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Frank Sinatra's Wives (Part 1)

Updated on September 10, 2020

Nancy Barbato

It was while they were on holiday in Long Branch on the New Jersey shore that Nancy, then 17, met Frank, then 19. She was sitting on a porch manicuring her nails when he serenaded her with a ukulele. He later worked for a while in her's father plastering business, but when they went to see Bing Crosby and he told her of hid dream to be a singer, she did not discourage him.

Living in Jersey City and married to a struggling band singer who was often on the road, in the winter Nancy sent Frank gloves with dollar bills stuffed in the fingers, and lived on fried onion sandwiches. Later, when he was a popular band singer and then an enormous solo star, she answered his fans mail, sewed his trademark floppy bowties and watched him change as fame went to his head. She bore his children Nancy and Frank Jr. and, as her mother had with her father, half-tolerated her husband's frequent indiscretions in the way she thought a good Italian wife should. After all, Frank provided very well for his family and could be affectionate and attentive when he was at home. And he kept coming home.

When they lived in Hollywood it was a different matter. Frank's affairs out on the road had previously been anonymous one night stands; now his romances were with stars and the news was all over town. It was humiliating for Nancy, but when she faced difficulties, as she did on New Year's Eve in 1946, she made a fight of it. Nancy had earlier discovered a diamond bracelet in Frank's car, but put it back, assuming that it was a surprise gift for her. When she found the actress Marilyn Maxwell wearing it at the Sinatra's New Year party, she threw her out of the house and confronted her husband. With Frank's dalliance with Lana Turner making the news that same year, Nancy, as was first related in Tina's memoir, hit back the hardest way she could; she aborted her third pregnancy. Horrified, Sinatra promised to change his ways, and they conceived again. Their third child, Tina, was born in 1948 but by the end of the year Sinatra had left home for good, his affair with Ava Gardner all over the papers.

Nancy handled the aftermath of the final betrayal with the dignity of a mother who puts her children first and the loyalty of a woman who loves her man and hopes he will return. Throughout the 1950s she kept her home open to Frank so that the children could see him and refrained from criticizing him in their presence. She took his phone calls when he was at his lowest and for more than twenty years she was his friend, confidante and, between his subsequent marriages, Tina suspects, occasional lover.

"I married one man for life", Nancy told her daughters, "and with my luck, it had to be your father." Frank always called her sweetheart and trusted her completely. "She's the only woman who understands me", he told his friends. He never stopped loving her, but he never went back to her.

Why Frank betrayed Nancy?

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Nancy died at 101

© 2013 Lorenzo27


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