When you think of Frank Sinatra, who died on May 14, 1998, aged 82, you may think of the suave singer of sophisticated ballads. Away from the microphone, though, this wonderful singer was one of the most bad-tempered men in showbusiness. "Don't get even, get mad," he used to quip. He blamed his "Sicilian temper" for his violent and abusive outbursts. One wife, Barbra, said there was "a Jekyll and Hyde aspect to Frank," another wife, the actress Mia Farrow, said he was a "24-Carat manic depressive". One thing was for sure, once Sinatra took offence, you were frozen out for good. Here are the 17 examples of his explosive need for anger management.
He took a sledgehammer to his 'JFK' heliport
A sad case of what happens when you fall out with the president you once pimped for and provided with drugs. In March 1962, President Kennedy was due to say with Sinatra at his mansion in Palm Springs, California. Brother Bobby Kennedy got cold feet because ofFrank Sinatra's links to the mob and persuaded JFK to stay with Bing Crosby instead. Sinatra had installed a special suite at his house, with 25 extra phone lines and a helipad. When Sinatra's actor friend (and Kennedy's brother-in-law) Peter Lawford broke the bad news that JFK was instead staying with Bing Crosby, he paid the price. "He never forgave me. He cut me off just like that," said Lawford. Sinatra stormed into the house, smashed up his JFK photographs, kicked in the door of the presidential suite he'd had built and tried to wrest the gold nameplate from the door. He even took a sledgehammer to the heliport he’d had built for JFK.
He threw a glass pitcher at jazz drummer Buddy Rich
The Tommy Dorsey band was full of tough characters. When Sinatra accused Buddy Rich of messing up drum solos, Rich called him a "silly f--k". Sinatra picked up a pitcher of water and threw it all at Rich's head, narrowly missing.
He punched a reporter
Sinatra hated New York Mirror journalist Lee Mortimer. When the pair exchanged words in Ciro's Nightclub in 1948, Sinatra punched him (it was reported in Modern Television & Radio in December 1948 as a "sock on the jaw", while Sinatra dismissed it as "a little fracas"). Sinatra ended up in court, agreeing a private settlement to end the assault and battery charges brought against him by Mortimer.
He refused to speak to Phil Silvers for 16 years
The pair had initially been friends. Phil Silvershad written the lyrics to a 1942 song called Bessie... with the Laughing Face. When they sang it at a birthday party for Nancy Sinatra and changed the lyrics to Nancy, the singer thought it was a song written especially for his daughter and recorded the song. Silvers and Sinatra then went on a 1945 United Service Organisations (USO) tour in the Mediterranean. But when CBS programmed The Phil Silvers Show opposite ABC’s The Frank Sinatra Show, Sinatra was enraged and rang the comedian shouting, “You had to go Fridays, huh?” Sinatra reportedly stopped speaking to Silvers for 16 years.
Light My Fire really lit his fuse
Sinatra bemoaned the rise of rock music in the Sixties and particularly hated The Doors and their song Light my Fire, calling it "ugly and degenerate". When Sinatra was driving home one night it came on the car radio. He switched stations and found that channel playing the same song. He stopped the car and smashed the car radio to bits with his shoe.
Careful with the ketchup
When a waiter brought him a frankfurter with tomato ketchup on it, he threw a bottle at him, splattering him with sauce. It was obviously dangerous to mess with Sinatra around food. When Houston Press Photographer Eddie Schisser approached him in a restaurant and said, “I’d like to take your picture eating spaghetti," Sinatra shoved him away. Another time, Sinatra paid a waiter $50 to punch writer Dominick Dunne at a popular Hollywood restaurant. It could have been worse: Sinatra once threw a telephone at a businessman at the Beverly Hills Hotel, fracturing his skull.
This was no feminist spare rib
When a woman challenged Sinatra about politics, he arranged for his bodyguard Tony 'The Clam' Consiglio to go to her hotel room and throw a plate of barbecued spare ribs in her face.
Best not to crease his shirt
Consiglio saw Sinatra close up and angry many times. When a TV at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas wasn't working, Sinatra threw it out of the window and into the swimming pool. Sinatra threatened to do that to Consiglio in Miami when he brought him a creased shirt.
No man is a hero to his valet
Well that's true of George Jacobs, Frank Sinatra's valet of 15 years, whose picture of Ol' Blue Eyes in his tell-all memoir Mr S was far from pretty one. When Jacobs was spotted dancing with Sinatra's soon-to-be-ex wife Mia Farrow, Jacobs was instantly out on his ear. The same fate had met Hank Sanicola, his original manager, over an imagined snub.
Best let him be a sports reporter
Sinatra's overbearing mother Dolly had pressurised her son's godfather Frank Garrick, who was the circulation manager of the Jersey Observer, to get young Frank a job. He got Sinatra work on the paper’s delivery truck. When the Observer’s sportswriter died, Dolly told Sinatra to ask for the reporter's job. Without checking, Sinatra sat at the dead writer’s empty desk and when the editor asked Sinatra who he was, he told him he'd been appointed as the sportswriter. Garrick had to fire him and recalled to biographer Kitty Kelly: "Oh, the temper and the words and the filthy names he called me... like he was going to kill me. He stormed out. He never said another word to me until fifty years later, after his mother died. She wrote me off, too, and even though we lived in the same town, she never said another word to me for the rest of her life.”
He terrified Lauren Bacall...
Sinatra dated and then ditched Humphrey Bogart's former wife. She later bumped into him in Palm Springs, and recalled: "He looked at me as if I were the wall. It was so terrifying. I have never had that experience before or since."
...and his wife Barbra
In her memoir, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank Sinatra she recalled that during a late-night game of charades, the singer’s team lost a round and Sinatra turned on the time-keeper, Barbara, who held a large brass clock on her lap. “He came over and he had been drinking quite a lot. It must have been about 4 o’clock in the morning. He picked up the clock and I think he wanted to hit me with it. He threw it against the front door and it broke into a thousand pieces."
He took revenge on a wardrobe...
Angered by his agent Irving 'Swifty' Lazae, he ordered a minion to have Lazar's prize new built in wardrobe bricked in.
...And all manner of bathroom fittings
During his turbulent marriage to Ava Gardner, his wife said that their Hollywood home Twin Palms saw "some pretty amazing occurrences". One of the expensive bathroom sinks had a large crack in the basin from a champagne bottle that Sinatra hurled at Gardner.
All's not well that ends Rockwell
Kitty Kelley reported that one of Sinatra’s most epic tantrums came in 1961 at the home of his friend, the composer Jimmy Van Heusen. She said: "One of the composer’s most treasured possessions was a painting by Norman Rockwell that portrayed Van Heusen sitting at the piano in his pyjama top, and it was a special gift from the artist. Grabbing a carving knife from the kitchen, Frank lunged at the painting and slashed it to shreds. 'If you try to fix that or put it back, I will come and blow the f---ing wall off,’ Sinatra screamed.
But Marlon Brando found a way to get back at him
Brando and Sinatra were in the 1955 musical Guys and Dolls but Sinatra said he didn't like Brando's "method crap". He dubbed Brando "Mumbles" and said he was "the world’s most overrated actor.” Brando knew that Sinatra hated doing re-takes so when it came to a scene where the singer had to eat cheesecake, Brando kept deliberately fluffing his lines to force a new take, meaning Sinatra had to eat another wedge of cheesecake.
After the ninth take, Sinatra lost his temper, threw his plate in the air, stabbed his fork into the table and shouted, "How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?”