Open to the public today – and for only three days – is a marvelous exhibition in Downtown LA of Phil Stern”™s photos of John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration and celebrity Gala, which was hosted by Frank Sinatra and friends.
Photographer, gallery owner and art collector Phil Stern, now a nonagenarian, was employed by Frank Sinatra to photograph scenes from the memorable day when America”™s most beloved President was sworn in to office, fifty years ago.
Sinatra had also staged a huge gala event – a dinner and an evening of performances – chock-full of his famous friends and performers, including Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Nat King Cole, Milton Berle and so on.
As the personal photographer for Frank Sinatra, Phil Stern was granted extraordinary and unique access to the U.S. Presidential Inauguration of JFK in 1961. Stern documented this historic event, capturing the intimacy of the people, a street-side view of the Pennsylvania Motorcade, a front row center view of JFK”™s presidential acceptance speech, along with behind-the-scenes, backstage activities of stars and performers in attendance at the Gala celebration, and at the “thank you” party thrown by Sinatra and JFK.
Often recognized for his memorable photographs of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Sammy Davis Jr., Marlon Brando, John Wayne, and more, at 91 years, Stern has some incredible stories to accompany his indelible images.
Several cases in the gallery contain various pieces of ephemeral memorabilia, including possibly one of the funniest notes you”™ll ever read, composed by Phil to Frank. [pictured below]
The story behind it follows:
“I was never part of his inner circle,” Phil says about Frank Sinatra, “but for some reason he trusted me.” When Kennedy won the presidency, Sinatra was thrilled. After all, Sinatra had supported Kennedy for years, and credits himself with Kennedy”™s election victory in Hawaii (where Sinatra had been stumping while shooting The Devil at 4 O”™Clock). To show his appreciation for Sinatra”™s support, Kennedy asked him to stage the Inaugural Gala.
Phil says, “I knew it would be an historic occasion, and I wanted to be in on it. So I wrote a note to Frank on a file card and left it in his dressing room. It read something like: ‘I”™d like to photograph the inauguration. Check one of three boxes – fuck off, I”™ll think about it, or yes.’ The answer was “˜yes.”™ After the gala, Sinatra and Phil made a limited amount of these books to be given to the performers.
This special exhibition of gorgeous photos and precious memorabilia is only on for three days – today & tomorrow 11am-5pm; Sunday Jan 23rd 11am-3pm.
Do not miss this exhibition!
Pacific Electric Lofts ~ Penthouse #2 Ballroom
610 S. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014
See the complete archive here.
*** NB *** The permanent Phil Stern Gallery will open on January 25, 2011 and will be located at:
601 S. Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Additional contact info:
Review by Pauline Adamek
Photos of opening night by Pauline Adamek
My photos of Phil Stern’s exhibited photos, taken and used with permission.
Photo of JFK copyright Phil Stern