"Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
This new book about Frank Sinatra is an honest, but loving, reflective tribute to the legendary singer written by one of his closest friends and confidantes.
Tony Oppedisano met Sinatra in 1972. He was only 21. Sinatra was in his late 50s. Their Italian background, their mutual friends and their affinity for music bonded them immediately. Oppedisano became Sinatra’s road manager and constant companion for the rest of Sinatra’s life. He lived near or with Sinatra for 16 years until Sinatra’s death in 1998.
Sinatra kept his nightclub hours even after his retirement, sleeping until late afternoon and going to bed at sunrise. Oppedisano kept these hours with him. He spent thousands of hours listening to Sinatra’s life stories and held Sinatra's hand as he died.
Sinatra shared that he regretted his divorce from his first wife, Nancy, and often thought of returning to her, even after his fourth marriage to Barbara Marx. Nancy never remarried, and she lived just a few miles away from him throughout their lives. They visited together frequently.
Sinatra’s biggest losses were those of his mother Dolly and his closest friend, Jilly Rizzo, who died separately in tragic accidents. The kidnapping of his son Frankie, Jr., drew him temporarily closer to his son.
Sinatra’s ties to the mob are refuted in “Sinatra and Me,” based on Sinatra’s stories and the FBI’s 1,275-page file on Sinatra. The file gives no evidence of nefarious interactions with the mob. Sinatra said the mutual Italian backgrounds of the “wiseguys” made them friends.
The author also clears up the controversy about the parentage of Ronan Farrow, son of his ex-wife, Mia Farrow.
Sinatra’s mood swings between rage and exuberance were legendary. He could cut off a friendship over a slight. He brandished his gun and his fists on occasion. He was privately generous to friends and charities. Sinatra believed he was an undiagnosed manic-depressive.
Sinatra’s later years were spent in his compound in the Palm Springs desert. He had cottages that housed his train sets and his art. He continued to swim which was something he began in his youth to increase his lung capacity.
As Sinatra's life came to a close, he and Oppediasano spent most nights alone, still staying awake all night and sleeping all day. Barbara, 12 years younger than Sinatra, was socially active and involved in her charities. She was gone most nights. Many of Frank’s peers were dead or ill. Frank had bladder cancer, heart disease and mild dementia at the time of his death.
Sinatra died on May 4, 1998. Each year on Sinatra’s birthday, the lights on the Empire State Building are turned to blue. During the recent pandemic, Sinatra’s version of the song “New York, New York” was played all over the city on loudspeakers at 7 p.m. to inspire New Yorkers.
Sinatra fans will welcome this new biography written to clear up many misconceptions about Sinatra. His faults are not glossed over, but a more kind, gentle, reflective man of the ages is presented.
About the Author: Tony Oppediasano is an award-winning producer and manager and best friend of Frank Sinatra.