Cary Hoffman, the forthright, funny and entertaining writer/performer of My Sinatra describes himself as a Medicare recipient who looks like a Rabbi. He became enchanted with Frank Sinatra's talent and charisma at the age of 12 when he began sleeping through the night with Frank's vocals as backdrop. The result? Sinatra's exquisite phrasing became engraved on Hoffman's DNA.
Hoffman's Sinatra obsession was first publicly displayed at his Bar Mitzvah, when to the dismay of his rabbi, Cary got his first standing ovation by crooning the Haftorah prayer the way Frank would have, a prayer that has never been sung quite that way before or since. Hoffman's current one-man show, My Sinatra, tells his story -- the tale of a nerdy Long Island Jewish kid's implausible journey of self-discovery through another man's voice and personality. Hoffman, known affectionately by his friends as Ol' Jew Eyes, admits "the character I play has grown, and so has the show, thanks to the team of psychologists who helped me understand I'm not the only one who wants to be someone else. I just took things a little further than most."
Cary's early professional attempts at being Frank during his post-adolescent employment in the Catskills were unremarkable until someone explained the difference between him and Sinatra: that Frank sang about making love to a real live girl, something Cary might try. This suggestion inspired Hoffman to shake off his virginity and subsequently perform a sensational show... if only once. Later, Hoffman's narcoleptic manager actually stayed awake long enough to introduce Cary to Frank. Frank was kind. Cary was idiotic but managed to hand Frank his demo. Alas, Frank never personally appeared in Cary's life again.
Sinatra-Shminatra, eventually Cary realized that he had to make a living and deferred his attempts to become Frank for thirty years. Instead he became a successful songwriter/producer/personal manager/comedy club owner. He co-wrote two country hits, some well known jingles, a hit Off-Broadway musical, discovered Luther Vandross and Zach Galifianakis, and until 2009 owned Stand Up New York, the landmark comedy club on the Upper West Side. Today he still manages TV Writers Tom Hertz, of Rules of Engagement and Mike Royce, creator and Executive producer of TNT's Men of a Certain Age starring Ray Romano, which Hoffman also Executive Produced.
His dream came through in a convoluted way.
"One night in 1998, the year Sinatra died, I walked into The Red Blazer like a businessman with an attaché case to see someone in the Stan Rubin Band which was playing there. The next thing I knew I was on stage singing and my voice was still there! I continued singing Sinatra's songs at clubs around Manhattan. Then an agent heard me, told PBS about me and I did a special for them of me singing Sinatra songs in 2004. That started me doing Sinatra concerts all over the country. Curiously enough my younger brother predicted I'd have a singing career after Sinatra died and he was right. One night in Muncie, Indiana, I asked the audience how many people wanted to know why I wanted to sing like Sinatra and they did, which was the start of My Sinatra which I've been tweaking ever since."
"At the age of 72, I'm celebrating my obsession, telling my story and still trying to find myself. If I could go back in time, would I change anything? I'd just like to ask Frank if he liked my demo. I still want to be validated, have him tell me to take over his mantle."
People may come because they want to hear about Frank Sinatra but they leave loving Cary Hoffman!
Off-Broadway's My Sinatra, will celebrate its one-year anniversary in June by hosting a Celebrity Obsession Contest for anyone with celebrity fixation issues -- impersonation, memorabilia hoarding, historical character reincarnation, etc. Open-call trials for the summer-long competition take place on Wednesday June 13, from noon to 4 p.m., at Sofia's Downstairs Theatre, 221 West 46th Street, where contest hopefuls willing to share intimate details about their extreme attachment to a celebrity, will appear before a panel consisting of Cary Hoffman, and his psychologist. The prize is a chance to be on stage for a paid performance after Hoffman's show. For online entries visit www.mysinatra.com.
Cary currently performs his one man musical with a big band sound track at Sofia's Downstairs Theatre, 221 West 46th Street Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights plus a Sunday matinee where the sometimes strange, frequently hilarious but always arresting life of Hoffman is juxtaposed with relatively unknown facts about Sinatra and the songs to which several generations fell in love and first had sex -- music which resounds with everyone. As for offers floating around about taking My Sinatra to London, it all still sounds miraculous to Cary.