I decided to go back through my collection of Frank Sinatra and Barbara Walters books and I chose to showcase four portraits of the relationship between Frank Sinatra and Barbara Walters to share with you, two of them personal memoirs and two of them journalistic portraits:
1.) Barbara Sinatra's account in her recent 2011 memoir, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank
2.) Barbara Walters firsthand account in her aforementioned 2008 memoir, Audition
3.) Kitty Kelley's dishy reporting in her 1986 biography of Frank Sinatra, His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra
4.) Jerry Oppenheimer's sole unauthorized 1990 biography of Barbara Walters, Barbara Walters: An Unauthorized Biography
These accounts are ALL very, very similar, but each one adds a little bit of new information to the myth of the famous, or infamous, feud between Ol' Blue Eyes and Babs Wa-Wa.
Barbara Sinatra's new book, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank, will obviously be simply devoured by Sinatra fans. She was there with him since 1976, sharing in his life and legacy, and it is only commonplace that she'd write a memoir about their life together. She's written about all of Frank's major accomplishments in his career, but thankfully, she isn't afraid to divulge the juicy facts on the people he hated.
She accounts the story of a party that Henry Kissinger had put together for them, in the middle of a nationwide tour. She and Frank were overjoyed to hear that Kissinger had been so nice as to throw a party for them but, as Barbara Sinatra describes now, once she saw the guest list, she knew all hell broke loose:
"But when I saw the guest list, my face fell. On it was the journalist Barbara Walters, and I knew that the minute Frank saw her name, he'd refuse to attend. He used to call her Barbara Wa-Wa because he said she had a speech impediment and she always made everyone cry. During one of his acts, he called her 'the ugliest broad on TV.' Sure enough, when Frank found our she'd be at the party, he said, 'Cancel me.' "
" 'Cancel you?' I repeated. 'But Henry's been planning this for weeks, and you're his guest of honor!' "
" 'I'm going to bed now,' Frank told me with a shrug. 'If Henry calls, tell him I'm not available.' "
"So dear Henry Kissinger, the best negotiator in the world and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, suddenly found himself negotiating with me-the dummy who knew nothing. 'Barbara!' he pleaded. 'You've got to talk to Fraank. I've been planning this party forever. He can't just cancel on me.' "
" 'Henry, Frank's not going if Barbara Walters is there. You will have to disinvite her.' "
" 'I can't disinvite Barbara Walters!' Henry cried, appalled."
" 'Fine,' I told him. 'Then have your party, enjoy yourself, and we'll get together another time."
" 'But, Barbara, we have to work this out! Maybe I could have her at one end of the room and Frank at the other? He'd never even have to speak to her.' There was desperation in his voice."
"I sighed and told him, 'You know Frank. There's no working out to be done here.' They were not words Henry Kissinger heard very often, I shouldn't think. He called back at least three more times and the following day even tracked me down to a restaurant where I was having lunch with some girlfriends. 'Did you get a chance to talk to Fraank?' he asked."
" 'Yes I did, but Frank's not going unless Barbara Walters isn't there, and that's that.' Poor Henry. He had no choice but to disinvite Miss Walters, although God knows how he managed it. Frank and I went to the party, and we both had the most enjoyable evening. I felt so bad for Barbara."
In the memoir, Walters talks about Frank Sinatra many times. In the first instance she is talking about her reminiscences of going to Radio City Music Hall as a bright-eyed young fan and seeing many fine musicians, including Frank Sinatra: "Singing with Tommy Dorsey's band was a skinny, hollow-cheeked, bow-tied fellow named Frank Sinatra, who looked as if a strong wind would blow him away, but he sang love songs like no one else and the young girls went wild. Sinatra's adolescent fans, including me, were dubbed "bobby-sockers," from obviously our short socks. When Sinatra appeared solo at the Paramount Theater in 1942, my mother, Jackie, and I stood in line to get tickets to see him. His appearance created such hysteria among young girls, including fits of swooning, that newspapers turned to psychiatrists for explanations. I didn't swoon, but I loved his voice then and always." She later goes on to describe that he played at her father's club, The Latin Quarter, when his career needed a kickstart before his comeback.
She also describes the same scenario as Barbara Sinatra did, though in quite a different way: "At a tribute dinner several years later for Henry Kissinger, Sinatra, when he learned I was also to be seated there, refused to sit on the dais. Sad and embarrassed, the dinner chairman asked if I would mind not attending because Sinatra was such a big draw. That made me even sadder. Of course, I didn't go." Here we get to see Walters' sad realization that Sinatra really didn't like to have her around, which saddened her greatly.
The first is when Kelley is describing Sinatra's comeback tour, and how much of a rousing success it was, until he opened his mouth to talk between songs: "The only criticism arose when he stopped singing and started talking...and ridiculed Barbara Walters calling her "the ugliest broad on television."
The second, and final, Kelley describes a situation in Atlantic City where, in between songs, Sinatra chose to bash Barbara Walters: "In Atlantic City, he disparaged Barbara Walters of ABC-TV as 'Baba Wawa, a real bow-wow...a pain in the ass who has a lisp and should take diction lessons.' " "The next day", Kelley describes, "Liz Smith [a famous New York gossip columnist] called him a pain in the ass for his gratuitous attack, and echoing the growing sentiments of his audiences, asked: 'Why doesn't this great big bully just shut up and sing...Here is on of the finest talents of our time, a real legend both from his long career and his many good works for friends and for charity. Why does he have to keep ruining it all the time by stooping onstage to the petty throwing of cow chips?' "
Frank shot back the next night at both Smith and Walters: "Gossip columnists are probably the lowest form of journalists. The latest one is old Liz in New York. She's now got a big thing going on because I said something about Barbara Wawa. Who in the hell doesn't say something about Barbara Wawa? It's getting so that Ms. Smith is now being called in the trade for extra-strength Tylenol of the journalists. She's a dumpy, fat, ugly broad...She really got teed off at the fact that I said Barbara Wawa was a pain in the ass. And she is. She's dangerous too. She's very dangerous." He went on to say that "Barbara Wawa doesn't need defense. She needs diction lessons. Did you ever listen to her? She says 'too-too twain' and 'I wuv a wabbit.' Diction lessons, not defense. She doesn't need that. And a tuck here, and there, too, under the ear and under the nose." He also went on to say that Smith described Walters as being "persona grata" at the Reagan White House, forcing Frank to say "That makes sense, because the President has to deal with Castro and Qadhafi."
The second account is another view of the story in which Sinatra called Walters "the ugliest broad in television": "The only dark cloud during that period of elation was a personal attack on her by Frank Sinatra, who had begun verbalizing in public his animosity toward the press. He called Barbara 'the ugliest broad in television.' She was shocked and hurt by the outburst, telling TV critic Dan Lewis of the Bergen (New Jersey) Record, "I always thought we had a nice relationship. My father was always good to Frank. I don't understand it.' Some years later, Barbara again was the target of verbal abuse from Old Blue Eyes. He called her 'a real bow-wow...a pain in the ass who has a list and should take diction lessons.' "
In my opinion, Walters was in the right here. Sinatra hated the press, and therefore felt it necessary to ridicule her. She is a wonderful person, yet her chose to attack her speech impediment, looks and interviewing style in the most vicious ways possible.
Barbara Sinatra's book shows that she had to tame his fragile ego and FORCE Kissinger to un-invite poor Barbara Walters to the party, even though Kissinger wanted her to be there. She seems touched by Frank's animosity towards Walters, even seeing it as cute. He statement of "You know Frank. There's no working out to be done here", makes it seem like Sinatra was some angry child that eluded explanation.
Barbara Walters account shows that she loved Sinatra as a youth, and was admittedly one of his biggest fans. Yet later in life, he took every dirty turn in the book to smash away at the marble of her character til she wasn't a big fan anymore. She was also very hurt by being uninvited to Henry Kissinger's party and would have loved to have been there, despite Frank's hatred for her.
Kitty Kelley's account shows us how Liz Smith was dragged into the free-for-all and how he blasted her too, along with Walters. Kelley's reporting unearthed this statement, "Did you ever listen to her? She says 'too-too twain' and 'I wuv a
wabbit.' Diction lessons, not defense. She doesn't need that. And a tuck
here, and there, too, under the ear and under the nose" which makes one cringe at the sheer childishness of Sinatra and how her took every dirty turn in the book to drag Walters down in the muck, where he admitted she belonged, which made it law.
Jerry Oppenheimer's account shows that she was so disillusioned by Sinatra, as a young girl, that it was justified that SHE should hate Sinatra, not the other way around. He humiliated her in her early life and he continued to do so until she was older. His attacks on her are again highlighted.
Frank Sinatra was a bully, and from her account, his wife was an enabler. Thankfully, he is not around still to harass the press, because who knows...