'That's Life,' Sinatra-style
In this story:
May 15, 1998
"Anyone that could have that sound come from his mouth
had to be good inside."
Web posted at: 9:06 p.m. EDT (0106 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Never yawn in front of a lady. Top your
martini with two olives and give one to a friend. Make sure
your trousers break just above the shoes.
Like the rock stars who knocked him (temporarily) off the
charts, Frank Sinatra didn't just perform his songs, he lived
Around swinging standards and lonely ballads, Sinatra
arranged both a broad, brash philosophy and an intricate set
of codes and rituals.
"He believed in lecturing to others about how things should
be done," said Bill Zehme, author of "The Way You Wear Your
Hat," an informal biography that compiles stories about
Sinatra and his lifestyle. "He wanted people to live up to
his standards of class and elegance."
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The Sinatra Style was in the details. Some examples:
- Cock your hat -- angles are attitudes.
- Don't put on a brown suit at night -- wear dark gray.
Better yet, wear black.
- Make friends with the sky.
- If black tie is optional, wear it. Except on Sunday. Never
wear a tux on Sunday.
'I am a thing of beauty'
No one knew how to have fun quite like Sinatra.
Sinatra's attention to detail were among the traits
that helped him attract the world's most glamourous women
His cigarettes were lit by the most elegant lighters. And he
didn't just drink, he carried his own liquor supply in case
he found himself someplace where they didn't have Jack
Ever meticulous, always in the finest fabrics, he owned more
than 100 suits and didn't want anyone ruining them, including
the old man who grabbed his arm at the 1956 Democratic
"Take your hand off the suit, creep!" the singer reportedly
snapped, not realizing -- or caring -- that he was talking to
Sam Rayburn, the speaker of the House.
"I am," Sinatra once said, "a thing of beauty."
Frank with the wife that broke his heart, Ava Gardner
Sinatra had it all thought out: Tip big and tip quietly --
fold the bills three times into small squares and pass them
in a handshake. Let the ice sink in your glass so the flavors
will blend. Never drink a drink immediately after it's
poured. Better a carton of milk than a serving of warm vodka.
Women. Dean Martin once joked that when Sinatra died they
were going to leave his zipper to the Smithsonian
The Chairman liked sex, but he also cared about style. No
miniskirts. Forget about topless. He admired poise,
restraint, class. He hated chain smokers and too much
perfume. And he couldn't stand being nagged.
'Fun with everything'
Lauren Bacall, Angie Dickenson, Juliet Prowse and Marilyn
Monroe were all romantically linked to Sinatra at one time or
And, of course, there was the woman who broke his heart, Ava
Gardner, prompting Sinatra to contemplate suicide.
Instead, it changed his music, and afterward he sang with
more emotion than ever. And to numb the pain -- and to share
the fun -- he had what he called his "pallies," his
Some wondered why he always traveled with an entourage, and
the answer was simple. He was lonely. He grew up as an only
child, and compensated as an adult by always having people
"Fun with everything" was one of his mottoes, as in 1955
when he and his pals -- Humphrey Bogart and Bacall, Judy
Garland and David Niven -- spent four days in Las Vegas where
they did just about everything but sleep.
On Day 5, with all but Sinatra feeling like they had fallen
out of an airplane, Bacall checked out the survivors and a
gang was born: "You look like a ... rat pack!"
The Rat Pack
The Rat Pack was Bogart's, but when he died, Frank took over.
Sinatra was one of the first stars to battle racism
Sinatra brought in Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr.
and whoever else might drop by the steam room at the Sands
Hotel. They wore monogrammed robes -- FAS (Sinatra), DAG
(Martin), SON OF A GUN (Bishop) -- and spoke their own
Endsville. Scramsville. A "bunter" was a drag. A "gasser"
wasn't. Don't even ask what it meant to lose your "bird."
"Here was a guy who was up all night partying," said Mark
Simone, an expert on Sinatra. "He was like a kid. He was
famous for throwing firecrackers at people, cherry bombs and
water balloons out of hotel rooms.
"But despite all the things that went down in Sinatra's life,
the fighting and brawling, (singer) Robert Merrill once said
that anyone that could have that sound come from his mouth
had to be good inside."
Of all the Rat Pack stories, the best ones usually involved
Martin, the laid-back "Abruzzese" Sinatra always wanted to
be, the guy who could tell Frank where to go and live to tell
Tender and loyal
There was the night in the mid-1960s when the Martins had
everyone over for their anniversary. They had an orchestra
and white-coated bartenders. By 11 p.m., however, Martin was
missing and the cops had arrived, saying there had been a
complaint about the noise. Sinatra couldn't figure it out.
All the neighbors were at the party. Who could have done it?
The Sinatra family in November 1976, left to right:
daughter Nancy, son Frank Jr., wife Barbara, Frank, mother
Dolly and daugter Tina
The call, he was told, came from inside the house.
Sinatra headed straight for the master bedroom.
"Did you call the cops on your own party?" he asked Martin,
whom he found lying in bed, holding a golf club, watching
Martin: "Hey, they ate, they drank. Let them go home. I gotta
get up in the morning."
"You," answered Sinatra, paying the ultimate compliment, "are
one crazy bastard."
Despite the headlines and his ties to beautiful women,
Sinatra was tender with his family and loyal to his friends.
Rather than taking a date to the Academy Awards presentations
the year he won the Oscar for best supporting actor, he took
His advice on parenting: Hug your kids often and show up for
He remained friends with ex-wives Nancy Barbato and Mia
Farrow, and with Ava Gardner, even after he married Barbara
Marx. He was also one of the first stars to battle racism,
refusing to perform at segregated functions and helping open
doors for performers like Davis.
He is also reported to have circled the names of people he'd
read about in the newspaper who had suffered some injustice
or misfortune, and directed his secretary to send them a
check. The gifts were made anonymously.
"We lost track of how much he raised for charities around the
world," said his daughter, Nancy. "It was way up in the
Sinatra believed in God. But death, which he called the Big
Casino, left him speechless. For days, Sinatra couldn't talk
after the death of his mother, who was killed when the plane
he hired for her crashed into a mountain.
On the phone with a dying Davis, the two old friends simply
held onto their receivers, grieving beyond words.
He thought you should live every moment as it if were your
last, that too much thinking wasn't good for a man. He
fought, really fought, for his privacy, but he hated being
alone. Anything but boredom, especially after hours.
"You only live once," he liked to say, "and the way I live,
once is enough."
Correspondent Jill Brooke and The Associated Press
contributed to this report.