Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra

In 1953, George Jacobs became Frank Sinatra's valet, when Sinatra 'stole' him away from super-publicist Swifty Lazar. To be 'valet' to Sinatra meant being more than his butler.  It encompassed being his aide de camp, his enabler, his babysitter, his beard, his bitch, his alibi, his whipping boy and perhaps his closest friend while keeping in mind he was always and ever Sinatra's employee.  A tightrope at best but by Jacobs' account, he loved his job and his boss and was adept at wearing the many hats it took to be that close to Mr. S. He stayed with Sinatra for fifteen years until 1968 when he was shown the door because he danced with Mia Farrow, then Sinatra's wife, at a club in Los Angeles.

Those fifteen years saw Sinatra at the absolute height of his considerable powers, beginning with a career rebirth in '54 with his Academy Award for From Here to Eternity.  As you might imagine, Jacobs saw it all--the fabulous wealth and splendor of Palm Springs and Reprise Records alongside the vanity and hypocrisy that was Frank Sinatra, he of the shoe lifts and hairpieces and hookers (man, were there a lot of hookers!).  Often while reading Mr. S, it seemed as though a dumptruck pulled up and left a load on my lawn littered with Kennedys, mobsters, showgirls, and many of the biggest names in Hollywood.

Considering the wealth of existing biographies about Sinatra, what I found most interesting about Mr. S was the first-person account by Jacobs.  He was there when Bobby Kennedy boxed Mr. S out of Camelot and Jack stopped returning his calls, when Sam Giancana 'relieved' Sinatra of his precious Mob connections, when Ava and Betty Bacall and Marilyn all were in the picture and then abruptly out of it.  

As has been written in the past too, Sinatra was two people much of the time: the bully who loved to pull sophomoric pranks on his friends (cherry bombs were a Frank favorite) and the Sinatra who bought people cars because he genuinely appreciated their talent or friendship.  This was the guy who thought he'd have access to the White House but whose casino was as mobbed up as the Copa scene in Goodfellas.  

Jacobs also shows the failure of Sinatra's persona, a man afraid to be alone but who had to be the life of the party, an outright bigot but who felt persecuted for being a "Jersey dago" among the Hollywood elite. Jacobs also describes just how cruel and cowardly Sinatra could be and his description of his own ex-communication by Mr. S. is just heartbreaking. 

 Mr. S is a quick and dirty read with heavy emphasis on the dirty.  Ring-a-ding-ding indeed.

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