Francis Albert Sinatra He had it all throughout a long artistic career in which he received many awards and tributes. This is supported by his more than 1,300 recorded songs, his participation in fifty films, his Oscar for his role in the film From here to eternity, his ten Grammys and the Medal of Freedom from the United States government.
Owner of a voice that made him one of the most important figures in 20th century music, with interpretations of such mythical songs as My Way, New York, New York O Strangers in the night, his resounding success and popularity are the kindest face of a personality with a strong character, who at times bordered on violence, with a playful spirit, a womanizer and with friends linked to the mafia. On the occasion of the commemoration of the centenary of his birth we will review some of the most hidden aspects of the ‘old man with blue eyes’.
The man who was nicknamed ‘The Voice’ was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey, the only child of a middle-class family of Italian descent. During his childhood and adolescence he was quite a gang member, studies were not his thing and he turned to boxing, athletics and swimming, in addition to growing in him a love for music that led him to perform in his father’s tavern when he was between 9 and 10 years old. What he did to pass the time helped him to realize his virtue. “One day they gave me a dime and I said to myself: ‘Frank, this is your thing,” he said in an interview. His career choice came as a surprise to his parents, who wanted their offspring to study civil engineering.
His admiration for Bing Crosby prompted him to appear on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio contest, which helped him start his artistic career. On a technical level, he was characterized by his careful precision in phrasing and his mastery of breath control, as well as his interpretive ability when grabbing the microphone and singing. The beginnings were not easy but he always had the support of his first wife, Nancy Barbato, whom he married at age 24 and had three children in common.
The 1940s and 1950s marked the consecration of Frankie, who was acclaimed by fans and became a mass phenomenon as his film career took off. Sinatra was an attractive guy and knew how to exploit his image to succeed and end up establishing himself as the greatest performer of American popular music. With a voice rich in nuances, close to the bass-baritone, Sinatra was the first singer who consciously used the means of sound amplification to place his voice above the sound of the orchestra.
Early in his career, Frank Sinatra had the talent and voice to achieve fame, but these ingredients might not have brought him glory if he hadn’t had the support of disreputable friends from the start.
Sinatra’s family came from a Sicilian town where Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, the father of organized crime and the mastermind of the heroin trade, was also originally from. His friendship with Sinatra was born when the singer was invited to a meeting in Havana, an event attended by the main members of Cosa Nostra, the criminal elite of the 1940s. Another acquaintance of the artist was Salvatore Giancana, aka the ‘Momo’, head of the Chicago mob. Sinatra sang in several nightclubs of this criminal when nobody hired him and both maintained a relationship that went beyond business.
Judith Campbell, an attractive brunette friend and lover of Sinatra, also became the lover of ‘Momo’ and at the same time of John Fitgerald Kennedy. Campbell is believed to have been the messenger between the offender and the president. Before JFK was assassinated, the FBI was already on the trail of Judith Campbell. In part, because of her visits to the White House, but mainly because of her relationship with Sam Giancana, with whom she was seen in restaurants, parties and hotels, surrounded by the underworld circle.
Sinatra even acted as an intermediary for Giancana to help get votes for JFK to be elected president of the United States and some media suggest that ‘Momo’ was also the mastermind behind his assassination. And it is that when Kennedy arrived at the White House he forgot everything that the capo had done for his career and appointed his brother Bobby Attorney General with the sole premise of ending organized crime at its roots.
The mere fact that Sinatra was linked to the mob made him lose his mind. One of the people who lived through his violent attacks of anger was Mario Puzo, whom Sinatra accused of being a pimp when they passed each other in a cafeteria. Legend has it that the artist served as inspiration to create Johnny Fontane, the character of The Godfather who sang at the wedding of Connie, Vito Corleone’s daughter. It is inevitable to think that Frank inspired Puzo to create this man who gets the role of his dreams in a movie thanks to a sadistic extortion perpetrated by Don Vito. They both started out as singers in a big band and became soloists. In the case of Fontane (Al Martino) with the help of the character played by Marlon Brando; in Sinatra’s, it is said that he managed to play Angelo Maggio in From here to eternity, for which he won the Oscar for best supporting actor, for his relationship with the mafia.
Despite his obvious relationships with underworld bosses, Sinatra was never connected to illicit operations. Of course, the FBI always had him in the spotlight. There are more than a thousand pages of the declassified FBI secret files dedicated to the hidden face of ‘La Voz’. In them it is stated that Sinatra had contacts with the gangster Lucky Luciano, who supported his career in the shadows, and with Willie Moretti, a well-known extortionist with great influence in the offices of the main producers of the film mecca.
These documents also reflect that in 1971 Sinatra was accused of participating together with prominent members of Cosa Nostra in an extortion affair. Recently, Juan Pablo Escobar, son of the drug lord Pablo Escobar, has affirmed that his father was a partner of Frank Sinatra in drug trafficking businesses established in Miami (USA) and that he was better at distributing drugs than singing, according to what appears of the interview granted in Brazil to the newspaper The state. In 2009, Roberto Escobar, the drug trafficker’s brother, already wrote a book in which he talked about a family meeting with Sinatra in Las Vegas.
Womanizer and reveler
Sinatra was a born livelier, a man who hated being alone, who collected luxury cars, and who was always surrounded by beautiful women. He had a group of artist friends, the famous ‘Rat Pack’, with whom he organized wild parties and orgies in Las Vegas, always accompanied by a lot of alcohol, drugs and prostitutes. Some of them lasted four days and four nights uninterrupted. “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says to love your enemy,” the artist went on to say.
He was married four times and collected a list of lovers that includes Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Kim Novak, Judy Garland or Raffaella Carrá herself. However, his love story with Ava Gardner is one of those that left an indelible mark on him.
They say that he fell in love with the ‘most beautiful animal in the world’, as the actress was known, when he saw her on the cover of a magazine. The legendary actor and singer was so confident in himself that he told his friends that he would one day marry her. He did it on November 7, 1951, but before they went down the aisle, their relationship had already filled the pages of the heart press. They saw each other for the first time at a party in 1949 and theirs was a real crush. Sinatra was married to Nancy at the time, so they were secretly seeing each other. The paparazzi discovered that they were together and spread the news to the four winds.
Sinatra’s adultery was viewed as a simple prank, but Gardner was accused of ‘home wrecking’ and received numerous threatening letters. The actress was so scared that she took advantage of the fact that she was filming in Tossa de Mar Pandora and the Flying Dutchman to get away from Hollywood and distance himself from Sinatra by replacing him with his partner in the film, Mario Cabré. The romance between the beautiful interpreter and the Spanish bullfighter ignited the anger of ‘La Voz’, prisoner of a frenzy of jealousy. Precisely, jealousy and rivalries between them, always combined with alcohol in between, used to reach such extremes that Sinatra simulated suicide on more than one occasion.
Ava and Frank were married for six years, although they only lived under the same roof for two. They loved each other passionately, but they were such strong characters that they argued too often. They finally divorced in 1957 and Sinatra was deeply traumatized. After a few years frequenting various female companies, Sinatra married Mia Farrow, who was only 19 years old, in 1966. Their union as a couple lasted only two years, although they later maintained a great friendship. In fact, when Woody Allen left Mia for his adopted daughter Soon-Yi, Sinatra volunteered to have some friends break the New York filmmaker’s legs; a proposal that the actress declined.
Tribute at the Empire State
His last wife was Barbara, the widow of Zeppo Marx, with whom he was married from 1976 until the day the singer’s voice was turned off, on May 14, 1998, a victim of a heart attack. He was 82 years old.
The Empire State, skyscrapers of the city that the artist immortalized in his mythical New York, New York He then illuminated its top with blue lights in homage to the color of his eyes. This Saturday, coinciding with what would have been his 100th birthday, a special gala will be held in Hoboken and at nightfall the Empire State will wear blue again.
Sinatra lived in his own way and represented the lifestyle of an entire era. He assured that Michael Jackson was the only male singer better than him and propagated that “to be successful you have to have friends; but to be very successful you have to have a lot of friends ”. Sinatra had them, without a doubt, in the middle of a party environment, black bow ties, women, a lot of alcohol and eternal songs.