Alumni Profile: Don Anderson ’58

Recapturing Frank Sinatra

Entertainer Vic Damone once said, “There will never be another Frank Sinatra. He is all by himself, with what he has done with his life as a performer and as a man.” Perhaps Damone spoke too soon, because Ol’ Blue Eyes is back reincarnated, if you will, into the body of the Reverend Don Anderson ’58, a part-time Methodist minister, among other trades. Some karma.

But Anderson takes his impersonating, a newfound hobby, only so far. “You don’t get the real Sinatra,” he says, referring to “the hood,” the bully, the gangster, the womanizer. “He had an attitude.” Instead, Anderson explains, “I try to create the illusion of a Sinatra. I hope I’m more likeable.”

Apparently his strategy works. With about fifty shows already behind him, Anderson’s popularity as a Sinatra impersonator is growing, earning him a reputation that began with an evening of karaoke. Anderson had only two artists to choose from as he stepped up to the microphone that night: Perry Como, with a mere four songs available, and Sinatra, with about thirty.

In this case, majority ruled, although Anderson says, “I had always enjoyed Sinatra’s music and been a strong fan.” He recalls how the emcee praised his rendition of Sinatra’s “My Way,” calling it “one of the best sober karaoke acts” he had ever heard. A star was born again.

Anderson booked his first major appearance at Pittsburgh’s First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve in 2001. Since then he has performed at a variety of venues, including country clubs, Borders bookstores, private parties, and reunions.

“When Anderson sings,” says Craig Cody, managing director of Pittsburgh’s First Night, “he has an amazing resemblance to Sinatra.” But singing Sinatra tunes, Anderson’s favorites are “My Way” and “New York, New York”, is only part of his gig. To deliver what he calls “the illusion of a Sinatra,” usually in one hour with about fifteen songs, he wears a tuxedo, styles his hair like Sinatra’s, plays Nelson Riddle and Don Costa CDs to reproduce Sinatra’s big band sound, and even borrows some of Sinatra’s trademark moves.

“There’s a nice style to the way Sinatra presents a tune. He’s kind of a singing conversationalist,” says Anderson. “I’ve watched tapes and I’ve tried to imitate his gestures, movements, and facial expressions. It’s a matter of enjoying the music.”

After his high school days as a baritone, Anderson demonstrated his love for music as a tenor in the Allegheny Singers under the direction of Morten Luvaas. Anderson has since performed in several musical comedies and revues and has also made other solo appearances, with an emphasis on show tunes.

An English major at the College, Anderson has retired as a senior high school English teacher. He has worked in advertising in the Pittsburgh area, where he serves as a part-time Methodist minister, and has been an active member of the College’s Alumni Association for twenty years. He lives in Moundsville, West Virginia, with his wife, the Reverend Patricia Bentley, whom he married on May 4. He has five children and five grandchildren from a previous marriage.

It appears, then, as though Anderson has proven Damone wrong. Although he chooses, wisely, not to bring all of Ol’ Blue Eyes back to life, Anderson, like Sinatra the singer, the actor, the philanthropist, is an accomplished man of many talents. “The common thread here is performance, in different venues for different reasons,” says Anderson. “My spirit is a performing spirit. I think God has given me a wonderful sense of expression. As a singer, actor, and preacher, these skills come out. It’s been a wonderful ride.”

This article was featured in the Winter 2002 Issue of Allegheny College Magazine.