Tina Sinatra: My heart belongs to Daddy

He walked out when she was only months old, mixed with the mob and married the ultimate wicked stepmother. But ol' blue eyes wasn't a bad father says Tina Sinatra
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As something of an amateur Sinatrologist, I find it humbling to be ushered into the presence of the world's greatest Sinatrologist, 52-year-old Tina Sinatra herself. She is elegantly dressed, all in black. There are two industrial-size silver crucifixes around her neck. But it would be rude to ask whether she is heading for an Archbishop Makarios theme party. And I am eager to make a good impression. So I have brought her a bunch of delphiniums, not least because my late father would have been hugely tickled by the idea of his lad walking into a suite in the Savoy with flowers for the daughter of Ol' Blue Eyes.

As something of an amateur Sinatrologist, I find it humbling to be ushered into the presence of the world's greatest Sinatrologist, 52-year-old Tina Sinatra herself. She is elegantly dressed, all in black. There are two industrial-size silver crucifixes around her neck. But it would be rude to ask whether she is heading for an Archbishop Makarios theme party. And I am eager to make a good impression. So I have brought her a bunch of delphiniums, not least because my late father would have been hugely tickled by the idea of his lad walking into a suite in the Savoy with flowers for the daughter of Ol' Blue Eyes.

Tina, incidentally, has brown eyes. They are curiously lifeless. One might even call her Ol' Dead Eyes. But, in fairness, she has reached the final engagement on the final day of a long publicity tour to plug her book, My Father's Daughter, and she is feeling exceedingly weary.

So weary that she cannot quite haul herself from her armchair but merely offers a limp if beautifully manicured hand. "Thank you, how sweet," she says, somehow cranking up the energy to glance at the flowers, before passing them to the ever-obliging Simon & Schuster PR person. I am impressed. There is something intoxicatingly regal about this woman.

I ask her, just to break the ice, of which there seems to be rather a lot, whether she is currently seeing a psychotherapist. Los Angelenos don't mind that question. It's like asking Londoners whether they use the Tube. "No," she says, flatly, "but I used to, in my teens." That much I already know. After all, the odds were against her growing up emotionally balanced even before her father left her mother for Ava Gardner, when Tina was just a few months old.

But Frank Sinatra also had plenty of plus points as a father, and the book is a genuinely moving account of their relationship. Also, it is admirably, sometimes shockingly, candid.

For example, when Tina was 22, and unmarried, she went into hospital for an operation on an ovary, during which the surgeon, Red Krohn - "gynaecologist to the stars" - discovered that she was pregnant. She came round to find her father at her bedside - Krohn evidently thought Frank should know before Tina. There was evidently no question of keeping the baby. But Krohn, presumably with Frank's blessing, declined to perform an abortion, instead inducing a painful miscarriage.

Still, there were compensations in being a Sinatra child, albeit the child who, unlike her older siblings Nancy and Frankie, inherited no singing ability whatever. The name, for starters. It must still come in handy, I venture. "Not really," she says. "They get pretty excited in Italian restaurants sometimes, particularly in New York and Chicago. And as an actress it maybe helped to get me straight to the director, not through the casting director. But that was not necessarily a good thing."

On the subject of "pulling strings", it is often assumed that the way in which Frank Sinatra was cast in the 1953 film From Here To Eternity (it is rumoured that the Mob used their influence) - for which he won an Oscar - made him the model for Johnny Fontaine in The Godfather, the crooner whose gangster friends make the director an offer he can't refuse. Did he assume likewise?

"You know, it is so funny," she says. "That is asked in the UK a lot, but in America hardly at all. I guess that in Hollywood everybody knew it was a joke, although Dad didn't find it funny. He didn't like it. It stirred up some unpleasant stuff from the 1940s and 1950s, and in any case, he was not one to ask for favours. But later in life, he found a sense of humour about it."

Tina does not deny that the old man fraternised with gangsters. "But nobody ever proved, and plenty tried, that he was involved in anything unlawful." Perhaps not, but he was certainly involved in things unethical, even helping to put John F Kennedy in the White House with the collaboration of Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana. According to the book, Joe Kennedy, JFK's father, asked Sinatra to ask Giancana for help delivering the Mob-controlled union vote in the all-important state of West Virginia. Giancana obliged.

But just a year later, the Kennedy administration cracked down heavily on the Chicago Mob. "Dad was stunned," Tina writes, adding that he "ultimately mollified Giancana by performing, along with Sammy and Dean, at the Villa Venice nightclub in Chicago". It's amazing what a tune can do. By the way, does she watch The Sopranos?

"Do you get that show here? I have to tell you that I'm not its biggest fan, even though my friends produce it. There have been a few episodes when the language even got to me, and my brother always said that as a child, I had a Scrabble set with 25 extra Fs. It wore me down. Is it realistic? I don't think so. Do you? Do you get Sex and the City, too? I find that hard to take sometimes. Maybe I'm just getting old."

Tina is beginning to thaw. She tells me almost girlishly that she is thrilled to be here because her father told her everyone should take a river suite at the Savoy at least once before they die. Personally, I couldn't afford to die if I took a river suite at the Savoy. But there's no point mocking her for her life of privilege.

She half-rises from her armchair, to take a sip of Coke, and I wonder whether I have misjudged her? Perhaps she is anchored to her armchair only because the two huge crucifixes are weighing her down? I ask her about them. No, she's not particularly religious, she says, she just likes them.

Coincidentally, crucifixes also feature in the book, for the chief mourners were each given one to hold at Sinatra's funeral. But when Tina tried to pass one to her father's lawyer, Bob Finkelstein, her stepmother Barbara allegedly snatched it from her, slicing her palm open.

This is the most dramatic manifestation of the loathing between the two, which Tina carefully chronicles. She is eager to add that she is close to Sinatra's third wife, Mia Farrow, and liked his second wife, Ava Gardner. But Barbara did not invite her to her father's 80th birthday party. And, an even bigger crime, ensured that he did not see the 1992 miniseries Sinatra, which Tina executive-produced.

Tina refers to the miniseries a lot. I get the impression that she considers it the apogee of her career, if not her whole life, which in a way seems rather sad. Perhaps it is her birthright, not the crucifixes, which has truly weighed her down.

I ask, finally, what she has inherited from her father? "An inability to sleep," she says. "And his temperament, to a degree."

Does she punch newspaper men, then? She smiles. "There were always those stories. Much of it was myth. But when one reporter asked 'Is it going to be a white wedding, Miss Gardner?', that really ticked Dad. So the guy got punched. I have it in the miniseries."

'My Father's Daughter', by Tina Sinatra, is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £17.99

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