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‘You know, I could be Mayor of this town’

Frank Sinatra wearing the Mayoral chain while in Blackpool
Frank Sinatra wearing the Mayoral chain while in Blackpool

Heritage is the word. It’s friendlier than ‘history’.

The annual Heritage open days are an opportunity to walk round Blackpool’s fine old halls of entertainment.

In a move that will enhance the heritage aspect, venues are realising there is as much fascination in ‘who appeared here’ as in the design and decoration of the buildings.

And a series of visuals called Winter Gardens Stories has been launched with Frank Sinatra and the Beatles.

We’ve got stacks of stories in Memory Lane!

At the Gardens there are two Sinatra showcases recalling his Opera House visits of the 1950s.

Showcase number one is on the Church Street frontage and has a super photo of Frank.

The text states he appeared in concerts on three occasions.

Showcase number two is on the Coronation Street side of the building.

The text states Frank performed twice at the Opera House.

Three performances or two. Which is correct?

In fact it was four.

The singer made two visits to the Opera House for promoter Harold Fielding - on Sunday, July 16, 1950, and on Sunday, July 25, 1953 - and on each visit he did two concerts.

I suspect the confusion over the number of his local performances is due to another error on Sinatra showcase number one, stating that in 1950 he was paid a record £2,000 for a show.

The presumption seems to be there was only one show but the fee covered two shows, confirmed by the Gazette’s front page ad on July 14 and the full page about Sinatra’s visit on July 17, 1950.

The Opera House always had two Sunday concerts because it would have been unviable to bring big stars from London for a single performance.

But back to the Sinatra showcases.

They will attract interest for his comment to his local chauffeur Frank Lucas: “You know, I could be Mayor of this town.”

It couldn’t happen, of course.

We never had Mayoral elections.

Perhaps Frank was musing about how nice it would be as Mayor of a town that was giving him such a warm welcome.

He certainly didn’t realise he would have to live here, get elected to the council, and build up about 12 years of seniority before he got his turn to be Mayor.

But he did get to wear the Mayoral chain of office in his courtesy visit to the Town Hall. Maybe that’s what started him musing!

Frank’s enthusiasm was typical of American artists who came to Blackpool in the 1950s.

They saw a bustling little town with three piers, sparkling sea, streetcars and cutesy little streets of shops and guest houses with funky names.

In 1956, when Hollywood star Kim Novak came to a cinema exhibitors’ conference at the Opera House, she even talked about buying a house here.

Let’s have a Kim Novak showcase at the Winter Gardens!

Next week’s Memory Lane will look back on the most remarkable Winter Gardens story of all.