The Big Apple, Frank, and Sadie Hawkins Day

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Frank Sinatra at Capitol Records in Los Angeles in 1954.

Imagine it is leap year, February 1972. My best friend, Tina, and I had just turned 20. To celebrate and make the most of Feb. 29, our bonus leap day, we planned an extra-long weekend in the Big Apple. It meant taking two precious vacation days from our first "real" jobs at the telephone company - this is back in the day, when working at "the telephone company" could only mean Ma Bell.

All these years later, the four-day weekend we invested those vacation days for still makes my top-10 list of all-time favorite adventures. To fully appreciate our New York escapade, you have to know a bit about my mistaken version of the legend of Sadie Hawkins Day.

Sadie Hawkins was a character in the cartoon strip Li'l Abner, created by cartoonist Al Capp in 1934. Sadie was thirty-something and single at a time when women were expected to marry by twenty-young. She lived in the fictional town of Dogpatch with her father.

Sadie Hawkins Day was her pop's brainchild, conceived out of a concern that Sadie would be a forever-living-at-home spinster - back when the word spinster was not yet considered sexist or politically incorrect.

In what might be considered a primitive version of today's The Bachelorette, Pop gathered all the bachelors in Dogpatch for a footrace, with Sadie in pursuit. If she caught one of the running-for-his-freedom men, it was his duty to marry her.

Back then, a woman proposing or even asking a guy on a date was a no-no, so Sadie Hawkins Day appealed to other Dogpatch bachelorettes and became a recurring event.

Somehow, I commingled the legend of Sadie Hawkins Day with a folklore tradition - thought to be Irish or Scandinavian - that any man refusing a woman's leap-day proposal must buy her a silk gown.

The next thing you need to know is that Tina had a huge crush on Frank Sinatra - even though we were technically just kids and he was a decidedly older man.

So, we go to New York on a mission to track down Frank - visiting any place where Tina's vast knowledge of his favorite haunts suggests he might be. On Saturday afternoon, we take a break from stalking - I mean tracking - Frank to shop in Saks Fifth Avenue, where I buy a Farrah Fawcett-style wig and vinyl boots to match my fishnet stockings and hot pants. I don't remember what Tina bought, but between us we spent so much money on our first day in the Big Apple that Tina had to put an emergency call in to her stepdad to wire us more cash.

By Monday night there had been no Frank sightings and we were out of hot spots. Still game for our last night on the town, I decked myself out in my new wig, boots, fishnets, and hot pants, and Tina - usually the better dresser - donned her knee-length navy-blue jumper with a Peter Pan-collared white blouse. (Good thing we didn't have selfies then.)

After club-hopping and dancing for hours, we caught the attention of two forty-something men. (Considering our get-ups, they may have mistaken us for hookers.) Anyway, we all started dancing and having so much fun that we wanted to keep going after the club closed.

Our foursome hailed a cab, asking the cab driver where to go. Without hesitation, he said, "P.J. Clarke's. Anyone who's anyone will be at P.J.'s. If Jackie Onassis is in town, it's where she'll be."

If it was good enough for Jackie, it was good enough for us. Off we went.

At P.J.'s, we settled into our table for four. Directly across from me, Tina held a cigarette to her lips and raised her lighter to the tip - yep, back in the day, you could smoke inside a public place. Just before the flame touched the cigarette, Tina's eyes widened and her jawed dropped open. The lighter slipped from her fingers. Cigarette tumbling from her lips, she uttered, "Oh. My. God. It's. Frank!"

I squinted sideways. Across the room, seated smack in the middle of an entourage, bigger than life, was Frank.

For the next hour, Tina made moony eyes at Frank, while I prodded her to go introduce herself and propose to him. By then it was the wee hours of Tuesday, Sadie Hawkins Day. I figured the worst she could do if he said no was score a swanky new dress.

Tina refused, saying she didn't want him to remember her as "just one more annoying fan." I reminded her that if she didn't talk to him, he wouldn't remember her at all. She held her ground, ogling and worshiping from afar.

So at least we saw him. But let me ask you, do you blame me for wondering all these years later if she missed her chance to be Mrs. Frank Sinatra - or maybe, even better, own one wickedly expensive dress?

Carol Fragale Brill is the author of "Cape Maybe." She blogs at http://knowhopeknowgrowth.blogspot.com.