Frank Sinatra's Widow on Man Behind the Legend: 'Big Tipper...Romantic Husband'.


Having been nothing but courteous for months, Frank fi rst came looking for it my way at a gin rummy party he hosted at his house across the fairway from ours in Palm Springs, California. My husband, Zeppo, sat a few feet away, oblivious to the drama that was about to unfold. Our twelve-year marriage had long been dead.

Twenty-six years older than me, Zeppo had been successful in vaudeville and manufacturing, but once he retired he preferred a routine of golf or sailing followed by early nights. Unable to relinquish the swinging lifestyle of his fraternal youth, he also dated other women. The Marx name and fi nancial security he'd offered me and my son, Bobby, were all that was left of our once promising romance. I was bored and lonely by the time Mr. Sinatra aimed those eyes in my direction. The spark he ignited inside jerked me from my slumbers.

Frank had been watching me all night as if he was seeing me for the fi rst time. Sitting close, he called me "Barbara, baby" in that killer voice and fl ashed me a lopsided smile. He asked if anyone wanted "more gasoline" and offered to fi x me a fresh martini. Taking my arm, he led me to the den. It was my turn to watch as he swirled vodka around a glass, reached for an olive and then some ice. A cigarette balanced on his bottom lip, a curl of blue smoke rising. He handed me my drink with a Salute! and then added softly, "Come sit with me awhile."

Thrown off guard by his sudden change of tack, I found myself directly in the path of that extraordinary force of nature. There was nowhere to run. Once he turned on the charm, my defenses rolled away like tumbleweed. Inhaling his heady scent of lavender water, Camel cigarettes, and Jack Daniel's, I could do nothing but savor the moment of intoxication, oblivious to the consequences.

As we settled onto a couch, our eyes met, and then he pulled me into his arms and kissed me. I knew with that first kiss that I was about to become another Sinatra conquest, and the thought snatched away what little breath he'd left me. Nothing more would happen that night. Not for weeks, months even.

That was the way Frank liked to play his game. He'd set me spinning in his orbit, and it was only a matter of time before gravity would draw me inexorably toward him. Whatever was to follow from the discreet seduction he'd begun—and I didn't dream then that it would amount to anything more than a fl ing—I awaited his next move with eager anticipation.

Such was the power of the Sinatra magnetism that I didn't really have a choice.

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