One night in the mid-1970’s, a very drunk Frank Sinatra got out of hand at a casino in Las Vegas.
While out gallivanting with Rat Pack buddies Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., Sinatra made such a ruckus that the pit boss had to intervene.
He threw a huge bear hug around Hoboken’s rowdy son and got the sloppy singer out of public eye quickly.
“Sinatra started yelling ‘you’re dead! you’re dead!’” Mike Rothmiller, the co-author of “Frank Sinatra and the Mafia Murders,” out Tuesday, told The Post.
But the iconic Italian vocalist’s fatal threat wasn’t the minced words of a drunk man. The next day Sinatra rang up trusted friend and notorious Chicago gangster Sam “Momo” Giancana to take care of business.
That wasn’t the first time Frankie boy — whose ties to the Mafia dated back to the 1940s when Charles “Lucky” Luciano and other Genovese higher-ups fronted $50,000 to put him in the spotlight — talked a big game on behalf of his powerful friends, said Rothmiller.
In the new book, he and fellow author Douglas Thompson offer up fresh details and anecdotes about Sinatra’s complicated relationship with organized crime.
“He would threaten people when he got irritated,” said Rothmiller, a former LAPD intelligence officer who unearthed new law enforcement files and interviews on Sinatra and his known associates while writing the book.
“He would say ‘I’m gonna have you killed’ or your legs broke, the typical stuff like that.”
The pit boss was never killed, but the Mafia questioned him about the incident and ultimately had him transferred to Reno, Nev., while giving Sinatra the impression that he’d been killed. It was one of many similar incidents over the years, and Rothmiller said the Johnny Fontane character in “The Godfather” — long thought to be a Sinatra stand-in — is indeed “quite accurate.”
His friend and actor John Martino, who portrayed “leave the gun, take the cannoli” hit victim Paulie Gatto in the film, previously told The Post that Sinatra took ire with “The Godfather.”
In 1954, Sinatra again lashed out at actor Peter Lawford after hearing he had gone to a dinner with his then wife, actress Ava Gardner as she first wanted to divorce Ol’ Blue Eyes.
“Frank yelled at me: ‘Do you want your legs broken, you f–king a–hole? Well, you’re going to get them broken if I ever hear you’re out with Ava again, So help me, I’ll kill you. Do you hear me?’” Lawford recalled in an archived interview quoted in the book.
Sinatra’s anger issues and his penchant for talking about his mafia friends ultimately became a liability for his powerful associates.
“He liked to brag. He would talk about mob hits that were in the media. He would say ‘I didn’t like that guy, I called my friends and took care of him,’” Rothmiller said. “There was a time where there was talk within the mob to hit him. He was doing things that were drawing too much attention in the public eye.”
Sinatra wasn’t ignorant to the looming danger.
“Various times he thought he was going to get whacked. Especially down in Palm Springs, there were times where somebody would be walking to him very quickly. He would panic and run back inside a restaurant to get help or hide,” Rothmiller said. “It always turned out to be an obsessed fan.”
Twice Sinatra even tried becoming a CIA informant — leveraging that he could get close to the British royal family — in part to shield himself from getting rubbed out. He also wanted to stop an investigation into his Vegas gaming license.
But even the US government feared Sinatra’s chatty reputation, according to Rothmiller, citing interviews and once confidential intel files.
“The CIA declined his offer because they were already working with the mob and were concerned Sinatra would learn of the Mafia’s connection to the CIA and leak it,” Rothmiller and Thompson write. “The CIA believed the mob was more valuable than Sinatra.”
In the early 1960s, the CIA recruited Giancana and partner-in-crime Johnny Rosselli for clandestine operations revolving around an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Fidel Castro after the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Giancana eventually managed to get Sinatra to keep his mouth shut about his mob ties, and their relationship remained close but fraught. The mobster was part of a love quadrilateral with Sinatra, JFK and notorious mistress Judith Exner.
In late 1963, Sinatra’s son, Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped from a Lake Tahoe hotel room. His dad’s first frantic call was to his trusted friend and ally Momo, not the cops.
Although Frank Jr. was released unharmed in Los Angeles days later, and his amateurish kidnappers cuffed shortly after, Giancana was preparing to use his might to help bring the boy home.
“Those familiar with events have explained to us how desperate Giancana was to show that his men, his Mafia soldiers, were better than the FBI,” Rothmiller and Thompson write.
Ultimately, Rothmiller said, Sinatra wasn’t a fully initiated member of the Mafia, but he was very closely tied to the organization.
“He was not a made man but the mob made him.”
This article was originally posted here