The crooner who penned Frank Sinatra’s signature tune reminisces about the Rat Pack, the shifting landscape of popular music and the truth behind the phrase, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.”
Reading Anka’s autobiography—written with Rolling Stone founding contributor Dalton (Who Is That Man?: In Search of the Real Bob Dylan, 2012, etc.)—is a bit like hanging out poolside with a charismatic yet self-congratulatory uncle: fun for a few minutes, but ultimately you find yourself edging away as the man just keeps rambling about the good old days. Anka begins on solid enough ground, detailing his rise to teen-idol fame with the self-penned 1957 hit “Diana” and the ensuing package tours that found him rubbing elbows with Buddy Holly, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry. Into the early ’60s, Anka continued to score big hits, wisely intuiting that his career would last longer if he went the cabaret/casino route. When Beatlemania and psychedelia flooded the charts, he fully embraced the Rat Pack lifestyle and spent the ensuing decade gambling and drinking with Frank Sinatra (sweet when he wasn’t drinking, vicious when he was) and Sammy Davis Jr. (sweet whether he was drinking or not), as well as various mobsters, Saudi arms dealers and casino entrepreneurs. Now that Anka has outlived Sinatra, Davis and most of the mobsters, he understandably wants to crow about it—and crow he does, citing a veggies-and-exercise regimen for his longevity. Despite dishing out a few tidbits about high rollers like Donald Trump and Steve Wynn, Anka remains disappointingly mum about his fellow musicians and presents his tales in a remarkably slack, disorganized fashion.
Strictly for those who fetishize gaudy hotels, Mafia chic and sappy ballads.