Frank Frizalone knows he has a talent for selling real estate, but a few years ago, he realized he still had a talent for also selling a song.
In the 1970s, Frizalone performed with a jazz group, where he sang at some long-gone Long Island hangouts called Sonny's Place in Seaford and Dixon's White House Inn in Massapequa. He loved the applause and especially the chance to croon the tunes of Frank, the legend.
" 'Luck Be a Lady.' 'The Lady Is a Tramp.' You can't beat that music," Frizalone says. "They just aren't writing songs like that anymore."
Though he got a special thrill singing for an audience, Frizalone opted to forgo a show-biz career and instead went to New York Institute of Technology where he majored in business. Despite a successful career in real estate -- he owned and then sold a brokerage firm before his current job as executive director at Cushman and Wakefield in Melville -- he longed to return to music.
"I've always said I ruined my life by going to college," jokes Frizalone, 62, who lives in North Massapequa. "I would have had a lot more fun being in the entertainment business."
Now Frizalone is getting his encore. Thanks to encouragement from singer Connie Francis, whom he met three years ago, Frizalone has been performing the music of Sinatra his way in a cabaret show with three other performers, including his brother John. In addition to that act, which plays at Guy Anthony's in North Merrick on Sept. 25 and Il Classico Restaurant and Caterers in Massapequa Park in October, he does his Sinatra thing as part of a Rat Pack-themed group called Dean and Friends, which has entertained in New York City and Florida.
He probably never would have revived his singing career if it wasn't for Francis. He met the songstress who topped the charts in the 1960s, crooning "Where the Boys Are" and "Who's Sorry Now?" through a mutual friend. Over lunch at the Friars Club in Manhattan, she listened intently as Frizalone talked about how much he missed performing. She told him he needed to start singing again.
"And I said, 'It's too late. Nobody wants to see a gray-haired 60-year-old,' " Frizalone says.
But Francis believed otherwise and invited him to her 75th birthday party where he got the chance to perform for an audience filled with some show-biz heavyweights.
"I was shaking to death," Frizalone says.
Apparently, it didn't affect his performance. "I thought this was some guy who had made recordings back in the '60s. . . . I couldn't believe it. I was blown away," says Christopher Gambale, a producer whose credits include the upcoming Broadway production of "Dames at Sea."
After that, Frizalone was hooked. "I said to myself, 'I gotta do this again.' I love the applause and the compliments," he says. "After that I got serious and started working with a vocal coach."
A career grows in Brooklyn
Frizalone jokes that he grew up in "a tough neighborhood" in Brooklyn.
"How tough was it?" he asks, slipping into a Rodney Dangerfield voice. "In the restaurant they had broken leg of lamb."
As a youth, he learned to play the trombone, which he said was instrumental in helping him as a singer. "I learned breath control," he says. "And then I also played the drums and that gave me a sense of rhythm. My phrasing and my rhythm were an outgrowth of that."
He also took voice lessons, though there was one piece of advice his teacher gave him that he didn't always heed. "I would always get so worked up and be uncomfortable before I sang. She would tell me to not get worked up and just do it," he says.
Though Frizalone says family pressure was what ultimately led him to divert from his musical career path in his 20s, he adds, "I probably had some doubt that that was the right direction to go in."
After graduating from NYIT, he went to work for a mortgage company and then Citibank before turning to real estate. He's also been married for 28 years to his wife, Linda, and has a son, Peter, 25, who, like his father, has a day job in real estate. On the side, Peter has made several short films, including "Mommy," which was screened at the Long Beach Film Festival earlier this month.
Though Frizalone jokes his wife "was not 100 percent happy" about his decision to perform again, she's been very supportive.
"My first concern was the amount of hours Frank works being a global real estate consultant and I felt that singing would add more stress to his life," she says. "However, after watching him perform and how the audience has grown with every performance, I know this is what makes him happy."
Also continuing to be supportive has been Francis, who co-sponsored Frizalone's membership with the Friars Club, where he has performed on occasion. And though Frizalone's specialty is performing the songs of Ol' Blue Eyes, don't call him a Sinatra impersonator.
"It's my regular voice, I'm just doing his songs," he says. "I pretty much do sound like him without even trying."
Like Sinatra, he also knows how to connect to lyrics and his audience, says Jerry Nolan, an entertainment manager who hired Dean and Friends for a Joe Franklin tribute show in Manhattan last month.
"He doesn't look anything like Sinatra, but he has a great voice," Nolan says. "And he keeps growing greatly as a performer. The way he can sincerely belt out a tune is amazing. He also stares into the audience when he performs. Some people concentrate on one person. He makes everyone feel at ease."
Back in full swing
Frizalone, who says he was a fan of Dean Martin's TV variety show, says one of his ideas was to bring back some of that spirit in the cabaret show he performs with his brother and two others -- singer Anita Bloomfield and comedian Bobby Anselmo.
"I can do my Sinatra thing. Anita does cabaret music, so we do a duet. John is a doo-wop guy and Bobby is one of the best stand-up comics around," he says.
He also continues to perform with Dean and Friends -- which includes artists who perform as Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis. They'll be ringing in 2016 when they perform in Florida on New Year's Eve.
Though Frizalone says he's not sure exactly what trajectory his second-chance career will follow, for now he's just enjoying the ride.
"I'm going to take it to wherever it takes me," Frizalone says. "Hopefully five years from now I'm still doing it and still able to do it. And hopefully there's an audience out there who still wants to see what I'm doing."