Q: Not that there’s a great place to ask this, but what did Sinatra smell like? This is the sort of detail that rarely ends up in a profile.
A: I don’t know. I didn’t write about it and I didn’t think about it.
Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is accurately considered one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written as well as a sterling example of literary journalism. Elon Green went through the story with Talese for Nieman Storyboard, finding out a lot of interesting tidbits about how Talese wrote the thing.
There are some really good Talese quotes, like this one: “I never thought it was new journalism. It was writing short stories with real names. But it’s not very interesting to put it that way.” And this: “It’s nonfiction. It’s fact-reporting. It’s beautiful.” And there’s great stuff about how Talese felt about Sinatra (a controlling guy, but understandably so, says Talese), how he picked the Sinatra songs to quote, where he got certain information and all sorts of other angles.
I highly recommend reading it.
And, just in case you missed it, Green and Sebastian Junger annotated “The Storm” over the summer. It was also pretty great.