Celebrating the life of former Point Loma resident, Frankie Laine
by Gale Stoddard
Published - 03/31/20 - 02:00 PM | 3016 views | 2 2 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Celebrating the life of Frankie Laine, an American singer, songwriter, and actor, who was born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio, on March 30, 1913, in Chicago.

His final performance, "That's My Desire" was in 2005, with a career that lasted 75 years until his death in 2007 in Point Loma. He was 93.

In 1943, Laine came to California, lived in Beverly Hills for decades starting in the 1970s and retired to Point Loma in San Diego County.

The Frankie Laine Fan Club team is still active in the La Costa area where they sell his CDs and  DVDs. They keep up with the tributes of fans from all over the world, keeping his memory alive.

In fact, having been named, "Mr. San Diego," on March 31, a big commemoration of his life was planned at Nonna's Restaurant in San Diego's Little Italy, to unveil the Frankie Laine life-sized bronze statue on his birthday, but it has been postponed because of the COVID-19 virus.

When the event can resume, attending the event will be invited City officials as well as Hollywood celebrities and me, representing Laine's Philippine fans, and some of his fans from the assisted living residences', where I currently perform each month and not only play his music, but share many anecdotes about Laine during my performances in the San Diego area.

Some of Laine's early history includes: He would struggle for 17 years before he got to showcase his vocal talent to the world. Climbing to the top would not be easy.

He was not connected to the mob to help him get there like some singers reportedly were. He supported himself by dancing for endless hours during dance marathons of that day. Except for his close-knit family, no one knew that he had a show-stopping voice from his Italian lineage.

The Hollywood of the 1940s and ’50s remembers Frankie Laine's voice well and remembers seeing the great singer singing for free at a small club on Hollywood Boulevard.

Music lovers would wait in line at the small Hollywood landmark to hear the newest discovery of the owner, but little did the crowd know that the owner did not pay the upcoming talented singers a dime until one of the most successful composers walked in. During one of those nights, crammed to the wall with people, the audience clamored for one particular singer who belted out the songs so well that the audience couldn’t believe their ears.

Sitting in the audience, was American singer/songwriter and Actor Hoagy Carmichael, who was sizing up the talent in front of him. Frankie Laine was singing Carmichael's song, “Rocking Chair” wanting to give the song his all and Carmichael wanting to give his undivided attention to Laine's rendition of his song and as it turned out, it was all worth it.

The singer didn't know that the songwriter was in the audience. After Laine got off the stage, Carmichael asked the owner how long the singer had been performing in his place. The owner proudly said, "Oh, for a while now, and he sings for free; sometimes I give him food."

Carmichael told the owner, "It’s about time you pay the singer because he's a great talent and one of these days, he will be headlining somewhere and take your crowd away."

Carmichael's prediction proved true because a few months later, Laine opened on Hollywood Boulevard in another club. The excited crowds waited in long lines to witness one of the greatest singers of his day and he was getting paid for singing this time around.

The song that would help Laine get noticed was a song originally recorded by a female recording artist. When Laine took the song and gave it his own personal version, it took off and the crowd and lines of people became longer in order to watch Laine perform.

From this humble beginning would emerge a man who sang so many hits and sold millions of records, and yet remained an enigma because he was not the typical Hollywood superstar. He was humble, a devout Catholic, always available to his legion of fans from all over the world and unbeknownst to the world had a great big charitable heart.

He would perform many shows for the unemployed union musicians in Las Vegas. He also put on shows at the landmark Hollywood Race Track to raise money for the unemployed musicians and their families.

While other successful performers would drink and behave in a scandalous manner, Laine never had a sliver of scandal accompany his name. He was married to the same woman actress, Nan, for more than 20 years until her death from cancer in the 1990s.

Laine's love for fishing was instrumental in his move to Point Loma, where he lived until his death in February 2007. He and Nan took their boat and fished non-stop when he wasn’t touring or singing in concerts all over the country.

London was a special place where Laine spent voluminous times performing concerts and visiting with thousands of his fans where there is a big Frankie Laine Fan Club composed of very loyal Brits. The Frankie Laine explosion was big in the 1950s when he had hit-after-hit of songs on the hit parade.

The International Radio played the top songs of the day. After his initial hit song, “That’s my Desire,” he was tapped to record one of the finest songs ever written according to the International Radio for it was on the radio all over the world for an unprecedented 70-weeks, Not even the Beatles can claim that honor.

"I Believe," was written by five men who put their talents together and wrote the simple but magnificent declaration of faith. To this day, thousands of senior living residents all over the country sit quietly and practically cry when they hear the song that only Frankie Laine could sing with so much emotion.

Elvis Presley tried because he revered Frankie Laine and considered him to be one of the finest American singers. Elvis spent much time rehearsing the song until he got it right so Laine would approve.

Laine went on to sell more than 17-million records during his heyday.

Nightclubs all over the country, from Las Vegas casinos to the Plush Top on the East Coast would book Laine. He also traveled all over the world to sing for his millions of fans and was mobbed by fans at the Manila airport.

At the brand new Araneta Coliseum in the Philippines in 1964, Laine sang his heart out while Filipino ladies screamed in ecstasy. I was one of them and will never forget that experience of seeing Frankie Laine in person; my very favorite singing star mesmerizing everyone with his hit records. It was heaven on earth; thrilling with it being live on stage, an idol singing to only "you," especially when he sang the much acclaimed, “That’s my Desire.”

It was a dream I nurtured, to be close to my idol, now among thousands of screaming Filipino girls, I was there but I swore that one day in the near future, I would have his undivided attention. I came to America at 18-years-of-age, belonged to the Monterey Musicians Union and worked as the cocktail lounge headliner in the new Hyatt House in Salinas.

The Monterey Republican Women’s Club was holding its annual event when none other than my idol, Frankie Laine, appeared there too. God was blessing me with a gift. I didn’t see him come in because I was busy playing the piano for the group of ladies. To my left by the door, he listened to me as I played the piano. It was a dream come true.

As Frankie Laine sang, the ladies were riveted by his showmanship and superlative voice singing hit after hit. When it was over, his pianist, the late Ray Barr, asked if I wanted to give them a ride to the Monterey Airport 20-miles away. I jumped for joy and we piled in my old1957 yellow-and-white Chevy and off we drove the zigzag highway to Monterey.

We arrived early and sat in the lounge. I was so nervous trying to make the moment last, making sure I remembered everything my idol said and did. He ordered a gimlet and I, being underage, ordered a coke and asked about his gimlet drink, to which he explained the process that goes into making a gimlet.

Time went by so fast. I wanted it to stop forever but then they had to board the flight to Los Angeles. I drove back home, my mind-tingling, and thinking people would never believe that my music idol and inspiration had spent time with me.

As I spoke with Frankie Laine, he inspired me to stay in music and be the best I could be; and to, "Never forget the people who helped you get there."

Over the years, I used to go to Frankie Laine's home in Point Loma with the late Philippine actress Lita Gutierrez and we would stay there all day listening to him talk.

This had been our childhood dream in the Philippines, as we listened to the jukebox at the Manila Brown Derby putting our allowance into the machine so we could hear the song of our favorite singer, Frankie Laine, over and over.

We would visit him often at his home and listen to the playbacks of his newest recordings as he asked our opinions. We considered ourselves the luckiest fans in the whole world. Lita Gutierrez became famous; she died in 2002 from cancer.

I've gone on to perform at more and more shows for the Southland’s Retirement Communities and one of the most special people who inspired me to become what I am today is because of Frankie Laine's music I used to listen to in my native Philippines.

A lot of little girls like me grew up still talking and reminiscing the wonderful songs we listened to from the greatest singer in the world. He was one of a kind and no one could ever reach the pinnacle he achieved. I'm a better human being, more charitable, generous and sharing with the poorest of the poor for I continue to emulate this man, Frankie Laine, including his generosity.

He is my inspiration as he collected thousands of pairs of shoes for homeless veterans and performed shows for jobless musicians. I want to follow his lead and leave a legacy where I have touched people’s hearts not only with generosity but with my music. I am blessed to have been touched by one of God’s finest creations.

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April 07, 2020
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Tim Bell
April 01, 2020
I remember Frankie well, I loved his music, some of which were used in TV shows. I remember meeting him here in Point Loma years ago. Nice man!
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