Danny Lanzetta

Author | Writer | Teacher

Scenes from the Flesh:

Scenes from the Flesh is a novel by Danny Lanzetta about the dissolution of a marriage, inch by inch.

Told in a series of vignettes, Scenes from the Flesh uncovers the layers of a slowly accumulating despair. It begins with three distinct voices –all occurring on the same December day – one for each of the story’s protagonists: Roger, his wife Brenda, and their daughter Anna. Along the way, there are minor disappointments, major confrontations, and hints of an even more monstrous betrayal.

Scenes from the Flesh is a novel of deep-seated longing amidst the inertia of routine. It is a story about the diminishing returns of a love built on misguided pretenses as well as the tales we tell ourselves to salvage the remains.

About Danny Lanzetta

Danny Lanzetta is a writer and teacher. He self-published his first two novels, Drunken Angel and Gadfly. He is also a spoken word artist whose music is available on Spotify. In a previous life, he appeared (as Danny Gerard) on Broadway in Les Miserables and Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers, was the original Jason in Falsettoland, and the lead on the CBS primetime series Brooklyn Bridge. 

After 40 years as an inveterate New Yorker, Danny currently lives in the atmospheric river that is Seattle with his wife and dog. In his spare time, he is a consistently disappointed fan of the New York Knicks.

Danny Lanzetta

Excerpt from Scenes from the Flesh


A few weeks after he got back from Pittsburgh, Roger took his family to the Beach and Tennis Club in Rye. They belonged because it had a pool. (All three were competent tennis players as well.) He hated the place but knew that once the warm weather hit, he’d be spending most of his weekends there. It was May, and the first good weather weekend of the season, so the club would be mobbed. Every asshole had the same idea.

He was sitting in the den watching television, waiting for them to get ready. He’d called out moments earlier to see how close they were to leaving. He wondered what was taking so long, especially for his wife. She’d been wearing the same outfit to the club the past ten years or so (ever since acknowledging the baby weight as a permanent fixture), the same solid, purple one-piece with sweat shorts and a tee-shirt covering her at all times she wasn’t in the water. But when she came into the den, she was wearing something new, still a one-piece but pink, almost neon, bound to attract more attention than usual. She was wearing shorts but no shirt. Sunglasses covered her eyes.

“New suit?”
“Yeah. I figured, ‘Why not?’ You know, I lost ten pounds this winter.”
“Really? That’s great. I thought I noticed something.”
“No, you didn’t. But you’re sweet to pretend.” She kissed her husband on the cheek. “I’m going out to the car. Tell your daughter to hurry up.”

Brenda left toting a canvas bag of towels, water, and sunscreen. As she was going through the front door, he yelled out to her, “Should I bring the rackets?” But she was already gone. He decided to grab them anyway from the storage closet in the den. When he slid the door open, he saw a mess of random things. He had to step inside and start rooting around. Immediately, he regretted the idea. “This place is a nightmare,” he said out loud.

“Dad, who are you talking to?”

He looked behind him and saw his daughter. She had the rackets. She was holding two in one hand and twirling the other over a bare shoulder. She too had always worn a one-piece but now was in a  navy blue, strapless bikini. He couldn’t help but notice how long and lean she’d become. There was so much area between the top and bottom of the suit, a clean, white rectangle of open space stretched tautly against the curl of small but visible muscle. Tiny, white polka-dots danced in random clusters around the suit. It was her body at the beginning of its ascent, youth brashly announcing itself, a debutante coming out.

“You,” he said, with some effort. “Let’s get going.”

At the club, Anna went straight for the pool. Brenda said she wanted to get some color at the beach. Roger, in his usual club attire of black jeans and t-shirt, said he was going with Anna. He hated the sand.

“Suit yourself,” Brenda said, a kind of flirty chirp as she headed off, the beach bag swinging jauntily from her wrist.

Anna dropped her towel off at the table and dove right into the deep end of the pool. Roger sat down and took out his book. She swam in the lane closest to where he sat, and he got caught up watching her, the graceful, rhythmic redundancy of her athleticism, almost no deviation in motion or speed unless she was consciously picking up the pace. She swam one way, touched the wall. Flipped into a flawless, slithering streamline. Swam the other way, touched the wall. Back and forth like that, over and over again, the delicate skin of the water barely rippling beneath her long legs (a curious genetic divergence), fluttering subcutaneously and in soundless concert with each overhead stroke and alternating breath. He counted ten back-and-forth pool lengths before she threw her arms over the side of the pool and rested against the wall, hardly breathing any differently than if she’d just woken from a nap.

“So?” she said.
“What?” He wasn’t sure what she was asking.
“How’d I do?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m certainly no expert on swimming.”
“Oh, come on. I saw you watching me. You must have some sort of critique. You always do.”
“It’s really not my area. But I thought you looked great out there.”
“Really? It wasn’t too choppy?”
“Not at all.”
“Well, I can really only do freestyle right now. I’m going to work on the butterfly over the summer ’cause that’s the one everyone sucks at. It’s the hardest. Anyway, I’ve got to become more diverse if I want to make the team.”
“The team?”
“Yeah. Next year. Got to do something to take the place of drama.” And with that, she was off into the pool again before he could respond.

He should’ve pushed her toward swimming to begin with now that he thought about it. She was made for it. One look at her body – he felt certain that the sturdy elegance of her limbs must be unusual in someone her age – told him that. But he’d never really looked at her before. And as she continued swimming, he realized that the impression her appearance left on him was something new; the recognition of how her sixteen-year-old body was built to slice through water wasn’t something he could’ve known before today, before the new bikini, before she accidentally became a woman.
He didn’t care if she was an actress anyway. He just wanted her to be happy. Whatever she chose to do was fine by him, as long as it would make her feel good about herself.
That, too, was a new feeling.

“Hey,” Brenda said.
“Hey. What happened?” He was startled to see his wife.
“Ahh. The beach is packed. There’s not really a great spot to stretch out. I’m going for a swim. Maybe we can play a set when I’m done. I brought your shorts just in case you wanted to play. They’re in the bag,” she said, indicating the tote she was still carrying. She put it down on the chair next to his. “Can you just keep an eye on that for me while I take a dip?”
“Well, OK. But what if someone wants to use the chair?”
“Well then, move it, silly goose,” she said, playfully shaking her head at how helpless he could be sometimes. She patted him on the head. “What would you ever do without me?”

She was always happier at the club.
Both his wife and daughter swam for the next half-hour or so, Anna continuing her exhibition of youthful buoyancy, Brenda more clumsily, but with that indefatigable air of dogged pursuit he’d occasionally spoken of with a husband’s dutiful admiration. He remembered one business trip in particular, a few years after they were married. A bunch of executives and clients were sitting in the hotel lounge, talking about their spouses. Someone asked about Brenda, what it was that had initially attracted him to her. He paused for a moment. Then he said, “She just will never quit. When she wants something, she goes and gets it, by golly.” They all clinked their glasses to Brenda’s constancy. It was something which, at that moment, with that particular group of people, seemed totally false, like something he’d come up with a long time ago, an old aphorism he’d never bothered to update. He was caught off-guard. He wasn’t in the habit of isolating Brenda’s characteristics. He had to think hard to come up with something to say about her to the group of strangers, not because he didn’t love her or believe she was a wonderful woman. But up until then, he’d simply loved her in totality, had never been tasked with pinpointing the what and why, a quality or qualities that, when added to many others – good, bad, and everything else – equaled the woman he fell for, was committed to, would remain with. It was odd to think of her that way. And yet, in some regard, that’s what she was, him too, everyone else: an accumulation of qualities, some real, others occasional. Imaginative, even.

“We’re done in the pool for a little while. You want to get a snack?”

His wife and daughter were standing in front of him, side-by-side, towels around their waists. Brenda dripped water heavily on the pool deck like it was running away from her. Anna appeared nearly dry except for her hair and little bubbled drops at various moments of skin. He felt like he was seeing them all at once.

“Um, I think I’ll stay here. Keep reading. I’m at a good part.”
 “OK. You sure? You want us to bring you something back?”
“OK. Yeah. I’ll take a hamburger.”
“Yes. And mayonnaise.”
“On a hamburger?”
“Yes. Is that so weird?”
“A little. I think it’s French. Is it French?”
“I don’t care what it is. That’s what I want.”
“OK. You got it.”
“Oh, and some French fries.”
“Really? They’re kind of like Nathan’s, remember? The thick ones. The ones you don’t like.”
“Yeah, that’s OK. Get them anyway. They’re still variety for the mouth.”
“Ha. Well, OK. But you should only eat French fries as a treat. What’s the point if you don’t even like them?”
“I think I’ll survive.”
“All right. Mayonnaise and French fries. You know, you’re not thirty anymore.”
“Both of you go. You’re distracting me from my book.”
“OK, OK.”

There are certain thoughts that are invasions, thoughts that cease to be raw material and become, perhaps, what every thought intends in the first place, no longer accident or possibility but permanent inscription, no longer means but end, and often the transition is impossible to detect, it occurs the way a day or an hour or a minute comes and goes, time’s incessant carnage springing from the most unassuming assault, never was, never will be, just is and is and is, and in that is is constant thinking, much of which can be discarded, love, murder, fear, thrill, god, sex, sleep, even bald truth is allowed to come and go as it pleases so versed is the thinker in cutting down what cannot fit comfortably alongside that which has already been assumed, often for no other reason than it got there first, the most arbitrary of filters. But some thoughts cannot be dissuaded, a very few are more powerful than their masters, a very occasional one is of such religious insistence the thinker is forced to live with it, around it, in service to it. Or lie. There are no other possibilities once the rogue has taken root. Often it is the stuff of revelation. Sometimes it can be gradually incorporated. And yet occasionally, it is of a dread so calamitous that the recognition is the sprouting of a malignancy unlike any other, a hellish learning that human beings, equipped with only two real defenses, aloneness and society (an excruciating duality), can never fully rectify. Roger thought of the moment when a person might look up and realize that something very heavy was about to fall and kill him. He would almost certainly still hold up his hands in a comical, last-ditch effort to resist death or, at the very least, the force of the impact. He looked at his hands, which were somehow still holding onto his book. His hands were shaking. He dropped the book on the table.

“Here’s your hamburger,” Anna said when she returned without Brenda, a mingled fragrance of chlorine and honeyed sweat rising from her neck as she bent near him and set down the plate. “Ketchup and mayonnaise. But they were out of French fries. You’ll have to get your ‘mouth variety,’ or whatever you said, some other way.”

(I am doomed.)

Other Books

Excerpt from Drunken Angel (2002)

Lay your eyes anywhere at all. Imagine something and I’ll bet you it’s the truest thing you ever saw. All that great sedentary land out in front of you making deals and promises with the oceans, land filled with people making noise, smoking cigarettes, deciding on dinners, always having their say on all the instances which methodically arrive before them, all of them preparing for a precise and perfect spasm of death when finally there are no more necessary moments (and that right there is why every death is forlorn). In every other state, county, city, town, village and principality, the following story continues to be made and altered and celebrated and overturned and remade in the image of other loves. In every whiskey nightclub, on muddy roads of midwestern mornings, inside of famous pizza parlors and outside on the warm summer-strollin’ sidewalks of New England, in studio apartments tucked behind garbage alleys and within southern parlors with polished brass reflecting from every door and wall and historical nameplate, this story has been acted out by far more essential figures. What now?

This is a New York story but travel with me up the Hudson River, past where Manhattan is crisscrossing itself into a heart attack, up the West Side Highway, past the people cursing traffic jams, past the sunset and the sewage plant—there’s New Jersey across the river, sincere as a lullaby—running into highways and byways and thruways and parkways falling all over each other—Saw Mill, Cross County, Taconic, 684, 84, 9, 490, 390, 17, 90, 89, 88, 87, 81. Take the long way around and go past the diners hawking scrambled egg specials on chalkboards; skip past the fast-food restaurants at two in the morning with Chevys and Chryslers and Dodges wrapped around the drive-thru almost like it’s 1955 again; walk past the flatland prairies with cows and sheep and Buffalo Bills dotting the landscape like desolation heroes. Ignore it all for now and settle on down in Geneseo for a while and listen to what there is to say:

Gadfly (2010)

William Gadfly read the letter and then put it down on the table beside him. He remembered the words as he tried to close his eyes. Something wouldn’t let them shut. A display of blatant academic irresponsibility … an inappropriate use of an unpublished classroom exercise … a stunning demonstration of selfishness and disrespect for a fellow student. Gadfly was sure all those words would mean something to him one day. Just not now. Although, to be fair, the whole episode had sent him reeling down a long-untraversed corridor, back to his undergraduate days when a classmate had accused him of not being at all interested in storytelling, but in waxing philosophically. For some reason, one silly word came into his head.


After six weeks as a half-hearted participant in one of New York City’s most prominent graduate writing programs, Gadfly had embarked on a project entirely of his own design. He’d sat down on a Monday evening, the shade on his lamp removed, his telephone turned off, his head wet from another rainy night, and began to write. It was to be his final project. He imagined himself by candlelight, at the drafty window of an English cottage. He lived on the second floor of a brownstone on one of the only quiet streets in Manhattan. He had inherited it from his maternal grandmother, who never liked him. She gave it to him because she liked to be shocking, even in death. The next morning, Gadf ly had emerged from his quarters with his manifesto, twenty-six pages, single-spaced and a smart title: “Frugal Fiction: The Rise of Cheap Literature.”

He began:

Though I have spent only six weeks as a member of Randolph University’s prestigious-in-name-only graduate fiction writing program – schools like Randolph are no longer required to earn their reputations, their statuses having been cemented from years of hearsay and numerous decorative initials following the names of their esteemed-in-their-own minds-only professors – it is more than enough to ratify the following declaration: fiction is not dead, but if the students at Randolph represent what is to come, somebody ought to murder it.

Excerpt from Damnation (In-progress)

To: featureseditor@nychronicle.com
From: stanleydenton111222333@aol.com
April 2, 2020
9:34 PM
(16 hours ago)

Subject: A Review of Frank Sinatra’s Concert Album, Sinatra at the Sands, 1966

Title: A Review of Frank Sinatra’s Concert Album, Sinatra at the Sands, 1966

By: Stanley Denton

Grade: A+ (Note to editor: I’d prefer not to give a grade. Is this mandatory?)

Do you know that Sinatra at the Sands is the ultimate concert record?

It’s true! Think about it. It swings, it jives, it jazzes. The man is in peak vocal form, no auto-tune necessary, crooning effortlessly, jaunting between joyful put-downs – “It’s not that you’re attractive” – wallowing masochisms – “The drinks and the laugh’s on me” – and existential meanderings – “Excuse me while I disappear.” It has two monologues of tepid jokes which nonetheless seamlessly pass the time and provide more than a few chuckles for the hoi polloi seated around Copa tables, waiting for the next course. (I know, without any visual evidence, that this concert could only happen in a ballroom of people slobbering over previously pristine tablecloths, drunk on brandy, heaving with red meat, yucking their way through the ultimate “dinner and a show.”) The band is being led by Count Fucking Basie and Quincy Fucking Jones. And, as if all that weren’t enough, The Chairman of the Board (whatever that nickname means) ends his opening number, an emphatic rendition of “Come Fly with Me” (Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Kahn) with a rousingly-received endorsement of sexual assault: “And don’t tell your Papa!”

What more could you ask for?

(A sidenote: I re-listened to a large portion of Sinatra at the Sands in order to write this review but realized very quickly that I remembered it almost exactly how it is and ever shall be, every breath, note, and inflection, including the exact joke that ends the first monologue, officially called “The Tea Break” for you afficanadoes (sp?): “Now I think I better sing before I turn 51…I mean 29! Excuse me!” Basie’s menacing, stick-to-your bones bass line gets stepped on, of course. Still Frank, deft as ever, pulls off mic to bellow a nearly inaudible but audible nonetheless, “Hep! Hep! Hep!” before gliding greasy-skiddle-perfect into his latest threat: “You make me feel so young.”)

I once wrote a poem about Frank Sinatra when I was in my twenties, after I wasn’t supposed to like him anymore:

They say Sinatra was farting all night at the Sands
with no regard for
the band
or the production staff
left to fumigate the wings
every time he went back on stage.
The story can’t be 100 percent true because
everybody knows
that concert was recorded over several nights.
And they had to be careful because Frank was a
Legendary Lout.
One thing you have to give him though:
he sang his ass off that night.

Other notables of the program:

  • Sinatra calls “The Shadow of Your Smile” (m: Mandel; l: Webster) “a brand-new song,” which, technically, it was at that time, despite the fact it has always sounded ripped from the bosom of Methuselah. He sings it prettily; he knows no other way. But it is a slight song, and Frank knows it, as evidenced by the tune’s invisibility across the rest of his recorded history.
  • Later, he half-heartedly huffs “Where or When” (Rodgers and Hart), a song he gets through by throwing around the melody with an insouciance to match the title. Even Basie sounds bored. And this is Rodgers and Hart!
  • As much as I love The Count, I hate “All of Me.” Too much of a brass shout. Tiny piano followed by cartoon horns, like an excellent Venetian Hour band – and the chattering of glasses in the background, absent during any portion of Sinatra’s set, doesn’t help. The Count ain’t no sideshow. Still, this piece is just another American diddie, background music twiddling over squeaky-wheel carts offering over-processed sugar to under-seasoned Americans. Can you imagine Vegas in the sixties? I think it’s one of the few things Hollywood has ever gotten right.
  • Has there ever been a more insidiously sexist standard than Ervin Drake’s “It Was a Very Good Year?” I understand, it’s a high bar to cross. Still, it’s essentially an implicit criticism of the Women’s Movement. How dare our hero have to adjust from “small town girls” to those of “independent means”? Yeah, they’re all very good years. But the protagonist’s surprise is a glimpse into the vacuous souls of Mad Men-era white men. Frank, no friend to women, does his best at the end to rescue the situation – “It was a mess of good years” – while holding a preposterously long D. (The lyric is absent from the original recording.)
  • “Makin’ Whoopee” is on this album. I have heard it before. I refuse to hear it ever again, if at all possible.

Soon after Sands was released, Frank entered into a particularly outrageous portion of his career. He was an avowed Kennedy guy – in some ways, it’s hard to tell them apart – but Kennedy’s death and numerous entanglements I won’t bother to get into here made Sinatra a different kind of person during the September of his years. And even when Frank went full out Republican, chumming it up with what turned out to be the first reality star president on the White House lawn in the eighties, I never thought it was as bad as the way he pandered in his music. Have you seen the cover of She Shot Me Down? (Note to editor: I’d like a pull quote here with a reproduction of the cover art. Do you need me to find this for you? I can ask my son to scan and send it over. I just need a few days notice.) Did he get that smoking jacket from an Ed Wood tag sale? And what about Trilogy? There’s probably no more bloated release in the history of popular music. No less an authority than Sinatra scholar Jonathan Schwartz – not that he’s unassailable – said so at the time, calling the album “narcissistic” (sp?) which, in retrospect, seems soft. If memory serves, the press release literally said it was an album about “the epochs.” All of them!

That’s not to say it was all bad. Sinatra’s work with renowned Brazilian songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim is an admitted guilty pleasure. Jobim has his own history as one of the most revered songwriters and vocalists of these Americas – if not exactly a jazz artist – but Sinatra casually reduces his decorated counterpart to an appendage, looking for even the tiniest, smidgiest amount of international cred. And it works! Nobody else could sing the words “Agua de Beber” so arrogantly accentless and not sound like a fraud. There is an almost sexual symbiosis between the two natural tenors as they bounce around each other, a temporary armistice of predator and prey emerging as perhaps the most exciting interracial marriage until the Obamas. It is an arousing appropriation. 1

The undisputed highlight of the second half of the record, though, is the vastly underrated 1938 Rube and Koehler composition, “Don’t Worry About Me.” Frank introduces the song over xylophonic twinkles, resorting to his one and only aw-shucks Gleason-esque delivery of the night: “I frankly believe that this next song is one of the great American standards of our repertoire in this nation.” (And that was the cut they kept.) He’s right. He forgets to credit the songwriters, though I’m willing to chalk that up to an impossibility. No way to fit in the names if Frank is going to slide unctuously into that bittersweet vibrato-lite half-sentence of irreducible self-indulgence: “Don’t Worrrrrrrrrryyyyyyy ‘bouuuut meeeeeeeeeeeeee…” The first time I heard it was the first time I understood my grandfather’s obsession with Sinatra’s phrasing. It is truly an astonishment. A clinic on breath control, if nothing else. He hasn’t stopped speaking for a hair’s breadth before he’s singing. The equivalent for me and you would be to run full speed for one minute. Then stop running for precisely one second. Then resuming activity at exactly the same level of speed and efficiency.

As it is, Frank gamely recovers to deliver a scathing soliloquy in the direction of some former lover who – aghast! – has chosen someone else. Whether that was the exact intention of the songwriters, I leave my readers to debate. But isn’t that Frank’s gift? He can remake history with that voice. Turn up into down, black into white, rice into wine. Man woman and child are bound to be raptured by his smoke and mirrors. Which is exactly why we love him. We may not realize it, but we ask our entertainers to be magicians too. That’s why they get paid so much. Frank can rewrite history, spit on it, resuscitate it. And all in the same stanza! Nice work, if you can get it.

But “Worry” isn’t just about the vocals. Not nearly. In fact, the first line is merely an amuse-bouche. The lyrics are interesting enough, although a bit scathing for your typical standard. And yet, after that first line, Frank seems to be waiting. Or rather, lying in wait as he dawdles along. And when the twist comes, it’s unexpected, even though it’s been staring us in the face all night long. For once, Frank is simply our guide, and he leads us into the fire as passive-aggressively as any good Virgil would: “So if you can forget…don’t you worry about me…”
And then 29 seconds.

Horns fall from the rafters, a litany of Lucifers immolating halfway down, unceremoniously cast out by a sophomoric overseer. 29 seconds. Unlike other portions of the program, these horns are earned from thousands of nights the opposite of this one, no gimmicks, no distraction, just agony and decency like the wounds of a terrified child. 29 seconds. Strings are a portent, turn and yearn, yeah, they’re gonna take us down into the middle of the night when the night isn’t the night but a sleeping bastard too drunk to care that the chips are down and the bowties are torn and every neck has already been broken. 29 seconds. Other things do other things. A final drum roll seems to never quite resolve and always makes me think about getting better speakers. Glints of rescues and hoodwinks and twinkled glass and a hurried promise of more to come because that’s all you’ve ever had and all you’re used to so you might as well make it feel like…

29 seconds.

Again, I have not seen this show with my eyes; there is no known video I am aware of. But I can bet right now, from what I know of Basie, that he could barely stand to play his instrument. He knew his Grand, part of an impressive backline at Sinatra’s hotel, was never getting over the horns, no matter how well mic’d, no matter how hard he played it. (And Basie wasn’t known for playing it hard, anyway.) By that point in his career, he was still a sterling pianist, but his role as bandleader made him an auteur of the moment. I don’t have to see it to know he is hopping out of his seat, one hand nominally on the keys, sweating angry, like somewhere early on he learned that when jump is happening, the room doesn’t matter anymore, no matter the swank, and from that day forward he never gave a shit if the people inside the room couldn’t have the wherewithal to figure it out. Fuck ‘em. Could be 29 hours. Or 29 minutes.

Or 29 seconds.

When it’s over, even Frank seems discombobulated. His embarrassed “dee-dah” (or is it “bee-cause”? I’ve never been able to tell) is clearly rushed, almost comically swallowed in a rare moment of microphone misuse from the GOAT. Kudos to him and his producer (it says Sonny Burke, but you can’t tell me Frank didn’t have final cut) for keeping it in.

(You can distinctly hear someone yelling “Frank!” in the aftermath, something they must have caught off a room mic and decided to leave in. I want to kill that motherfucker today as much as I did back then.)

It’s probably not a coincidence that Frank decides to introduce the orchestra after “Worry.” Then again, who knows when any of these things happened. It sounds like a post-production splice on my CD. “There’s nothing further to be said except the magnificent Count Basie and his great orchestra,” Frank says. And then he takes a break to go offstage and fart in the faces of the peons.

The Final Tally:

Despite all its flaws, Sinatra at the Sands is an outstanding concert album. Or, as Frank might say, “mahvelous.” Especially in light of his next attempt (his only other coordinated attempt at a concert album, so far as I can tell), The Main Event, eight years later. 2
Some gal I met a few years back turned me on to a gal named Ani Difranco. I looked up some of her stuff on YouTube. Most of it was fine, but she had one song in particular that caught my eye. I don’t remember the name of it, but I’ll never forget the lyric that made me stand up straight from cleaning the cobwebs out of the closet or making beans or whatever old man activity I was engaged in at that moment: “People used to make records, as in a record of an event, the event of people making music in a room.” Right on!

And maybe most importantly, Sands just sounds like the best night out. Ever. You can hear how good the food tastes. It doesn’t matter that the whole thing kind of reminds you that one of the reasons people love music is because they believe it doesn’t really matter. Fuck it. This is an epic recording of one of those nights out with your wife you’ll talk about for all time, and it’s worth all the thousands and thousands of hours of nights NOT like Sands just to have been there. To say you saw it. To say you were there in January (or February) of 1966. In Vegas. At The Sands.

After all, who is the bigger idiot? Frank? He makes the rules. He farts in people’s faces. He ends a jangly rendition of Fred Loewe’s idiotic “Get Me to the Church on Time” by singing (and this is exact, I carved a slash count on my desk to be sure) “ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong… ding dong” to the frothing thrill of an adoring crowd. He gets free tuxedos that are just a little bit too tight. He gives you The Sands. Even if you weren’t there, you have The Sands. I mean, you have it. Right now. Right on your computer. It’s not the same as being there, but if you put the music up loud enough (and have the right kind of speakers) it’s going to sound pretty goddamn close.
Or me? I counted the dingdongs. I slashed up my desk in order to write this review. I have been working on this goddamn thing for what feels like thousands of hours with no promises, no guarantees, because there’s nothing else left for me to do. I haven’t been outside in weeks.

And all I have is you.


1. One of my dreams was always to hear Frank sing “Dindi” with Jobim in a Monte Carlo casino while smoking a stogie and sipping whiskey. Neat. That’s always been my ultimate decadence. But now I’d settle for listening to the recording on a decent hi-fi, gulping grapefruit juice in a Best Western in Tallahassee during a cowboy movie marathon on AMC.

2. Have you ever heard this garbage? It starts with the cover art. Whereas the cover of Sands shows a sleek, near-silhouette of 60’s Frank, bathed in smoky spotlight, the high-end barroom crooner for Vegas’ elite, Main Event has him in boxer’s garb, the aging heavyweight champion, white scarf sashed over his shoulders, hands raised in victory above his scabby dome. Just to make sure the point isn’t lost, Howard Cosell announces the proceedings. My favorite line during the hyperextended introduction is when Cosell – before recognizing that Professor Higgins is in the building, whoop-de-damn-do – tells you who is really there to see Frank: “Just people. People from all walks of life. People who are young. And people who are old.” Wow. What he should have said was that it was a bunch of greasy, round, balding men of varying moral standing, just like Frank, and their overfed wives. (Like all great broadcasters, Cosell skillfully buries the lede.) Most distressing is that Main Event has all of the absurd flourishes that mark every Sinatra parody levied by the SNL generation – baby, woogie-boogie, sweetie, snookums, broads, chicks, cats, clowns, and even a “Where does it hurt you baby?” — though I can assure you there is almost as much genius improvisation as lazy misogyny. Almost. It’s hard to defend a record that opens with “The Lady is a Tramp.” (Pow! Pow! Pow!) Or namechecks Stevie Wonder before a scandalous version of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” in which Frank insists on punctuating every “You!” like a threat (and then ultimately demanding that YOU need to “light” his “fire”). And while Sands may be an anachronism, Main Event is just plain mean. His voice is so much more jagged; he understands, with far less humility than Sands, that he is the centerpiece attraction and barely required to do anything more than show up and indicate. Why does he murder the melody of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” when he could just as easily have brought it to new heights, a la Jimi and “Watchtower”? Why is the set list full of vapid, gimmick tunes like “Bad Bad Leroy Brown?” (“My Way” has always seemed too cynical to be such a revered standard. I can’t help but picture ground-down incisors and welldone meat in Frank’s mouth whenever he sings, “I bit off more than I could chew.”) Why the harangue before “The House I Live In,” insisting on not only sharing his personal Amerikan propaganda story but why we ought to feel that way too? Why does he keep trying to convince us how good the Woody Herman Band is going to do us when Basie already swung that loop like perfect little girl double-dutch? And why the hell can’t he just sing the correct words to “My Kind of Town” for one sentence? Or one measure? Let’s face it. Sinatra was Sinatra before there was Dylan to become Madonna to become Kanye. Chameleons, I mean. Give ‘em what they’re slobbering for. Main Event is the worst example of that kind of craven macho Amerikanism, something to be said for it, I guess. And fuck. It happened. It might have been shitty, but it definitely happened. And for the 20,000 in attendance, that very fact was enough. Still is. I mean, how do you tell the truth to anyone who was there in the Garden on a night like that? How do you take that night away from the kids on a date who never went out again? The husband and wife who saved up for a year and walked into the Garden gleefully stuffed on Beefsteak Charlie’s all you can eat shrimp and salad bar because the steak was too expensive? The fathers and daughters with tickets in Row G who had lived every day together for twenty years and soon would not by way of one person’s choice but definitely not the other’s? All of them are able to listen to the recording now, filled with longing and wonder for a time when they were all willing and able to rearrange their schedules in order to see, as Cosell refers to him, “the most enduring champion of them all.” I can’t say I blame them. One thing I know for sure: nobody has or ever will say the word “song” over a microphone with the same reverence as Frank Sinatra.


Rain Delay Theatre is a blog from Danny Lanzetta. In 2022, Danny travelled to Pennsylvania to follow the Altoona Curve, the Double-A baseball affiliate for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The blog, once dedicated exclusively to his trip, is now an open forum for his musings, however inane they might be.

Blog: Rain Delay Theatre


Cory Giger Interviews Danny in Altoona (2022)
Altoona Interview with Cory Giger

New York Times Interview about Brooklyn Bridge (1991)
Danny in the New York Times When He Was a Thousand Years Younger



Monday, October 30, 2023, 8pm
Danny Lanzetta reading from his novel Scenes from the Flesh

Molasses Books
770 Hart St, Brooklyn, NY

Cally Fiedorek
Daniel Joseph

Saturday, November 4, 2023
Doors at 7:30. Show at 8pm
Danny Lanzetta and Friends 

Brooklyn, NY
Private Show Book Release and Spoken Word Performance

Contact the author for details