Memo To: Website fans and browsers
From: Jude Wanniski
I lived in Las Vegas from February 1961 to April 1965, the years the Rat Pack formed around the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra. As a young reporter and daily political columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, then and now the biggest newspaper in Nevada, I saw Sinatra perform dozens of times, courtesy of Carl Cohen of the Sands Hotel, who Sinatra once punched in the nose. I became a shameless fan of Frank in my college years at UCLA, 1955-59, when he made his big comeback with a series of albums that were standard background music at every college dance party. I still have my original "Songs For Swingin' Lovers." I never met Sinatra, but have an interesting memory of him playing chemin defer in the Sands casino, seated next to Leo Durocher at the card table. If there was anyone in the sports world whose personality resembled Sinatra's, it was Durocher. "Leo the Lip", as he was called, was in the practice of arguing with umpires and engaging in fisticuffs on and off the field. Durocher was the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers when I went to my first ballgames in 1946. Another similarity with Sinatra was that Durocher was bald, although Sinatra covered his shiny spot with a "rug." At the cardgame at the Sands, Durocher needled Frank about his toupe and Frank responded by taking it off. (It impressed me that he deferred to Durocher, one of the few men to whom he did.) As it was somewhere in the wee small hours of the morning, there were only a handful of people watching, so I've always figured I may have been in a small number of fans who saw Sinatra in public without his rug. That picture of the two bald guys playing cards was the first that came to my mind when I learned of his death last week, hearing him referred to in the past tense when I turned on my car radio.
My respect for Sinatra was so great that I reserved a special place for him in my 1978 book, The Way the World Works. On the giddy belief that the book would be read a hundred years from now as a classic, I used Sinatra to illustrate a precious form of "capital." My preposterous assumption was that the tribute would help keep his "records" in stock if college kids knew of TWTWW and were curious to learn about him. Here's my tribute as it appeared in Chapter Four, "The Economic Model: Capital."
[T]he broad definition [of capital] is the one the global electorate is interested in. Global capital included conventional capital goods, of course. But in the broad sense, all "wealth" capable of producing goods and services is counted as capital in the ledgers of the global electorate. As long as people get pleasure from gazing on the Mona Lisa, it is capital. Clean air and clean water are capital. A Beethoven symphony or a rock tune is capital. Parks, statues, buildings, houses, symphony or a rock tune is capital. Parks, statues, buildings, houses, sewer lines, waterworks; all are capital. Capital is anything that is not used up in consumption, but continues to produce satisfaction to some component of the global electorate. Seed corn that produces corn is capital. Seed corn that is consumed is capital destroyed. Leonardo de Vinci is, to the global electorate, intellectual capital. When he died, that intellectual capital was destroyed. While he lived, he arranged the fixed physical capital stock — pigments and canvas, paper and ink — in a way that left enduring capital, which can be consumed again and again, without destruction. In the same way, singer Frank Sinatra has in our lifetimes been almost pure intellectual capital through the way he has arranged the fixed capital stock. When he dies, or permanently retires, the intellectual stock of capital will be diminished. But thereafter, the recordings and motion pictures of Sinatra will remain a part of global wealth until such time as no member of the global electorate values them as goods or services.
The last time I saw Sinatra was in late 1972 or early 1973. It was late on a winter's night of freezing rain in Washington, D.C., and I was alone having dinner in my favorite steakhouse — the Palm — which was nearly deserted due to e weather. Who walks in but Sinatra and his wife Barbara, accompanied by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who would soon thereafter resign in a deal that ft him off the hook for shady financial dealings when he was governor of Maryland. They could have sat almost anywhere in the room but they were given table next to mine. Agnew's back was to me and Sinatra sat across from him facing me, his wife at his left. Because I was alone, I had nobody to look at but Sinatra when I glanced up from my Steak a la Palm. At a distance of only ten feet, our eyes met several times, and wow, I can tell you, they really were blue.