My Father's Daughter: A Memoir

My Father's Daughter: A Memoir

3.9 17
by Tina Sinatra

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Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth, a startling, compelling, yet affectionate portrait of an American entertainment legend by his youngest daughter, who writes about the man, his life, the accusations, and about the many people who surrounded him—wives, friends, lovers, users, and sycophants—from his Hoboken childhood through the

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Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth, a startling, compelling, yet affectionate portrait of an American entertainment legend by his youngest daughter, who writes about the man, his life, the accusations, and about the many people who surrounded him—wives, friends, lovers, users, and sycophants—from his Hoboken childhood through the notorious “Rat Pack,” and beyond.

Frank Sinatra seemed to have it all: genius, wealth, the love of beautiful women, glamorous friends from Las Vegas to the White House. But in this startling and remarkably outspoken memoir, his youngest daughter reveals an acutely restless, lonely and conflicted man. Through his marriages and front-page romances and the melancholy gaps between, Frank Sinatra searched for a contentment that eluded him. Tina writes candidly about the wedge his manipulative fourth wife, Barbara Marx, drove between father and daughter.

My Father’s Daughter, with its unflinching account of Sinatra’s flaws and foibles, will shock many of his fans. At the same time, it is a deeply affectionate portrait written with love and warmth, a celebration of a daughter’s fond esteem for her father and a respect for his great legacy. Even now, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, the world remembers Frank Sinatra as one of the giants of the show business. In this book from someone inside the legend, Tina Sinatra remembers him as something more: a father, and a man.

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Editorial Reviews
Throughout his second and third marriages, Frank Sinatra remained devoted not only to his three children but to their mother, his first wife, Nancy. His youngest daughter, Tina, enjoyed a warm relationship with both those stepmothers, Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow. But when Frank married Barbara Marx, his discontent grew. He and his new bride became more distant from Tina, and the singer sought solace in a grueling tour schedule that would have a tested a man half his age. So difficult were his sunset years, writes Tina in her revealing memoir, My Father's Daughter, that "[m]y father didn't die -- he escaped."

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Simon & Schuster
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

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As Dad's marriage entered its second decade, I heard a new concern from Vine (his majordomo at the Compound for over thirty years), who was with him more than anyone. Dad's lifestyle was becoming quiet to a fault. My father was growing more isolated, cut off from human contact.

As his wife become busier with the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, a facility for abused children, Dad saw less of her. His own clock remained stubbornly nocturnal; his day would begin as Barbara's wound down. It gradually seemed that they were sharing an address and little more.

Nancy and I were not Dad's only losses. Jilly Rizzo wouldn't say much -- he wasn't that kind of man -- but we knew he felt unwelcome at the Compound. Thick-skinned as he was, Jilly might have put up with Barbara's cold front, but he couldn't stand to watch his best friend suffer. I knew what he was going through. There is no greater strain than to see someone you love become less than whole.

After a drink or two, according to Jilly, Barbara's mean streak would surface. She'd ridicule Dad, even call him a has-been. It could get so bad that Jilly would have to leave the room. By the mid-eighties, he'd stopped coming back. I was noticing more signs of depression in Dad. Our daily phone tradition flipped, as he initiated fewer of our calls. I'd call him instead, but I ached when I heard the sadness that resounded in three small words: "I miss you."

His emotions were easy to read; he was as transparent in conversation as in song. But the reading did me little good, because Dad was stuck in those emotions. It was no use to bring Barbara's offenses to his notice -- she wasn't going to change, and he was unable to intercede. To complain to him was like throwing rocks at a drowning man, so I decided to stop.

I just had to let Dad go.

* * * *

The less I saw of my father, the more I worried about him. By 1988, his calls had become less and less frequent. He sounded listless and groggy, especially when idle at home. I was used to his melancholy, but this was something more.

At one point, Vine reached out for help to my sister. She said that she'd been told to give Dad "these pills" every day, and she was concerned about them.

Within days, Nancy paid Dad a welcome visit. Over the weekend she perused the half-dozen prescription pill bottles on his breakfast table. She found a diuretic, a sleeping pill, a barbiturate (for dad's migraines), and a drug she'd never heard of, something called Elavil.

After doing some research, my sister grew alarmed. Though widely prescribed at the time as an antidepressant, Elavil was known for its significant side effects. The drug called for close and continual monitoring, and we feared that our father wasn't getting it. Nancy and I were also concerned about Dad taking sedatives on top of sedatives, given the fact that he still enjoyed his nightcaps. It seemed dangerous to us. But nothing we did or said made any headway. Barbara felt the Elavil was working perfectly. She said the doctor agreed that it was needed to level Dad's mood swings and spare his heart.

"Your father's actually doing very well," she told my sister. "He's feeling better. I don't want you to worry about it." Dad was less argumentative, less trouble all around. Life was easier, smoother, more predicable.

Dad's children knew that he felt well when he was feisty. Over months and years to come, that side of him would seem to disappear. Dad became strangely tractable and subdued. He expressed neither joy nor sadness; he was smack in that middle plane of nowhere.

While Dad was appearing in Reno, a trip Barbara had passed on, I flew out to meet him. I looked forward to seeing him, and to see him perform -- it had been a long time for me. But I was altogether unprepared for what I witnessed on stage that night. This consummate performer was unsure -- tentative in his demeanor, unsteady of voice. I had not witnessed this before, and could barely bring myself to watch.

Concerned, I suggested that we go up to his room after the show, but Dad wanted to stop in the lounge, where a few friends awaited us. No sooner had we ordered our drinks than Dad said he thought he'd better head to his room, after all. I stayed back a few minutes to be polite -- until I was summoned upstairs.

As I rushed into my father's room, I found him seated in a chair with his head down, pale and hyperventilating. Bill Stapely was having him breathe into a paper bag. After a long moment, it seemed to do the trick, but I was beyond terrified. According to Bill, Dad had forgotten that he'd already had his Elavil that day, and had taken a second dose by mistake.

I stayed with him till he slept, tuned to his every breath.

Dad's symptoms seemed to multiply by the month. Once the sharpest man I knew, with a phenomenal memory for numbers and dates, he became confused and forgetful. He'd get dizzy after standing up. At other times he'd lose his coordination and stumble. One day while driving, Dad found himself disoriented within blocks of the Compound. It happened only that once -- he voluntarily surrendered his keys, never drove again.

These were all textbook side effects of Elavil, and we had to wonder why Dad wasn't switched to a less sedating antidepressant. While Barbara continued to be satisfied that Dad was getting the care he needed, his decline was a painful thing to watch.

For the better part of his life, my father was a reluctant pill taker, one who'd treat a splitting headache with baby aspirin. He would never have accepted this smorgasbord of medications had he not been so depressed, so out of touch with himself.

Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Tina Sinatra.

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What People are saying about this

Liz Smith
I just spent two riveting days reading the new Tina Sinatra book, My Father's Daughter. No Sinatra fan will want to miss this candid, straightforward recital of family love, hate, despair, desertion, devotion and unfulfilled desire.
Anyone who has ever spoken to Tina, the youngest of the three Sinatra kids, knows she is a "no bull- - - -" kind of father's daughter, profane, proud, touchy. In this heartfelt valentine to the most famous daddy in showbiz, she has anointed her tale with dollops of cynicism and heartbreak. She doesn't pull punches. Her father may have been a sometimes parent, often filled with rage and torment, but he was hers and she worshipped him, even when he failed her, siblings, Nancy and Frank Jr., and their loyal mother.
The book, written with Jeff Coplon, is a masterpiece of fast, furious, staccato sentences. This may be the writer's touch, but I prefer to think the style is Tina, all the way... You won't be able to put down this bold remembrance of what it was like to be a part of the Sinatra legend, of the divorce from her mother and the way Frank and Nancy Sr., went on for years in a meaningful relationship. There are Tina's tales of Ava and Mia and the other women she was pleased to see try to make her father happy. And then came Barbara Marx. At first, Tina was inclined to give Barbara a break, but in the end, the picture she paints of Sinatra's last marriage is not pretty.
This is an amazing work, bound for best-seller status, and Tina Sinatra deserves to be proud of it. One wonders what Francis Albert would have thought of his little girl and her gaudy guts? Deep down - despite the years spent trying to placate Barbara - I'll bet Sinatra would be proud of Tina's passion and fiery need to tell what she feels is the whole truth - and nothing but.

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Meet the Author

Tina Sinatra is the youngest child of the American singer and actor Frank Sinatra and his first wife, Nancy Barbato Sinatra. My Father’s Daughter is her first book.

Jeff Coplon’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone, among other publications. He is the coauthor a dozen memoirs, notably with Tina Sinatra, Sarah Ferguson (the Duchess of York), and Cher. He is the author of Gold Buckle, the definitive treatment of rodeo bull riding (HarperOne, 1995). He resides in Brooklyn.

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