Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate how Frank Sinatra returned to the Paramount Theatre in New York City to huge a crowd known as the, “Columbus Day Riot,” which happened on October 12th 1944.
In the early 1940s, as radio and recordings were making singers more broadly popular, it became clear they could also draw huge, adoring crowds to their live performances. And one of the first modern “teen idols” to do just that was a young singer from Hoboken, New Jersey named Frank Sinatra.
In October 1944, when Sinatra returned to New York City’s Paramount Theater and by then he had also appeared in the films, Step Lively and Higher and Higher some 30,000 to 35,000 fans, mostly female teens, caused a giant commotion outside the theater.
Dubbed “The Columbus Day Riot,” the police were called in to diffuse the situation. Part of the problem had to do with fans that refused to leave the theater after having seen one complete show.
It was Columbus Day, a public holiday, and the bobbysoxers’ turned out in force. The famed New York photographer Weegee (Arthur Fellig) was there with his camera and notebook, capturing the scene in hyperventilated prose.
Today’s YouTube video footage is from user name History Comes to Life, its muted video but it gives you an idea how the riot looked that day of bobbysocks’ waiting for Frankie to sing.
“Oh! Oh! Frankie,” he began, mimicking the girls’ ululations. “The line in front of the Paramount theatre on Broadway starts forming at midnight. By four in the morning, there are over 500 girls and photos of Sinatra pinned to their dresses.
“Then the great moment arrived. Sinatra appeared on stage … hysterical shouts of ‘Frankie … Frankie’; you’ve heard the squeals on the radio when he sings. Multiply that by about a thousand times and you get an idea of the deafening noise.”
Like Rudolph Valentino’s funeral in 1926, or The Wizard of Oz opening in 1939, the Columbus Day riot was a generation-defining media event acted out on Manhattan’s streets: during the day some 30,000 frenzied bobbysoxers’ swarmed over Times Square in an exhilarated display of girl power.
Sinatra, meanwhile, was becoming a rich young man. Between October 1942, and mid-1943, he made an estimated $100,000 from radio, film, and personal appearances a huge amount of money in those days. And his teen audience would prove to be something of a guaranteed market in the years ahead.
As we celebrate today’s phenomenal of how Frank Sinatra returned to the Paramount Theatre to huge a crowd known as the, “Columbus Day Riot,” which happened on October 12th 1944.
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell