Along with Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, and Hunter S. Thompson, Gay Talese was one of the founders of New Journalism, a revolutionary journalistic style that incorporated narrative techniques like indirect discourse, extended dialogue, and vivid imagery that—at the time—were more typically associated with fiction. Within this style of journalism, the writer would usually immerse themselves in the scene of whatever they were writing about and—in sharp contrast to the traditional guidelines for reporting—would adopt a subjective voice.
In order to do this properly, the journalist would often need to spend a significant amount of time with their subject, sometimes even weeks or months. This would allow them to observe their subject in a more authentic, unguarded environment and to speak extensively with their subject and the people close to their subject. This would give the journalist more access to the thoughts and feelings of the subject, and in keeping with the New Journalism style, instead of simply quoting the subject as expressing those thoughts and feelings, the writer would use narrative techniques to illustrate the interior life of the subject in a more vivid and story-like way. As a result, it might appear that the finished article included perspectives and information that a journalist could not have perceived, but in fact a lot of hard work had been put into gaining access to more personal details of the subject's life so that the author could move beyond bald facts to illustrate their experiences in a more "truthful" way.
Some examples that demonstrate the complicated role of perception in "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" are listed below:
When the article opens, Sinatra is described as brooding in a club:
[He] had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra's four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.
The above quote skillfully blends facts (his birthday is coming up), observations (Frank Sinatra is silent and appears sullen, the description of the club), with the skillful inclusion of perspectives on the source of Sinatra's mood that Talese had previosly gained by interviewing Sinatra's companions. Talese certainly spoke to the "two blondes" and the the "four male friends" about why they didn't force conversation on Sinatra, and was then able to skillfully weave this information into his article in a descriptive, narrative style.
At another point in the article, Talese writes this about Sinatra's attitude towards the people around him in the night club:
It was obvious from the way Sinatra looked at these people in the poolroom that they were not his style, but he leaned back against a high stool that was against the wall, holding his drink in his right hand, and said nothing, just watched Durocher slam the billiard balls back and forth. The younger men in the room, accustomed to seeing Sinatra at this club, treated him without deference, although they said nothing offensive.
Talese seems to be perceiving things about both Sinatra's thoughts and the younger men's feelings about spotting a celebrity that it appears he couldn't possibly have had access to from one night out on the town. However, though Talese chose to center most of the action of this article over the course of this one evening and several days following it, he would have spent a significant amount of time with Sinatra and the people in his orbit before writing the article. After such extensive observation and interviewing, he would be able able to make accurate and informed inferences about how Sinatra shapes the dynamics of his environment. He also probably interviewed the young men at the club that night to establish that they are regulars, often see Sinatra there and have grown accustomed to his presence.