Franksville Hall of Shame
(The Man, Not The Music)
Although Franksville is dedicated to celebrating
the art of Francis Albert Sinatra, it's worth taking a moment to distinguish between the
astonishingly high caliber of his music and the often despicable nature of his character
as a human being.
At least, when it came to expressing his hateful
side, Sinatra did not appear to discriminate; he was capable at times of treating
pretty much everyone -- friends or enemies, family or colleages, intimates or total
strangers -- with malicious cruelty, pettiness, and violence. Sinatra's outbursts of
charity seem particularly suspect and pathetic, given the way he treated people in his
private and proffesional life. His charitable impulses appear to stem, not from love
or altruism, but from guilt over past treatment, or an attempt to "buy" people's
favors or affections and further exert his control over them. In all cases, everyone
around him was constantly kept on notice that his favor could be unilaterally withdrawn
(as they say) at any moment, without notice, for reasons determined only by Sinatra.
It is well known that Sinatra assaulted and almost
killed Frederick R. Weisman (the president of Hunts Foods) by smashing him over
the head with a telephone in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel on June 8,
1966. The reason? A petty argument between strangers about the boisterousness
and rude language being used by Sinatra and his party. Because of subsequent
anonymous threats to Weisman and his family (even as the victim lay in grave condition in
the hospital, his survival in doubt), no charges were ever brought against Sinatra.
But if Sinatra had been tried and convicted of this assault (whether or not the victim
died), I think he should have spent the rest of his life in prison -- because I don't
think there's ever any excuse for violent crime. (Self-defense, on the other
hand, is not a crime.) And, although many of our aesthetic lives would be that much
poorer without the work that came later (for example, Francis
Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, or She Shot
Me Down) -- well, Sinatra arrogance and temper were always his own worst enemies.
If people (like his own son, or some of his wives) feared or loathed him, he never had
anyone to blame but himself. Sinatra's true life story is not about a man who did
things "His Way" (a song he quite understandably professed to hate, anyway) it's
about a man who couldn't control himself and constantly tried to weasel out of taking
responsibility for his own (self-)destructive actions.
Here are some of the more damning things some of
his friends, family, colleagues, and associates had to say about the man, taken from
various interviews, articles, books, and the public record:
Sammy Davis, Jr.
"I love Frank and he was the kindest man in he world to me when
I lost my eye and wanted to kill myself. But there are many things that he does that
there are no excuses for. Talent is not an excuse for bad manners. I don't
care if you are the most talented person in the world. It does not give you the
right to step on people and treat them rotten. That is what Frank does,
(Davis made the above remarks in a Chicago radio interview in
February, 1959. Although Sammy Davis, Jr., was supposedly one of Sinatra's best
friends, Sinatra cut him off for several months after hearing about these statements,
without ever talking to him about them. Davis, of course, was devastated -- as
Sinatra knew he would be.)
Mrs. Tony Bennett
Mr. and Mrs. Tony Bennett and his wife witnessed a 1967
incident at the Fonainbleau hotel coffee shop in Miami where Sinatra insulted a janitor
who asked for his autograph. The henchmen Sinatra called his "dago secret
service" then punched out the janitor and left him bleeding on the floor.
"I was so insulted that that kind of barbarity would happen
while we're sitting there, and that no one would say a thing. Here we are,
respectable people, and this is happening right in front of us, and we don't do anything
about it. 'I want to get out of here,' I said, and then we left, but none of us said
anything to Frank. That's what upset me so. I thought Tony was a coward for
not saying something, and I was furious with him, but he's been indebted to Sinatra for
turning his career around, so he wasn't going to say a word against him. Frank had
told Life magazine in 1965 that Tony was the best singer in the business, which
renewed national interest in him, so he just looked the other way when Frank's goons
started beating up on that guy. Then I read in the paper the next day that some
sailor had been robbed and beaten up in New Orleans and that when Frank had read about the
incident, he'd agreed to pay the sailor's hospital bill and given him a few hundred
dollars to make up for what he'd had stolen. That doesn't square with what his goons
had done the night before, but then Frank is a very complex guy."
Actor Brad Dexter was a friend and business associate of
Sinatra's, and once saved Sinatra from drowning in Hawaii in 1964. Dexter was hired
as producer co-star of the 1967 film The Naked Runner, but when a bad-tempered
Sinatra impulsively walked off the set in England and returned to Los Angeles, his lackeys
tried to fire Dexter for attempting to complete the picture. He never received the
final $15,000 due him for his work on the movie. Dexter is one of the few to ever cut off
and walk away from Sinatra, rather than the other way around.
"... I was producing over at Paramount and it was worth $15,000
to me just to be rid of Frank Sinatra and never have to with him. That meant not
having to sit up with him every night until he could barely go to sleep; not having to be
around continual brawls and cherry bombs and drinking until the last bottle was empty and
the last song sung. Frank's a sick guy in many ways, and that sickness becomes a
heavy burden for those close to him after a while."
Frank Sinatra, Jr.
Upset because his father didn't even bother to inform him of
his marriage to Mia Farrow (who was five years younger than his sister, Nancy), Frank Jr.
made these famous remarks onstage during his act at the Koko Motel in Cocoa Beach,
"I'm going to devote exactly five minutes to my father because,
as he once confided in a moment of weakness, that's exactly how much time he devoted to
After making jokes in his Las Vegas act about the age
difference between Frank Sinatra, 50, and his new bride Mia Farrow, 21, comedian Jackie
Mason was repeatedly warned by friends of Sinatra to drop that material from his routine.
Three bullets were pumped into his Vegas hotel room, shattering the glass doors and
lodging in the mattress of his bed. Later, Mason had his faced re-arranged (including
broken nose and cheekbones) by a man who repeated the warning about the Sinatra jokes.
"I have no idea who it was who tried to shoot me.... After the
shotsall I heard was someone singing 'Doobie, doobie, doo.'"
"I know [the assault] was his doing. He's a vicious
bastard, and yet people act like fawning idiots around him. Look at Alan King.
Frank pushes him around and Alan takes it. He never made it big, so he wants
to be with the biggest and will do anything to be in Frank's company.... Cowering to
Sinatra makes him feel important, I guess. It just makes me sick."
Producer David Susskind was also threatened by Sinatra's
"goons" because he hired Mia Farrow for a 1967 ABC television production of Johnny
Belinda over Sinatra's objections. (Once Sinatra married Mia Farrow, he did not
approve of her having a career apart from his.) Suskind reported that Farrow looked like
she had been "roughed up" when she reported to the set.
"Mary, the Mafia mistress, called me one night and insisted on
seeing me on urgent business. She was so uncomfortable about what she was trying to
tell me that she couldn't get it out for at least an hour. Finally, she said,
'David, someone doesn't like you... someone wants to hurt you and hurt you bad.
Nothing fatal. He doesn't want to kill you. Just break an arm and a leg.... It's
Sinatra. He's put the word out to get you. You used his wife in a movie when
he didn't want her to work. He's mad, and he's going to get other gangsters to do it
for him. My guy says that no one touches anyone in the East without his okay, and
that if anyone touches you he won't be alive the next day, but he says that you're not
going to go to Las Vegas or Miami. He can't control what goes on there.
"I said I would never think of going either place, but I sure
as hell didn't want to be told that I couldn't go. But I saw how serious she was, so
I said that I would stay out of those places for the next year or so. Naturally, my
opinion of Frank Sinatra is biased as a result. I think he's an ill-bred swine who
operates on the level of an animal, with no sensibilities whatsoever."