His Way: 11 Things Most Folks Didn't Know About Frank Sinatra at 100

RealClear Staff

            

Frank Sinatra, arguably the 20th century's greatest entertainer, would have turned 100 on December 12, 1915. He was a singer, an actor, a lover, a boozer and so much more. Here  are a few little known facts about Ol' Blue Eyes.

Many of these facts come from James Kaplan's two excellent recent biographies, "Frank: The Voice" and "Frank: The Chairman."

1. He Couldn't Read Music

"For Sinatra, before a song was music, it was words alone," George Will writes in the Washington Post. "He studied lyrics, internalized them, then sang, making music from poems."

2. He's Buried With a Bottle of Jack Daniels and Cigarettes

His gravestone reads, "The Best Is Yet to Come." To prepare for that journey, ex-wife and lifelong friend Mia Farrow said she and Sinatra's family and friends put several items into Frank’s coffin, including “a small bottle of Jack Daniel’s, a pack of Camels and a dime, because Sinatra believed you should never to go anywhere without a dime. ‘You never know who you’ll have to call.’ ”

3. He Almost Died at Childbirth

It was December 12, 1915, in an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. Frank was blue and not breathing when he was born. Thought to be dead, the doctor laid him on the kitchen counter. His grandmother had a better idea: she picked up the newborn, poured cold water on him, and Frank started crying.

4. He Was Only 5-Foot-7

Sinatra wore lifts -- what he called "elevator shoes" -- in public his entire adult life.

5. He Was Arrested Twice

The charges? At a nightclub, one of his girlfriends attacked his wife-to-be Nancy and later had Frank arrested twice – once for seduction and again for adultery. The mugshot above is from 1938.

6. Forget 'Ol' Blue Eyes.' How About 'Scarface'?

Sinatra's nickname as a kid was "Scarface" -- and it was not a compliment. When Sinatra was born, a doctor pulled him out of the womb with forceps that scarred his face. Plus, he had a bad acne problem as a teenager. 

7. He Hated the Name 'The Rat Pack'

Actress Lauren Bacall dubbed Sinatra's party-hard circle of pals such as Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop as "The Rat Pack," and the name stuck. But Sinatra preferred "The Summit," after a 1960 meeting of world leaders.

8. He Hated 'My Way'

Daughter Tina Sinatra reports that he "always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent." But it "stuck and he couldn’t get it off his shoe."

9. He Inspired the Name 'Scooby Doo'

Although not on purpose. While traveling to a meeting to talk about a new cartoon show, CBS executive Fred Silverman heard Sinatra’s recording of "Strangers In The Night." The "dooby do" lyrics at the end gave him the idea for the cartoon hound’s new name.

10. He Attempted Suicide -- 3 Times

As revealed in James Kaplan's biography "Frank: The Voice," Sinatra had a tempestuous marriage with actress Ava Gardner. Agony over the love affair caused Frank to slit his wrists; on another occasion, during a career slide, he saw teenage girls going wild over Eddie Fisher and turned on a gas oven and waited to die. Friends saved him on each occasion.

11. In Later Life, He Took 12 Showers a Day

"He was a guy who took about 12 showers a day," his widow, Barbara Sinatra, said in an interview with ABC News in 2011 when promoting her book, "Lady Blue Eyes." The singer was "neat" and "always smelled like lavender," she added.

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