WATCH: That time the Grammys cut off Frank Sinatra … and Billy Joel made them pay
As New Jerseyans and music fans everywhere mark Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday this weekend, one particular memory from the last years of Sinatra's life stands out to me.
In 1994, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — the group behind the Grammy Awards — chose to bestow the then-78-year-old Sinatra with a Legend Award at that year's Grammy ceremony, with Bono selected to introduce him. As you may remember if you watched the telecast more than two decades ago (and can view on the Grammy website), Sinatra received a lengthy ovation and proceeded to speak for several minutes before being abruptly cut off so CBS could fit in a commercial break.
The official, Grammy-sanctioned clip doesn't show that last part, of course. But trust me, it happened. What transpired after the live ceremony came back on the air, however, was arguably even more memorable.
Billy Joel took the stage to perform his Grammy-nominated hit "The River of Dreams," a song with several built-in pauses before the choruses. But as Joel approached the song's final chorus, in front of a packed house at Radio City Music Hall and millions more watching on television, he took a rather lengthy pause to prove a point: You don't interrupt the Chairman of the Board.
For years, I told people that I remembered this happening, and they would vaguely agree that it had, but I never had any evidence to back it up. Only in the last several months has the above clip resurfaced on YouTube. (As you might imagine, you won't find it anywhere on the Grammy site.)
Joel may have been born on the opposite side of the Hudson from Sinatra, but on that night almost 22 years ago, he stuck it to the music industry with a little bit of Jersey attitude.
One final note: The other TV memory I have from the end of Sinatra's life is a news bulletin reporting his death during the final episode of "Seinfeld" on May 14, 1998. As far as I know, there's no video evidence of that on the Internet ... yet.