Frank Sinatra And Family At The Stork Club – 1947
And the story of when Frank Sinatra met The Godfather author Mario Puzo.
Despite the news caption that harmony had returned to the Sinatra marriage, it would be only three years later that Frank’s wife Nancy filed for legal separation. The two were divorced in 1951 and Frank immediately married Ava Gardner.
During December Turner Classic Movies has featured Frank Sinatra as its star of the month in honor of what would have been Sinatra’s 100th birthday.
One movie that TCM will not be showing as part of their Sinatra tribute will be The Godfather. Though Sinatra does not appear in the movie, the character of singer/actor Johnny Fontane was assumed to be based upon Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra and his lawyers were wary at the inclusion of the mob-affiliated Fontane character in the book and later the movie. The lawyers wanted to see a manuscript before the book was published. The request was refused.
In the book, Puzo thought he portrayed the Fontane character sympathetically. But Puzo also realized that if Sinatra thought the character was himself, he might not like it – the book – or Puzo.
This turned out to be a very astute assumption: Sinatra was not pleased when he read the book.
After the publication of The Godfather in 1969, at Elaine’s restaurant in New York, Puzo had a clear indication he was not on Sinatra’s buddy list. Host and owner Elaine had asked Sinatra if he would like to meet Puzo who was dining there at the same time as Puzo. Sinatra emphatically said, “no.”
As Mario Puzo described in his 1972 book The Godfather Papers, (G.P. Putnam Sons) Puzo finally met Sinatra in August 1970 In West Hollywood, California at the famous Chasen’s restaurant. As Puzo relates the incident, he was invited to a party at Chasen’s thrown by an elderly millionaire friend. The millionaire friend asked Puzo if he would like to meet Sinatra who was dining at another table at the restaurant and Puzo wisely replied, “No.”
On the way out the millionaire friend insisted on a meeting saying, “You gotta meet Frank, he’s a good friend of mine.”
As they got up to the table, the millionaire friend said to Sinatra, “I’d like you to meet my good friend, Mario Puzo.”
“I don’t think so,” Sinatra said without looking up from his plate.
Puzo began to walk away but the millionaire friend did not get the hint and started to repeat the introduction.
“I don’t want to meet him,” Sinatra said.
After the millionaire friend, who was in tears, apologized to Sinatra, Puzo said “Listen, it wasn’t my idea.”
Sinatra thought Puzo was apologizing for the inclusion of the Fontane character in the book. Sinatra said, “Who told you to put that in the book, your publisher?”
A dumbfounded Puzo said, “I mean about being introduced to you.”
Sinatra then exploded and shouted abuse at Puzo calling him a pimp, and saying that if Puzo wasn’t so much older than him he would beat the hell out of him. Puzo was in fact five years younger than Sinatra.
Sinatra, never looking up from his plate, kept yelling at Puzo, while Puzo just stood there staring at Sinatra. Finally, Puzo thoroughly humiliated just walked away and went out of the restaurant.
Puzo’s final comment on this infamous incident was, besides being humiliated, “what hurt was that here he was, a Northern Italian threatening me, a Southern Italian, with physical violence. This was roughly equivalent to Einstein pulling a knife on Al Capone. it just wasn’t done. Northern Italians never mess with Southern Italians except to get them put in jail or deported to some desert island.”