Frank The voice

Publié le par New York Post - Diane Defuria

JournalNew York Post published 14/05/2011 at 12:44 AM by Diane Defuria

“The only two people I’ve ever been afraid of,” Frank Sinatra once said, “are my mother and Tommy Dorsey.”

Sinatra with his mother Dolly in 1945Biographer James Kaplan begs to differ. His mother, Dolly, did indeed frighten and inspire the kid from Hoboken, but the other figure who kept him terrified wasn’t the band leader, but the love of his life, Ava Gardner.

In his highly detailed account of the early life of this “exquisitely sensitive genius,” Kaplan explains how the icon of American music was alternately coddled and abused by his Mafia-esque mom. Once, in a fit of anger, Dolly pushed him down a flight of stairs, knocking him unconscious. She hit him regularly with a policeman’s billy club that she kept behind the bar.

Ava, meanwhile, abused the adult Frank in different ways. Scared of intimacy, she first embraced him, then tormented him. Jealousy was their emotional ammunition.

“She was a pisser, she scared the s - - outta me,” Sinatra said. “Never knew what she’d hate that I’d do.”

That’s Frank describing his mother to Shirley MacLaine. But as Kaplan notes, it could have described Ava, too. Sinatra was Chairman of the Board, but facing these two women he was a little boy again — not knowing if he’d get the hug or the nightstick.


Natalie “Dolly” Sinatra was a gregarious figure, with a mouth that would make longshoremen blush, who both spoiled and nitpicked her only child. She worked as a midwife after Sinatra’s birth in 1915, performing secret abortions as well, earning the nickname “Hatpin Dolly.”

Frank’s father, Marty Sinatra, had been a bantamweight prizefighter, fighting under the name Marty O’Brien because of the anti-Italian prejudice at the time. Despite their ethnicity, Dolly made sure they got ahead. She became a Hoboken ward leader, collecting favors in exchange for votes. She even got Marty a coveted job at the fire department despite his being illiterate and Irish in nickname only.

The couple owned a bar, Marty O’Brien’s, that was frequented by guys like Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. Luciano was born in the same Sicilian village as Frank’s grandfather. Sinatra hung around the bar after school doing his homework and singing atop the player piano for nickels or quarters. Frank admired these men and the power they wielded, particularly in the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. It was “small wonder,” Kaplan writes, “that when the real Mafiosi met Sinatra, they smiled as they shook his hand. It wasn’t just his celebrity . . . it was that part of Dolly that her son always carried with him: his own inner godfather. He both wanted to be one of them and — in spirit and in part — really was.” The association, though, garnered Frank an FBI file that would cause trouble for him throughout his career.

Publié dans Articles de Presse

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