I wrote the following short-short story some time in the 90’s. I was managing a high tech public relations firm. Being a bunch of creative types, we had a writer’s club we called “The Jackhammer Society.” Once a week or so, we’d meet at lunch and share our fiction or poetry. (It was fun while it lasted–right, Laura Wigod?) I was going through some old files on my computer and re-read “Frank Meets Dad,” and found myself chuckling at it, so here it is. BTW, the story is a complete lie except that my father did once run for office, was defeated, and thus spared the world his career in politics.
Frank Meets Dad
Well, Frank threw the first punch, though it was my Dad who ended up in jail, not Sinatra.
Dad had his doubts about meeting Sinatra in the first place. This was in the late Sixties and Dad was running for political office in California. He wanted to be governor someday, and was trying to work his way up the political ranks. Dad got this invitation in the mail one day: “Mr. Frank Sinatra requests the pleasure of your attendance at a fund-raising dinner for the Republican National Committee.”
“I always liked the man’s voice. He’s a talented singer. But he’s a punk,” growled Dad, brooding over a second martini. “He’s got no business in politics. And he hangs around with the Mafia.” Dad went on for several more chapters about Mr. Sinatra’s flawed character, including injured photographers, discarded mistresses and his daughter’s singing career, which Dad thought was an example of the worst sort of nepotism.
“And he drinks too much,” Dad declared over his third or fourth martini.
But in the end, he went. He said it was because there would be important political connections at the party, but I think he went to meet Sinatra.
The party was held in Las Vegas, at The Sands. (“It would be,” said Dad. “The whole place is run by mafiosos.”) The cost was $1000 a plate, so Mom didn’t go. Dad was introduced to Sinatra after dinner as “a promising Republican candidate for the California State Legislature.” Sinatra was smoking a cigar, which he could do because it didn’t involve inhaling the smoke into his golden vocal chords. Dad had quit smoking cigarettes, and was therefore smoking a wicked little black cigarillo. Dad and Sinatra eyed each other through a blue curtain of smoke.
“Glad to meet you, Mr. Sinatra,” said Dad, extending his large, fine-boned hand. Sinatra smiled his cold smile and shook hands.
“Have a seat, Jack,” Sinatra said, waving towards a chair.
My father looked around and sat down. There were several large, dark-suited bouncer-types nearby, he noted with satisfaction. Probably Sinatra’s Mafia bodyguards.
“What’ll’ya have?” Sinatra said, snapping his fingers at the attentive waiter behind him.
“Vodka martini, twist of lemon, easy on the vermouth,” Dad said, never looking at the waiter.
“Whiskey, The Glenlivet, neat,” said Sinatra, keeping his eyes on Dad.
The Mafia-types moved in a little, so Dad stretched his considerable length out to show how relaxed he was.
Sinatra began a conversation about the state of the GOP in California, and asked what Dad was going to do about it if he won his Legislature seat in the next election. Dad started in talking about the issues –– by now he had it all down pretty smoothly. He got Sinatra interested, and soon they were arguing amiably about public education.
The topic soon changed from politics to guns and from guns to women. By the time they were both on their third shared round of drinks, they seemed like old friends. Dad was in the middle of trying to explain the fascinations of marlin fishing to Frank, when Sinatra pulled a cigar from the breast pocket of his silk suit and offered it to him.
“Don’t tell anybody. It’s Cuban,” Sinatra said, pantomiming someone looking around for government bugs.
Dad froze. “There’s no way you could get Cuban cigars without connections into Havana,” he said, and the ambient temperature dropped 100 degrees. He stood up, all six feet and five inches of him and towered over Sinatra.
“Anyone who traffics with an enemy of the government of the United States is an enemy of mine,” he declared, glaring down at Sinatra’s darkening face breathing single-malt whiskey fumes up at him.
Before the Mafia-types could move, Sinatra bounced up.
“Bastard!” he screamed. Although he was eight inches shorter, Sinatra threw a punch and connected with my father’s thin midriff. As Dad folded, the Mafia-types closed in and hustled him out of the room, where he was collected by the Las Vegas Sheriff’s Department.
They let him go the next morning. As a cop handed Dad his keys and wallet, he said, “Mr. Sinatra has generously decided not to press charges. Sir. I wouldn’t push it, if I was you. Sir.”
Dad was pretty peeved, but he wasn’t stupid. He let it drop (though we heard about it at home for the rest of his life). He ran for the Legislature and lost, and decided to quit politics. He said the system was broken. So that was that.
Oh, yes. After he lost the election, Dad took his collection of Sinatra LP’s out to the skeet range and systematically used them all for target practice. It wasn’t fair, but he shot all the Dean Martin LP’s too.