His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra by Kitty Kelley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Kitty Kelley apparently interviewed more than 800 people in researching and writing this book, and at times, it really shows. There’s a lot of detail here. A lot of stories I had never heard before. That said, it seems Kelley really slants this book toward showing what a complete prick Sinatra was. I mean it was it’s one nasty story after another about Sinatra acting like a horrible thug.
The book starts with Sinatra’s upbringing in Hoboken, NJ. In later years, he would talk about his rough childhood, of running with the toughs of the neighborhood, but in truth his family was very well off, perhaps even rich, and he was a bit of a dandy running around with lots of fancy clothes and money to spend. His mom was the town abortionist! Sinatra’s Italian roots are discussed in detail, so when he marries a nice Italian girl, it makes sense. At the time, his singing career was starting to take off, and he was a horrible husband, picking up girls left and right to have sex with as often as possible. He had several children with his first wife, Nancy, but ultimately the marriage didn’t last, even though she spent her days pining for him, thinking he’d come back to her. He left her for the actress Ava Gardner, his one true love. They fought like crazy, but were passionate about each other. Ultimately, however, their marriage couldn’t stand up to the craziness and it disintegrated, leaving Sinatra tortured for the rest of his life. He married a few more times after Ava, but kept pictures of her all over his house.
His manager really arranged things so that Sinatra was promoted brilliantly, ultimately becoming the number one singer in America on the strength of the “bobby soxer” teenage girls who went absolutely nuts when they saw him, many even passing out at his concerts. It was weird to read about.
A lot of the book deals with his relations with the Mafia. He was really drawn to the Mob, and became good friends with many important mobsters. Because of this, he was subpoenaed to testify before various committees and would outright lie about ever knowing any of them, even though there were countless eyewitnesses to them setting up singing deals for him, for their exchanging gifts, for all sorts of stuff.
And Frank had the temper to beat all tempers! Wow, that was something to read about. He hated the press and would threaten them, even having some beaten up by his bodyguards. He hated a lot of people and would rip anyone who ever dared criticize him, especially in print. He held grudges for life, and was just a total dick. I hated him when I read this book, which is sad because I’ve enjoyed his music for so many years. He told raunchy jokes in his acts and would savage writers and others in these same acts. Frankly, I have no idea why so many people put up with his crap over the years.
He turned from a Kennedy loving liberal to a Reagan loving conservative, and the author never really gives us a clear indication why. It just happened.
His movies are also treated in the book, although perhaps more emphasis is put on his bad movies than his good ones. Whatever the case, he was a jerk to work with and wouldn’t rehearse, if at all, more than once. Perhaps that’s why he was so bad in so many movies….
He sued to have this book stopped from being published, but he lost, so I’d guess that much of what this book asserts is probably true. If so, Sinatra was the devil and I’ve lost all respect for him, which is a pity. Recommended if you want an interesting behind the scenes look at Sinatra.