So you see, Frank and I traveled everywhere together. Through all of the successes, the hotels, the theaters filled with screaming fans, the marriages, and the tough times, I was right there. He was my lifelong best friend, and I was his. I miss him every day.”

That’s how the book ends and my story begins. “Sinatra and me: The Very Good Years” is the latest and most relevant book on Frank Sinatra’s life, a collection of the most memorable and dear moments told by his best friend, Tony Consiglio. He’d got him under his skin, we could say. 🙂

Franz Douskey, the author of the book, convinced Tony Consiglio to reveal all the great stories hidden for so many years. Over the years, Tony refused any interviews, remaining faithful to his lifelong friend. But he felt that Frank’s name was related to too many mistaken details and third party rumors and he decided that it was time the tell the true story of Frank Sinatra – “The Voice”.

Tony had many nicknames: The Dago, The Clam, America’s Guest. The third funny name reveals the fact that he never had to pay wherever we would have gone, as everything was taken care of his friends. For Frank, he was The Clam, because he always knew how to keep his mouth shut, being the silent loyal companion.

Sinatra had everything: the screaming girls of a rock’n’roll band, the passionate relationships of a Hollywood star, the beautiful family of a trully devoted father. But what did it happen behind the scenes? Never before did a book on Sinatra’s life succeed in capturing so completely the story of such a powerful character. Tony Consiglio was the man behind the curtains, the man outside the stage that knew every little detail. Tony was more than a childhood pal, a tour colleague or an employee – he was the closest and most trusted friend. When Sinatra used to say “Tony, you’ve got a problem”, he knew he had to fix something – from canceling a commitment to pleasing an upset girlfriend 🙂

Tony narrates so vividly his memories, as if everything is happening right before our eyes. Tony’s words are simple but strong, funny but melancholic and, most of all, deeply affectionate.

Most of his recollections are beautiful and meaningful: “In 1935, Frank and I went to see Bing Crosby in Pennies From Heaven several times (…). I remember him watching Bing Crosby and saying, «Someday, I’d like to sing like that guy». (…) I told him: «Great, Frank, I hope you do».”

Moreover, Tony is proudly saying: ”He learned everything he knew about music on his own. I’m happy about that because what you hear as a result is Frank’s natural voice.”

According to Tony’s statements, Frank’s parents never encouraged him to enter the music industry. “Frank’s parents were still convinced that he was making a mistake (…). Dolly [his mother] really didn’t want Frank to become a singer. I don’t think she believed he had the talent to pull it off. I know that every time I talked about Frank and his singing, both Dolly and Marty would get upset.”

Apart from his music, Frank is well-known for his love affairs. He had always had gorgeous women around him, being a perfect gentleman. But Tony believes that Ava Gardner was the love of his life (and vice versa): “Even with all their fights, there was never a more romantic and passionate relationship than the one between Ava and Frank. Even if you were to go back, recount his true loves, and put them all together, you would find that his one real passion was always Ava Gardner. I don’t care what anyone says, if you could open up his heart, it would say, «I love Ava». That was it.”

“They kept in touch years after the divorce, once Ava gave up the movies. Ava died in her apartment in London with a photo of Frank next to her bed. I’m certain that when Frank passed away, Ava was still the main love in his heart.”

Frank had four wives, four legitimate love stories: the devoted Nancy, the tumultuous Ava, the 30 years younger Mia Farrow and Barbara, who stood beside him until the end. But Tony recalls other romances, with Juliet Prowse, Lady Adele Astor and even with Lauren Bacall, the widow of his respected friend, Humphrey Bogart.

Tony tells about Frank’s small pleasures, habits, desires and regrets. He loved playing with electric trains, chatting with friends until dawn or playing pranks, like throwing cherry bombs with every occasion :). The Rat Pack was his group of closest friends, spending nights together over a glass of scotch. The Rat Pack was originally created by Humphrey Bogart. In the mid-1960s, it was known by the press and the general public to refer to the group formed by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Frank was the leader. (photo)

Frank was very careful with every aspect of his work: ”Frank had to have everything he wore on stage a hundred per cent right, just like when he made a record and had to listen to each cut played back. If one word sounded slightly indistinct, that version would be scrapped and rerecorded until Frank was satisfied.” If we further refer to his habits, Frank had his bread brought by plane: “Frank loved Italian bread. His favorite bakery was on Mulberry Street in New York. Whenever Frank wanted bread, he called the bakery, and they flew six or seven loaves to wherever he was. They boxed the bread and put it on a plane as though the bread were a passenger. It rode in a seat, not in the shipping compartment.”

On the other hand, Frank’s biggest regret was not being able to make an album with Ella Fitzgerald: “Frank told me several times, «That the one thing I missed out in this world, making an album with Ella.»”

Page by page, we discover Frank’s connections to musicians, movie stars, politicians and sportsmen. Tony reveals the true nature of their relationship with Sinatra and, furthermore, the real stories of all these personalities, behind the glamour of their success.

Fellow artist Dean Martin was so different from Frank, but they got along so well. “You wouldn’t think they will get along, but they loved each other and were inseparable. When something bad happened to Dean, Frank felt it, and went something went wrong for Frank, Dean was right there.”

Frank was also a good friend both of the Kennedy family and of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn “was afraid of him, just like a lot of people were. That was his wall”. During her last months, Frank tried to help her, just like he did with Judy Garland, but it was in vain. Tony compares the passion between Frank and Ava with the one between Joe and Marilyn. Although their marriage didn’t last a year, Joe loved her till the end. Joe had flowers sent everyday to her gravesite.

Tony also remembers the warm encounter with Grace Kelly and her fiancée, Prince Rainier: “I don’t blame Grace Kelly for going after him. Jeez, what a handsome man he was. «I’m so thrilled and happy to meet the prince. Not only that, but you’re good-looking», I told him. «Tony, you’re not so bad yourself», the prince said”. 🙂

Tony further recalls the encounters with Elvis, Rocky Marciano or other famous personalities. All these and many other touching, funny or spicy details are to be found in this remarkable book. “Sinatra and me: The Very Good Years” is a biography narrated with emotion and with the joy of having lived a beautiful life.

For the last time, TC for FS. 🙂

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