Few people have left a bigger legacy in the American show business as Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). His songs are still played all over the world and he also had a flourishing career starring in movies and musicals. In Las Vegas he was the main attraction to lure gamblers into the casino’s. In this role he hosted parties where he became good friends with important people like John F. Kennedy as well as some of the highest ranked mobsters in the United States. Sure his career knew ups and downs but the total picture was quite impressive for a man who was also known for his heavy drinking. Many times the nickname “Watery Bloodshot Eyes’ seemed more appropriate than “Ol’ Blue Eyes”. But just when many people had written him off in the sixties, he slapped back with the monsterhit “My way“. The song had Sinatra written all over it. He did do it his way, the crazy drunk way.
Frank Sinatra was 18 years old as the prohibition in the United States ended. In the 13 years before that the craving for booze got bigger than ever among American citizens, the classic case of the kid and the forbidden cookie jar. This must have rubbed off on Sinatra to be and his generation. From Humphrey Bogart and Bing Crosby to Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Johnny Carson, almost all American entertainers mid-twentieth century were quite fund of the sauce. They also weren’t too sneaky about it. A famous quote from Sinatra was “Alcohol might be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.” Also he gave birth to the catchy one liner “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. They wake up in the morning and that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”
Paul Anka, the man who wrote ‘My Way’ for Sinatra was quite open about his colleague’s behaviour in his memoir, also named My Way, that was published in 2013. A sweet anecdote dates back from 1967 as Anka describes how Sinatra was gambling at the casino of The Sands till he was 500.000 dollars in debt. While he was actually the headliner for that evening, he dissapeared for the weekend instead. You think Sinatra came back to apologyze? Guess again. He crashed a golf cart, with his wife Mia Farrow in the passenger seat, through the glass entryway. According to Anka the singer was completely hammered at the time. A little later Sinatra tried to set the curtains in the lobby on fire, but he was simply to smashed to succeed. This kind of behaviour continued a little longer, until manager Carl Cohen knocked him down.
Barbara Sinatra, the fourth and final wife of the singer, explained in 2011 how her late husband would exhaust everyone around him with his constant drinking and partying. “One day, I told him: ‘I really can’t go out tonight, Frank. I’m sorry, but I’m too tired.’ His eyes took on a glint. ‘You’re going, Barbara. You’re going tonight, and you’re going every night.’ As I was soon to learn, this was non-negotiable. But he was also tender and generous… Our friends often formed a private pact to stay up with Frank in shifts over several days, so that no one person had to carouse with him night after night in what he called the American Olympic Drinking Team.”
The fourth mrs. Sinatra explained how Frank would be full of energy after a show, that he needed to release. “Sometimes, that manifested itself in a tantrum, but more often than not he just wanted to drink with his buddies and me — and expected us to stay up all night. A friend of Frank’s once said that one of the qualities that most endeared me to him was my stamina. Frank’s late nights came to be dreaded by his entourage. One of them, George Schlatter, once told the barman to fill up a bottle of vodka with water so he wouldn’t get too drunk. But when Frank found out, he was furious.”
In 1998 Sinatra died at the respectable age of 82. With a total sale of more than 150 million records worldwide, as well as 11 Grammy Awards in the pocket, the showman is without a doubt one of the most successful musicians in world history. Not bad for a showman who went out for heavy drinking most days of his life.