Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sinatra's Salacious Secrets - But Only Till 1954

It's a tome of a book.
At more than 700 pages you would think that James Kaplan's big new book on Sinatra entitled Frank, The Voice would cover the entirety of Sinatra's life.
That's what I thought.
But I didn't bother to read the book jacket very carefully. This book only covers the years from 1915 to 1954. It chronicles Sinatra's rise and fall and then his amazing comeback via his Oscar-winning performance as Maggio in From Here To Eternity. The book proves the truth of an old saying: A setback is nothing more than a setup for a comeback.
I've lived that saying -- but that's another story.
And wow, did Sinatra have to work for his comeback. Still, his then-wife, the ravishing Ava Gardner really helped him to achieve his goal.
But Frank and Ava were just too much alike -- and too combustible. True, they were very much in love and their love was passionate. Yet, it was not to be. The fights were legendary and invariably involved wandering eyes, vivid imaginations and petty jealousies. She was so beautiful and alluring to men and he was so charismatic and attractive to women that they just couldn't seem to trust one another.
The stress of being one of the most famous couples in the world also got to them.
Was Ava an alcoholic? She could through them back alongside any man, that's for sure. She could match most men one-for-one. Was Frank bipolar? Even though the term didn't exist then, his mood swings were huge. He was volcanic one moment and sullen and introspective the next. He had to take downers late at night and uppers when he finally awoke in the afternoon.
Ava once said that the problems between the two of them were not in the bedroom. Rather, she explained the problems arose "on the way to the bidet."
Indeed, they were both said to be remarkably adept sexually, if only by virtue of their endowments. And those endowments allowed them to gain a good deal of early experience in the boudoir before they even hooked up. Ava was undeniably voluptuous and Frank, though relatively short and pencil-thin, was big in just the right place.
In this book there's a story about a reporter peppering Ava backstage during one of Frank's performances at a point in his career when Frank was hard-pressed to fill the seats in even a medium-sized auditorium.
"What do you see in him, Ava?" The reporter asked. "He's just a 119-pound loser."
"Yeah," Ava answered, "but he's 19-pounds of c - - k."
That was enough to silence the reporter.
And in early 1950s America, no reporter could print such a quote.
Anyway, it wasn't until I was more than 550 pages into this book that I realized that it only covered the first portion of Sinatra's life. I have a habit of picking up a book and reading the first 20 or 30 pages and if I like it, I just keep reading. I never look to see how many pages it has and I never jump ahead or skip pages.
I've always been this way with every book I've ever read ever since I was a child.
So, I was worried for the author because I could tell that I was about three-quarters of the way (or more) through the book and Kaplan was still chronicling the events of 1952. I should have known.
I presume that Kaplan will produce another volume. I hope so. He's a damned good writer.
Oh, here's another interesting fact from the book: While she was married to Sinatra, Ava Gardner slept with director John Farrow who was then directing her in one of her films. Farrow was the father of Mia Farrow who later hooked up with Sinatra for a notorious May-December pairing. So, Sinatra eventually married the daughter of one of his wife's lovers.
Ahhh . . . . . Hollywood!

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