When Frank Sinatra died in 1998, he was one of the most chronicled celebrities ever, but the most unusual record of his life came to light only posthumously: a 1,275-page dossier recording decades of FBI surveillance stemming from J. Edgar Hoover’s belief that Sinatra had mob or Communist ties. This shadow biography, with information never before presented in book form, details: Hoover’s search through Sinatra’s past to see if he got a bogus medical deferment from military service, ultimately yielding the simple fact that Sinatra really had suffered a perforated eardrum as a youthThe FBI’s previously unreported cooperation with journalists looking for dirt on Sinatra, including one who had recently been punched out by the singerNumerous instances of the star’s carousing and intemperate behavior — including a detailed report alleging that he rampaged through a Las Vegas hotel after he and his wife Mia Farrow lost small fortunes gamblingThe mob’s attempts to curry favor with John F. Kennedy through Sinatra — and its anger when Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy turned up the heat. This fascinating record of governmental scrutiny will captivate every Sinatra fan, as well as anyone who wants to understand the second half of the American century — the Cold War, popular culture, the cult of celebrity, Camelot, and the FBI’s mania for investigating American citizens — all personified by the most dominant entertainer of the era.
About Tom Kuntz
Tom Kuntz is the editor of “Word for Word,” a column of topical excerpts in The New York Times Week in Review section. Phil Kuntz is a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal’s Washington, D.C., bureau.