Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
A singer is expected to get up and sing, but a singer who has just been promoted to "great cultural leader" and "outstanding humanitarian and patron of the arts" shouldn't have to.
That's what Frank Sinatra decided just before the Israel Independence Ball on Sunday night in the Washington Hilton Hotel, where he had been scheduled to entertain as well as to receive Israel's Cultural Award. but while he confined his performance to an impassioned speech about Israel, he also supplied the substitute singer free - opera star Robert Merrill.
Merrill said Sinatra had called him on Saturday night, asking him to fill in for him so he could "relax." Having caught Merrill with the request on his birthday, Sinatra led the audience in singing "Happy Birthday, dear Robert" before leaving the stage. (Merrill, who donated his time, said he hasn't received the Cultural Award - but "Some day?")
The ball, which drew 1,150 people celebrated the 29th anniversary of Israel's independence, and is the 15th such event to be held in Washington. Only once was there no entertainment or music at the ball - in 1967, when it fell just at the end of the Six-Day War.
There is no charge for tickets, but the guests consist of people who have bought over $3,500 worth of Israel bought over $3,500 worth of Israel Bonds during the year. Ball coordinator Stanley Segal said that the people in the ballroom had together spent approximately $5 million in bonds.
Sinatra's contributions to the Israel Bond program were cited with his award, as where his having endowed an International Student Center at the Hebrew University, and having presented concerts benefiting Israeli health and welfare programs.
"I love your nation!" he replied to the presentation by Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz. "I love the dreams of Israel, the very idea of Israel. If Israel loves me, it's a perfect wedding."
Calling Israel "the United States of our generation," he declared, "If they ever need me, I have yarmulke and will travel."
In his speech, the embassador seemed to be seeking to molify people who might be upset with the recent Israeli elections. "Any government of Israel will continue to pursue peace," he said.
"We want to make Israel not only a country worth dying for, but a society worth living for. We want for her a place where she will be threatened by no enemy, and saved by no friend."
House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. also spoke, calling Israel "an oasis of reason surrounded by a desert of hostility."
The Israeli ambassador had more security people to protect him than Sinatra did, but Sinatra's - a stout man who stood behind the singer during the dinner, with both arms outstretched to protect him from admirers - was more in evidence.
Sinatra sat between Mrs. Nathan Landow, co'chairman of the ball with her husband, and Mrs. Alejandro Orfila, wife of the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States. Before dinner, Mrs. Orfila took the precaution of examining the place card of the man to sit at her left - National Security Affairs adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski - and asking someone to tell her who he was.