Right off the bat John Stamos knows it’s surprising that he’s narrating a true crime podcast.
The “Big Shot” star who came to fame via “General Hospital” and “Full House” years ago (not that he has aged at all, trust us) told CNN recently, “I’m realizing it must look pretty weird.”
But not as weird as the subject of the podcast and how it all came together.
“The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra” tells the story of the 1963 kidnapping of then 19-year-old Frank Sinatra Jr., the son of legendary crooner Frank Sinatra.
The 10 episode podcast premiered ad-free earlier this month on Wondery+ and is now available where ever podcasts are streamed.
Stamos told CNN he discovered the not very well known crime story courtesy of his own interest in music.
“Almost like 25 years ago, I was doing a gig at the Orange County Fair with [rock duo] Jan and Dean,” Stamos recalled. “I’d met them through the Beach Boys over the years. And Dean Torrence turned to me and said, ‘Hey, Stamos, do you know anything about producing?’ I told him yes, but I didn’t.”
“He goes, ‘Well, I have this manuscript. I have the rights to the story, my best friend kidnapped Frank Sinatra Jr.,’” Stamos added, holding up the manuscript. “I go “What?!’”
That led to Stamos forming a friendship with the author of the manuscript, Barry Keenan, who was one of the kidnappers and who wrote the manuscript while he was in prison.
Days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Keenan, then 23, and an accomplice grabbed Sinatra Jr., who was newly into his singing career and performing at Harrah’s Club Lodge in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
The kidnappers demanded a $240,000 ransom from the elder Sinatra and were eventually caught and prosecuted.
Stamos said he’s been trying to tell Keenan’s story for years, but ran into several obstacles – including the fact that Sinatra Jr., who died of cardiac arrest in 2016, did not want it told.
But Stamos couldn’t let it go, particularly because the story was so wacky.
He said Keenan proved to not be the most apt kidnapper, forgetting his guns as well as to pay his hotel bill and skiing in Lake Tahoe as everyone from the FBI to mob boss Sam Giancana was trying to locate Sinatra Jr. and his kidnappers.
“Everybody is after this guy and he’s doing runs down the bunny slope up there in Tahoe with his girlfriend. So you can’t make this up,” Stamos said. “And when I talk about it, like I usually say, it’s like the Marx brothers meets the Cohen brothers, but doing this podcast…we really got to dive into Barry and his story and his psyche and where he came from.”
What Stamos found was a mentally ill man who seemingly couldn’t catch a break, believed God told him through the radio to kidnap someone to earn some money, and concocted the scheme.
More than anything the actor said he wanted to shine a light on mental illness, which he said was swept under the rug when the now 81-year-old Keenan was growing up.
“I don’t want to glorify this man, what he did. He made a horrific mistake,” Stamos said. “Nobody got hurt. Thank God.”
He said he was already a casual fan of true crime podcasts and wouldn’t mind if “Grand Scheme” got additional seasons telling the stories of other unbelievable crimes.
Stamos also wouldn’t be against the story making its way to the screen someday and he said he would want to play John Irwin, Keenan’s mother’s boyfriend.
“He looked like Clark Gable, had a thin mustache,” Stamos said. “He was a tough guy and he was the one who made the ransom calls because he had a great voice and Barry asked him to do that. And that’s the character I would want to play.”