London: A biography on late singer/actor Frank Sinatra has revealed that his mother’s domineering and ambitious attitude was what drove him to stardom.
Sinatra had been born in the kitchen of a flat in the Little Italy area of Hoboken, New Jersey, and it had not been a pleasant experience for him or his mother Dolly, as it left him with scars on his face and neck.
Dolly had been a very loud, domineering, volcanic, unpredictable woman, who was also relentlessly foul-mouthed, brilliant and a news daily quoted Sinatra as telling actress Shirley MacLaine.
When Sinatra left school just before his 16th birthday, dropping out of his own volition, his mother was furious, as she had dreams of him becoming a doctor or a civil engineer.
She firmly set her jaw and went straight over to the offices of the local paper, the Jersey Observer, and buttonholed Sinatra’s godfather, the circulation manager, to give him a job.
He got one, bundling newspapers, but he didn’t think it was good enough for him, and nor did Dolly, and he was later fired.
He took what menial jobs he could find in factories and the dock, and in the evenings, he sang at school dances, political clubs, taverns, and Dolly helped out with her contacts.
Dolly gave him 65 dollars, which was a great deal of money then, for a microphone and a small amplifier.
And when he needed help from the usual source, Dolly leaned hard on the owner of a nightspot to give her son a regular singing job and for a while he crooned there five nights a week.
Then he heard that a singing trio of local Italian lads known as the ‘Three Flashes’ were to be auditioned for a slot on a radio talent show, and he told her he desperately wanted to be the fourth Flash.
She marched round to the other parents to remind them who she was and what she had done for them and that she would be very disappointed if her son were not included. He was in.
Amazingly, they won the contest, which gave them a place on a countrywide series of concerts by winners past and present.
Sinatra once said that the only two people he was ever afraid of were his mother and the renowned big band leader Tommy Dorsey, for whom he sang and first made a name for himself.
It was meant as a joke, but it was a deeply significant one. Fear was a key part of his makeup, and in temperament, Dorsey, more feared than loved, was the spitting image of Dolly.