In “Ocean’s Thirteen” (which opens June 8) there are a few references to guys “who shook Sinatra’s hand” having a certain code. George Clooney is, with a doubt, someone who would have loved to shake Ol’ Blue Eyes’ hand (he never got the chance, though the two did speak once).
In his career, Frank Sinatra wasn’t just a singer who revolutionized American music. He wasn’t just a pop star who became an Oscar-winning actor. Nor was he simply an artist who commanded creative control when most of his contemporaries did as they were told. For decades Sinatra defined all things cool.
These days Clooney is the closest thing we’ve got to Ol’ Blue Eyes: an A-lister who knows he’s got it all, and isn’t afraid to enjoy it. Here are a few reasons why Clooney is today’s Sinatra.
1. He owns a villa on Lake Como
Let’s face it: Clooney knows how to live. Maybe he learned it growing up in Kentucky, maybe he learned it while filming “Return of the Killer Tomatoes!” — it doesn’t matter — the ex-TV actor knows that there’s more to life than Hollywood and with some of his millions he purchased a historic villa on Italy’s beautiful Lake Como so he could live la dolce vita in the land where it was created. And as Sinatra once said: “You gotta love living — 'cause dying is a pain in the ass.”
2. He brought back Vegas
Even more than ladies and Jack Daniels, Sinatra loved Vegas. Hell, he practically invented the place, or at least, put it on the map along with his legendary Rat Pack. Clooney has resurrected Sin City, only instead of Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop following him around, he’s got his own crew of fun-loving stars, including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and the rest of the boys from the “Ocean’s” films. Speaking of which...
3. He turned “Ocean’s Eleven” into a franchise
To be honest, when I heard that Clooney was going to remake “Ocean’s Eleven,” I thought it was a disaster in the making. After all, the original was released in 1960, and wasn’t all that great of a film. But Clooney saw the potential. What’s more he enlisted guys he knew he could have fun filming it with: Pitt, Damon, Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Carl Reiner and, of course, Julia Roberts and then Catherine Zeta-Jones (in “Ocean’s Twelve”). And, whereas, Frank went on to make two pretty lame Rat Pack films (although I’ve always been partial to “Robin and the 7 Hoods” myself), Clooney has made two reasonably good sequels, particularly “Ocean’s Thirteen.”
4. He’s not afraid of a fight
Clooney reportedly punched out director David O. Russell while filming “Three Kings,” when the director became unbearably rude to a member of the crew. It’s just one more example of the big star who never forgets that he used to be a nobody. That’s something Sinatra would do. In fact, Sinatra had his fair share of fights — he even once punched out a reporter. And Sinatra would have completely approved of Clooney’s on-again, off-again battle against the paparazzi.
5. He’s politically active
People forget that in his day, Sinatra was a political kingmaker. According to legend, he used his reported Mob ties to line up labor union support for John F. Kennedy in key Democratic states like Illinois and West Virginia, tipping the election Kennedy’s way; then he organized JFK’s Inauguration Ball (his Rat Pack pal Peter Lawford was JFK’s brother-in-law). As he got older and more conservative, Sinatra switched parties and backed Ronald Reagan’s successful bid for the White House. Besides campaigning for his father Nick’s failed bid for congress, Clooney is involved with raising awareness about the ongoing genocide in Darfur. You go, George.
6. Ladies love George
Say what you want about Sinatra, he loved ’em and left ’em and — more importantly — stayed friends with ’em. He was friendly with all his ex-wives up until his death. He loved the company of women and they loved him. Now ask any woman what she thinks of George Clooney and chances are she’ll sing his praises. Clooney seems to be one star that women of every description can agree on. How does he do it? He’s adamant about his opposition to marriage, is an admitted womanizer, and had a pet pig for years — all no-no’s for most women. So what’s his secret? Simple: Clooney’s old-school cool. And in this age of wishy-washy metrosexual men who wax their eyebrows, women (or so I’m told) like that. But don’t take my word for it: ask your wife or girlfriend.
7. He works on projects he cares about
Like every TV actor who struggles to make the leap to the big screen, when he started making movies Clooney wasn’t so picky. But after 1997’s “Batman & Robin” fiasco, Clooney got more selective with his films. He now alternates his commercial films (the “Ocean’s” series) with more arty fare like “The Good German,” “Intolerable Cruelty” (directed by the Coen Brothers), “Syriana” and “Solaris.” And of course, the two films he’s directed, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and the Oscar-nominated “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
8. He’s a man’s man
While no one is disputing that Clooney loves the company of women, he also likes to hang out with his boys. He reportedly likes to go on month-long motorcycle trips with the guys and do well, guy things (like drink, play cards and smoke cigars).
9. Like Frank, he pays tribute to Bogart
If you didn’t see “The Good German,” then rent it. What you’ll see, besides a beautifully made film (in black and white, the way God intended), is a stylish film noir and homage to the great films of the 1940s (the references to “Casablanca” and “The Third Man” are unmistakable). Sinatra was pals with Bogie and reportedly looked up to him, and would probably have admired the way Clooney (and director Steven Soderbergh) so consciously invoke his spirit without reducing the film to caricature.
10. He knows about being down and out
Success came late to George Clooney, who suffered through more bad TV sitcoms than he’d like to remember. When his career took off with “ER,” he made the most of it. After exploding on the scene in the late 1930s, by the early ’50s Sinatra’s career had tanked. But after his Oscar-winning performance in 1953’s “From Here to Eternity,” he was back on top where he stayed. Sinatra never forgot his humble origins; maybe that’s why he was a legendary tipper. Bet Clooney is, too.