Last Love: Sinatra And Barbara cover

Last Love: Sinatra And Barbara

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BARBARA Marx had her hair in curlers just one hour before her 1976 wedding to Frank Sinatra when she got an urgent 11th hour delivery – a pre-nuptial agreement from the bridegroom.
After three failed marriages, the 60-year-old crooner wasn’t taking any chances.
This time, he was going in with those old blue eyes wide open.
“I really don't think I want to sign this right now,” Barbara said, pushing the document away.
“Unless you do, there'll be no wedding,” Sinatra’s attorney told her.


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Last Love: Sinatra And Barbara

11th Hour

BARBARA Marx had her hair in curlers just one hour before her 1976 wedding to Frank Sinatra when she got an urgent 11th hour delivery – a pre-nuptial agreement from the bridegroom.

After three failed marriages, the 60-year-old crooner wasn’t taking any chances.

This time, he was going in with those old blue eyes wide open.

“I really don't think I want to sign this right now,” Barbara said, pushing the document away.

“Unless you do, there'll be no wedding,” Sinatra’s attorney told her.

The episode is recounted in Barbara’s memoir, ‘Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank.’

On The Verge

Frank Sinatra with Barbara Marx, as she was then, around a month before the wedding

On The Verge

Of course, she signed. “After all the trouble I'd been through to get Frank to the altar, I had no intention of ever letting him go,” she wrote.

And the former Las Vegas showgirl was true to her word.

No Fool

She may not have been able to compete in the glamor stakes with the likes of Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow, but Barbara with was with Sinatra for nearly 22 years - the rest of his life – in a union that lasted much longer than his previous marriages.

The determined way she protected her marriage may not have endeared her to his children, but the longevity of their relationship spoke volumes. Sinatra did not tolerate fools easily.

And Barbara Marx was certainly no fool.

Zeppo and Barbara Marx

Zeppo and Barbara Marx

Barbara Jane Blakeley Marx Sinatra was married to Zeppo, the most serious of the Marx brothers, when she first met Sinatra when they were neighbors in Palm Springs, California.

Background

Born in Bosworth, Missouri, a tiny town with a population of 500, her family moved to Long Beach - half an hour from Los Angeles.

She started work as a department store model, before marrying a singer in New York. She was only 21 and already pregnant with her son Robert when the marriage broke up.

By 1958, she was in Las Vegas, where she became a showgirl at the Riviera Hotel and met Zeppo Marx, who was 26 years her senior. They married in 1963 and he adopted her son.

Attraction

According to Barbara, Sinatra made his first serious pass at her at a gin rummy party in Palm Springs.

They would hang out in the late sixties with movie stars like John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Orson Welles and William Holden.

With Zeppo sitting oblivious a few feet away, “flashing me a lopsided smile, Frank led me into his den to find a drink and asked me to sit with him for a while.

“Once he turned on the charm, my defenses rolled away like tumbleweed. When he pulled me into his arms, I found myself returning his kiss with just as much ardor,” she recalled.

Charmer

Charmer

Several months later, Sinatra seduced a very willing Barbara on a trip to Monaco. When they returned to Palm Springs Barbara’s 12-year marriage was effectively over as Sinatra embarked on the kind of charm offensive only he could orchestrate.

Hesitation

When she moved out and rented a smaller house, Sinatra bought it and put it in her name.

But their blossoming relationship wasn’t all sweetness and light.

Sinatra would insist Barbara stayed up with him drinking late into the night and barred her from smoking – even though he was a chain smoker. To all intents and purposes they were living as man and wife, but Sinatra was hesitant about taking the plunge into marriage a fourth time.

They’d broken up and reconciled, she’d given him ultimatums, but nothing had worked.

Wall Of Scent

Then out of the blue, Sinatra called from Chicago where he was working and told her he was flying her across the country in his private plane to see him.

But she had to go right away.

“When I arrived at his hotel suite, I was hit by a wall of scent. There must have been more than 100 bouquets in vases and baskets, and soft music was playing in the background,” she recalled in her memoir.

“As I stood speechless in the middle of the bedroom, which was also packed with flowers, he casually tossed two enormous gemstones into the middle of the king-size bed.

A Proposal of Sorts

'Well, aren't you going to look at them?' he asked impatiently.

“One of the stones was a perfect emerald and the other was an enormous pear-shaped diamond that I later learned was 22 carats. I'd seen a similar diamond a long time before in a magazine and told Frank that this was the kind of stone I wanted if he ever asked me to marry him.

'You can have them set any way you want,' he said as our eyes met.

“In spite of myself, I thought: 'That's still not a proposal!' But seeing the look of childish expectation on his face, I realized it was probably the closest I was going to get.”

Just Married

Just Married

The pre-nup duly signed, Barbara and Frank got married on July 11, 1976 at the estate of Walter Annenberg, the then US Ambassador to Britain. Sinatra was 60 at the time and Barbara was 49.

Real Challenge

Unfortunately, Sinatra’s domineering mother, Dolly, who’d championed Nancy and been suitable starstruck by Ava and Mia, didn’t think much of Barbara.

According to veteran Hollywood writer Glenys Roberts, Sinatra’s children refused to enter the same room as their stepmother for years and she would invite them to Palm Springs for Christmas only to put them up in local hotels while other guests stayed in the family compound.

Perhaps the reason his family was so antagonistic was that for the first time they faced a real challenge to their place in Sinatra’s life. Barbara, a superb hostess, was always perfectly turned out and ready to play a supporting role to her egocentric husband.

One Star

She was happy with her career as Mrs. Frank Sinatra. Even Zeppo Marx, her ex-husband, had to admit, “She’ll make him a wonderful wife and hostess.”

Barbara once told a charity audience in Sydney, Australia, that she was not allowed to sing around the house.

“I'm not even allowed to hum, there is only one star in our family,” she said, but she wasn’t complaining.

In Sinatra’s twilight years as he became more frail, Barbara was a more high profile companion by his side on tour and on the dais as he received awards marking his fabulous career.

Rift Widens

However, after Sinatra’s death, the rift with his daughters widened.

According to Kitty Kelley, who wrote the best selling ‘His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra,’ Barbara hasn’t spoken to Nancy or Tina since her husband passed away in 1998.

Neither merits a mention in Barbara’s 2011 book either.

In turn, they blamed her for not telling them in time that their father was dying, depriving them of the chance to be at his hospital bedside at the end.

What nobody can take away from Barbara is that she was there for Sinatra at a time when the years of drinking and carousing were taking their toll and his health was failing.