Sinatra - I am not a Mafia front man
Daily Mail 12th February 1981
FRANK SINATRA was granted a Las Vegas gaming licence last night to replace the one he lost 17 years ago for his alleged connections with an under-world crime chief.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board made its decision after grilling the singer for two hours about his rumoured links with the Mafia.
Board chairman Richard Bunker said : 'I am not saying he is a saint by any means but in the areas we have investigated we have not found anything to prevent him getting a licence.'
Sinatra said the Mafia allegations were 'ridiculous'. But the board made the licence conditional upon his 'good behaviour' for six months. Their decision is expected to be rubber-stamped by the state gaming commission next Thursday.
For two hours the soberly-dressed and grim-faced singer fielded questions about his alleged links with underworld figures with a steady stream of denials. It was the first time In 40 years that he has answered publicly the speculation about his alleged Mafia links.
Asked about rumours that his career blossomed thanks to organised crime members, he said sharply: 'Simply, It's ridiculous.'
The entertainer remained calm as he was quizzed about various verbal and physical altercations. But there •was an angry outburst over Jimmy 'The Weasel' Fratianno, the Mafia | killer turned FBI informant. Fratianno claimed that I Sinatra ordered a bodyguard's legs to be broken.
I Sinatra said : 'Mr Weasel—he's a fink. I don't know what he is doing I in my life.'
Questioned about Illegal payments involving a theatre in New York where he had performed, the singer said : 'I've never in my life received any illegal money. I have had to work very hard for my money.'
He was closely questioned about his connections with Sam Giaeana, boss of the Chicago Mafia who was murdered in 1975. Giacana stayed at an hotel partly owned by Sinatra at Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Sinatra said Giacana did not go to the hotel at his invitation and was not given any red carpet treatment. He said he did not even see the crime boss, who was in a bungalow on the property with singer Phyliss McGuire.
Sinatra denied any financial dealings with Giacana and said there were no hidden Interests in the hotel and that he was not acting as a 'front' for anyone. It was the Giacana incident 17 years ago which led to Sinatra's gaming licence being revoked, although last night he said he voluntarily gave up his gambling licence at the request of Jack Warner, the head of the film studios.
Sinatra said he was involved in a deal with Warner who insisted that he got out of Las Vegas.
Although he played down social ties with Giacana he admitted he had played golf with him in Palm Springs. Sinatra has long been linked to a Mafia-White House connection through Judith Campbell Exner.
She claims Sinatra introduced her to Giacana and President Kennedy, both, she said were her lovers for two years.
Asked If he had ever tried to help underworld figures with his friend Robert Kennedy, the assassinated Attorney General, he said r 'Negative.' Asked the same question about former Vice President Spiro Agnew and other government agencies, he made the same reply.
Sinatra was questioned about taking two million dollars in an attached case to Havana where he met gangster Lucky Luciano. He admitted being introduced to Luciano but told the board : 'If you could find two million dollars in an attached case I will give it *o you.'
He said a row with a casino manager at Caesar's Palace Hotel ted because a man stuck a gun in his ribs : 'I stepped his hand and took the gun from him. I shook myself to death two minutes later when I realised what had happened. When reports about the incident came out I was the one with the gun.'
The singer was quizzed about a 1976 photograph showing him smiling among mob figures. Mr Bunker called it 'who's who of what's what in the area of organised crime.' Sinatra said : 'Shaking hands and knowing are two different situations. I didn't even know their names. How could I know their background ?'
One of the men In the photo was New York Mafia chief Carlo Gambino. Sinatra said: 'Mr Gambino had arrived with his little granddaughter at the theatre. I was asked to have my photograph taken with the little girl.
'Before I realised what was happening there were eight or nine men standing around me. That's when the snapshots were made.'
He insisted throughout the questioning that he had no links with crime figures but they were 'good customers' at the hotels and concert circuits he and other entertainers play.
The questions were to assess whether Sinatra was 'suitable' to hold a gaming licence. This is essential before he can have a financial interest in hotel-casinos.
Last night's decision means he can become a public relations and entertainment consultant at Caesar's Palace.
He appeared before the board surrounded by armed guards and filmstar friends. Also there was his fourth wife Barbara, bodyguard Jilly aizzo ana lawyer William Raggio.
The lawyer said 65 -year -old Sinatra had been a victim of libel and slander throughout his life: 'There have been allegations, inferences, innuendoes, utterances and gossip permeating the atmosphere about him, and outright charges.'
Then on came a parade of stars to pay tribute to Sinatra the charity-worker, friend, talented actor and singer..
Actor Gregory Peck said : 'He Is one of the most noble, trustworthy and truthful men I have ever known.'
As for those alleged friends in the Mafia : 'I have been with him on hundreds of occasions and I have never met or heard discussed any of these characters he has been alleged to be associated with.'
Peck compared Sinatra to Lord Olivier as 'one of the great performers of the century'.
Kirk Douglas described Sinatra as colourful, impulsive and extraordinarily talented'' He said he had known him for 40 years and he said he knew of no association between the singer and organised crime.
In a sworn affadavid, comedian Bob Hope said : 'It's not fair to assume because Sinatra was photographed with Mafia figures that he was In business with them.'
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