Frankie, aka “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” would be proud.
Bobby-soxers, now in their 90s, may soon be swooning at the foot of the life-size statue of Francis Albert Sinatra, newly installed in the park that bears his name in Hoboken, New Jersey, like they once did at his live performances.
In fact, at the dedication, one woman wheeled her 90+year-old mother up to see it, saying “This is mama’s favorite.”
The city of Hoboken honored their native son by dedicating the statue on Sinatra’s birthday, December 12, and the crowd sang “Happy Birthday.” On hand for the ceremony were close friends and family including Sinatra’s daughter Tina Sinatra; Saturday Night Live alum Joe Piscopo; Tenor Christopher Maccio; the mayor of Hoboken Ravi Bhalla and many others.
Present too, was the statue’s creator, sculptor Carolyn Palmer, who was born and raised in Chester, New York and attended Burke Catholic High School in Goshen. Palmer currently lives and has her studio in Saddle River, New Jersey. She has gained international renown for her realistic works which almost seem alive with the personality of the person they portray. Indeed, she has won acclaim for her statue of Lucille Ball in her home town of Celoron, New York, which replaced a previous statue that locals called “Scary Lucy.” They are very happy with Palmer’s version. She was commissioned by private donors to sculpt a bust of Pope Francis for the Papal Nuncio’s mission to the United Nations. The New York Archdiocese asked her to create another of the Pope for St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Soon after she was asked to sculpt three more busts of popes who have visited the cathedral. A visitor there commented, “I feel like they’re alive and looking right at me.” Palmer said hearing that was “the greatest reward: the greatest feeling.”
Other exceptional pieces are her sculptures of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, which are at the entrance to the Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. Those busts are finished with a special coating so that blind people can touch the features without fear of wearing off the finish. Hillary Clinton, who admired Eleanor Roosevelt, received a small version of the bust and was so pleased she sent a thank-you letter to Palmer. “Thank you for bringing your artistry into the world,” she wrote.
Amazingly, Palmer is essentially self-taught; she only took one sculpture class in high school and college each and she has never studied under another sculptor. She graduated cum laude, with a B.S. from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, with a concentration in art education, but studied works by the great Masters during a trip to Europe, to develop her own “eye.”
The pandemic brought a quiet time for Palmer and she immersed herself in all things Sinatra: songs, movies and photos. “I tried to bring out the essence of his soul,” Palmer said. The artist has always been inspired by French sculptors Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Jean-Antoine Houdon for the expression and lifelike quality of their work. Houdon sculpted the statue of Washington at the state capitol in Richmond, Virginia. She studied their works and others in museums and galleries in Europe during a college break; that visit convinced her to become a sculptor.
Sinatra’s statue expresses him perfectly; the casual pose is Palmer’s creation from movies and still photos. She said “It’s an eclectic Frank and a healthier Frank—without a cigarette.”
New York, New York is the backdrop
Sinatra is leaning casually against a lamppost, facing Hoboken, with the New York skyline as a backdrop. The perpetually lit lamppost was also created by Palmer. The light casts an orange glow, which Palmer said was his favorite color and made him feel happy. A river breeze “lifts” his jacket. Every inch of his body exudes classic Sinatra cool: the casually crossed legs, the tilt of his head and the tip of his hat toward Hoboken.
“Angles are attitude,” Sinatra used to say, and the figure telegraphs joy and insouciance in every angle.
Tina Sinatra was so pleased, she said, “Carolyn Palmer, we have to do a statue of you!”
Orange County, New York, should be proud, too.
Editor’s note: Singer Frank Sinatra never learned to read music, yet became the most popular entertainer of his time, maybe all-time. His records sold over 150 million worldwide. He was influenced by Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett who praised Sinatra, claiming that as a performer, he had “perfected the art of intimacy.” He was also an actor whose performance in From Here to Eternity won him an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He led a colorful personal life and was married four times: to Nancy Barbato; Ava Gardner; Mia Farrow and Barbara Marx. He died May 14, 1998, in Los Angeles, California.
Carolyn D. Palmer’s works can be seen on her Facebook page; she can be contacted at Palmersculptures.com