Sunday, December 13, 2015

About Frank ‘n me ‘n Birthdays

Yesterday me and Frank Sinatra celebrated our birthdays. Frank was 100, or would have been if he hadn’t died in 1998. But when you’re a somebody like Frank it doesn’t matter if you’re dead…people continue to celebrate your birthday. Family, Friends and wannabes show up at some posh location decked out in their finest hoping to be seen on the next day’s news. And they don’t have to pony up for presents.

I was 75 yesterday. I didn’t think I’d make it this far. When I was a kid life expectancy was 67 years. You retired at 65 and died two years later, hopefully having enjoyed the allotted 730 days of your golden years. Now life expectancy is 79. That raises a question…which mortality table applies to me? If I go by the 1940 table I’ve lived eight years longer than average. Based on the 2014 table I’ve can expect maybe four or more years before my ticket to the white light express gets punched. But I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m still on the right side of the grass and enjoying life and that’s what counts.

the Tom Filipowicz Combo 
Frank and I have more in common than just birthdates. Frank was a singer. I was a singer. Frank earned a lot of money and won many awards for his singing. I did not. In the late 1950s and early 60s I had a band called the Tom Filipowicz Combo. There were four of us. I was the vocalist. We performed for weddings, birthdays, graduations and other activities, earning not much more than expense money. I added a female vocalist to the group who turned out to be pretty good, and shortly after that two of the guys suggested we go to Vegas and take a shot at breaking into the big time. I chickened out. They went, and one-by-one became disillusioned and went on to other things, except for Terry (playing the guitar) who stayed in Vegas and lived out his life as a session musician. Those were different times. The band and my voice are long gone, though I can still occasionally be heard in the shower belting out, ’…and that’s why the lady is a tramp!’

as Herr Schultz in Cabaret singing the pineapple song
Frank was an actor. I was an actor. Frank earned a lot of money and won many awards for his acting. I did not. I was okay as a community actor; at least the local reviewers thought so. My favorite role was that of the defense attorney Sir Wilfrid Robarts in Agatha Christie’s…’The Witness for the Prosecution.’ My favorite production was ‘Cabaret’ staged by the Actors Repertory Theater. I portrayed Herr Schultz. The male and female leads were New York professionals as was the director. The rest of us were locals. We did 17 evening shows and two matinees – each performance to a packed house. That was my first paid acting gig. I still have a copy of the first check somewhere. My acting in Cabaret led to some paid script writing and acting for in-house promotions for a Green Bay television station for about a year, but that was the extent of my entertainment career. Thankfully I never gave up my day job.

There were gala celebrations for Frank in many major cities in the USA and around the planet plus an all-star television special, but the “really big shew” as Ed Sullivan used to say was at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. Frank Sinatra Jr. and everyone who is anyone was there. Afterwards they probably dined on exotic dishes like Coquilles Saint-Jacques followed by bùche for desert and drank Dom Perignon at $400 a bottle.

My birthday party was at a back table in Chili’s restaurant in the Chiclayo mall. We dined on exotic dishes with names like ‘big mouth burger’ and ‘chicken fried chicken’ and drank Peruvian beer at $2 a pop. Okay…so it wasn’t the Saban Theater and there were no television cameras or tuxedos or fancy foods, but friends being together sharing convivial conversation and laughter aren’t the exclusive domain of high-rollers at celebrity parties, and we had our share of both.
In the evening there was another celebration, this time with family at a restaurant on the sixth floor of the Saranga Hotel. These are some of the same folks I celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday with, except for my niece CJ who is seven. At that time I had known them and Maribel for only four days, being on my first trip to Peru.

After returning home Maribel commented that “the whole day flowed like a river.” It really did. This was one of my more enjoyable birthdays. It was a relaxing day spent with friends and family. I couldn't ask for more.

Maybe in five years I’ll write another post about our birthdays when Frank is 105 and I’m 80. I’ll bet Frank’s party won’t be nearly as spectacular as the one this year. Reaching 105 is no big deal if you’re dead. It’s automatic…everyone does it. Turning 80 will be a milestone for me and I’ll be ready for another party. But this time no Chili’s restaurant. I’m thinking that the San Martin Ballroom at the JW Marriott Hotel in Lima Peru will be the place to be Saturday evening, December 12, 2020. Watch your email for the invitation.


  1. Congratulations on your birthday, you multi-talented guy, and you left out your writing career that is ongoing!