It was an overpowering draw opening night. Pigeons queued up just for a shot at watching the slots inhale their coins. A crowd of 400 mobbed the cancellation desk hours before showtime in the South Shore Room, hoping against hope.
The show itself started anticlimactically. Frank Jr., in a narrow-lapelled dinner jacket and trousers an inch too short, worked his way through an orthodox repertoire of familiar ballads. The entrance of Nancy Jr. did nothing to allay the crowd's restive mood. She had made Frank Sr. a grandfather four months ago, and was still too pudgy to look sexy in hiphuggers and bare midriff. Her husband Hugh Lambert, who produced and directed the show, came on for a soft shoe. "They're running out of family. They gotta bring him out sooner or later," muttered one ringsider.
Comic Pat Henry, traditional incense-bearer before the grand entrance, quipped, "I'm worried—I heard the baby humming this morning." Finally, father Sinatra did come on. The voice was fresh, the patter stale—continuing raps at the gossip press ("Rex Reed, how can I knock Rex Reed? He doesn't even shave"). After comparing newswomen to whores, Sinatra apologized—to the hookers.
Only once during the week's engagement did the three Sinatras work together in the Side by Side number blocked out by Nancy's husband. "Frank just didn't go for it," revealed a member of the Woody Herman backup band. "It just didn't have the right feel for a club. It was more like a TV special, so he decided against." That was the other Sinatra not billed on the marquee: The Godfather.
Harrah's in Lake Tahoe picked up a $50,000 tab just for housing the ménage, but it paid off. Old Blue Eyes was back for his first personal appearance since his Australian black eye. And the two warm-up singers who preceded him enabled a casino to bill three Sinatras—père, fille et fils—on its marquee for the first time ever.