it scared the heck out of me when we first recorded in Paris. But the second recording, which we did, oh, several months later in Hollywood—almost a year later as a matter of fact—and he had just gotten married and came out to our home in Beverly Hills and stayed with us. We spent a whole month together putting this album, Reunion in Rhythm, together. That one was a little bit more relaxed than the one we had done in Paris because I knew him better. He began to talk English a little more. He was able to understand, and I was able to understand him better. It was a much more concerted effort. Of course, the album, just listening to it you can tell how much our relationship had improved by that time.”
I asked Frankie to name which inspirational song, among all he’d recorded, was his favorite:
“I think I’d have to say ‘I Believe’ would be the top. It was the top for ever so long until 1968 when Marty Robbins wrote ‘Lord, You Gave Me a Mountain’ for me. Slowly, that has come to mean as much to me as ‘I Believe.’ I’d have to say they are my two favorite inspirational songs now.”
I closed the interview by saying, “Well, thanks, Frankie. And thanks for your hospitality today. I’ll never forget it. I love ya.” Frankie then quipped in a fun-loving mood:
“Well, I appreciate your comin’ down here. Anybody who’s crazy enough to ride a bus for forty-eight hours to come down and spend a day and a half has to be a little nuts, which I appreciate.”
The interview was still in full force when Frankie pulled his car into a parking space directly in front of the YMCA, where I’d stay yet another night. We sat in the car until the interview was finished.
After the interview, I packed my audio equipment into my briefcase, and Frankie opened the car trunk and lifted out my suitcases. He helped me carry them to the area in front of the YMCA steps. We put everything down and chatted a bit longer.
“Get a good night’s sleep, and call me in the morning just before you get on the bus,” Frankie caringly instructed.
I assured him I would and thanked him again for a wonderful day. “I’ll remember today for the rest of my life,” I told him.
Again, I thanked him—without using the tape recorder—for his graciousness and hospitality. Above all, I thanked him for the loan of thirty dollars, sparing me from utter destitution. I repeated my vow to him that I’d pay him back (which I later did), and once more Frankie simply answered, “Don’t worry about it.”
I handed Frankie a caricature of him that I earlier had photocopied and asked him to write something about our time together. He used the roof of his car as a desk and wrote a note:
Great day together! I sure enjoyed meeting you and spending all this time. Let’s do it again real soon in Cedar Rapids.
Thanx a bunch—Best luck—Frankie Laine
I still have that framed piece of paper in my collection.
It was time for us to part ways, and I bravely grabbed Frankie in an embrace and thanked him again for everything. He returned the hug. With an emotional tone, I murmured, “Frankie, I hope our paths cross again.”
“Don’t worry. They will,” he answered without hesitation.