Frank Sinatra's last wife, Barbara Marx Sinatra, reveals details of the couple's 22-year marriage in her memoir, "Lady Blue Eyes."
In the book, Barbara Marx Sinatra describes a homey side of the music legend -- a man who was extremely neat, a great cook, a voracious reader and a crossword puzzle ace. On their evenings out, she witnessed his state of the art tipping.
"He'd walk into a restaurant with a stack of one hundred dollar bills," she recalls. "And say, 'Make sure to take care of all the busboys, not the waiters, the busboys...and everyone in the kitchen.'"
Prologue: A Very Good Year
The year I married Frank Sinatra was a very good year. It was 1976, but it had taken us five years of flirting and courting to finally say "I do." It probably took another year before I grew accustomed to the idea that I now carried his iconic name. At first, I'd almost whisper when booking a restaurant reservation or beauty parlor appointment. Even to say "Mrs. Sinatra" out loud felt like bragging.
For a long time I had to pinch myself almost daily to believe that I, Barbara Ann Blakeley, the gangly kid in pigtails from the whistle-stop of Bosworth, Missouri, had somehow become the wife of Francis Albert Sinatra. Could I really be married to the singer whose voice I'd first heard at a drive-in when I was fifteen years old?
"I'll walk alone because to tell you the truth I'll be lonely. I don't mind being lonely when my heart tells me you are lonely too," he sang with such sincerity at the height of the Second World War. Even though he didn't make me swoon like some of the "bobby-soxers" at his concerts, the tenderness in his voice still melted my tomboyheart.
Our love affair began almost thirty years later, long before we took the wedding-day vows that were to last for more than two decades. By then I was married to Zeppo Marx, the youngest of the famous comedy brothers. Our next-door neighbor Frank Sinatra had recently divorced for the third time and was dating some of the world's most desirable women. I'd met his second wife, Ava Gardner, and Mia Farrow, his third. I'd seen Marilyn Monroe when she stayed with him not long before she died, and would meet Lauren Bacall, Kim Novak, Juliet Prowse, and Judy Garland, all of whom he'd stepped out with.
Not that I was a complete naïf. As a young model and the wife of a gambler named Bob Oliver, I'd been wooed by John F. Kennedy. As a Las Vegas showgirl, I'd resisted Frank's advances, and I'd lived with a television host named Joe Graydon. I'd been chased by some of the world's most drop-dead, knockout movie stars, none of whom had anything on Frank. He had a sexual energy all his own. Even Elvis Presley, whom I'd met in Vegas, never had it quite like that.
A big part of Frank's thrill was the sense of danger he exuded, an underlying, ever-present tension only those closest to him knew could be defused with humor. One of the greatest things about Frank was that he loved to laugh. He not only surrounded himself with comedians like Don Rickles, Tom Dreesen, Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin (the most natural comic of them all) but took great delight in devising elaborate practical jokes. Even his fi eriest Italian tantrum could be extinguished with a witty one-liner.
On one of my earliest visits to Villa Maggio, his sprawling mountain home at Pinyon Crest high above Palm Springs, California, which he'd bought against the fi erce summer months, I joined in a late-night game of charades. I was on the opposing team to his, which included his drinking buddies the comedian Pat Henry, the golf pro Kenny Venturi, the songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen, and Leo Duro cher, the baseball manager.