His Way

Frank Sinatra sued the author of this book for two million dollars, seeking to prevent publication. Anyone who reads it will understand why he may never smile again. Kitty Kelley, a well-credentialed investigative journalist, portrays him as an emotionally immature man who has hobnobbed with the worst sort of hoods and behaved with astonishing brutality toward men and women alike. At the same time, she acknowledges his artistic gifts, generosity, and humanitarianism.

Kelley believes that Sinatra’s unstable character was formed by his mother, who spoiled and dominated him. One might get the impression that he has tried all his life to overcompensate for feelings of inferiority arising from his physical puniness and his identification with his mother as the dominant parent. Kelley quotes singer Eddie Fisher as saying, “Frank wanted to be a hood. He once said, ’I’d rather be a don of the Mafia than president of the United States.’” One of his best Mafia friends was Sam Giancana, who, according to Kelley, ordered more than two hundred murders: “Some of the victims were simply shot, while others were hung on meat hooks and tortured with electric cattle prods.”

Incongruously, Sinatra has also yearned for respectability. This appears to have been his motivation for courting such powerful figures as John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Though they have used him as songster, jester, fund-raiser, and in other capacities, they have disappointed his social ambitions by tending to keep him at arm’s length because of his reputation.

Women have always been fascinated by the crooner’s sexy mixture of toughness and sentimentality. Kelley chronicles many of Sinatra’s romantic involvements, including his four stormy marriages. She also deals with some of the myths that have circulated for years, such as the one about Tommy Dorsey being forced by Mafiosa to release Sinatra from a contract and the one about the producer who woke up with his racehorse’s head beside him because he was balking at giving Sinatra a certain movie role.

MY WAY is being aggressively promoted, but it is by no means an exploitative work. The author interviewed more than eight hundred people and combed through tons of printed material for more than three years to produce a thoroughly researched biography. Almost anyone except the subject himself will enjoy it.