Sure, Sinatra loved the media… when he wasn’t punching them in the mouth.
On April 9, 1947, he spotted newspaper columnist Lee Mortimer in Ciro’s Restaurant on LA’s Sunset Strip and cracked him in the mouth. With all the nasty things Mortimer had to say about Sinatra, most people agree he had it coming. The ax-grinding writer had tried to connect Frank to the Mafia and various Leftist organizations. So Frank connected Mortimer’s jaw with his right hook, and was subsequently arrested for battery.
One newspaper man who was able to gain candid access to Sinatra was Pete Hamill, who wrote for the New York Post and Saturday Evening Post. Upon Sinatra’s passing in 1998, Hamill released Why Sinatra Matters—exploring the complicated life of a man who was so much more than just some singer.
“I thought the things that the obits said about him didn’t do him justice. They didn’t talk about the things that really mattered about Sinatra,” said Hamill, in a 2015 interview with hMAG, leading up to what would have been Sinatra’s 100th birthday.
“In the end, with all the things that were said about him, the people who hated him, he added to the world—he didn’t subtract from it. He didn’t live a performance; he lived a life and accomplished something in that life, changing the soundtrack of a couple generations,” said Hamill, in that same interview.
“It wasn’t simply WWII, it was the post-war, it was the 60s; it was the thing that existed from the past, in spite of rock and roll. I think he didn’t need to apologize for the art. He wasn’t cruel; he wasn’t cynical.
“He learned, I think from Billie Holiday, how to take a song and make it art—written by other people and make it autobiography. Not an easy thing to do, whether it’s Rigoletto or Rodgers & Hart. I would bet if he lived to be 100—and in certain ways he did; his work is alive—but if he had lived to 100,” said Hamill, “I think he would have smiled.”
“He outlived Lee Mortimer.”