craig_o — Hurst, TX

Genre: Electronica / Instrumental / Jazz

Frank Sinatra and the Mafia

There has long been a debate about the relationship between Frank Sinatra and the Mafia/Mob/La Cosa Nostra (Italian for "Our Thing," if you were curious). There is no question Sinatra was very much connected to the Mafia across the country back when it was in the golden ages of its criminal might. The best Frank Sinatra could say about his relationship with the Mob is that he wasn't a member, and he didn't directly participate in the vast illegal juggernaut of narcotics, racketeering, contract murder and much more. The top reason Sinatra and the Mob go hand in hand is because, quite frankly, they owned him.

Sinatra started out as a nobody, as everyone does. Trying to make it big, he was noticed at age 24 by gangster Willie Moretti and gradually put into the limelight. With night clubs, casinos and any other venue an aspiring performer might wish to appear in being largely owned by the Mob in the New York/New Jersey area, Moretti had an instant "in" for the obviously talented Sinatra. Introducing Sinatra to the pros, so to say, was not done out of charity. The young and inexperienced Frank soon signed a contract with a man named Tommy Dorsey, who at a stroke of a pen would receive 43% of all of Sinatra's income for life. Moretti would not stand for such usury (probably because he didn't think of it first), and he and a friend explained to Dorsey, whose mouth was full of gun at the time, that it was in his best interest to terminate the outrageous terms immediately. From that moment on, Sinatra "owed" the Mafia whether or not he had asked them for help.

Next for Frank were movie roles, once again provided by mobsters. The entire entertainment industry, it seems, was totally "mobbed up." The FBI began to take notice when Sinatra appeared in Havana for a conference in pre-Castro Cuba. Frank couldn’t have possibly known the level of conference he was called to; everyone who was anyone in the organized crime underworld was there. Drug kingpin "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello, Willie Moretti, financier and father of Las Vegas Meyer Lansky, Albert "the Executioner" Anastasia, Joe Bonanno, Tommy "Three Fingers Brown" Lucchese, Joe Adonis, Chicago boss Tony Accardo, Carlos Marcello of New Orleans, and Florida boss Santo Trafficante were all in attendance. There was no way Sinatra could walk out on these men, and there was no way he would have been allowed to. He was their golden goose, and they were his meal ticket.

The Feds would repeatedly question Sinatra about this conference, but there was no evidence he had committed any crime. Nevertheless, the investigations were huge public relations disasters for Sinatra, whose popularity disintegrated in the 1950s. A little older, a lot wiser and much more skilled, the Sinatra of the 1960s made a huge comeback with the Rat Pack. Still very much enmeshed with organized crime, Frank was in fact especially close with Chicago boss Sam "Momo" Giancana. Giancana was ambitious even for a Mob boss, and sought to exploit Sinatra's connection with then-senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The idea of a mob-influenced President was just too tantalizing, and Giancana thought Frank could do it. Sinatra had no qualms courting Kennedy, whose father Joseph P. Kennedy had incidentally made his fortune as a mobster rum runner during Prohibition. When JFK let it be known through Frank that he needed Illinois to swing the election against Nixon, Giancana heard and delivered. It was widely known by those in politics that the entire election was dirty, but Nixon conceded defeat purportedly in the interest of keeping country solidarity during the Cold War. JFK owed the Presidency to the Mob, which was something his Attorney General brother Bobby neglected to keep in mind when he began the first serious effort at exposing the unheard of idea of the Mafia (and boy is that another story). The bottom line was Frank helped make it happen.

Being known as associated with organized crime at a top level had certain advantages in Hollywood: nobody messed with Sinatra, ever. Unfortunately for Frank, he was owned. His associations meant that nobody else would even try to touch him, for fear of death. There wasn't any way out. Associating with the Mob would ultimately cost Frank a casino license, his friendship with JFK and countless opportunities. The FBI would put together almost 2,500 pages of investigation on Frank over the years, including documentation of innumerable affairs outside of wedlock, due to his ties. That kind of embarrassment alone would be mortifying, but it was all a part of the package.

But, in the end, Frank really "did it his way."

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