L-R: Actor Robert Wagner, his wife Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) and host Frank Sinatra (in eyepatch) pose together during a surprise 21st birthday party held for Wood at Romanoff's, Hollywood, California, July 20, 1959. (Photo by Murray Garrett/Getty Images)
It was New Year’s Eve, 1958, and Peter and Pat Kennedy Lawford were celebrating at a private party at Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills, a popular spot with Hollywood stars. The Lawfords sat at the most prestigious table in the room with Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, and Robert Wagner. Pat was dazzled by Sinatra’s charm and basked in his attention. Sinatra was thrilled to be in the presence of the sister of the fast-rising Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Host Frank Sinatra (L) wears an eyepatch, laughing with actor Peter Lawford and his wife Patricia Kennedy (1924 - 2006) during a surprise 21st birthday party held for actor Natalie Wood at Romanoff's, Hollywood, California, July 20, 1959. (Photo by Murray Garrett/Getty Images)
Pat had only known Sinatra since August, when she met him at a dinner party at the home of Gary and Rocky Cooper. Since then, Sinatra had swept the Lawfords up into his orbit.
“Sinatra suddenly stood at the center of Pat’s and Peter’s lives.” 
Sinatra had become such a fixture in Pat’s world that, by the time she gave birth on November 4, she decided to give new baby Victoria the middle name of Francis, in honor of her newest and dearest friend, Francis Albert Sinatra.
The Lawfords not only saw Frank at least twice during the week, but, on many weekends – at Frank’s insistence – they made the 120-mile drive from their Santa Monica home to his Palm Springs estate. The Lawfords always kept the same bedroom at Sinatra’s Rancho Mirage compound. Frank made the Lawfords so at ease that they left some of their casual clothing in the bedroom closet.
Back at Romanoff’s, the new year was blowing in chilly and Pat was wearing a low-cut gown. As the night worn on, she and Natalie grew weary. But Sinatra didn’t want the night to end. He suggested they move the party to his place – two-and-half hours away at Rancho Mirage! Pat gasped at the dread thought. It was only a fifteen minute drive from Romanoff’s to her home!
Peter Lawford recalls the evening:
Teen idol Frank Sinatra, caricature by Al Hirschfeld
When [Sinatra] went to the gents’ room, the girls said that it was too chilly to go that night. They preferred driving in the morning, but then we said, ‘Who’s going to tell him?’ Knowing his temper, Pat out and out refused to say anything, and Natalie didn’t even want to be in the same room when he was told. Finally, R.J. [Robert Wagner] insisted that I be the one to do it, so when Frank got back to the table, I explained as gracefully as I could that we’d prefer joining him in the morning.
Well, he went absolutely nuts. ‘If that’s the way you want it, fine,’ he said, slamming his drink on the floor and storming out of the restaurant.
I rang him up the next morning and his valet…answered and whispered hello. He said that Frank was still asleep because he hadn’t gotten to bed until five a.m. Then he said, ‘Oh, Mr. Lawford. What happened last night? I better tell you that he’s pissed. Really pissed off. He went to your closet and took out all the clothes that you and your wife keep here and ripped them into shreds and then threw them into the swimming pool.’ That gives you an idea of Frank’s temper….” (2)
Evidently, Frank first tried to make a bonfire of the Lawford’s clothes. But the fire wouldn’t get going, so, frustrated, he tossed everything in the pool. (1)
Peter was distraught at the loss of his favorite aged blue jeans. Pat consoled him. “We’ll age another pair. Just make sure you don’t take them down to Frank’s.” (1)
(1) Leamer, Laurence. The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1994.
(2) Kelley, Kitty. His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.
Readers, for more on Frank Sinatra on Lisa’s History Room, check out: “Sinatra: From Donkey to Elephant”
Readers, for more on Natalie Wood on Lisa’s History room, click here.
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