Who is the next Frank Sinatra?

I spent the last couple of days in Palm Springs. (I was giving a talk to NBC.)

I gave myself a day to wander around.

Palm Springs does not have superb powers of historical evocation. (For some reason I thought it would.) But you can catch a glimpse of a world built for and by several generations of celebrity, including Frank Sinatra.

At a distance of several decades and several generations, Frank is looking odder and odder. The total self confidence. The overweening self importance. All that “chairman of the board” stuff. The booze. The “dames.” The “rat pack.”

But if you talk to someone of Frank’s generation, it’s clear the guy was a god, a personification of the qualities people found spell binding.

Who, I wondered, is Frank Sinatra now? Who is the person who exhibits this perfect connection with the cultural moment. There are lots of options. Jon Stewart has a shot at the “crown.” Jay-Z does too. [Suggestions, please.] And, sure, it’s tougher to say now that we are so fragmented.

There’s a chance it’s Bill Murray. Not least because he helped unseat the lounge singer with his SNL work. But also because he has reinvented himself several times over a series of movies. Young film makers found him and found him useful.

The real reason he is the new Frank is that he is the anti-Frank. He appears to have no interest in creating that huge personality that dominates the public stage. To be sure, there is a distinct personality, one that sits on the surface of all the film work. And this personality is all about a perfect self mastery, that’s quite Frankish, even as it is an exercise in irony that scorns everything Frankish.

What do you say? Who is the new Frank Sinatra?

5 thoughts on “Who is the next Frank Sinatra?”

  1. This is a grand question. I think, also, it suggests how difficult it is to see ‘culture’ from within the moment. I don’t know. Is there a hierarchy of moving from celebrity (which is, I think, now a rather low rung associated with exposure) to fame (recognized for some talent) to icon (a particular twist or generational connection) to iconoclastic? (where one begins to span more than one ‘source’ of fame or status) to ‘cultural’ (help me here, ha.)

    Perhaps tangent (or not at all) but can anyone imagine who would play the roles of the moment or in the next 10 years of Elvis with Nixon in the Oval Office to exchange a pistol for DEA badge?

  2. I was inclined to think of a musician and then you pulled out Bill Murray which is a very interesting choice. I thought Justin Timberlake – he is incredibly famous for a reason. He is an effortless dancer and singer, he acts in both comedic and dramatic roles, he seems to be friends with everyone and women love him. He’s still relatively young and has time to acquire the power of Ol’ blue eyes, Jay-Z or Dr. Dre. I wouldn’t be surprised what he pulls out of the bag over the next 15 years.

  3. Only one person came to mind after reading your paragraph, Grant. George Clooney. Complete nonchalance with an aura of calculated distance. George also seems deeply concerned with the world beyond his sphere.

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