Frank Sinatra's wives (part 4)
Falling in love again
In the early 1970s Barbara was a near neighbour and regular visitor to Frank's complex at Palm Springs, and he admired her amiability, tennis skills and blonde good looks: she had been a model, a Californian beauty queen, a beauty school proprietor and a Las Vegas showgirl. After marrying Zeppo Marx in 1959, she settled into a life of Palm Springs racquet clubs, secure in the knowledge that she and the son from her first marriage were well provided for. After falling for Frank -"there's no way to avoid that flirtation, no way"- she divorced Zeppo and became Sinatra's constant companion, serving as cheerful hostess, accompanying him everywhere and tolerating his mood swings.
Unfortunately, Frank's mother could not stand her son's new girlfriend. Dolly suspected Barbara to be a gold-digger and was openly hostile to her whenever they were together. Weary of his mother's disapproval and of Barbara's desire for marriage, Frank ended the relationship towards the end of 1974. But they were back together soon after his reported dalliance with Jackie Onassis, and announced in May 1976 that in October they would tie the knot. In a ruse to throw the media off the trail, they married beforehand, in July, at what the guests thought was an engagement party.
No one in Frank's family was happy with the new marriage. Frank Jr. claimed a prior singing engagement on the day of the wedding. Tina and her sister Nancy were hurt when they realized that their father would never now return to their mother, who Frank had been dating again before deciding to marry Barbara.
A cold couple
On the surface the Sinatras were happy, jet-setting couple with a glittering, respectable social life. Frank never passed up an opportunity to publicly toast the "love of my life, Barbara", and the couple founded the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, for victims of abuse. But if daughter Tina is to be believed, the marriage was a cold union that not only alienated Frank from his children but also plunged him into inert domestic misery.