Barbara Sinatra, who rose to social prominence as “Lady Blue Eyes” and then developed a legacy of her own, has died at her Rancho Mirage home at age 90.
Daniela Franco/The Desert Sun
Don’t expect to see Frank Sinatra’s daughters at the funeral or private reception Tuesday for “Lady Blue Eyes.”
As of late Thursday morning, Nancy Sinatra and Tina Sinatra were not on the invitation list to a private reception at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage for close friends and family members grieving the loss of Sinatra’s wife, Barbara, said John Thoresen, director of the Sinatra-led Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center. Her funeral at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palm Desert is open to the public.
Barbara Sinatra, 90, died Tuesday at her Rancho Mirage home. Nancy Sinatra maintains a home not far from her late father’s compound on Frank Sinatra Drive.
Telephone calls and emails to the Sinatra daughters through their companies, Frank Sinatra Enterprises and Boots Enterprises, went unreturned Wednesday and Thursday. A publicist for Steve Wynn’s Encore Hotel in Las Vegas said she wasn’t aware of any special activities recognizing Barbara Sinatra’s death at their Sinatra restaurant, either.
It’s been widely reported that relations between the Sinatra siblings and their step-mother have long been frosty, at best. The New York Times characterized the family members in a 2011 story as having “famously feuded.”
Barbara Sinatra said in that story she was not in a feud with Frank’s daughters. But she told The Desert Sun a month later she hoped “it was very noticeable” that she didn’t mention Nancy and Tina Sinatra in her memoir, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank.
Asked if she was on speaking terms with Nancy and Tina, Barbara replied, “Sometimes.”
Initially, Nancy Sinatra’s feelings toward Barbara were conflicted by her desire to see her famous father re-marry her mom, Sinatra’s first wife, Nancy Sr.. She wrote in her 1985 memoir, Frank Sinatra: My Father, that she cried for a week before the 1976 wedding because there was “no chance now for him and my mother to get together and grow old together.”
In a subsequent book about her father, Frank Sinatra: An American Legend, Nancy Sinatra Jr. wrote that she had resolved by January 1977 that her father’s affection for Barbara “was genuine and would continue forever.” But she said Frank and Barbara’s decision to annul Sinatra’s marriage to Nancy Sr. so they could marry in a Catholic ceremony “made things more difficult.”
“I found the concept of annulment shocking,” Nancy Jr. wrote, “and my brother (the late Frank Jr.), sister and I were concerned about how it would affect our mother.”
A year before Frank Sinatra’s 1998 death in Beverly Hills, the Wall Street Journal reported that Barbara and her step-kids had become “further enmeshed in a behind-the-scenes battle over his financial holdings, estimated to be worth at least $200 million.”
By then, the Sinatras had sold Frank’s beloved Rancho Mirage compound because Barbara said the Coachella Valley had changed. The New York Daily News reported that Nancy said her step-mother now “calls the shots” for her father.
The Sinatra kids were bequeathed Sinatra’s Reprise Records catalog from 1960 to 1988 and Barbara was scheduled to get the Capitol recordings released after 1992, including his most lucrative “Duets” albums. Celebritynetworth.com now says Barbara’s net worth was also $200 million at the time of her death.
But the family discord went beyond the living trust.
“With all the family bickering,” the Wall Street Journal wrote, “the Sinatra name no longer means harmony. Family members have clashed repeatedly over arguably tacky merchandise, such as a ‘singing’ Franklin Mint souvenir plate with Sinatra on vocals via computer chip.”
Frank and Barbara celebrated their 20th anniversary in 1996 by renewing their wedding vows, and Tina and Nancy declined to attend.
When Sinatra died in 1998, Barbara was by his side at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, but Tina had to learn of her father’s demise from a doctor’s telephone call, shortly after watching the final episode of Seinfeld. In 2000, she wrote a memoir, titled My Father’s Daughter, in which she fumed, “Barbara could have called us — she could have called! But she did not call.”
The tome let her vent her hostility. She called her father’s final marriage “a Faustian bargain” that almost fell apart several times. It expressed her fear that “Barbara was trying to erase Sinatra’s children from his life,” as the publisher wrote on the book flap.
But, two years after her father’s death, Tina concluded her book by writing, “Everything has washed away but our love.”
The Sinatras’ family friend Barbara Davis, widow of oil tycoon and 20th Century Fox studio owner Marvin Davis, believes the acrimony between Barbara and the “kids” was not uncommon among blended families.
“I have seen in marriages where there’s two or three or four different marriages, the children whose dad left for another woman, they hate her!” said Davis. “They always think he’s coming back. It’s human nature. I don’t care who the person is. I’ve just seen it with everybody.”
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