I didn’t grow up during Frank Sinatra’s heyday, but for some reason Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra by his “domestic confidant” intrigued me. Well, I’m a few pages in and George Jacobs drops so many names and places that I have to pause for quick visual searches. Beyond the obvious–Mia, Ava, Sammy–I don’t know these people!
Funny to say, but I guess I’m really here to find out who was racist behind the scenes. What did the help see and tolerate that the media doesn’t care to discuss? So far, George Jacobs delivers with some questionable realness. When discussing Sinatra’s sense of humor, Jacobs notes:
“And he liked telling black jokes [ . . . ] If he told any of this shit today, he would be sued for racial harassment. But not then. He’d tell these stupid jokes to Sammy Davis, Jr. the same way he’d tell them to Humphrey Bogart, and pretty much the same way he’d tell them to me. Being black was never discussed, nor did it seem to be considered. He never used the ‘n’ word, except to complain that someone like Sam Spiegel was ‘treating him like a nigger.’ He would use it as an adjective of oppression, but never as an oppressed label. [ . . . ] A year or two later, when he’d sometimes call me ‘Spook,’ I took it as a brotherly nickname, not as a racial epithet. Everybody in the Rat Pack had a ‘ratty’ nickname, and now so did I. I thought I had arrived” (55).
I think I’ve explored this question before, but I’m revisiting it again. How many celebrities had black domestics that wrote books? George Jacobs pointed out that Ava Gardner’s maid also penned Living with Miss G to review her time with the starlet.
Many books have been written about the fascinating public and private life of Ava Gardner, one of the most famous and beautiful film stars of all time—but none can compare to this one by Mearene “Rene” Jordan. While some biographers had to rely on second-hand knowledge and newspaper and magazine articles that were often unreliable or deliberately inaccurate, Jordan (whose nickname is pronounced “Reenie”) was on the scene for countless real-life Gardner episodes that rivaled any fiction. It is a must-read for classic movie enthusiasts and also for those who need a reminder of what true friendship is.
How real do you think Jacobs and Jordan get in their books? Like I said, I don’t know much about Sinatra’s scandals, but there’s always a YouTube clip to help.
Back when I finish–if I make it to the end. Happy reading, y’all!