By Kate Miller
“How It Feels” returns for another series of first person stories from students at KU who have had incredible experiences. We launch the spring series with one student’s weekend at the legendary Frank Sinatra’s Los Angeles home. Check back each Thursday over the next few weeks for new installments.
Two years ago, professed Frank Sinatra mega-fan Morgan Henry, a KU junior from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, spent the weekend at the house in Los Angeles where Sinatra lived the last years of his life. This is what it felt like.
As the car reached the tip of the driveway, I fought to contain my excitement. I wanted to scream like I had three weeks ago, running up and down my dorm hallways in euphoric happiness. I wanted to call my mom and everyone I knew, like I had done back then to tell them where I was now – pulling into the driveway of Frank Sinatra’s mansion.
Sinatra has been my favorite singer, actor and musician since I started watching his movies at 3 years old. I’d read countless biographies and examinations of his life. When my boyfriend surprised me with the news that his friend had rented out the house where my idol had lived and was flying me from Lawrence to Los Angeles to spend the weekend there, I freaked out.
So here I was, looking up at one of the many houses that Sinatra lived in. Perched on a hillside overlooking Los Angeles, the front wasn’t much to look at – wood-paneled roof, stucco walls and a balcony on the second floor. But the inside was what I had come for.
As soon as I stepped into the house, I ran from room to room, trying to figure out what I had recognized. The ornate kitchen where his breakfast would have been cooked, the central courtyard where food was served, and the backyard that looked over the rich neighborhood of Woodland Hills – where I was standing now was where Sinatra had stood just 20 years ago. Dark wood-paneled walls with elaborate floor and kitchen tiles changed from room to room, and no two spots in the house looked the same. In addition to having a stellar view out the back, the backyard included a pool, a hot tub, a patio, a small putting green and an expansive grass yard. It may have cost only $1400 a night to rent, but to me, it felt like I was staying in a billion-dollar abode. My eyes were huge the entire time; I was like a kid in a candy shop.
My boyfriend’s friend was a Saudi Arabian prince who had rented the house for a raging birthday party. The prince trucked in tons of alcohol and drugs, which I watched him use with his friends and family in the same room where Sinatra might have contemplated his plentiful career with his wife by his side. The prince turned the fountain in the back pink, and the bar, where Sinatra might have classily sipped Jack Daniels, played host to stripper poles and pinball machines. It was surreal to see what I saw as such a historical building be quickly fashioned into a party palace.
But my boyfriend and I weren’t interested in any of that; we settled into a room where no party was happening. We cuddled on a leather couch in front of a fireplace, watching Frank Sinatra movies and listening to Ol’ Blue Eyes croon his classics through the sound system for hours. We reminisced about what might have taken place in this house and wondered if he had ever watched the same movies in the same spot where we were watching movies now. We thought back on our own relationship, which had all started thanks to a mutual love of Frank.
I didn’t care about the illicit activities happening next door; I was just there for the Sinatra house.
When I left at the end of the weekend, it was the hardest thing to do. There was so much I wished I had done at the house. But my boyfriend and I made ourselves a promise that weekend. We would come back one day, no matter how expensive, to spend another weekend in that house, free of parties and ragers, full of relaxation and classy living – just like Frank would have wanted.
Photo by Emma Creighton