Many people in show business are viewed as role models in our society. Many of these people are just regular men and women that are placed high on a pedestal simply because they can sing or act, hence, becoming all the more famous. Although he was famous and popular in the entertainment world for almost four decades, Frank Sinatra was a singer and actor that had a side to him that not everyone knew. He hid behind the facade of an entirely happy, successful performer, when, in reality, he had many problems that the public was not even aware of.
Some of these problems are the same that the average person faces day to day, but many went far deeper than trivial troubles. Some of these specific quandaries had to do with hidden aspects of his personal relationships, hidden connections with criminal elements, and other unknown aspects of his life. Before even attempting to understand any of this, however, some background information on Sinatra and his family would be helpful. Sinatra came from a family of orthodox Italian heritage. His mother and father were the first of his family to move from Sicily to America and settle down in the ‘land of the free’;.
After arriving in the United States, they ended up making their home in Hoboken, New Jersey, a very poor area where people resided with those of their own ethnic background. Their history was very important to the Sinatra family, and good moral values, as well as the importance of a good education, were instilled in all their children. Frank’s parents could barely read or write; that’s why good schooling was a priority to them. Sinatra’s parents looked down on the entertainment business, and with little success, did everything to lure Frank away from his attraction to the glitz and glamour of show business (Sinatra 15).
Sinatra’s early years were spent in Hoboken, dreaming of a ‘better life’;. Francis A. Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Being members of the Catholic faith, he was not baptized until April 2, 1916. He faced adversity as soon as he was born, nearly dying of birth complications that left him scarred for three months after he was conceived. As, a result of this, he was often bantered by members of his class and children of his neighborhood, who called him ‘Scarface’; (Sinatra 16) Since both of his parents worked full time to support the family, Frank was in the care of his grandmother most of his childhood.
Even at the age of twelve, he began showing signs of stardom, entertaining the class with his comedic wit. He was extremely popular with his classmates. Though all the students adored him, the teachers did not; his grades were less than satisfactory, causing him to drop out of A. J. Demarest High School in the middle of his senior year. By his mother’s request, he finished his education with one year at Drake Business School (Sinatra 21). According to Sinatra, ‘school was very uninteresting, and homework was something we never bothered with’; (qtd. in Sinatra 18).
We’; were referring to his gang of friends, who he spent most of his time with. This is when his love of music became more than a hobby, and he set his mind on becoming a star. After finishing school, Sinatra realized that singing, as an amateur could not totally support him. To make ends meet, and to please his mother and father, Sinatra took other jobs that his uncle helped him acquire. In early 1932, he accepted a job in a shipyard, finding out quickly that that job was not exactly right for him. He then took on another task, unloading crates of books, but that ended almost as quickly as it started.
Frank was not patient enough to be satisfied with an ordinary profession of manual labor. By that time, his father was growing weary, and somewhat angry, of him quitting various stable jobs, and insisted that Frank move out of the house. Being as stubborn as he was, Frank agreed and set off to New York City. He soon found out that it was not easy to survive on his own, and at the age of eighteen, moved back in with his parents (Sinatra 22-24). By early 1933, Frank knew that all he wanted to be was a performer. He borrowed a small sum of money from his parents, and purchased a very small sound system, which he took with him when he performed.
He found several miscellaneous jobs at nightclubs, roadhouses, amateur shows, and even democratic meetings in the city (Sinatra 24). After much effort, he developed his own unique style; one that people took notice of. During this time, the war had just begun, and Frank, who was a tremendous patriot, was infuriated that he was denied enlistment. The birth defect that he had as an infant was the cause of his rejection, burdening him once again (Sinatra 25). In spite his rage of not being able to enlist, Sinatra’s big break soon came.
He won the audition to appear on ‘Major Bowes and His Original Amateur Hour’;. He was paired with three other singers who had also won, and they were renamed together as ‘The Hoboken Four’;. Not long after their discovery, The Hoboken Four were re-hired multiple times to appear on the program. They toured the country soon afterward, at $50a week. After word of their talent spread, Frank received all the attention and praise for the success of the group. He was the most handsome, and his partners grew increasingly jealous and spiteful of Sinatra’s ability to ‘wow’; the audience.
Due mainly to this, Frank left the group to perform as a solo act once again (Sinatra 30-32). In the early ’40’s, things began to look better for the bright new star. It was then that Frank cut his first record deal as a solo artist. He caught the eye of famous bandleader, Tommy Dorsey, and joined up with him touring the country at $100 a week. He made regular appearances on ‘Fame and Fortune’;, a popular show of that time. As usual, his colleagues grew invidious of his rising fame and recognition he had with the women. Frank ended up leaving Dorsey’s band, breaking a contract agreement in the process.
However, this may have been a real positive thing in Sinatra’s life, because it gave him the time and willpower to begin his acting career. He debuted in the film industry, landing roles in thirteen different motion pictures. Not only did he fall in love with acting, it became his new passion. He knew what people craved and expected, and that is why he thrived. By the beginning of the 1950’s, Sinatra was solo once again. His next project was hosting his own show, ‘The Frank Sinatra Show’;. It had its negative aspect as well as its positive aspects, but mainly negative, resulting in bad ratings and poor criticism.
Sinatra did everything he could to try and revive it, including having Elvis Presley on for a special program. That particular episode received the highest ratings in the shows history. However, Sinatra did try and recompense the performance on the show by starring in a whopping twenty movies during the ’50’s. Nevertheless, it was still hard for Frank to keep up with the new change the world was making in affiliation with music. There were different styles that Sinatra was not used to. In the meantime, he was aging, and fell farther and farther behind. (Auster ‘Frank Sinatra: the television years’;).
The 1960’s proved to be a decade of change for Sinatra. He did everything in his power to carry on with all the new trends. He released several albums that featured bossa nova, folk-rock, soft rock, and jazz, hoping to win back all the admiration and attention that had come so easily to him years before. He was not used to failure, even though he had a strong taste of it after the collapse of his show. He found it completely astounding that the daughters of those who were crazy over him were now awed by the presence of those like Presley, who’s music Sinatra described as ‘deplorable, rancid smelling aphrodisiac’; (qtd. m Auster ‘Frank Sinatra: the television years’;). Besides updating his musical standards, Sinatra gained even more support from the nation by focusing on his acting abilities, this time taking part in over twenty films, which were some of his greatest performances of all time. Films such as Tony Rome and Ocean’s 11 won him considerable praise (Nelson 6). By the early 1970’s, Sinatra thought it was time to conclude his career. He retired on June 13, 1971. Even though it appeared as if he had decided to take a final break from show business, he returned on the scene 29 months later.
He even starred in three movies in the early 1980’s. By the demand of his fans, he did in fact go on tour once again, giving his last concert at the age of 79. It was one of the largest ever recorded; people flocked by the thousands to hear his overwhelming voice, which had only gotten better with age. The reason that his voice remained stellar was because his music was based on phrasing; rhythm, diction, and dynamics, all in the service of interpretation, were what kept his music animate (Auster ‘Frank Sinatra: the television years’;).
Besides the many accomplishments he had in the entertainment business, there were many hidden aspects of Sinatra’s personal relationships with his wives, children, and close friends that the public did not become aware of until most recently. Amazingly, Sinatra was married four times before his demise. His first wife was Nancy Barbato, whom he was married to from 1939-1951. She is the mother of all three of his children, and was with him before he gained all of his fame (Sinatra 32). When they divorced, he almost immediately married Ava Gardner, whom he was suspected of having an affair with.
He married her in 1951, and their marriage barely lasted a year. They were divorced, and in 1966, Sinatra married Mia Farrow, who was exceptionally younger than him, a startling 21 years. Many believe that he married her in order to keep his youthfulness alive. He wanted to prove to America that, in its time of change, he could relate to any generation. After his expected divorce with Farrow, Frank settled down with Barbara Marx. They were married in 1976, and remained married until his death (Sloan 1). Sinatra also had many secret affairs with other women in between and during his marriages.
There are over thirty women that have testified to having been involved with him at least once. These women are some of the most respected in show business and politics, but they were also part of a long list of many that could not resist Sinatra’s charm. Some of these famous women are the following: Lauren Bacall, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLain, Marilyn Maxwell, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Nancy Reagan, Debbie Reynolds, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Natalie Wood (Sloan 2).
As stated before, Sinatra had three children: Nancy Jr. rn in 1940; Franklin Wayne Jr. , born in 1944; Tina, born in 1948. Even though their father was famous, the children had a relatively normal relationship with him. Of course, they got in inconsequential arguments every now and then, but continued loving him just as much. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their attitudes toward their various stepmothers. Barbara Marx, their father’s fourth wife, was probably their least preferred. Nancy’s relationship with Barbara was best described as ‘icy’;, due to the fact that she and Barbara were always competing for the attention of Frank.
Nancy did not approve of her father starting another marriage at an older age. In 1997, however, things with Barbara and Nancy cooled down and they agreed on a truce, considering Frank’s deteriorating health condition (Fink People Weekly). As a result of his laid back approach to new things, as like his father, Frank Jr. did not have any major problems with his father’s wives. He did not see the point in quarreling with his father or family members if everyone was happy. He did not like to create problems, though he did manage to create a rather large problem.
Frank Jr. kidnapped several years ago and held for ransom; people thought that he had set up the entire conspiracy. Though nothing was ever proved, he was still heckled by those who believed he was a fraud. On a different note, Frank Jr. did not care about his father’s material possessions as much as either of his sisters. He certainly did not like to bicker over ‘who got what’;, and so forth (Franklin ‘The musical life’;). Tina, being the baby of the family, was never really in the limelight. She is the individual that is considered the most concerned with her father’s possessions, and the fame of what anything associated with that, might bring.
She wanted to endorse his name to restaurants, cigars, and champagne bottles (Eiensburg ‘Speaking frankly’;). Another of Sinatra’s publicized relationships that the public really knew scarcely anything about was his affiliation with the members of The Rat Pack. Sinatra’s crew, The Rat Pack, consisted of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. , Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Martin was his best friend and highest competition. It was said that Sinatra and Martin were the most talented of the group, the ones that carried the others and led them (Whitty ‘Ratting out the Pack’;).
That was not the only thing the two had in common. Martin had ties to the mafia, as did Sinatra, and was accused publicly of it, as Sinatra also was. Martin was accused of allegedly being criminally involved with Alfredo ‘Skippy’; Felice, a Philadelphia crime leader. In spite of his profuse rejections that he was involved with Felice, he was found out to be the godfather of Felice’s son Dino. Apparently, that made it obvious that Martin and the crime leader were good friends. Martin did not flaunt their friendship in any way, but was very generous to Felice’s family.
He loaned Felice’s wife over $100,000 in the 1970’s, when Felice was in jail. Martin told her it was so she could ‘maintain the family’;, which could have been referring to maintaining the mob, which is sometimes known as the ‘family’; by it’s members (Bastone ‘Dean the dream’;). Davis was considered to be Sinatra’s second-best friend in the group. Sinatra was the one that actually helped Davis his big break, and brought him in to show business, disregarding the fact that black singers and actors were looked down on during this time period.
Lawford, brother-in-law of John F. Kennedy, and Bishop were not as close to Sinatra mainly because they were not as talented or popular as the other three in their clan. One of Sinatra’s close friends, outside of The Rat Pack, was John F. Kennedy. Sinatra was the one that established Kennedy’s relationship with Judith Exner, whom Kennedy had an affair with. While Kennedy was busy keeping his relationship with Mrs. Exner quiet, Sinatra was going behind his back, courting his wife (Whitty ‘Ratting out the Pack’;).
Not only did Sinatra conceal his personal relationships, he also tried his best to hide his connections with criminal elements. Though there were many false rumors of his connections to the mob, there were almost just as many truths. Some were ridiculous charges, such as the accusation that Sinatra tried to dodge the war draft in 1944, when it stated clearly on a police report that he had medical problems and was not able to participate (CNN ‘FBI opens voluminous files on Sinatra’;).
One of the most outrageous accusations that actually wound up to be true, was that Sinatra’s dentist, Dr. Abraham Benedict Weinstein, was a ‘commie’;, someone involved with the Communist party. Sinatra’s own FBI file of 1,275 pages, which is six inches thick, were finished being compiled around December of 1998 (Adler ‘Something about Frank’;). Sinatra’s friendship with Sam Giancana seemed to be the ‘hottest’; accusation in his file. Giancana was the supreme Chicago mafia leader, who was said to have inherited the throne of Al Capone. It was reported that Sinatra was seen giving Giancana his phone number, after embracing him warmly.
When Sinatra was interviewed on the subject, he merely stated that he and Giancana were simply casual friends. Not only was he friends with the criminal, but he also introduced Giancana to Judith Exner, who had had repeated affairs with President John F. Kennedy (CNN ‘He lived his life his way’;). Not only was Sinatra charged with being associated with Giancana, in 1971 he was found to be purportedly plotting to exhort about $100,000 from a former stockbroker. His supposed partners in crime to carry out this task were mobsters Dellacroce, Gambino, and Gallo.
While Sinatra did admit to having friendly associations with them, as well as previously taken pictures with them, he denied all types of criminal relationships with them, just as he had with Giancana. He also denied any involvement with ‘Lucky’; Luciano in 1947, including smuggling $1 million into the country from Italy for the hoodlum. He also denied any connection with Willie Moretti, a New Jersey racketeer that was said to have backed Sinatra’s early singing career (Nelson 5). Besides Sinatra’s secret relationships and hidden connections with criminal elements, there are many aspects of him that are unknown.
Sinatra had a side of philanthropy that not many people saw. He was a tremendous patriot, and showed his love for America. He was extremely distraught when he found out that he could not go to war because of his birth defect. In order to still be part of the war effort, he performed for soldiers in order to lift their spirits in spite of their troubles. He talked to them about where they grew up, their lives, and the hard times (Lahr 9). Sinatra also battled those who were racist. He did not have to, but he ‘pulled strings’;, making the effort to get Sammy Davis Jr. b, knowing that everyone, black or white, deserved a chance.
He also helped other actors and actresses financially. One actress he assisted extensively was Judy Garland, when she was having hard times with her career. According to his family members, he would read the paper daily, and if he read of someone suffering or in need, he would send money to them anonymously through the mail. He gave millions to charity because of his compassion for the less fortunate (CNN ‘He lived his life his way’;). Sinatra also worked with his wife, Barbara, at the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in California.
The center is a voice for the sexually, physically, and emotionally abused children of America. It was founded in 1986 in order to counsel these youngsters. Frank and Barbara also created a cookbook for the center, it’s proceeds donated to the charity (Children’s Center). This is not the extent of Sinatra’s flair; he is also somewhat of an artist. In addition to performing, painting was one of his favorite pastimes. Not only was his artwork good quality, he also sold some of his pieces at local art shows. Although it was not one of his more exposed leisure pursuits, it was indeed something that he was engrossed with.
Most of his works are now in the hands of his children and grandchildren (Sinatra 189). Sinatra had his share of tribulations throughout life, dealing with his personal relationships, his involvement with criminals, and other aspects of his personal life. Whether he had moral values and good ethics is still debated, but where he is now is not for us to say. He may have had a rough life, one that was not completely honorable to God, but people are not the ones that should be judging Sinatra; that is His job. All sin is the same in the eyes of God, and everyone has the chance to repent and be baptized and forgiven of those sins.
Whether or not Sinatra was a Christian, no one really knows, except for God. Sinatra did represent a strong role model to those that thought that they were too poor to become successful in show business. Much to everyone’s belief, he beat the odds and came out on top. He was in the entertainment industry for over forty years, and survived the changes that came and went with the times. He was called ‘The Voice’;, ‘Chairman of the Board’;, and ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’;. People of America dubbed him a legend, and that’s the way he will remain in the hearts and minds of those who appreciated his extraordinary talents.