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10 Secrets of a Frank Sinatra Impersonator

In late January, Las Vegas took a step back in time to its Rat Pack heyday when FRANK The Man. The Music—a supper club-themed musical production showcasing the life and work of Frank Sinatra—made its debut at The Palazzo Theatre. Playing the role of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself is Bob Anderson, a longtime Vegas headliner whom Merv Griffin dubbed “The Singing Impressionist.” 

While Anderson’s act typically features a handful of musical impressions—from Frank to Dean Martin to Sammy Davis Jr. to Tom Jones—for FRANK, it’s all Sinatra all the time, a changeup that requires Anderson to act as both impersonator and impressionist. Here, he shares some of his trade secrets. 

1. START EARLY.

“I lived on a farm in Michigan and there was always a lot of music going on with my mom and dad,” Anderson says of his childhood. “I wanted to learn to sing and I thought that the best way for me to do that without taking lessons was to listen to the greatest singers and sing along with them. So I would put their music on and try to sing to as close as I could to whichever singer I was listening to. I thought that if I could sound even a little bit like these guys I’d do well, because they were the best. Little did I know that I was really learning how to do impressions of each one of these people.” 

2. FIND YOUR NICHE.

“At the time that I started nobody was doing singing impressions, they were usually doing big actors or political figures,” Anderson recalls. “I never planned on being a singing impressionist; I wanted to be a singer and that’s what I was doing. But this was in the 1970s and everyone was losing their record contracts, so you had to produce your own music and hope to get a distribution deal.” 

3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE A CHANCE.

Anderson was just 20 when he arrived in Las Vegas. “I had no money, long hair, a peace sign for a belt buckle, and all that stuff," he says. "I got to Las Vegas and, after sleeping in my car, I walked into the Sahara Hotel and just started walking around. I saw the show room, opened the door, and a guy asked, ‘Can I help you, kid?’ I said I was just looking around and he asked if I’d ever seen a rehearsal. I said no, that I didn’t even know what that was. He said, ‘Why don’t you sit in that booth over there. Don’t make any noise and you can watch this.’ It was about three o’clock in the afternoon and Nancy Sinatra was up there rehearsing with a full orchestra.”

Though the Everly Brothers were scheduled as her opening act, an incident during rehearsal found Ms. Sinatra scrambling for a replacement. Call it being in the right place at the right time or simply a moment of serendipity. “She was going to open in four hours and she was stuck,” says Anderson. “She was calling everybody and nobody could get there in time. I was sitting there and realized, ‘I can do whatever she needs.’ I don’t know where I got the whatever to get up there and do it, but I walked up to the stage and—with everybody looking at me like, ‘How did this guy get in here?’—I said, ‘Hey, Nancy. I’m a singer. And I can do whatever you need.’ Everybody laughed except for the conductor. He told her, ‘Nancy, we are stuck. See if this kid can sing. It might be funny.’ I told her I knew all her duets. Her conductor, Billy Strange, started playing the song ‘Something Stupid,’ which she did with her dad. So I sang this song with her. She came off the stage, hugged me, and I opened that evening in the Sahara Hotel.” 

4. IT’S WHO YOU KNOW.

After that fortuitous afternoon at the Sahara Hotel, Anderson continued working with Nancy Sinatra for the next year. And she began introducing him to some of her friends and colleagues. Just days after Sinatra took him on The Merv Griffin Show, Anderson got a call from Paul Anka, who had seen his performance and asked him to come back on Merv’s show with him a week later. “After the show Merv Griffin came up to me and said, ‘You know Bob, you have to have a reason for being on the show. You have to have a hit record or be in the movies or have a TV show or something. We can’t just keep having you back here on the show,’ and I told him that I totally understood,” says Anderson. “About a year later I was working in L.A. and Merv came into the club where I was and told me that he was having a party at his house and wanted me to come.’ 

“It was Merv’s 50th birthday and everybody in Hollywood was there—and I mean everybody: Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, and Elizabeth Taylor. The Beach Boys were sitting in the front room and Mama Cass, who had a cast on her foot, was resting it on Brian Wilson’s lap. Goldie Hawn was walking around. I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden, Merv started playing the piano and asked me to come up and sing something. And out of nowhere I started singing the songs just like the people who made the famous: If he played ‘Misty,’ I did Johnny Mathis. If he played ‘If Ever I Would Leave You,’ I was Robert Goulet. If he did ‘Delilah,’ I was Tom Jones. Within five minutes you could hear a pin drop in Merv’s house and I will never forget that Cary Grant was sitting on the floor, about 10 feet away from me, and said, ‘This is amazing. I have never seen anything like this.’ And it was amazing. So Merv Griffin made me ‘The Singing Impressionist.’” 

5. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

Anderson’s role in FRANK just might be the part he was born to play. “I watched Frank Sinatra my whole life,” Anderson admits. “If you are a singer, and you are serious about it, you are going to watch Frank Sinatra and you are going to like Frank Sinatra. You have to. He is just that good. So I used to watch him and sing along to him all the time and I just really felt at home doing Frank Sinatra songs. I knew his gestures and all that stuff. But when I started to work on FRANK, I spent two years getting up at 6 a.m., four days a week, and practicing two hours a day. I had a great big 10-foot by 12-foot video screen with mirrors all around the room and a great sound system and I would get up in the morning, put on a tuxedo, and study every move. I sang along with him and watched every gesture—the way he cocks his head, the way he points, the way he snaps his fingers, the way he walks, everything.” 

6. MAKEUP MAKES THE MAN.

To get completely into character, FRANK enlisted the help of two-time Oscar-nominated makeup artist Kazu Tsuji (Looper, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Planet of the Apes) in order to turn Anderson into the legendary showman. And that’s when the character really clicked for Anderson. “Certainly when I have the makeup on and the wig and the whole thing, that makes me feel the part,” says Anderson. “Kazu told me that when he works with movie stars, ‘Once they put this makeup on, they feel the role and it helps them to be the person.’ Well that is exactly what it does to me.” 

7. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE BLUE EYES TO PLAY OL’ BLUE EYES.

One physical feature that Anderson does not have in common with his on-stage alter ego is those famously blue eyes. “No, I have contacts in,” Anderson says, laughing. 

8. MAKE IT AUTHENTIC.

As if Anderson’s spot-on Sinatra impression weren’t enough to put audiences in the mood, he also recruited Sinatra’s former musical director, Vincent Falcone, to conduct the 32-piece orchestra that performs throughout the 90-minute production. “Vince was with Sinatra for more than a decade and has the original arrangements that Sinatra gave him,” Anderson says. “I am singing the original arrangements, and 16 players in my orchestra were with Frank Sinatra. I’ve got the real thing.” 

9. SET THE SCENE.

In order to fully immerse his audience in Sinatra’s world, Anderson asked the production team “to design me a set that would be reminiscent of the old Persian Room of The Plaza Hotel. I wanted to go back to circa 1965 and go into a supper club when they had their heyday. And so my stage is a supper club; in front of the stage, down in the orchestra seating, we put beautiful tables and lamps on the tabletops and really comfortable chairs and stuff for people to come in. So people who are sitting in the theater seating are looking forward at the stage and they are just looking in on a nightclub … It’s the quintessential reenactment of Sinatra.”

10. KNOW WHEN TO TURN IT OFF.

“I have been in the business for a long time, almost 40 years, and I am very comfortable with what I do at this point,” says Anderson when asked about whether it’s easy for him to shed Sinatra’s persona when he’s not on stage. “I am the last of the singers that have touched that Golden Age of music. I became friends with all those people; I have done all the television things and stuff and I think I grew up quite a few years ago. I am here because I really enjoy it. I enjoy what we are doing … and I am really just having a great time with it. I have surrounded myself with the best of the best and that is what we are doing.”

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
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Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
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In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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15 Fascinating Facts About David Bowie
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The music industry lost one of its most iconic artists when David Bowie passed away from liver cancer on January 10, 2016. Bowie’s death came as a surprise to music fans around the world, as he kept his diagnosis quiet. Which isn’t all that surprising when you consider the often-elusive nature of Bowie over the years. Here are 15 things you might not have known about David Bowie, on what would have been his 71st birthday.

1. HE CHANGED HIS NAME SO HE WOULDN'T BE CONFUSED WITH THE MONKEES’S DAVY JONES.

David Bowie was born in London on January 8, 1947 as David Robert Jones. But as he readied to embark on his musical career as a teen, there was a problem: Davy Jones, the lead singer of The Monkees, was already a known quantity in the music industry, and the aspiring artist was afraid they might be confused. So David Jones changed his name to David Bowie.

In 1967, 14-year-old Sandra Dodd sent Bowie what would be his first fan letter from America, in which she asked him about his name. Bowie quipped: “In answer to your questions, my real name is David Jones and I don’t have to tell you why I changed it. ‘Nobody’s going to make a monkey out of you’ said my manager.”

2. NO, HIS EYES ARE NOT TWO DIFFERENT COLORS.

While people often claim that Bowie had heterochromia, a genetic condition that results in having two different colored eyes, that is incorrect. Both of his eyes are blue; the ocular oddity that you do notice is what is known as aniscoria, or a permanently dilated pupil—which happened when Bowie was 15 years old and got into a fight with his friend, George Underwood, over a girl. "I was so aggrieved I walked over to him, basically, turned him around and went 'whack' without even thinking," Underwood explained. (His fingernail sliced into Bowie’s eye.)

Fortunately, there were no hard feelings; the two later collaborated on an album as The King Bees and Underwood went on to design the album covers for some of Bowie’s most famous records, including The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

3. THAT WASN’T THE ONLY TIME BOWIE'S EYE TOOK A BEATING.

In 2004, while performing in Oslo, Norway, a “fan” threw a lollipop onto the stage, which somehow managed to strike Bowie in the eye—and get stuck. A member of his crew was able to remove it, and Bowie went on with the concert. Rebel rebel indeed.

4. HE WAS BOYHOOD FRIENDS WITH PETER FRAMPTON.

Despite Bowie being more than three years older than Peter Frampton, the two struck up a friendship as youngsters. Both attended Bromley Technical High School, where Frampton’s dad was Bowie’s art teacher. The two shared a unique bond over music, and remained close friends until Bowie’s death. "He really introduced me, along with George Underwood, to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, people I wasn't aware of at that age," Frampton once said of his childhood friend. The two would collaborate a number of times over the years.

5. BOWIE AND ELTON JOHN WERE PALS AS TEENS, TOO.

Back in their teens—when Bowie was still known as David Jones and Elton John went by Reginald Kenneth Dwight—the two future rock icons became quick friends and would frequently get together to talk about music. But shortly after Bowie’s death, John admitted that they had a falling out and hadn’t talked much in about 40 years.

“David and I were not the best of friends towards the end,” John said. “We started out being really good friends. We used to hang out together with Marc Bolan, going to gay clubs, but I think we just drifted apart. He once called me ‘rock ’n’ roll’s token queen’ in an interview with Rolling Stone, which I thought was a bit snooty. He wasn’t my cup of tea. No; I wasn’t his cup of tea.”

6. AS A TEEN, HE FOUNDED THE SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO LONG-HAIRED MEN.

In 1964, when he was just 17 years old, Bowie formed The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men, an organization aimed at protesting the treatment that he and other men with long hair received on the streets of London. He took the matter seriously, as you can see from the BBC interview above.

That BBC spot led to an interview with the London Evening News, where Bowie explained that the organization was “really for the protection of pop musicians and those who wear their hair long. Anyone who has the courage to wear their hair down to his shoulders has to go through hell. It’s time we were united and stood up for our curls.”

7. HIS FIRST HIT, “SPACE ODDITY,” WAS PERFECTLY TIMED.

On July 11, 1969, Bowie released the single “Space Oddity.” The timing could not have been more perfect. Nine days after its release, the BBC ran the song over its coverage of Apollo 11’s lunar landing. It would end up being his first big hit in the UK.

8. HIS BROTHER WAS A MAJOR INSPIRATION FOR HIS MUSIC.

In 1985, Bowie’s half-brother Terry Burns, who battled mental health issues throughout his life, escaped from the hospital where he had been admitted and killed himself. In Nicholas Pegg's The Complete David Bowie, the writer reveals that Burns had quite an impact on Bowie’s writing. He was reportedly the inspiration for a number of his songs, including “Aladdin Sane,” “All the Madmen,” and “Jump They Say.”

9. BEING ZIGGY STARDUST LED HIM TO QUESTION HIS SANITY.

3rd July 1973: David Bowie performs his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. The concert later became known as the Retirement Gig
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Though Bowie had many alter egos over the years, Ziggy Stardust was the most famous of them. From 1972 to 1973 he toured in character as the glam rock persona until he abruptly announced that he would be retiring Ziggy during a concert in 1973. “Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do,” Bowie said of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

He later admitted that Ziggy “wouldn't leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour ... My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity."

10. FOR A TIME, HE FEARED A WIZARD MIGHT STEAL HIS URINE.

Four years after his Ziggy Stardust period, Bowie became the Thin White Duke. It was during this period that he struggled with both drug and emotional problems. In David Buckley’s book, Strange Fascination: David Bowie—The Definitive Story, the author wrote that by 1975, Bowie was "living a cocooned existence [in Los Angeles], disconnected from the real world.” He was apparently subsisting on a diet of peppers and milk, and exhibited some truly strange behaviors—like keeping his urine in his refrigerator so that "no other wizard could use it to enchant him.”

11. HE WAS A BIT OF A FUTURIST.

Not only was Bowie ahead of his time when it came to his art, but he also seemed to foretell the rise of the internet. In 1999, while discussing a newfangled invention known as the world wide web with Jeremy Paxman of the BBC, the host suggests that the internet’s potential has been “hugely exaggerated.” Bowie was quick to make it clear that he didn’t agree. “I really embrace the idea that there’s a new demystification process between the artist and the audience,” Bowie said “The interplay between the user and the provider will be so in sympatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.”

12. HE WAS A PIONEER OF MUSIC STREAMING.

In September 1996, Bowie became the first major artist to release a single via internet download only with “Telling Lies.” It took about 11 minutes to download. (Times have changed.) That was just the beginning: In 1998, Bowie announced that he’d be launching his own internet service provider, known as BowieNet.

13. HE WAS A VORACIOUS READER.

May 1973: In a black and white horizontally striped jacket with wide lapels glam rock star David Bowie
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While he was mostly known for his musical output, Bowie was a major bookworm who often read a book a day. In 2013, the curators at the Art Gallery of Ontario compiled a list of the artist’s 100 favorite books as part of an exhibition, “David Bowie Is.” It was an eclectic list, encompassing everything from Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz to Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary to Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys.

14. HIS SON RECENTLY CREATED A BOOK CLUB IN BOWIE’S HONOR.

In late December, Bowie’s son—filmmaker Duncan Jones—announced via Twitter that he would be paying tribute to his father’s love of reading with an online-based book club.

The club will kick off with Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor, and the conversation will begin on February 1.

15. A LOCK OF HIS HAIR SOLD FOR $18,750.

In June 2016, just a few months after the singer’s passing, a lock of Bowie’s hair—which had been snipped in 1983 by a wig mistress at Madame Tussauds in London—went up for auction as part of Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction held by Heritage Auctions and sold for a hair-raising $18,750.

“David Bowie changed music forever and fans are hungry for related precious objects that bring them closer to their favorite musician," Margaret Barrett, Heritage’s director of entertainment and music auctions, said at the time. "What brings you closer than a lock of hair?" (The bidding started at $2000 and early estimates thought it might only go as high as $4000.)

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