Frank Sinatra loved to play along with the TV game show Jeopardy. Here’s a Jeopardy question …..What little boy in Chicago, used to shine shoes in taverns while a jukebox in the background played Sinatra tunes and then became Frank Sinatra’s opening act on tour for 14 years? He was also MC and pallbearer at Mr. Sinatra’s funeral.
It’s the same guy who had to sacrifice playing on his Little League baseball team because his family couldn’t afford the 20 bucks for the uniform. Later in life he was given the honor of always throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field on Chicago Cubs opening days.
The man is Tom Dreesen, one of the country’s leading stand up comedians and Master of Ceremonies.
Dreesen went from hearing Sinatra sing on that juke box in neighborhood bars to hearing the music standing in the wings a few feet away when Frank took the stage after Tom’s stand up comedy. For 14 years Tom Dreesen opened the Sinatra show with his humor and engaging personality while becoming one of Frank’s closest buddies. They were together countless days and nights while traveling and performing all over the country, and Tom lets you be a fly on the wall for many of those memorable moments.
Tom Dreesen’s book is a heartwarming and exciting read about his life from humble, extremely poor beginnings in Harvey, Chicago and his rise to great success in the entertainment world. Tom was also the opening act for superstars such as Sammy Davis, Natalie Cole, Tony Orlando, Vikki Carr and many others. He also became a favorite talk show guest. In addition to his many appearances on the Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin shows, Tom was a frequent guest and substitute host for his pal David Letterman on the Late Show.
Tom Dressen’s career started when he teamed up with his friend Tim Reid and they became the first black and white comedy duo. After 6 years of hard work, some success, but a lot of hardship and sacrifice the act broke up. Tom’s life is an amazing, inspirational story. Traveling the journey with him becomes a rollercoaster of laughter and tears.
One of the fascinating chapters in the book is when Tom takes you behind the scenes at the famous Comedy Store in L.A. The place where so many comics were discovered in the 1970’s. Dressen brings you back to that time when these now famous but then unknown comics were developing their personas. He puts you in the audience as all the young comedians are testing out material, and you get to hang with the undiscovered David Letterman, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Elaine Boosler. As with many comics of that era, Tom’s big break came when a Tonight Show talent scout heard his act at The Comedy Store. A subsequent spot on Carson’s show catapulted him into comic stardom.
Dreesen’s life before and after fame is equally engrossing, and it would be worth the price of admission just to read about how Johnny Carson almost got “rubbed out” by a gangster. Tears?….How about this episode…. It happened after one of Sinatra’s last concerts when the singer was ailing. Tom was trying to make his boss feel better during the limo ride after the show and said..”Frank, it was a great performance and a great audience tonight.” Frank Sinatra stared out the window with a forlorn look and said “Tommy, they’re coming to say goodbye to me”
Tom Dreesen like all great comics has a fantastic memory and total recall. He’s put it all down in “Still Standing….My Journey From Streets and Saloons To The Stage, And Sinatra”. You’re going to fall down laughing and stand up cheering after you read this book.