#Sinatra100 – The traumatic birth of Frank Sinatra
By Matt Micucci
This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the world’s greatest and most iconic entertainers of the twentieth century – Frank Sinatra.
In this series of entries on JAZZIZ.com which will run for the whole month of December, we celebrate the life, times and legacy of ol’ blue eyes by talking about some pivotal moments in his career, interesting facts about the man behind the man and other Sinatra-related things that will hopefully illustrate the incredible and unparalleled impact he has had as a vocalist, actor and beyond.
What better way to begin this series of features than by talking about the first, tragic and traumatic event in his life – his birth.
Sinatra is one of the world’s most influential and popular vocalists. American music critic Robert Christgau referred to Sinatra as “the greatest singer of the 20th century”. Throughout his career, he sold more than 150 million records worldwide and received many awards, including eleven Grammys one of which was for Lifetime Achievement. He even won an Academy Award for his role in the film From Here to Eternity in 1953, and received much praise for many other cinematic roles that would follow.
It’s hard to imagine that all this could have never happened. Sinatra’s life did not exactly start on the right foot. Born on the 12th of December 1915, Dolly Sinatra’s labour had stalled and the midwife immediately sent for the doctor. When he arrived ten long minutes later, he clamped metallic forceps round the baby’s head and pulled hard, hauling the child from its mother’s womb and in the process, tearing the left side of its face, neck and ear.
The doctor left little Frankie for dead by the kitchen sink, shifting his efforts to saving the life of his mother, who was nearly unconscious. It was his grandmother who apparently picked up the seemingly lifeless baby and ran ice cold water from the sink over it, while slapping its back – and that is when Sinatra howled his first song.
Both mother and child survived, but neither forgot the violence and brutality of the event.
Those forceps had also left their mark in the form of a scar on the left side of Sinatra’s face, a scar that ran from the corner of his mouth to his jaw line, and that “earned” him the nickname “Scarface” as a teenager.
As he grew older, he remained conscious about his looks and physical appearance. It is a well reported fact that he, for instance, avoided at all costs being photographed on his left side, and a lot of the photographs that did shoot him from that brush were specifically airbrushed. Even in the most amorous moments, he remained sensitive to being caressed on his left cheek. As an adult, he would applay Max Factor Pan-Cake to his face and neck every morning and again after each of the several showers that as a compulsive and obsessive hand and body washer he took throughout the day.
His own personal take on what had happened during his birth can be read through the words he told a lover of his named Peggy Connelly, to whom he said “they weren’t thinking about me, just about my mother. They just ripped me out and tossed me aside.”
One can’t help but wonder whether this traumatic experience left such a mark on ol’ blue eyes in a way that would lead him to the determination which drove his rise to the top of the world. Nevertheless, it also speaks volumes on the enigmatic relationship with his own mother, Dolly, a strong and determined Italian blooded woman with an unpredictable and volcanic personality who Frank seems to have hated and loved in equal measures throughout his life.