Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Meet Frank Sinatra's right-hand man at Ruth Eckerd Hall

For 17 years, Eliot Weisman did things Frank Sinatra’s way.

Weisman was the Chairman of the Board’s manager and confidant during Sinatra’s last hurrahs, first gaining the legend’s ear by keeping his mouth shut.

In 1981, Weisman left federal prison after serving time for racketeering charges connected to his theater, where Sinatra often performed. Investigators were intrigued by a photo of Sinatra and Weisman surrounded by organized crime bosses.

Pressed to snitch on the singer’s mob ties, Weisman continually refused. Sinatra rewarded him with the job of a lifetime.

"He was so true blue he was predictable," Weisman recently said from his Coral Springs home. "If you knew him as well as I did, you know what his moves were going to be."

Sinatra’s later-year moves are detailed in Weisman’s biography The Way It Was: My Life With Frank Sinatra, co-authored with Jennifer Valoppi. Weisman will talk about his time with Sinatra at Celebrating Sinatra on Dec. 10 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

The book is a name-dropper’s delight, from backstage memories of Sinatra’s aborted reunion tour with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. to falling out with Don Rickles. Weisman’s additional clients — first-namers like Liza and Steve and Eydie — sweeten the mix.

Weisman, 79, also profiles Sinatra in declining health and confidence. He was racked by depression and overmedication, yet still able to pull off a triumph or two, like 1993’s Duets album that his wife, Barbara, goaded him into recording.

One track paired Sinatra with someone he’d never heard of. Weisman details how the crooner and U2’s Bono became fast friends.

The Way It Was is a nostalgia trip that nearly didn’t get booked. Publishers didn’t jump at the idea of a Sinatra biography without the "juicy stuff" of his earlier years: two movie star marriages gone sour, intimate relationships with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Angie Dickinson.

"We went to New York and met with a publisher, a pretty crowded room," Weisman said. "They told us, ‘Wow, this outline looks great … but what about the women?’

"I told him, ‘Listen, I didn’t start until 1977 and the boss got married in 1976. The reality is that I never saw him with another woman except for Jacqueline Kennedy, who he had dinner with. And that was three or four years before he got married.’"

The publisher persisted, wanting information Weisman didn’t know. "You may not have lived all those stories, but you sure as hell know them," are what he recalls hearing.

He sounded like a federal investigator digging for dirt. Weisman was ready.

"I told him, ‘I don’t believe anything I hear and half of what I see and this meeting is over,’" he said. "Jennifer and I walked out. I wasn’t about to write a researched book or a hearsay book. … I wouldn’t have any part of it."

Still being a standup guy for the man Weisman knew only as Boss or Mr. S.

A few years passed. Weisman shared his illustrious story in conversations, occasionally with teenage friends of his children who were "fascinated" to his surprise. His daughter urged him to take up the book project again. He agreed on one condition.

"I told her, ‘Okay, you’re a royal pain in the a--,’" he said. "‘If you go get me a deal, I’ll do it. Not self-published. Get me a guarantee and I’ll do it.’ Two months later, she had a deal. I said, ‘Wow, I guess I’m stuck.’"

Weisman’s last chapters describe Sinatra’s death in 1998 and years of litigating his estate as executor of the entertainer’s will. It’s a messy, complex affair that bitterly divided Sinatra’s immediate family and former wives. Most are gone now after Frank Jr. died in 2016. Only Sinatra’s daughters, Nancy and Tina, survive.

Weisman mailed them copies of The Way It Was. He never expected a reply.

"Tina is a litigious human being who thinks she’s Frank Sinatra Sr. sometimes," he said. "She and I did not part ways very well. I didn’t care then nor do I care now."

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

If you go

Celebrating Sinatra

The event at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 includes video clips and anecdotes of Sinatra’s life as well as a Q&A with Eliot Weisman. Murray Theatre at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. $35, includes a signed copy of Weisman’s book . (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.

The Way It Was: My Life With Frank Sinatra
By Eliot Weisman
Hachette Books, 328 pages, $27

Comments
SoundBytes: Tracy Morgan, Nipsey Hussle, Jimmie Vaughan and more

SoundBytes: Tracy Morgan, Nipsey Hussle, Jimmie Vaughan and more

— Tracy Morgan is coming to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. He'll perform there on Nov. 2. Tickets are $49.50 and up. Click here.— Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley is returning to the Capitol Theatre on Nov. 9. Tickets are $35 and up....
Published: 04/23/18
Janelle Monae coming to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Janelle Monae coming to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer, which drops this Friday, is one of most music watchers' most anticipated albums of 2018.Looks like the R&B star will follow it with one of the year's most anticipated tours.Monae's Dirty Computer Tour will take her to ...
Published: 04/23/18
J Balvin coming to the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

J Balvin coming to the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

J Balvin just had himself a mighty fine Coachella.On Saturday, he popped out on stage with Beyonce to perform their hit single Mi Gente. And on Sunday, he showed up for Cardi B's set to perform I Like It with Bad Bunny.Pretty soon, Tampa can get a ta...
Published: 04/23/18
Janet Jackson coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Janet Jackson coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

A mere three years after her last trip to Tampa, Janet Jackson is on her way back.The pop icon announced a new slate of tour dates for her State of the World Tour, which has been dormant since December, and Tampa's one two Florida cities (the other i...
Published: 04/23/18
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks addiction, ditching the band’s ‘Christian’ label, moving back to St. Pete and more

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks addiction, ditching the band’s ‘Christian’ label, moving back to St. Pete and more

HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a 41-story condo t...
Published: 04/23/18
Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

You could drop all kinds of stats trying to size up Kenny Chesney's Trip Around the Sun Tour, which launched its 2018 run at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium Saturday night.There's the end zone-swallowing stage, 180 tons thick and half a skyscraper high...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Record Store Day 2018: Vinyl lovers flock to indie record shops across Tampa Bay

Record Store Day 2018: Vinyl lovers flock to indie record shops across Tampa Bay

Record Store Day returned Saturday, and with it hundreds of early-rising vinyl lovers hoping to score exclusive records by Prince, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Run the Jewels, the National and many others.At spots like Bananas and Daddy Kool in St. Peter...
Published: 04/21/18
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

Here's all you need to know about this decade's explosion of electronic dance music in America.In September of 2011, Swedish DJ Avicii played a late-night show at a nightclub on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.By June of the following year, he was headli...
Published: 04/20/18
Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out concerts for feverish fans around the world and also had massive success on U.S. pop radio, died Friday. He was 28. Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the Swedish per...
Published: 04/20/18