Far from stale gossip and bureaucratic tedium, this is a carefully edited and annotated compendium of FBI files on Sinatra, made public under the Freedom of Information Act.
Two years after Sinatra’s death, this abridged version of his 1,275-page dossier is a historian’s hoot for what it reveals about Hoover and his FBI. There are no new revelations about Sinatra, however. Initially considered little more than a seducer of naïve teenaged girls, Sinatra became a concern to the FBI as he grew into his role as the century’s most popular male entertainer—one who befriended (and possibly even cuckolded) US presidents. Beginning with an overlong biographical preface about Sinatra, this parade of letters, internal documents, and transcripts (many with names blotted out by the FBI’s censors, most adorned by caustic comments from Hoover and his cronies) show the Bureau as a greedy collector of lies and worthless innuendo that, when investigated, ended up telling Hoover precisely what he didn’t want to believe (namely, that Sinatra was not a Communist and that he had legitimate medical reasons for being deferred from military service during WWII). In fact, Hoover learned that he had much in common with his nemesis: fierce patriotism, an explosive temper, an inner sentimental streak, and a tendency to remain loyal to friends in low places. By the time Hoover had enough evidence to nail Sinatra on his organized crime connections, Sinatra had become the public champion (and private pimp) of John and Bobby Kennedy. Far from controlling Sinatra, Hoover actually came to the singer’s aid on several occasions, helping to investigate the kidnapping of Frank Jr. and sending his agents on various fool’s errands for him (such as the time he conducted a four-month investigation of the crank who had threatened to blind Sinatra by hitting him in the eye with a poisoned pickle).
The brothers Kuntz (Tom is a New York Times editor, Phil, a Wall Street Journal reporter) use journalism as a kind of noble rot: musty memoranda, under their careful sifting, ferment into a historical morality fable in which celebrity conquers all. (8 b&w photos, not seen)