Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 21, 2019

How Do You Say “Italian Style?” With Frank and the Rat Pack!

One of several dynamics at work in Spike Lee’s film, “Do the Right Thing,” is the conflict between the African-American culture of the film’s setting in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York and the world inside Sal — Danny Aiello’s — pizza joint. Yes, it’s stereotypical, but often true: Sal’s hung his walls with photographs of prominent Italian Americans: sports stars, politicians, celebrities.

One man inevitably appears in those arrays in real life — not just in Sal’s fictional parlor — and often the music in old-school Italian restaurants features him, too: The Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra.

Perhaps that convention’s fading a bit, but it’s on display in a particularly graphic manner in two locations even in groovy Redondo Beach, California: an Italian restaurant and a tailor shop run by a family proud of its Italian heritage.

Both murals are located on busy, iconic Pacific Coast Highway, within half a mile from one another.

Here’s the scene on the wall of the tailor’s shop. The figures are nearly life-size.

tailor mural 1 brad nixon 2085 680

There’s Frank — perfectly tailored, of course! Beside him, looking equally as dapper, that’s Dino — Dean Martin. Suave, sophisticated, swingin’.

frank dino brad nixon 2085 680

Off to the left, there’s another “Dean” in the scene: Jimmy.

tailor mural jd brad nixon 2085 680

He has the slouch, he has the cigarette and the sprezzatura — certamente — although his Italian ancestry may be a bit questionable. Also somewhat lacking in sartorial elegance. No wonder he never made it to Frank’s table.

Somehow, Marilyn is next to Dino. To the right of her is that famous Italian-American, Sammy Davis Jr.

mm sd gl brad nixon 2085 680

Let’s face it; Sammy’s an honorary Italian: long association with The Pack, tuxedo, suave slouch, hand in pocket, cigarette — style!

Beside him …. Is that young Gina Lollobrigida? Or Sophia Loren? If it’s Gina, the rather anonymous man with her could be her onetime husband, Milko Škofič, meaning the muralist really did his/her homework. If it’s Sophia, maybe it’s Carlo Ponti, Sr. I’m open to other suggestions on that pair.

Then we really branch out as we find Charlie Chaplin leaning against a pillar in the background to the right, not at all well-dressed, and then the ultimate crowd-pleasers, that must be Bogart and Bacall. Pillars of style! Who else wears a white dinner jacket to the beach?

cc hb lb brad nixon 2085 680

Whatever connection any of them had with Frank and the pack is unclear to me, but they’re famous — icons. They must be Italian!

It Never Ends

Let’s go a few blocks down Pacific Coast Highway to look at another mural, in the parking lot of an Italian restaurant.

rat pack mural brad nixon 2666 680

There they are again, considerably larger than life size. Reading from left to right, I see Peter Lawford, then Dino. The extremely stressed-looking individual in the middle must be the always-out-of-place-but-he-must-have-been-better-in-person Joey Bishop (he had his own TV show, after all), Sammy, and Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Sultan of Swoon.

Dino’s ordering a drink, natch, because there are no drinks on the table! Sammy’s laughing at a joke he just told. Frank’s amused by something, although maybe not Sammy’s joke — perhaps something JFK told him the weekend before in Palm Springs.

As for Joey, he’s apparently eying that dish of pasta and meatballs and is not happy about it. Who can blame him? It doesn’t look promising.

rat pack pasta brad nixon 2666 680

Really. This is California in 2019. Aren’t we over this?

Do I really have to show you the mural on the back side of the tailors’ shop from the first photo above? Yes, of course, you say.  Here we go, then. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Once again, at life size as seen from the sidewalk.

tailor mural 2 brad nixon 2083 680

That covers it: every icon missing from the earlier ensembles: Elvis, Ray, Louis, Bing and Bob — all looking appropriately natty. Don’t tell me we’re not absolutely up-to-date on what’s-what in entertainment in L.A.

Let’s face it. When it comes to putting on la bella figura, we’re all Italian!

I welcome suggestions about what song Elvis, Bing and Bob are harmonizing on while Ray’s rollicking away and Louis gives it his all with that legendary horn. “My Way?” Leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2019. The artist of the restaurant mural isn’t identified. The tailor shop murals are signed “Lovano,” but I’ve been unable to find anything more about them. I’m happy to give attribution for the work, and one should consider those images © “Lovano.”

 

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Responses

  1. What song are the boys indulging in? I suspect it might be “The Boys’ Night Out”!

    Back in the days of NASA’s Apollo missions, when the Johnson Space Center was mission control, the Holiday Inn across from JSC was the focal point for a lot of partying. Celebrities galore showed up, including many who didn’t have a single connection to the space program, but just wanted to be part of the scene.

    One of my friends’ fathers was invited to a party there during an early mission. When he walked into the hotel suite, there was the Rat Pack. I know that Sinatra, Martin, and Lawford were there. That was quite a period, apparently. The bar where the astronauts hung out is gone now, but I went there a couple of times back in the late 80s, and the walls were plastered with photos of astronauts and Rat Pack members mugging for the cameras.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a riot. I know places here in southern California associated with the aerospace biz where you can spend hours looking at photos of planes and aviators and test pilots and celebrities, and EVERYONE knows SOMEWHERE the Rat Pack went … at least once. But combine the two? That place had it all.
      A former colleague in Australia admonished me that if you look at Elvis’ footwear in the mural, you know what he’s singing, but I don’t see those other cats getting behind “Blue Suede Shoes.” Ray would. Louis could play anything. I don’t want to imagine Bing on that one, though. Hurts to think about. “Boys’ Night Out” is good. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person


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