Sunday 26 January 2020

Nancy Sinatra, Frank's first wife and childhood sweetheart, dies aged 101

In a crowded Ciro’s in LA in 1946, Frank Sinatra glances at the Oscar he won for ‘The House I Live In’ as his wife Nancy looks on. Photo: AP
In a crowded Ciro’s in LA in 1946, Frank Sinatra glances at the Oscar he won for ‘The House I Live In’ as his wife Nancy looks on. Photo: AP

John Rogers

Nancy Sinatra Sr, the childhood sweetheart of Frank Sinatra who became the first of his four wives and the mother of his three children, has died. She was 101.

Her daughter, singer Nancy Sinatra Jr, tweeted that her mother died last Friday and a posting on her web page said she died at 6.02pm but did not indicate where she died.

"She was a blessing and the light of my life," her daughter said.

Attempts to reach representatives for Frank Jr this weekend were unsuccessful.

Nancy and Frank Sinatra had been dating as teenagers and married at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic church in Jersey City, New Jersey, on February 4, 1939, just as Frank's singing career was about to take off.

Three years before marrying the former Nancy Barbato, he had landed a 15-minute radio show on local station WAAT.

During the early years of their marriage, the Sinatras lived in a modest apartment in Jersey City, where their two eldest children were born. For a time she was employed as a secretary while her husband worked as a singing waiter.

After Sinatra became a pop music sensation in the 1940s, the couple moved to Los Angeles, where the singer would also become a movie star, raconteur, man about town and notorious womaniser.

That latter accomplishment led Nancy to leave him after an affair with actress Ava Gardner became public knowledge. Weeks after the divorce became final in 1951, the singer married Gardner, while Nancy went on to raise their three children: Nancy Jr, Frank Jr and Tina.

After the gossip over the divorce and Gardner marriage died down, Nancy devoted herself to family and numerous celebrity friends, largely withdrawing from the spotlight.

Nancy outlived her husband, who died in 1998, as well as her son, who died in 2016. She is credited, under the name Nancy Barbato, on the Internet Movie Database with just two TV and film appearances, in her daughter Nancy's 1975 concert film, Nancy and Lee in Las Vegas, and in 1974 on her friend Dinah Shore's talk show.

In later years she would become known as Nancy Sr, especially after daughter Nancy became a 1960s singing star in her own right with These Boots Are Made For Walking and other hit songs.

She also remained friendly with her ex-husband, the latter being said to have put in requests over the years for pasta and other Italian food dishes she was known to be an expert at preparing. She never remarried.

"There is no bitterness, only great respect and affection between Sinatra and his first wife," Gay Talese wrote in 1966, "and he has long been welcome in her home and has even been known to wander in at odd hours, stoke the fire, lie on the sofa, and fall asleep."

©Associated Press

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