UHEF & Uni News


May, 2016

Did Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis headline a Uni grad night? YES!

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[Posted May 2, 2016] One of the great Los Angeles “urban legends” is that Frank Sinatra and friends once entertained a Uni class on grad night. Well, it really did happen!

Jim Wartman ‘58 wrote in about our March 23 story on the passing of Frank Sinatra, Jr. ‘61. He was preceded at Uni by his sister Nancy, and Jim notes:

I am James (Jim) Wartman and am a Vagabond, the class that graduated in June 1958.

Nancy [Sinatra] is in our class and did not graduate in 1959. How can we forget the great grad night at the Miramar Hotel, where her father, Frank, the Nelson Riddle band, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dick Stabile all entertained us.

It was an all-night party, and my date and I sat on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and watched the sun come up.

The Hotel Miramar in the 1950s

The Hotel Miramar in the 1950s

Nancy, Gidget [Kathy Kohner, whose father wrote the Gidget books about her] and Jimmy Mitchum, and Jan Berry, and Vincent Price Jr. were all Warriors and Vagabonds together. Frankie Jr came to Uni Hi after we graduated in the summer of 1958.

Our class was so big (about 600) that we had our graduation ceremony at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Our class may, or may not have our 60th reunion in 2018. I have heard nothing about that. I went to the 50th Reunion at the Beverly Hills Country Club.

I will always be a Uni Hi Warrior!!!!

uhef web pix-sinatra boots cover 600x600

What a grad night that must have been! Thanks for the memories, Jim, and verifying one of L.A.’s great urban legends. Thanks, too, to fellow Vagabond Anita Shapiro, who also wrote in about the event and to confirm Nancy Sinatra’s graduation year.


10 thoughts on “Did Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis headline a Uni grad night? YES!

  1. Ronald Chase

    I have my doubts about this. As I recall the event, Frank Sinatra was scheduled to appear, but as it happened he did not. However, I remember Sammy Davis Jr. and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra being there, as Jim Hartman writes. I may be wrong about Sinatra. Maybe other classmates could weigh in on the issue. If it’s a “great urban legend”, let’s get it right.

    Regards to all,
    Ron Chase
    Class of 1958


  2. allen bishop

    There is no question that Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra were at the 1958 Grad Night.
    No one could forget that evening and SDJr take on Elvis.

    Best to all,

    Allen Bishop


  3. Eugene "U.E." Gierson

    My recollection of the Vagabonds grad night in 1958 was that Frank was there, and that he performed. I believe that Sammy was also there, performing. I was there.


  4. James Hitchcock

    I just met a gentleman that said he was at this event. He told me Frank and Sammy Davis performed. He also told me Jan and Dean we’re to sing but Dean was so tipsy he couldn’t perform.


  5. Ted Tanaka, Sires Hi-Y

    I was there, invited by S’58 Elsie Tominaga. I was a Uni Imperials of W’57, only about 165 in the class. Pali-hi site grounds were just starting to be leveled before opening in ’61. I clearly remember the Miramar large stage with the full orchestra in the background. Front & center with the mike was headliner, Nancy’s dad Frank. After he led off, he surprised the audience by introducing Sammy Davis, Jr. They sang some duets and then Sammy by himself did his famous tunes, dancing & stand-up humor. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and incredible memories for the Warriors. I still frequently drive past Uni today, Westgate & Texas Ave, from my Palisades home the past 45-years and into Sawtelle Japantown.


  6. Loy Harness Baxter

    I was in the Class of ’58 and our class was not 600 as reported byJames Wartman. I think we were about 300, and I KNOW our graduation ceremony was held on the field below the grove on campus, not at UCLA Royce Hall.


  7. Pingback: More on that famous ‘58 Grad Night Party! | UHEF

  8. Bob (Conviser) Conley

    Robert (Bob) (Conviser) Conley

    I did not attend the grad night but want to clarify that the graduation ceremony was held on the field on the Uni Hi campus as I was in the orchestra that played for the graduation!


  9. Steve Hanson

    Loy is correct on the field graduation, What did become the Vagabond class of summer ‘58, was made up of the 9th grade Emerson Jr High graduating class. We (Emerson) were so large, we were the ones who graduated from Royce Hall. Grad night was a terrific show and I think Joey Bishop was the only one of the “Pack” missing. My Uni birthline goes back to my parents, who graduated in summer ‘34!

    as a ps: met up with Allen Bishop for drinks at Montecito Inn last year. We both look the same as in ‘58 !

    ps ps: highlight of Emerson years, they broke ground when we stared 7th and hoisted the gold Gabriel on the top of the Mormon Temple when we graduated 9th!


  10. Dee Rossi

    I don’t know about grad night entertainment but my 2nd mom went to Uni & said Nancy Sinatra was a student there.


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