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Archive for the ‘Pat and Peter Lawford’ Category

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.” [1]

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:

T

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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President John F. Kennedy and singer Frank Sinatra at the 1961 Inaugural Gala

Singer and film star Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) grew up poor and lower class in Hoboken, New Jersey. Once he made it big in showbiz (thanks to help from his Mafia cronies), he obsessed about fitting in with the upper class. He wormed his way into politics, using his Hollywood star power to campaign and fundraise for Democratic heavyweights such as Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. In attaching himself to men of honor, Sinatra hoped to achieve the respectability he craved.

Sinatra had cultivated a relationship with President Kennedy through movie star Peter Lawford, who was married to the president’s sister, Pat.

Pat Kennedy Lawford and British actor Peter Lawford

In March 1962, the president was scheduled to fly to Southern California. Peter Lawford asked Sinatra to be the president’s host at his Palm Springs estate. Sinatra was thrilled. He went straight to work. At his own expense, Sinatra installed a helicopter pad, cottages for the Secret Service, and even a flagpole for the presidential flag.

But the president’s brother Bobby Kennedy wasn’t having it. He was the Attorney General of the United States at the time. When he heard about his brother Jack’s proposed stay at Sinatra’s, he went ballistic. Bobby was making the “most single-minded attack on organized crime in American history” and could not abide Jack associating with someone with mob connections. (1) Peter was the one chosen to tell Sinatra that the president would not be staying with him.

Sinatra did not take the news well. He had a notoriously explosive temper:

“Sinatra vented his spleen by destroying the concrete landing pad with a sledgehammer. He applied a different kind of sledgehammer to his friendship with Peter and Pat [Lawford], banning them from his company….Jack ended up staying at the home of Bing Crosby. Marilyn Monroe flew down to be with the president, spending the night in his bedroom….”

Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe ca. 1961-62

(l. to r.) Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, ca. 1961-62

…and Frank Sinatra became a Republican.

(1) Leamer, Laurence. The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family. New York: Fawcett Books, 1994.

For more on Sinatra, check out “Sinatra: Pants on Fire!”

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