The Swinging-ist Unit in all of Shrinedom

Ole Blue Eyes, always the first to get tipped off, was soon hep to the story that me and the boys, we were forming a new lodge, see.

Did it make him jealous? We'll never know. But we were on his radar again, and he wanted a piece of the action.
 
Yeah. My phone rang that winter day, shattering the naive comfort that had settled in before I answered his fateful call. The line crackled as he sez to me, "Tommy! It's yer pal, Frankie! It's been too long... I've been thinkin' about all the good times. You remember, don'tcha? Back at the Sands? When life was good, and the world was our oys-tah?" I nodded, involuntarily. Dammit. That's how he reels ya in. I knew he could sense it over the phone, "Yeah, they was good times, Frank, they was good times."
 
I could just picture my old Rat Pack buddy, with that toothpaste grin, as he continued, "But do you remember the tunes, baby? Hey, I never told ya, but we wrote 'em all wit' youse boys in mind... Remember how Dean-o, that lovable swill, he'd open the show? Sammy'd knock 'em out, and then I'd send 'em over the moon! Man, we were singing about you! You, and Bourbon Jimmy, and Matt the Cloud and Johnny Two. And Big Tony! How's he doin?" --I said he was doin' well, like the others, and should tradition prevail, would soon be elected grand poo-bah of the Shrine. But Frank continued on without hearing me, reliving his memories. "...And Cueball Brad, that lovable rake, and Jimmy the Oak, and ev'rybody else (sniff!)... Oh! But the best part was singin' to your gals. God, I loved all o' them gals you'd bring with you, sitting up front, every show... Man, those songs... Those days and nights... They was somethin' to write home about, eh?"
 
I could hear him tap, tap, tapping on the table by his phone, like Poe's damn raven. Gaaa! He continued. "Hey, I heard you and the boys in Minnie - once again calling our town by that annoying nickname - I heard you're openin' up a new lodge... He paused for emphasis, before continuing...
 
So!... How'z about making me part of the gang?
 
Well, that figures. Criminy! It would bump our little project on a whole new direction, wouldn't it? Frank wasn't going to be content to sit on the sidelines, flyin' in for a lodge meeting here and there. Aw, nuts! Soon enough he'd want to run things, even when he was outta town. But how on earth was I supposed to steer Frank Sinatra away? Could anybody? Not that he'd send his goons - ah - his assistants, to press the point, but geez!
 
Well, I told him I'd get back to him right away. We exchanged our goodbyes and he hung up. -One always let Frank Sinatra hang up his phone first.
 
Talkin' it over with the boys, Cueball came up with a jewel of a plan: Instead of steerin' Frankie ta join the lodge, why, we'd form a little side group, dust off our fezzes, and make it all part of the Shrine! Not only was this perfect fer us, but it was much more Frank's style... With trepidation, I called him back, and man, I'm tellin' ya, he loved the idea: "That's fabulous! Sure, I'll be there, count on it - in person or in spirit, at every meeting!" (I could hear him shout off to the side, "Guadalupe! Where is my damn silk cummerbund!") "We can make it our town again, Tommy, like we did just after the War, when fellas just like us - red-blooded Americans - we owned the world. Yeah, we knew we could do anything, be anything, didn't we? They spun my platters when they shot a man to the moon, you know... And that Churchill guy you like so much? They said he listened to our tunes at the parties with them English swells, each time VE Day came around. I met the Queen once... Frank had a lotta memories to go through, sifting them when he was on the phone... Did I tell ya about the time when Joey, Lee Marvin, the Duke and I took the Buick down to Tijuana...? Had the top down, see, and...

We're The Chairmen

We grew up hearing the most wonderful stories about our grandfathers. Many were Shriners, men who dreamed, built, and since have funded all the massive operating expenses of a first-rate North American network of hospitals for kids, providing free orthopaedic care even today. They did it by spending their summer weekends creating and staffing all the quirky old parade units we cheered, by selling tickets for the Shrine Circus every year, and by the Shrine community clubs that hosted pancake breakfasts for thousands of us at a time. It became so brilliantly common as a slice of American life, and unquestionably successful. Those millions of Shrine Masons - it was they who truly organized their communities. They didn't have to travel far to lead memorable, noble lives. Our grandfathers were larger than life; age didn't dim their confidence, nor did it hobble their dreams.

When society took its non-conformist turn in the late 60's; they stayed true to their course. They kept their lodges open, and they diligently took turns guiding their Shrine units through the decades while many wrinkled their noses at such groups. Today, with renewed societal interest in the 'mod' era of the late '50s and early '60s, good men who want to give back to their communities are once again flocking to Masonic lodges and the Shrine.  At "Mad Men" parties we've shown up with our Chairmen fezzes on, and have been greeted with stunned surprise that we're real (!), and that our suits and hats aren't just movie props. One of our great joys is that a surviving portion of the original fellows who built up Shrinedom in the mid-century still pursue those worthy goals today. By picking up where some have died and set their tools aside, we honor both those who remain, and those who have passed on.

Our unit, called "The Chairmen," is designed as a comfortable entrance point for Masonry and the Shrine. Meetings are social and our fellows enjoy getting to know new prospective members. The Chairmen celebrate the style, swagger and generosity of the Rat Pack era. We raise funds for charity. Many like cigars, and good BBQ.

The Shrine is sometimes called the 'fun and games' division of the Masons. It's where our grandfathers cut loose a bit from the more stately and solemn rites of their lodges. All in good, clean fun, even if that meant driving a motorcycle or riding a camel down the hallway and steps of the old Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis, conveniently owned by a fellow Shriner, during a Shrine convention.

By forming this new Shrine unit, to embrace and promote the best of the old; we honor their memories. And surely a few of the elder Shriners will smile at what we've done.

Rogue's Gallery

Vintage Chairmen - fez and cigars

Vintage Chairmen - fez and cigars

On the set of Anchors Aweigh

On the set of Anchors Aweigh

 

Sinatra, from the book, The Voice

Sinatra, from the book, The Voice

 

Sinatra, winning his Oscar

Sinatra, winning his Oscar

 

The Rat Pack

The Rat Pack

 

A saloon singer, that's my racket...

A saloon singer, that's my racket...

 

Celebrating Mary and Jack Benny's wedding anniversary, E.G. Robinson and Jack Entratter, '58

Celebrating Mary and Jack Benny's wedding anniversary, E.G. Robinson and Jack Entratter, '58

 

Circa '58, at home with one of many dogs. Men have dogs, not cats.

Circa '58, at home with one of many dogs. Men have dogs, not cats.

 

Dealing baccarat at the Sands, '59

Dealing baccarat at the Sands, '59

 

Chairmen meeting, Tommy Two, Bourbon Jim, and Cueball Brad

Chairmen meeting, Tommy Two, Bourbon Jim, and Cueball Brad

 

Dean-o and Sammy, on the set of Oceans Eleven

Dean-o and Sammy, on the set of Oceans Eleven

 

Behind the wheel of his 55 Ford Thunderbird convertible...

Behind the wheel of his 55 Ford Thunderbird convertible...

 

Meeting Queen Elizabeth, movie premier

Meeting Queen Elizabeth, movie premier

 

Early 60's show in Vegas

Early 60's show in Vegas

 

Hollywood soiree with Milton Berle and Tony Curtis

Hollywood soiree with Milton Berle and Tony Curtis

 

In Las Vegas, the Rat Pack at the Sands

In Las Vegas, the Rat Pack at the Sands

 

In Vegas, the Rat Pack at the Sands 2

In Vegas, the Rat Pack at the Sands 2

 

Louis, Sinatra, Peggy, and Bing

Louis, Sinatra, Peggy, and Bing

 

On tour, Come Fly With Me

On tour, Come Fly With Me

 

The Chairmen, at Heimie's Haberdashery, 2009

The Chairmen, at Heimie's Haberdashery, 2009

 

Picking out a tune, late 50s

Picking out a tune, late 50s

 

On the set of Anchors Aweigh

On the set of Anchors Aweigh

 

Publicity shot, The House I Live In

Publicity shot, The House I Live In

 

Rat Pack charity show, 65, Quincy Jones at left

Rat Pack charity show, 65, Quincy Jones at left

 

Rat Pack style

Rat Pack style

 

Brad, Jason, Shane and Tom at a 2009 Chairmen meeting

Brad, Jason, Shane and Tom at a 2009 Chairmen meeting

 

Rehearsing My Blue Heaven, with Frank Jr., '58

Rehearsing My Blue Heaven, with Frank Jr., '58

 

Sammy said Frank was the best friend a man could have

Sammy said Frank was the best friend a man could have

 

Sinatra takes it nice and easy in 1968

Sinatra takes it nice and easy in 1968

 

Sinatra with Bing Crosby, 1959 on set of Can Can

Sinatra with Bing Crosby, 1959 on set of Can Can

 

James and Shane, at a 2011 Chairmen meeting

James and Shane, at a 2011 Chairmen meeting

 

Sinatra, Desert Inn, early 50s

Sinatra, Desert Inn, early 50s

 

Sinatra, onstage in Vegas, mid-60s

Sinatra, onstage in Vegas, mid-60s

 

Quincy Jones said, Sinatra owned every room in which he played...

Quincy Jones said, Sinatra owned every room in which he played...

 

Singing to Kim Novak, Jack Benny and Cole Porter

Singing to Kim Novak, Jack Benny and Cole Porter

 

The Rat Pack at the Sands

The Rat Pack at the Sands

 

To the ladies

To the ladies

 

With daughter Nancy, Australian tour '55

With daughter Nancy, Australian tour '55

 

With Gene Kelly, on the set of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, '49

With Gene Kelly, on the set of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, '49

 

With Jack Benny, the Ritz Bros and Ava Gardner, in Las Vegas

With Jack Benny, the Ritz Bros and Ava Gardner, in Las Vegas

 

With Mia Farrow, late 60s

With Mia Farrow, late 60s

 

With one of his King Charles Cavaliers - real men don't have cats

With one of his King Charles Cavaliers - real men don't have cats

 

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