"Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra, by former valet-aide George Jacobs with an oh-so-able assist by William Stadiem, has at least five quotable and shocking remarks about the famous on every page. The fifteen years Jacobs toiled for Frank produces a classic of its genre -- a gold-star gossip-lover's dream....
"The rest is showbiz history as it was, and only Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, and Betty Bacall are spared. Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Juliet Prowse, Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Mia Farrow, Elvis Presley, Swifty Lazar, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr., Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Jimmy van Heusen, Edie Goetz, Peter Lawford, and all of the Kennedys come in for heaping portions of 'deep dish,' served hot. Sordid, trashy, funny, and so rat-a-tat with its smart inside info and hip instant analysis that some of it seems too good to be true....
Last Tango in Beverly Hills
Summer 1968. The only man in America who was less interested than me in sleeping with Mia Farrow was her husband and my boss, Frank Sinatra. Theirs had to be one of the worst, most ill-conceived celebrity marriages of all time, and after two years of one disaster after another, it was all over except for the paperwork. Mr. S's lawyer, Mickey Rudin, who was a combination bag man, hit man,and Hollywood hustler, was planning to take Mia down to Juárez for a Mexican divorce that would get her out of Mr. S's life once and forever, which, for everyone who knew them as a noncouple, couldn't have been soon enough.
I may sound like Mr. S's friend and idol Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca when I ask myself, of all the gin joints in the world, why did Mia have to walk into the Candy Store that hot night? But she did, and because I danced with her, and because the spying eyes of America, courtesy of an undercover scout for gossip queen Rona Barrett, were upon us, that frug, or watusi, or whatever it was, got blown up into a wild affair. And because I was Sinatra's valet, and because I was black, and because Mia was America's reigning Love Child, the rumors got particularly crazy, sort of Upstairs, Downstairsmeets Shaft. Mr. S, who was the lowest he'd ever been in the fifteen years we'd been together, got even crazier. It cost me the job I loved, and it cost him a guy who loved him.
The summer of 1968 had been a particularly bad one for the generation gap. There had been the student seizure of Columbia University and the subsequent police riots and brutality. Then the same thing happened again in Paris. Soon there would be the Days of Rage at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and before too long Mr. S, who had been King of the Democrats, was supporting Richard Nixon. Because he thought that the permissive youth culture was athreat to the American Way, or at least His Way, Mr. S wanted all the police brutality he could get. On the other side of the fence, Mia was getting all moony about student radicals like Mark Rudd and hippie radicals like Abbie Hoffman, with the end result that Frank and Mia wouldn't even speak to each other.
At first they would argue politics over our Italian dinners that Mia would barely touch. Mr. S thought she wasn't eating as a kind of hunger strike against his "capitalist pig," power elite, "get a haircut" attitudes, but it was more that Mia just wasn't much of an eaterbeyond yogurt and trail mix. Mia wasn't really a debater, either. She would just look at Mr. S with a betrayed look in those save-the-world big blue eyes of hers, as if to say "How can you possibly think like that? How cruel, how insensitive, how unloving!" And those big blue eyes that Old Blue Eyes himself had been such a goner for would justdrive him up the wall, and certainly away from the table. Then she'd turn those guilt eyes on me, as if I were the voice of the ghetto. But I wasn't about to get into that trap. I stayed as neutral as Switzerland. "The only thing that'll save this world is my eggplant parmigiana," I'dsay, carefully avoiding the mention of any animal protein. Then she'd give up and go read a script or call her agent. For an unmaterialistic hippie, Mia was wildly ambitious.
The Bel Air house we were renting, a big Wuthering Heights number just north of Sunset Boulevard, got to be like Berlin before they tore the Wall down. Separate rooms, separate meals, separate lives. The weirdest part about it was that there was no music. Mr. S didn't playhis jazz, didn't play his Puccini, and Mia didn't play her Beatles or her Moody Blues. It was truly the sounds of silence, and it was loud as hell.
It's probably a good idea for me to point out that while I sometimes refer to the Chairman as Frank, or Sinatra, when we were together, I only addressed him as Mr. S. He generally called me George, but when he was being rambunctious, particularly with his so-called gangster friends, with whom he loved to act as "bad" as he could, he'd call me Spook. I know these were the days of Black Power, but somehow it didn't bother me. After all, one of the few times I ever saw the guy cry was earlier that year when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. (He did not shed a tear for Bobby Kennedy, but that's another story.) He called his plane the El Dago. He called Dean Martin Wop,Gene Kelly Shanty, Cary Grant Sheenie, Jerry Lewis Jew, Laurence Harvey Ladyboy, Johnny Mathis the African Queen. Those were his terms of endearment. This was way before political correctness, and because he loved being the Bad Boy, he insisted on doing the opposite of whatever was political and whatever was correct, except around thekingpins of his youth like Sam Giancana with whom, ironically enough, he was always on perfect behavior, like a little altar boy.
But now Sam Giancana was long gone, in exile down in Mexico, in Cuernavaca. Johnny Rosselli would soon be going to prison. Because he grew up in a New Jersey subculture of godfathers, padrones, mob bosses, and such, Mr. S always seemed to need some power figures to look up to. His new kingpins became the Old Guard of Hollywood royalty, Claudette Colbert, Rosalind Russell, Leland Hayward, and,above all, Bill and Edie Goetz, he being the big-time producer of everything from Ma and Pa Kettle to Sayonara, she being the daughter of Louis B. Mayer and the Queen Bee of A-list Hollywood hostesses. I had gotten my start in showbiz nearly twenty years before as aliveried waiter, at their Holmby Hills estate, which was L.A.'s answer to Versailles. The Goetzes were the ones who actually pushed Mr. S into marrying Mia, because the Goetzes had embraced her as "one of them," so Frank thought he was marrying royalty himself ...