Power of the Audience

The power of the audience
By Australian Board Member, Dr Christopher Stewardson

Everyone can have a poor performance. We don’t like it, but we usually get away with it. But woe betide if we disrespect our audience or dump on the press. This is something Frank Sinatra found out the hard way when he visited Australia in 1974.

Ol’ Blue Eyes might have been the master of the microphone, but he was coming off a down patch, including some less than inspiring films. When he arrived in Melbourne, the press wanted interviews. Sinatra was more than reluctant and a succession of unseemly chases in cars and on foot ensued, with two female reporters in particular being mighty resourceful in their approaches – all to no avail.

At his first Melbourne concert, after his opening numbers, Frankie Boy perched on a stool for one of his intimate audience chats. In a meandering monologue, he disparaged members of the press and particularly attacked women journalists. The broads who worked in the press, he said, were ‘hookers’ and he might offer them ‘about a buck and a half ‘. Newspapers went into meltdown. The Australian Journalists Association demanded an apology. Sinatra refused and cancelled his second concert, after which he decided to get out of town. But union power was now in full swing against him. At the airport, aircraft refuellers refused to fuel his private jet, which sat on the tarmac in a standoff somewhat akin to a scene from one of his own westerns. Eventually, a disgruntled compromise apology was arrived at and Sinatra flew out of Australia, a country he had previously enjoyed touring.

Moral of the story? Respect the power of the audience and the press. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you as a performer, and, whatever the pressure, keep your social and professional skills at a high level, as well as ensuring your concert performance levels are at a peak! Sitting out on the tarmac is not much fun!

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