Glamorous days and nights in a privileged bubble with the Chairman of the Board.
Sinatra’s memoir begins engagingly, as the former Barbara Ann Blakeley recalls her hardscrabble Midwestern childhood, her early modeling career in California and her showgirl days in Vegas, where she first encountered Frank and his Rat Pack. The author details her bumpy marriage to Zeppo Marx, who introduced her to the leisurely life in Palm Springs, where Frank was a neighbor. Flirtation with the singer, then in the midst of a brief early-’70s “retirement,” turned into an affair after an assignation in Monaco, depicted here with admirable honesty. Unfortunately, after recounting Frank’s ardent courtship, her divorce from Marx and a protracted march to the altar (finally triggered by Barbara’s ultimatum) in 1976, the book turns breathless and the prose gets mauve. The author drops big names by the dozen, recalling an endless whirl of globetrotting concert appearances, charity events, lavish dinners and late-night hijinks. She also catalogs every glittering Cartier bauble the singer ever purchased for her. Though she considers Frank’s hot temper, pugnacity and oft-boorish behavior, the author dutifully soft-pedals his worst transgressions and sidesteps the sensational elements. Sinatra’s dealings with mobsters are foisted off on his late pal Jilly Rizzo, while the shadowy connections of fixer Sidney Korshak are left unmentioned. However, the author is unable to resist a dig at former First Lady Nancy Reagan, whose relationship with Sinatra was much whispered about. After a couple hundred pages of rapturous encomia, the book gains some force in the late going as Sinatra’s increasing infirmity and death in 1998 are poignantly delineated. Ultimately, readers learn little about the complex inner workings of the driven, very private entertainer.
A sometimes diverting and funny yet unsatisfying book about what it was like to be, in the writer’s words, “the luckiest girl alive.”