Sunday, July 7, 2013

Frank Sinatra's Retirement Concert (1971)

Frank Sinatra’s Retirement Concert
 Frank Sinatra’s Retirement Performance

Type of Activity
 Indoor Theater Concert
 Ahmanson Theater Los Angeles, California
Date of Activity
 June 13 1971

09 June 1971 to Los Angeles Ca with Vice President Agnew

On June 13, 1971 – at a concert in Hollywood to raise money for the Motion Picture and TV Relief Fund – at the age of 55, Frank Sinatra announced that he was retiring, bringing to an end his 36-year career in show business. This concert was held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angles. I had no idea when I left San Clemente that I would be supporting this event all that I knew was that Vice President was coming to Los Angles. I was sent there to support Vice President Agnew, his staff and the United States Secret Service, who would be attending a concert at the Ahmanson Theater. 

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Ahmanson Theater
 Ahmanson Theater
Since this was a low Key event and no speech was scheduled for the Vice President there was very little publicity and only a few reporters covering the event, those that did were primarily from the entertainment community.  After meeting with the Staff and Secret Service advance people, and were briefed with the details of the VP’s itinerary this is when we found out that it would be Frank Sinatra’s retirement concert. After this briefing we proceeded to start our radio survey of the motorcade route from LAX at the arrival location to the Beverly Hilton and on to the Ahmonson Theater / Dorothy Chandler Pavilion complex. When the survey was complete and the base station locations were selected we ordered the remote keying lines from the Tel co. We installed a remote “Charlie” base station at LAX to cover the Vice President’s arrival and set up a remote “Charlie” base station back stage at the Ahmanson Theater to cover the concert, then connected both sites to the USSS CP at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. We then checked radio coverage inside and outside of the theater complex, the Hotel, LAX and the entire motorcade route to insure radio coverage in all areas that the Vice President would visit on this trip.

Frank Sinatra's retirement concert 
Inside the Ahmanson Theater where Frank Sinatra's retirement concert was held.
Although we would have to work that night, dress rehearsal took place that afternoon and we were able to sit in front row seats and watch them.  Dean Martin and the Gold-diggers, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, Mitzi Gaynor, Barbra Streisand, Nancy Sinatra, Joe Namath, and Bobby Sherman. I was lucky to have saved the Program which helped me remember everyone who performed at this concert because there were so many. Although I do not remember Frank at the dress rehearsal, I was able to see his entire performance that evening!

The Program began with Princess Grace of Monaco (the former Grace Kelly) giving the opening remarks followed by the concert. Frank Sinatra was introduced by Rosalind Russell and began his performance by singing “All Or Nothing at All” , followed by “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, I’ll Never Smile Again, a moving rendition of Ol’ Man River, That’s Life, Try A Little Tenderness,  Fly Me To The Moon , Nancy , My Way, The Lady Is A Tramp and concluding his performance with Angel Eye. His performance was fabulous by far the best of the evening.

The great thing about the concert was that all of the best known entertainers of the time were on the program, not to mention celebrities like Robert Wagner, Lucile Ball, David Jansen and Don Knotts that would be in the audience. 

Frank Sinatra’s retirement in 1971 
After the show we tore down the remote and returned to the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Vice President Agnew departed the next morning and returned to Washington DC. We then tore down the equipment at LAX, packed up the CP and gathered up all of our equipment, then returned to San Clemente. It was a great show, although Frank Sinatra made his comeback a little more than a year later! It was a great evening of entertainment, one that I will never forget.

 Program for the 50th Anniversary of the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund


  1. Mr. Cross....Thank you for posting this. I was a "civilian" in attendance at the rehearsal for this event, held at CBS Studios in May, 1971. It's a memory I will always cherish as all of the stars who appeared in the June concert were in attendance. I was a mesmerized Idahoan, guest of my friend, the late Bud Brisbois - trumpeter for Henry Mancini (primarily). This day he was playing in both Nelson Riddle and David Rose's orchestras. I have searched for years for a recorded tape of the concert or a written account of all who appeared. It was 43 years ago! You have made my day with this. Thank you again from my farm in Buhl, Idaho!!

  2. I am glad that you enjoyed this Post, I was a performance that I will always remember. I have read somewhere that Gregory Peck did Have the Entire Concert recorded, but I have not been able to find anything except a few recordings of Frank Sinatra's performance that night. If I find anything I I will post it here.

  3. Mr. Cross. Thank you for this sweet memory... I was there too! I was the guest of a gentleman affiliated with 20th Century Fox and it was the thrill of a lifetime. I may, in fact, have this same program and issue of LIFE Magazine that covered the event with my souveniers in storage.
    I believe this picture might have been taken earlier in the day, or perhaps during a rehearsal, as I remember it was packed with celebrities, directors, performers and actors, and everyone was dressed to the nines. These people are not.... It was a thrill to see so many outstanding entertainers, especially Barbra Streisand singing live, which she never did back then. You may contact me by email (aol) if you like. Thank you so much for the opportunity to relive this most exciting evening in my life!

  4. i live in England and remember the daily mail reporting on this concert, and particularly remember them saying how great mitzi gaynor's performance was, i beleive she danced to the tune Shaft, i wish the whole show was available, with such a line up, i have franks 45 minutes, which is of course fantastic

  5. New HBO documentary on Sinatra due

    A new four-hour documentary, “Sinatra: All or Nothing At All,” will premiere over two nights on HBO, April 5-6, the cable network announced. The in-depth film on life of the Chairman of the Board is helmed by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney. The film will use a good amount of rare footage from and centers around Sinatra’s so-called Retirement Concert on June 13, 1971 at the 2,084-seat Ahmanson Theater in the Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles.

    The concert was a benefit for the Motion Picture and TV Relief Fund with vice president Spiro Agnew, Robert Wagner, Lucile Ball, David Jansen and Don Knotts in attendance. Other performers that night were Dean Martin and the Gold-diggers; Bob Hope; Jack Benny; Don Rickles; Mitzi Gaynor; Barbra Streisand; Nancy Sinatra; Joe Namath; and Bobby Sherman. The then 55-year-old Sinatra, who was introduced by Rosalind Russell (whose own retirement from acting was imminent), surprised the throng by announcing that he was ending his musical career after 36 years that night with his 11-song set.

    As it turned out, Sinatra’s retirement lasted a little more than two years. He continued to perform and record virtually non-stop for the next 21 years. On Dec. 19-20, 1994, he gave his final public concerts at the 38,561-seat Fukuoka Dome in Japan.

    On Feb. 25, 1995 in Palm Springs, at a private party for 1,200 guests on closing night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament, an 80-year-old Sinatra sang before a live throng for one final time. Esquire magazine reported that he was “in absolute control” that night, “clear, tough, on the money.” The last song he ever sang was “The Best is Yet to Come.”

    I was able to provide the producers of the show some input as to the concert itself as well as providing a copy of the program that is posted on site!