Frank Sinatra

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On Frank Sinatra: “The poor guy was literally without a job. He said all he could do was play saloons and crappy night clubs. His ego and self-esteem was at its lowest ever. And mine was practically at its peak. So it was hell for him. He was such a proud man — to have a woman pay all his bills was a bitch.” AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Ava Gardner

I wish to live until 150 years old but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whisky in the other

Caution Bad Language

The screen goddess once said: “My vices and scandals are more interesting than anything anyone can make up.”

Ava Gardner knew how to pose for the camera. She’d slit her eyes, throw her head at an angle, and the photographer would somehow catch something about her — not elegance or grace, exactly, but something that was strong, sexual, and almost animal, as if she were zeroing in on you, weighing your merits, and readying to pounce. And for most of the ’40s and ’50s, she was Hollywood’s most alluring femme fatale, an image solidified both on and off the screen.

Once Hollywood’s most irresistible woman—wed to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra—by 1988 Ava Gardner was nearly broke, ravaged by illness, and intent on selling her memoirs. But the man she chose as her ghostwriter, Peter Evans, had his own problems, not least a legal war with Sinatra.

In The first week of January 1988, Ava Gardner asked Peter Evans to ghost her memoirs. Since Evans had never met Ava Gardner, the call, late on a Sunday evening, was clearly a hoax. “Sounds great, Ava,” Evans played along. “Does Frank approve? I don’t want to upset Frank.” There was a small silence, then a brief husky laugh.

“Everybody kisses everybody else in this crummy business all the time. It’s the kissiest business in the world.”

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John Phillips may easily be called one of the best pop songwriters of the later 20th century. He honed his songwriting and arranging skills with singing groups that gained a modicum of success. But his crowning musical achievement was the work he did with his '60s group the Mamas and the Papas. Photo: MTV

John Phillips may easily be called one of the best pop songwriters of the later 20th century. He honed his songwriting and arranging skills with singing groups that gained a modicum of success. But his crowning musical achievement was the work he did with his ’60s group the Mamas and the Papas. Photo: MTV

Forbidden Fruit

A Lifetime of Debauched and Reckless Behaviour

John Phillips, destructiveness was too extravagant even for Keith Richards, who once kicked Phillips out of his house for being too uncontrollable

Unlike some other musician/addiction profiles, the John Phillips story is not necessarily one with a cheerful ending.

Mackenzie Phillips, his daughter, was 10 years old when her father taught her how to roll a joint. She had her first taste of cocaine at age 11. At 14, she landed a role in the film American Graffiti , and one week after her 18th birthday, she was arrested for the first time.

When she was 10, her dad gave her, her first adult job.

“Dad said, ‘I’m going to give you a project,’ Dad had a job for me! This was exciting. I was in.”

“I got really good at rolling joints. I was the official joint roller for all the adults.”

McKenzie says she was allowed so much freedom as a kid that the only rules her dad gave her were to spend one night a week at home and to always change her clothes before returning in the early morning.

“A lady never wears evening clothes during the day. It’s cheap,” John Phillips, who died in 2001, told her.

He did have one boundary. One day, Mackenzie found a purple pill in her dad’s bedroom.

She instinctively took it. But it turned out not to be just any pill — it was the last of the LSD pills made by the famous drug cook Owsley Stanley, and it was a collector’s item among moneyed celebrity druggies of the time.

“It was as if I’d crashed a normal dad’s Porsche, he said, ‘You took my last hit of Owsley. You’re grounded!’ ”

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During the 1960s, Campbell was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. She was well connected among other stars, politicians, and socialites, and her relationship with Giancana put her on the FBI's radar. J. Edgar Hoover quickly learned about Campbell's relationship with Kennedy, and set up surveillance on her home. Additionally, Campbell was relentlessly harassed and questioned by the FBI, and when she became concerned about the whole ordeal, Kennedy assured her it was nothing to worry about. However, it was all too much for Campbell and after one last visit to the White House, she broke things off with Kennedy.

During the 1960s, Campbell was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. She was well connected among other stars, politicians, and socialites, and her relationship with Giancana put her on the FBI’s radar. J. Edgar Hoover quickly learned about Campbell’s relationship with Kennedy, and set up surveillance on her home. Additionally, Campbell was relentlessly harassed and questioned by the FBI, and when she became concerned about the whole ordeal, Kennedy assured her it was nothing to worry about. However, it was all too much for Campbell and after one last visit to the White House, she broke things off with Kennedy.

 The Exner Files

Judith Campbell Exner, JFK and the Mob

For many years, rumours circulated that Judith Campbell had  been involved in a plot hatched between her two lovers, John F. Kennedy and Sam Giancana, to kill the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. In 1991 she came forward and described how she had sat on the edge of the bathtub in a Chicago hotel while the president and the Mafia don talked in the bedroom.

Kennedy’s involvement with the Mob in a plot to kill the Cuban president has often been put forward as one of the reasons for his own assassination in Dallas in November1963.

The three gunshots fired in Dallas 53 years ago meant a Presidential legacy unfulfilled — and a personal life unresolved.

The sorry mess of sexual exploits that President John F. Kennedy left behind took years to emerge. The supporting cast was vast, and one of them, a woman who was, next to Marilyn Monroe, the most famous one, though not by her choice.

Judith Campbell Exner was the first of JFK’s lovers to be publicly identified, and so she was pilloried by a public furious at learning that at least one wing of Camelot had more in common with the Playboy Club.

A beautiful woman is introduced to a handsome, charismatic Senator running for President by an Academy Award winning movie star. They fall into an affair. Meanwhile, the beautiful woman is also introduced to the head of the Chicago mob by the same man. The beautiful woman carries messages and arranges meetings between the now President of the United States and the Chicago mobster. Sounds like the plot of a thriller, or a conspiracy theorists wet dream doesn’t it? However in this case, it happens to be true. Allegedly.

This much can be proved.

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Frank Sinatra Has a Cold

In the winter of 1965, writer Gay Talese arrived in Los Angeles with an assignment from Esquire to profile Frank Sinatra. The legendary singer was approaching fifty, under the weather, out of sorts, and unwilling to be interviewed. So Talese remained in L.A., hoping Sinatra might recover and reconsider, and he began talking to many of the people around Sinatra — his friends, his associates, his family, his countless hangers-on — and observing the man himself wherever he could. The result, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” ran in April 1966 and became one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published, a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism, a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction. The piece conjures a deeply rich portrait of one of the era’s most guarded figures and tells a larger story about entertainment, celebrity, and America itself.

FRANK SINATRA, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra’s four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.

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Culture corner: High Society