Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Ol' Blue Eyes

I always disliked Sinatra, even as a kid. It wasn't because he performed my parents' music- I liked Bing Crosby and Doris Day well enough- no, there was always something about Frank that uniquely turned me off. The sleazy, twilit, hung-over world his music evoked was a place I just didn't want to visit. It sounded- OK, I know it's melodramatic, but I can't think of a more apposite word- it sounded evil.

Now I understand. If Frank's music sounded evil it was because Frank himself was an evil man. The guy wasn't just friendly with the Mob, he was owned by them, acting as front man for their businesses, carrying their money in his private jet. Last night's TV documentary- Sinatra, Dark Star- gave us the dots and tittles.

Maybe he never actually pulled the trigger on anybody, but there are plenty of stories to suggest that he made full use of his wise-guy contacts. Jackie Mason once got his hotel room sprayed with bullets after being told not to tell any more jokes about Frank and Mia. And then there are rumours about a cop whose wife Frank was schtupping who got killed when his car came off the road in mysterious circumstances. Most famously, there's the story,lightly fictionalised in the Godfather, about how Frank landed the part of Maggio in From Here To Eternity after the Mob's man in Hollywood had a quiet word with Harry Cohn.

At the heart of the documentary was an account of the time Frank acted as intermediary between his pal Sam Giancana, Mob boss of Chicago and his other pal, Jack Kennedy. Frank brokered a deal and Sam kept his side of it by delivering the Illinois vote. Once in power Kennedy ratted on Sam, appointing his brother Robert Attorney General, with a brief to go after the Mob. Sam blamed Frank and took a contract out on his life. The film director Murray Shavelson told how he went to Sinatra's hotel to discuss a movie, only to find the lobby full of heavies and Sinatra locked in his room refusing to see anyone. Outside the hotel door was a dish that had been sent up from the kitchen. Shavelson lifted the lid and inside was a lamb's head, shaved- the Mob equivalent of the Black Spot.

I don't get the glamour of the Mob. Or, by extension, the glamour of Sinatra's Rat Pack. That culture of shiny-eyed men in tuxedos, of money, fear and blow-jobs. It has no soul. If there's a Hell- and I don't suppose there is- I can imagine it being a whole lot like Vegas in the 50s.
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