Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The dumbest kidnappers EVER

On December 8, 1963 Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped.  As you can imagine, this was quite the story. Reader Ron Havens asked an FQ about it.  

You lived in LA at the time. What do you remember about this incident? Was it as big a story?

Yes, it was a HUGE story.  It was the stuff of tabloids.  And it was a welcome distraction from the mourning the country was going through following the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd.  

In my memoir, THE ME GENERATION… BY ME — GROWING UP IN THE ‘60s (available on Amazon, hint hint), I write about the incident.  These were my thoughts:

The only story I was really following was the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping case. Imagine someone trying to get back at the Corleone family by abducting Fredo. 

The three nimrods who pulled off this harebrain scheme were found guilty by a federal jury and sentenced to life plus 75 years, which is still getting off easier than if Frank had doled out justice his way. 

My interest was really sparked because the buffoons’ hideout was just a few blocks from my house. It’s the kind of national attention new tract housing developments could only dream about.


Brian Phillips said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Is it possible to get TOO close to your characters?

Also, regarding the slang term "nimrod". Popularly, it means "an idiot", but if we go back to Bugs Bunny, it's possible that there is a second interpretation.

Nimrod, in the Bible was a Cushite king and "mighty hunter", therefore when Bugs Bunny refers to Elmer Fudd as a "nimrod", he is sarcastically calling out his poor hunting skills.

Andrew said...

I find this post deeply offensive.

Frank Sinatra Jr. could handle things. He was smart. Not like everybody said. Like "dumb." Frank Jr. was smart, and he deserved respect.

I mean, he was on The Sopranos, for God's sake!

Jeff Alexander said...

There's three minor footnotes to the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping tale.

One: Frank Sinatra Sr. called Peter Lawford to ask him to intercede with Attorney General Robert Kennedy to see if Kennedy could help in finding Sinatra Jr. Significant because Sinatra Sr. had banished Peter Lawford from the "Rat Pack" when President Kennedy (Lawford's then brother-in-law) decided to stay at Bing Crosby's home in 1962 instead of Sinatra's because of Sinatra's alleged ties with the underworld. The kidnapping situation is the only time Sinatra and Lawford spoke after Sinatra previously cut him loose.

Two: Crosby was cast in the role Lawford would have played in Robin and the Seven Hoods (the Kennedy Assassination, then the kidnapping happened during the filming of the movie, both of which almost caused the movie to shut down).

Three: The kidnapping was referred to in the Billy Wilder movie, Kiss Me, Stupid when Dino (Dean Martin) was stopped at a roadblock in the Nevada desert. "That Sinatra kid missing again," Dino quipped to a policeman. Don't know if Sinatra had any reaction to that.

Pat Reeder said...

A lot of people dismiss Frank Sinatra Jr. as just a shadow of his dad. But my wife's late father was a highly-renowned musician who started playing with Tommy Dorsey's big band at 17. He backed all the major showroom stars, including Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Steve & Eydie and countless others. He also led jingle vocal group sessions for PAMS and CRC and was responsible for making sure every note was perfect. He was so demanding of singers, his nickname in the jingle biz was "The Judge." He was good friends with Frank Jr. and considered him the most underrated singer he knew, so that was high praise from a very knowledgeable source.

zapatty said...

"Chairboy of the board." There was an HBO movie about this incident, as I recall.

By Ken Levine said...


Who was your father-in-law? What's his name? Thanks.


Dixon Steele said...

Another interesting tidbit re the Sinatra kidnapping is that Dean Torrence of JAN & DEAN had to testify in court that he had nothing to do with it. One of the kidnappers, Barry Keenan, was Dean's best friend.

Mike Barer said...

This must have been a horrific ordeal for the Sinatra family, I imagine that it even took years off Frank's life. Frank, Jr has since passed away, but what a frightening thing to go through.
By the way, Frank Jr died just a couple of days before my father and I spoke to him of that on my last visit with him.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Wow. seeing the kidnappers house from your house could’ve been trouble.


Did your father-in-law ever work with Jack Eglash in Vegas?


Pat Reeder said...

To Ken:

His name was Billy Ainsworth. He was a prodigy who went to see Tommy Dorsey when he came through Houston and asked to audition. He was 17 and looked 12. We've been told by other musicians who were there that he had a beat-up old case and a sax that looked like it was held together with paperclips. They all gathered around and got ready to laugh him out of the room in disgrace. Then he started playing and their jaws dropped. He quit college and left on the band bus the next day. The other musicians took up a collection and bought him a new sax. He went on to play sax and clarinet with Ray McKinley and Tex Beneke's bands before he was out of his teens. This is where Laura gets her musical talent.

Here's an article about him that the Jazzwax blog did, featuring some photos I scanned from Laura's family photo trunk.

To Jeff Maxwell:

Laura said she didn't know, but it's possible. Her dad did play in Vegas for many years, but he was usually at the Desert Inn. I looked up Jack Eglash and he was best known for being at the Sahara. Her dad might have played there, but we have no way of knowing.

BTW, one of the most frustrating things was that we found among her dad's possessions a letter from Frank Jr., thanking him and saying how incredible the band at the Fairmont Venetian Room sounded during his recent stand. He said he was enclosing a cassette of the show taped off the mixing board. That's all we ever found: just the letter and no cassette!

sanford said...

Did the kidnappers serve out their full terms

Brandon in Virginia said...

Friday Question:
About a week or two ago, I was telling someone about a series of memos Robert Reed wrote to Sherwood Schwartz criticizing "The Brady Bunch"'s writing, and how silly the show was getting. While Reed wasn't necessarily wrong - one memo talked about a hair tonic turning Greg's hair orange in 1970-something - if you had a star constantly doing this, do you give in or tell them where to stick their memos?

Footnote: I believe the plan was to kill off the Mike Brady character, but ABC canceled the show.

normadesmond said...

Just googled Barry Keenan.

Wiki says he served but 4 years & was released because he was insane during the crime.
He then went on to become a successful real estate developer. WTF.

Ben said...

Friday question: Do you update your blog yourself? What about the podcast? Did you set it up originally or have someone else consult? Just wondering how those old jock tech skills translate to the Internet.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I think I read about this once . . . didn't Larry Hovis (aka Carter from HOGAN'S HEROES) help thwart the kidnapping attempt?

ScarletNumber said...


The mastermind of the kidnapping was on This American Life in February 2002 if you are interested. Also, I didn't realize that Junior was 19 at the time. Back then I suppose 21 was the age of majority, but now it would be more of an abduction than a kidnapping per se.

@Brandon in Virginia

Robert Reed ended up doing the variety show and all of the reunion movies and sbows, so he and Sherwood must have made up to some degree.