- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

Before there was Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry or Joan Jett, there was Nancy Sinatra. Way before. 1966 was the year when “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” went to No. 1 on the charts. Nothing baby-pink, cutesy-pie Leslie Gore or Sandra Dee about her — she was sleek and cool and tough — pretty, too, in her go-go boots and tailored minis. And she didn’t sing about sobbing into her pillow about boys who snubbed her at the school dance. Her lyrics were about being powerful, not letting guys turn you into a doormat, pointing your high-heeled boots in the opposite direction and just walking away at the first sign of trouble. Heady stuff for an 8-year-old like me who was no one’s idea of a perfect little girl, that is, if your idea of perfect included docile, frilly and mild. Nancy Sinatra was my first role model, and I would dance the pony around my bedroom — wearing white vinyl go-go boots from Sears and the matching frosted white lipstick I snitched from my older sister’s makeup drawer — belting out the lyrics to “Boots” and “Sugar Town” until my mother would come up and wearily suggest I play with my Lennon Sisters paper dolls for a change. A pop heroine to generations of rebel girls who wanted to be cool chick singers instead of boy-crazy bubble brains, Miss Sinatra is currently on tour with a hard-driving rock band — which includes former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke and drummer Clem Burke from Blondie. Nearly 40 years since she was a pop icon, she is still fitting into those hip-hugger jeans. She admits not wearing her trademark boots anymore onstage — it is sneakers for Miss Sinatra now that she’s had knee surgery — but the no-nonsense attitude remains, along with a lingering fondness for the road and rock ‘n’ roll. “It is important to show young women that it is OK to be strong and a little tough, as long as you have a sense of humor about it,” she says during a phone interview from her California home. “You gotta stand up for yourself, but then again, we all love the boys, don’t we?” While Miss Sinatra continues to influence younger artists — such as Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth and even Kelly Osborne, who patterned her video for “Papa Don’t Preach” after what she described as “Nancy Sinatra’s kinky ‘Boots’ video” — she feels she has an even more important message for older women. “Women shouldn’t just sit down and go away after they turn 40 — it is important for us to be out there burnin’ it and moving forward,” she says. “If we become invisible, who is going to teach the younger girls? Who is going to be a role model?” She believes that the simple act of keeping going is the best rebellion of all. “I have a paperweight at home that says, ‘Never, never, never quit,’ and that is what I live by,” Miss Sinatra continues. “I would be a very unhappy woman if I didn’t have the music and the band. I don’t make a cent on these tours — with five musicians, tech people, airfare, hotels and expenses — and I can’t get a job in the big arenas, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am out there doing it.” There is a misconception, Miss Sinatra suspects, that she performs her father’s music and does tribute shows — and nothing could be further from the truth. While she has written two books about her father and is working on commissioning a statue of Old Blue Eyes to stand in front of New York’s Paramount Theatre, Miss Sinatra stresses that she does her own music — period. She released a CD in 2002, “California Girl,” which features “99 Miles From L.A.,” “Route 66” and a cover of “California Girls” featuring background vocals from its legendary composer, Brian Wilson. “People expect my shows to be nostalgia shows and full of my Dad’s songs, which they aren’t, and sometimes I wonder if strangers who have never been in the music industry might have a better chance than me,” she says. “But then I figure it is my job to get out there and do my shows and build a community of loving people and not worry about the state of the business.” A tour of one-night stands does not leave much time for extracurricular activities, but Miss Sinatra always makes time for her work with American veterans. She just did a big show in Hollywood for the military community involved in the war in Iraq and is appearing in another United Service Organizations (USO) show later this month. No fair-weather friend of the military, Miss Sinatra toured with the USO throughout the Vietnam War, during the dark days when American soldiers were as likely to be vilified as baby killers as they were hailed as liberators. Especially committed to Vietnam vets, she will visit Veterans Administration hospitals while in Washington, and she participates annually in the Ride to the Wall here, which honors POWs and MIAs. “Vets need to know they are not forgotten,” she says. “The one-on-one time with the guys is wonderful for them and for me. You leave sad but emotionally gratified, especially when you visit with the World War II vets and think you might not see them next time since they are getting up there in years. They may be older, but they have minds, thoughts and feelings just like the younger soldiers.” Miss Sinatra says that her fan base is a mix of young and old and that there are quite a few Vietnam vets. “I’ll be doing a show, and someone will hand me a napkin with ‘Da Nang, 1967’ scribbled on it, and there is nothing more to be said — we have that connection,” she says. “Many of the Vietnam vets are just too blue to come out to my concerts — or anywhere.” Her trademark cool heats up when she talks about the antiwar protests that cropped up recently during the Iraq War. “It made me so mad, and made me think again about the despicable way we treated our Vietnam vets — I believe we’ll never close the book on that war. Once we’re engaged in war and our soldiers are over there fighting, what’s the point? They need our support, not our censure.” Another cause Miss Sinatra is supporting is a musical one — an upcoming tribute to Peggy Lee at Carnegie Hall. She will be performing a duet with her pal, Debbie Harry of Blondie. “I love her, what a voice — have you ever heard her sing jazz? Marvelous.” Miss Sinatra, along with her daughter, A.J., is also producing “The Dysfunctionals,” an album of songs by musicians who were influenced by Nancy Sinatra’s music. So far, Kim Gordon and Steven Van Zandt are expected to contribute songs. Also, Morrissey, the morose founder of the ‘80s glum rock band “The Smiths” and now a solo artist, has written a song for her. “My kids introduced me to the Smiths music, and I fell in love with his poetry — he broke my heart,” she says. “So I contacted him, and he has become a friend, and he wrote something just beautiful for me.” WHAT: Nancy Sinatra WHEN: Today at 8:30 p.m. WHERE: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW TICKETS: $25 PHONE: 393-0930

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