Frank Sinatra was the most famous popular singer in the world from the 1940s on, with every performance accompanied by screaming and swooning teenagers. His countless friends included presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, members of Britain’s royal family and Princess Grace of Monaco, as well as other famous entertainers: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Jerry Lewis, and almost every famous woman that he met. He drank regularly with Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Orson Welles, Tony Bennett, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and Henry Fonda.
His brilliant career spanned seven decades up to his death at 82, but he spent the last years of his life feeling miserable, with lifestyle-induced health problems brought on by his smoking, drinking and promiscuous behavior. He suffered heart attacks, dementia, coughing, emphysema, pneumonia, high blood pressure and bladder cancer. In 1994, at age 78, he collapsed on stage and spent his remaining years going in and out of hospitals. He suffered severe memory lapses, being unable to recognize his own recorded songs, his children and on occasion, even his wife. He died passing massive clots from his bladder cancer, and with severe wasting from being unable to eat. At his funeral, his friends dropped a flask of Jack Daniels, packs of Camel cigarettes and his Zippo lighter into his casket.
His Early Years
Sinatra was born in 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey, the only child of Italian immigrants. His father was a lightweight boxer who was a captain in the fire department. His mother was a great lady who was arrested and convicted twice of running an illegal free abortion service during the Depression. He began singing in public when he was eight years old, standing on the bar of a local nightclub. He never learned how to read music. After only 47 days of high school, he was expelled for rowdiness and never returned to school. During World War II, he was classified as not acceptable for military service because he had a perforated eardrum, but he did support the war effort by singing in USO shows.
Four Wives, Many Liaisons
Sinatra married four times and had relationships with some of the most desirable and beautiful women in the world.
Wife #1: He married Nancy Barbato in 1939, when he was 24. They had three children, Nancy, Tina and Frank, Jr. They divorced in 1951.
Wife #2: In 1944, Frank met Ava Gardner but saw her only on occasion until 1949, when they began a serious relationship. In 1951, ten days after his divorce from his first wife became final, he married Ava. They fought all the time, primarily over both of their multiple extramarital affairs. They stayed together for only two years, but remained married from 1951 to 1957, while his career faltered and Ava’s blossomed. In 1953, she helped him get the movie part in From Here to Eternity and he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Wife #3: Sinatra met Mia Farrow on the set of the film Von Ryan’s Express and they married in 1966 when she was 21 and he was 50. She was
scheduled to star in Sinatra’s 1968 film, The Detective, but couldn’t do so because she was locked into an overrun of Rosemary’s Baby, a film that she had been working on for a long time. In typical Sinatra impulsiveness and rage, he served her with divorce papers in front of that cast and crew and they were divorced in 1968. Twenty-five years later, Farrow told a Vanity Fair reporter that she “never really split up with Sinatra” and that Sinatra might be the father of her son, Ronan, who was born long after their divorce.
Wife #4: Sinatra married Barbara Marx in 1976, when he was 60 and she was 49. The 11-year difference in age pales by comparison to the 39-year age difference when she married her former husband, Zeppo Marx, when he was 71 and she was 32. That wasn’t even her first marriage; at age 20, she had married Robert Oliver, an executive with the Miss Universe pageant. She loved Sinatra so much that she accepted his numerous infidelities and stayed married to him until the day he died.
A Few of His Other Relationships
Judy Garland: In 1949, while she was married to director Vincente Minnelli and recovering from depression, she joined Sinatra in the Hamptons. In 1955 during her separation from her third husband Sid Luft, and Sinatra’s separation from Ava Gardner, they were seen together many times until Sid Luft found out.
Lauren Bacall: In 1957, Sinatra offered to marry Lauren Bacall after her husband Humphrey Bogart died, but after their relationship became common newspaper gossip, they went their separate ways.
Juliet Prowse: He met the South African-born actress and dancer in 1960 on the set of the film Can-Can and proposed to her, but it was reported that Sinatra broke the engagement because she refused to give up her career.
Marilyn Monroe: In 1954 while married to Ava Gardner, Sinatra met Marilyn Monroe and saw her many times while she was married to his friend, Joe DiMaggio. In 1961, they began an affair and he talked of marrying her. However, that same year, he met Juliet Prowse and left Monroe for her.
Angie Dickinson: Sinatra had an on-and-off romance with Angie Dickinson from 1954 to 1964 after which they split and remained friends.
What You Can Learn from His Story
Big Tobacco spent billions of dollars to convince people that it is classy, safe and sophisticated to smoke. As a result, millions died prematurely from the heart attacks and cancers caused by smoking. Smoking-related deaths cause misery and suffering because people:
• smother to death from emphysema,
• are bedridden because their hearts are so damaged that they are in constant heart failure,
• waste away to skin and bones many years before they die because they cannot eat,
• become demented because smoking can damage every cell in your body including your brain.
Big Alcohol‘s advertising campaigns portray drinking as social and sexy, even though drinking can lead to:
• liver failure, because the liver is the only organ in your body that can break down damaging alcohol. Your liver removes toxins from your body, so in liver failure, you are poisoned and die progressively from increasing damage to every cell in your body.
• heart failure, because excess alcohol damages heart muscle,
• divorce and social failure, because alcohol can cause destructive behavior.
• work problems, because excess alcohol can prevent a person from performing his work duties.
He Was Way Too Desirable. I have not seen Sinatra’s medical records and have no evidence that he ever had any sexually transmitted diseases, but in my more than 50 years of medical practice, I have treated many patients who reported sexual encounters that resulted in:
• chronic fatigue
• chronic muscle aches and pains
• joint pain
• pain and discomfort in the genitals and urinary system
• skin rashes,
• a chronic cough
• dementia, and other symptoms. Doctors often cannot find a cause or offer any effective treatment for many of these symptoms following random sexual encounters. The more sexual contacts you have, the more likely you are to suffer these symptoms.
The major problem with promiscuity is that it spreads many different diseases that still have no cure and are rarely diagnosed correctly by physicians because of the stigma that a diagnosis of a venereal disease can cause. We have no cure for:
• Herpes viruses that can cause cancers and recurrent blisters
• Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that can cause cancers in your skin, genitals, mouth, throat, lymph nodes and blood. There are more than 100 different HPV viruses, and being infected with one type of HPV does not protect you from infection with any of the other types.
• HIV which can lead to AIDS. Treatments are improving but there is no cure.
• Syphilis that has to be treated to be cured, but you may never know you have it because you may have no symptoms at all. Syphilis can cause dementia 20 years or more after you acquire it.
• Hepatitis B and C that cause cancers, wasting away and premature death
• Many cases of severe fatigue and muscle and joint pains that cannot be diagnosed and have no effective treatment. Some people with unexplained muscle and joint pains and fatigue can be cured by taking long-term antibiotics (International Journal of General Medicine. 2014;7:43-47 and Ann Rheum Dis. 2003 Jul;62(7):655-8).
• Many treatable diseases that are not treated long enough, often enough, or even diagnosed. These include bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), pubic lice. scabies, trichomoniasis, yeast infections and many others.
Francis Albert Sinatra
December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998