Long before the days of LIV, the Fontainebleau hosted a different kind of entertainment. Frank Sinatra — the classic American singer, songwriter, actor, and icon — used to stay, perform, and film at the swanky Miami Beach hotel.
In fact, says HistoryMiami president and CEO Stuart Chase, “Frank Sinatra loved Palm Springs, where his home was. The next place he loved was Miami. And the next place after that was the South of France. So he had a real connection and love of Miami, and that’s why he performed here often and some of his films were filmed here at the same time.”
That’s why, during the yearlong celebration of Sinatra’s work, life, and legacy for what would be Ol' Blue Eyes' 100th birthday, the museum is hosting the special exhibit "Sinatra: An America Icon." Curated by the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles and presented in cooperation with the Sinatra Family, it is the official exhibit of the 2015 Frank Sinatra Centennial. The exhibition will remain on display until June.
But while "Sinatra: An America Icon" has previously been on display in Los Angeles and New York, the exhibit at HistoryMiami offers a never-before-seen local angle. Sinatra spent so much time in the Magic City that the museum was able to procure enough memorabilia to add an additional gallery solely devoted to his experiences here.
“As a history museum, what we like are original objects from the artist that tell their story: like dance shoes from Sinatra and Gene Kelly; Ella Fitzgerald — whom he sang with — one of her dresses; Frank’s fedora; and even his tux,” Chase explains. He lists other items, such as movie posters, ticket stubs, menus from performances at the Fontainebleau, and local concert photography.
Finding and procuring these items was not a swift or easy task. Members of the museum staff searched for Miami-specific pieces for almost two years before the presentation of the exhibit. They dove into HistoryMiami’s archives to find newspaper clippings and black-and-white photos. Additionally, images of Sinatra and film crews on the sets of movies appear on loan from Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives.
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Chase emphasizes not only how the museum aims to showcase the past as it influences the present, but also how Sinatra’s music is a multigenerational representation of that mission. As a result, HistoryMiami will host a range of events over the next three months that explore various facets of Sinatra’s life and enable almost everyone to see the exhibit for free. March includes the Grand Opening Party, which took place last night, and the free Family Fun Day March 12. In April, there will be a Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting (because Sinatra was notably a fan of the Tennessee spirit) and a collaborative poetry workshop with O Miami. Finally, in June, guests can attend a free movie-centric event hosted by film critic and archivist Kevin Wynn, and a magical mystery musical tour around the city with HistoryMiami resident historian Paul George.
“We’re not just all about old dead stuff,” Chase says with a laugh, “but rather how [history] resonates today.”
"Sinatra: An America Icon"
On display March 4 through June 5 at HistoryMiami (101 W. Flagler St., Miami). Tickets prices vary up to $10. Call 305-375-1492 or historymiami.org.