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Satchel Sinatra Sings the Blues

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The Grand Tour

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Last year’s bombshell New York Times article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey may have initiated the #MeToo movement, but the momentum really gained steam after Ronan Farrow’s excellent back-to-back, in-depth reports in the New Yorker detailing Harvey Weinstein’s use of private detectives to harass and discredit his accusers. Farrow’s investigations add valuable accounts of the Miramax mogul’s scumbag ways, where it seems every day of his professional life, Mr. Weinstein committed some form of sexual harassment. Looking at the cut of Mr. Weinstein, we can guess that this ugly, fat asshole used his power as a Hollywood producer to get laid. In Casablanca, Claude Rains is ‘Shocked, shocked!’ Perhaps the original push behind the #MeToo movement was Donald Trump’s (well recorded) conversation about bush – with Bush – which sparked the up-and-running Pink Parades, either way, sexually abused and harassed victims have finally been given voice. Farrow’s latest article in the New Yorker, Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity reveals the next woman in the can-can line of Trump mistresses. Here, Farrow outlines how Trump’s friend David J. Pecker, CEO of American Media and publisher of parody newspapers the National Enquirer and the hilarious Weekly World News among others, protected him from damaging allegations during the election. Trump said during his campaign that the supermarket tabloid ‘Does have credibility and should be very respected’ after the Enquirer linked Ted Cruz’ father to the Kennedy Assassination. Inquiring minds want to know! Pecker (middle name Johnson) ‘captured and killed’ this particular Playboy model’s story about her affair with The Donald for $150,000 (about the same time that Stormy Daniels was spanking him with Malcolm Forbes’ masthead), with Pecker explaining recently that it ‘wasn’t believable enough’ – choosing not to publish the accusation back in October, 2016. I guess the Playboy model story should have included a bit about her bat-child, then Pecker may have thought it believable enough to bury somewhere in his mindless rags. This is the same National Enquirer which once ran full-color, front-page headlines complete with images of an innocent young woman named Vera Baker titled ‘Obama Caught in Hotel With This Beauty’ – which Pecker had to pay dearly for in an all-cash settlement. My favorite Weekly World News headline of all time is ‘Famed Psychic’s Head Explodes.’

It seems everything Ronan Farrow touches turns to gold, yet his latest article was as poorly timed as could be, with Robert S. Mueller’s bombshell indictments of the Russian Internet Research Agency unsealed on the same day, which no doubt cut into Ronan’s overall clicks. The two previous New Yorker articles Farrow wrote were ultimately inspired by his passionate defense of his adopted sister Dylan. His entire life, Mr. Farrow has sided with his mother and sister in the tumultuous separation drama between Mia and Woody. I say separation instead of divorce because Woody Allen and Mia Farrow never married. That’s not to say that Woody, Mia and her biological and adopted kids weren’t a family. As a member of a ‘blended family,’ I’ve felt the awkwardness associated with sitting around a dinner table with folks that I’d never met or had any blood relation to, all acting like it’s entirely normal to call ourselves a brand-new ‘family.’ My mom and my sisters were my real family, not this new woman and ‘family’ that my dad took up with years later. I also had the unique opportunity to watch my second ‘family’ fade into memory as my father divorced for a second time, inviting my two sisters and me to another dinner table with ‘family’ that we didn’t know from Adam. A child of the depression, my father was independent if nothing else. He worked hard his whole life, served when asked by his country during the Korean War, bought homes, a small boat, a Florida place (mobile home), retired young and clipped coupons to rival any HSN-watching housewife. In other words, he was cheap, folks. We both loved the Boston Red Sox, but never went to a game at Fenway Park together. Better to watch it on TV for free. Obviously like Ronan, I have daddy issues, so I can somewhat relate to him – even though I’m a nobody and he’s the living, breathing progeny of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra. On December 27, 1987, the New York Times blurbed Ronan’s arrival on Manhattan:

Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow is the first child for Mr. Allen, who is 52 years old. The director is also the legal father of two of Miss Farrow’s five adopted children. The 42-year-old actress has three other children in addition to Satchel and those she has adopted.

The name Satchel comes from Satchel Paige, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time, and this was Woody’s sole contribution. Ronan Farrow was later accepted to Yale as a child prodigy at 15 and was a Rhodes Scholar, continuing his advanced studies at Oxford University, later working for the Obama Administration as a special advisor under Richard Holbrooke, then U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. His last name is taken from his mother, actress Mia Farrow (born María de Lourdes Villiers Farrow) and his middle name, O’Sullivan, is Mia’s mother’s maiden name, the legendary Irish-born actress Maureen O’Sullivan. Ronan’s ‘daddy,’ Woody Allen – real name Allen Konigsberg, remember – is a well-known, neurotic intellectual constantly questioning the meaning of life and existence through his work as a film director. Behind the entire saga hides Soon-Yi Previn, one of Mia’s adopted children with her then husband, Andre Previn. After Mia moved on from Previn, she took up with Woody and brought her clan to Manhattan to form a new, blended ‘family’ with Woody – eventually adopting two kids of their own. Woody and Mia maintained separate homes in Manhattan (never staying at each other’s place) and in 1986, following the completion of Woody’s 15th film, the great Hannah and Her Sisters, Mia announced that she’d become pregnant with Woody’s first child while filming September with Woody in 1987. A surprise to the couple – Woody had cast his actress-muse Mia, as he had for his three previous films, to play the lead in his next film, Another Woman (1988), however her pregnancy forced Woody to assign Mia a supporting role and chose actress Gena Rowlands for the lead instead.

The genius of Woody Allen lies in his unblinking honesty, rooted in his uniquely New York, Jewish humor, undoubtedly sown into young Allen Konigsberg by his parents and extended family back in Brooklyn. His childhood, idealized in his film Radio Days (1987), sets the stage for his adolescent life at the dinner table, not so side-splittingly hilarious as in Woody’s brilliant split-screen depiction of his family vs. WASP-y Diane Keaton’s family at the table in the groundbreaking Annie Hall (1977). These experiences obviously gave the young Allen ‘Woody’ Konigsberg all the tools his vocation would require. Woody’s first wife, Harlene Rosen, left him after he called her ‘Quasimoto’ in his stand-up act. You couldn’t make that up. After that, Woody married Louise Lasser (anyone remember Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman?) from 1966-1970 and then took up with actress-muse Diane Keaton for ten years. Mia Farrow came along in 1980. After the smashing success of Hannah, one would think Woody would be on a high, returning as it were to the standards that he set for himself in the late 1970’s with films like Annie Hall and Manhattan (1979) with Diane Keaton. But as art imitates life – imitating art, Woody’s breakup with Keaton birthed his first, less successful ‘unfunny’ stage with films Interiors (1978) and Stardust Memories (1980). His breakup with his second actress-muse, Mia Farrow, followed Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986, where Mia chafed that Woody had exposed her personal affairs in the film:

It was my mother’s stunned, chilled reaction to the script that enabled me to see how he had taken many of the personal circumstances and themes of our lives and, it seemed, had distorted them into cartoonish characterizations. At the same time he was my partner. I loved him. I could trust him with my life, and he was a writer, this is what writers do. All grist for the mill. Relatives have always grumbled. He had taken the ordinary stuff of our lives and lifted it into art. We were honored and outraged.

In the film, Woody practically lifts these words in a scene between sisters Hannah and Holly (Diane Wiest), shot in Mia’s actual Manhattan kitchen, where Holly’s success as a novelist irks Hannah at the second of three Thanksgiving get-togethers and Hannah clearly understands that her sister’s new book was based on her (Hannah’s) life, yet she can’t understand how her sister would know such intimate details between Hannah and her husband Elliot (Michael Caine). Holly reveals that their other sister, Lee (Barbara Hershey) told her some of the stories, leaving the audience cringing because we know that Lee is having an affair with Eliot. Michael Caine said making the film was like ‘watching an intimate home movie,’ and in fact it was mutual friend Caine who introduced Mia Farrow to Woody Allen nearly 20 years earlier. After Hannah leaves the kitchen in anger, their mother Norma (Maureen O’Sullivan) enters and tells Holly that she absolutely loves the book, ‘I particularly liked the character of the mother, just a boozy old flirt with a filthy mouth. I’m so proud!’ If you look closely during the final Thanksgiving scene, also shot in Mia’s Manhattan home, you can just make out Soon-Yi Previn and Farrow’s other adopted children with Andre Previn. It wasn’t until six years later, on January 13, 1992, that Mia discovered that Woody was having an affair with Soon-Yi and she promptly ended their relationship – both as actor-muse and partner.

Back in 1986, however, Hannah and Her Sisters was consistently selling out Theater One at the Harvard Square Theater and as an usher, I remember well the final scene with Woody and Diane Wiest just before the final Thanksgiving dinner scene. One of my favorite Woody Allen films, the movie portrays the intertwined lives of these three Manhattan sisters, enduring infidelity and jealousy – complete with a Hollywood ending where Woody ends up marrying a different sister (Wiest) after having divorced the other sister (Farrow). Woody admitted that the role of Hannah was based on Mia Farrow, being ‘a romanticized perception of Mia.’ He borrows the structure of the film from his director-muse Ingmar Bergman, most notably two films: Fanny and Alexander (1982) where a large theatrical family gathers for three years’ celebrations (Thanksgiving dinner with Woody, Christmas in Bergman’s film) and Bergman’s Rocco and His Brothers (1962).

Woody’s next project was September, a film based on Anton Chekhov’s brooding Uncle Vanya (1898) and again, after a run of five feel-good, successful films – Allen chooses an ‘unfunny’ theme to explore as his relationship with his actress-muse goes South. If one does the math back from December 27, 1987 – this timeline perfectly coincides with Ronan Farrow’s conception. The production on September was notoriously fraught with difficulty and the chaos behind the film was noticed by the cast and crew. Originally supposed to be filmed at Mia’s Connecticut home (the home which inspired Woody to write the film and the same home that Woody is supposed to have ‘molested’ his adopted daughter Dylan in the attic a few years later) the location was changed to Vermont and the film was cast with Mia in the lead role and her mother Maureen O’Sullivan returning to play Mia’s mother on screen once again, as she had in Hannah and Her Sisters. Woody shot and edited September by the end of 1986 and it looked like it was on schedule to be released by the summer of 1987 – then something happened in March, 1987 that changed everything: Mia Farrow got pregnant. Woody Allen then did something he had never done before – he recast and reshot an entire film all over again.

In May, 1987, it became an open secret that Woody’s production of September was having major problems and actor’s actor Charles Durning wondered aloud to the LA Times why he’d been cut from the film and it was then revealed that he wasn’t alone. A-list actors Christopher Walken and Sam Sheppard were jettisoned, as well as Mia’s mom Maureen O’Sullivan, whom Woody claimed had pneumonia and was unavailable to redo her scenes. Woody cast the strident stage actress Elaine Strich to play the role that Maureen O’Sullivan had already completed in the first go-round and he made Mia reshoot all of her scenes. The film is the worst reviewed in Woody’s career and stands as the worst performing film that he has ever made. The climax of the film, ultimately released in December, 1987, comes when an anguished Lane (Mia Farrow) cries out to her mother, now played by Elaine Strich, “You’re the one who pulled the trigger! I just said what the lawyers told me to say!” Thus revealing that her mother was the one who shot her abusive lover, but her lawyers thought it would be better if Lane took the fall, where she would be treated more leniently.

Now stop here. I ‘d love to ask Woody a question – why the Lana Turner/Johnny Stompanato angle? It’s totally wrong for the preparation and payoff of the screenplay. How did he decide this goofy ‘twist’ gets him satisfactorily to Chekhov’s ennui-laden “Just get over it” coda? This remarkably weak tribute to the great playwright is probably why Woody said he’d like to shoot it all over again, as he admitted in a 2014 interview. Third time’s the charm! My guess is that Woody  wanted to say something snarky about Frank Sinatra, without ever having been accused of it. After all, Sinatra’s involvement in the Stompanato knifing only references his connection to mobster Mickey Cohen, right? For those unfamiliar with the story, this article from the Boston Herald sums it up nicely:

Frank Sinatra appealed to Cohen who ran a sex extortion ring to stop Stompanato from dating his ex-wife Ava Gardner. Stompanato’s life ended abruptly when he was killed on April 4, 1958 by a knife thrust into his abdomen in movie queen Lana Turner’s bedroom. Turner had refused to take Stompanato to the Academy Awards ceremony when she was nominated as Best Actress for 1957’s Peyton Place, going instead with her teenage daughter and mother. When she returned home, a furious Stompanato showed up. Turner’s daughter, hearing them argue, feared he was going to beat her mother and ran into the bedroom, stabbing the swaggering stud just once, which was more than enough. In the subsequent celebrity trial, wags said Turner gave the greatest performance of her life on the witness stand.

So back to March 21, 1987, while performing routine maneuvers in his F-4 Phantom jet over the San Bernadino Mountains as part of his Air National Guard training, son and namesake of legendary crooner Dean Martin, Captain Dean Paul Martin, 35, died in an accident along with his wingman, Weapons Systems Officer, Captain Ramon Ortiz. Dean-o was understandably crushed by the awful tragedy and never got over it. His closest amigo and Rat Pack founder, Frank Sinatra, was also blindsided by the sudden death of Dean Paul, so similar to his own child and namesake Frank Sinatra, Jr. A great picture of fathers and sons together reveal the genuine brotherly and fatherly love between them. Frank’s mother Dollie had died in a plane crash in the same mountains not long before and to say that Frank Sinatra was distraught in late March, 1987 would be a huge understatement.

Principal photography for September started in late October, 1986, and the production shoot wasn’t completed until about eight months later, in June, 1987. Mia Farrow knew Dean Paul Martin well and after completing the (original) shooting schedule for September with Woody, principal photography for their next film, Another Woman, wouldn’t begin until summer. Mia Farrow would have ample opportunity to console the man she says later she ‘never split-up with’ and this is where things get weird. Woody decides in April, 1987 to reshoot the entire film, however this time his script dramatizes the mother-daughter relationship in far starker terms with an undoubtedly strange twist that wasn’t in the first version of September: the plot point that references the Stompanato killing.

Now, beyond being the spitting image of  ‘Ol Blue Eyes, both Ronan Farrow’s mother, Mia and his considered father, Woody, have all but said that he’s Frank Sinatra’s son. Mia stated in a 2013 Vanity Fair article that Sinatra might ‘possibly’ be Ronan’s father and in October, 2013, after the rumor became a meme, Ronan Farrow joked on Twitter, ‘Listen, we’re all *possibly* Frank Sinatra’s son.’ Not me! Ronan has steadfastly refused to discuss DNA, saying, “Woody Allen, legally, ethically, personally was absolutely a father in our family.” Sinatra’s fourth and final wife Barbara, understandably, called the suggestion that her husband fathered Farrow ‘A bunch of junk’ at the time, yet Frank’s own daughter Nancy Sinatra said in the same article that, “He is a big part of us, and we are blessed to have him in our lives.” In a 2015 CBS Sunday Morning interview, however, Nancy Sinatra denied that Farrow was her half-brother, Nancy is Frank’s first born with his first wife Nancy Barbato, whom Frank divorced on Valentine’s Day in 1950. Nancy sang the hit These Boots Are Made For Walkin (1966), yet she walked back her Vanity Fair statement in 2015:

I got cranky with Mia because she knew better, you know, she really did. But she was making a joke! And it was taken very serious and was just silly, stupid.

Tina Sinatra, Nancy’s sister, said that Frank couldn’t be Ronan’s father because Frank had a vasectomy prior to 1987 (offering no evidence). In biographer James Kramer’s thin, second volume of his biography of Frank titled Sinatra: Chairman of the Board published in 2011, he claimed that Frank Sinatra’s diverticulitis operation in November, 1986 – and subsequent complications which arose in January, 1987 – prevented him from fathering any child (with Frank then at over seventy years of age). One thing that I’ve learned about the life of Francis Albert Sinatra was that he really liked to get laid. A LOT. Ava Gardner said that although Sinatra was only 5’4″ and 120 pounds, 110 of those pounds were his manhood. She used a different word for it, but you get the idea. If Frank Sinatra was in the mood – after a healthy bowl of Wheaties – he certainly could have whipped off his colostomy bag and given Mia the gift that has keeps on giving. Hell, even if Tina Sinatra was right, Frank could have felt so great after finally getting rid of his bowel problems that the January, 1987 ‘setback’ may have been a reverse vasectomy for all we know!

Sinatra’s life and times are particularly relevant in the Age of Trump, where Donald Trump’s talent lies in his overwhelming confidence and ability to impress others with bravado, Frank Sinatra had all that, yet could also impress people with his extraordinary voice. Each time these men faced true adversity, they emerged stronger. The most interesting similarity between Trump and Sinatra is that each man will have been hurt (and helped) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – and each man’s supposed mob ties were the entry to the threat of prosecution, ultimately brought on by their political beliefs. Hoover’s FBI had Sinatra in their sights as early as 1945, when Sinatra performed in a short film created for the War Film Office called The House I Live In where he stood up for the Jews. Only Elvis, and later, The Beatles could conjure up the shrill, shrieking noise that frightened the crap out of middle-class, post-war America. Herbert Hoover’s lover/underling (and early #MeToo survivor) Clyde Tolson were absolutely, fabulously catty in their disgust for Sinatra, who they saw as a Commie sympathizer if they’d ever seen one. Judith Campbell Exner, as we’ve learned through the (best ever!) Freedom of Information Act, was a ham-handed attempt by the Chicago mob, particularly Sam Giancana, to take advantage of U.S. Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Junior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Giancana and Kennedy both slept with Judith Campbell Exner – Kennedy first, then Giancana – with Frank Sinatra introducing Campbell to them, and as it turned out, both Kennedy brothers to Marilyn Monroe in a carousel of women hand-delivered to Sinatra’s powerful friends.

In a  book called The Way it Was: My Life With Frank Sinatra, (2017) Eliot Weisman, who managed Sinatra from 1975-1998, recounts his negotiations surrounding the 1990 opening of Trump’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, where Sinatra had been hired to perform. After a tragic helicopter accident that claimed the lives of the Taj Mahal’s CEO and others, Donald Trump decided that he would personally renegotiate all outstanding contracts – and that included an agreement-in-principle with Sinatra to perform for an extended run to open Trump’s new Atlantic City casino and hotel. After The Donald exhibited his now famous negotiating skills by changing the agreement at the last second (in his favor), Sinatra’s manager Weisman walked out of the meeting and called Frank immediately. More pissed off that Trump didn’t know who Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormé were, Weisman related the details of the discussion with Trump, yet Frank was far more pissed off that The Donald had monkeyed with an agreement that only required a signature. As far as Frank saw it, Trump took advantage of a tragic situation involving his own crew to make a little more money for himself. Frank told Weisman what to do and his manager walked back in, up the elevator, past the alarmed receptionist into Trump’s office where he told The Donald loud and clear: ‘Sinatra says go fuck yourself!’ Another reason to like Frank.

Weisman also recalled in the same book that Frank Sinatra had instructed his closest associate and friend, Ermenigildo ‘Jilly’ Rizzo, to bring Mia Farrow money after Woody took up with Soon-Yi. Later ‘Jilly’ personally told Woody Allen that Frank was unhappy with his conduct and says ‘Straighten up and fly right.’ Apparently Woody got the message. Sinatra was a complicated man, an artist of unequaled talent and drive. His dalliances with the mob, and there were a few, were a protective armor for his sensitive and intelligent persona. They were the protection racket for the utterly vulnerable voice behind the mic. Ava Gardner said that ‘at times Frank was so gentle that she thought he would break.’ Sinatra was a legendary ladies man, slowing only slightly after his longest and last relationship with Barbara Sinatra, former wife of Marx Brother Zeppo.

Trump’s bleating about a petty, abusive FBI certainly rang true in 1960, just after HUAC and the Red Scare, with Hoover and the FBI exerting undue, illegal pressure on their political enemies. It’s hard to believe under today’s rendition of the GOP that Republicans once abhorred ‘immoral’ behavior such as adultery, gambling – or political extremism for that matter. Hoover’s FBI was the template for Trump’s ‘deep state’ assault on the FBI and the apparatus of surveillance which has made gossip the currency of Washington. Hoover’s interest in Sinatra started just six months after Sinatra performed in what he’d consider his greatest achievement, The House I Live In (1945) a short film he created which woke the HUAC – and the FBI – to action, opening the very first FBI investigation into Sinatra. Hoover’s FBI couldn’t find any direct links to any Communist organizations, and other than a tawdry incident from a 1938 newspaper article with the lurid headline ‘Crooner arrested on morals charge’ where Frank got his freak on with a married lady, Hoover was stymied. Fast-forward twenty years later and JFK is screwing Judy Campbell Exner (born Judith Eileen Katherine Immoor) in Frank’s guest bedroom and shortly after that, wins the closest presidential election in U.S. history. Sinatra would produce the Inaugural Gala for JFK, packed with a-list celebrities, yet one of Hoover’s first calls on U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, other than to welcome the Kennedy brothers to Washington, was to extort them into ending their relationship with one Frank Sinatra. The often told story about JFK  stiffing Frank for Bing Crosby is the stuff of legend in the halls of the J. Edgar Hoover Office Building, where during a 1962 West Coast trip, RFK encouraged the President to change his plans and stay at Republican Bing Crosby’s home instead of Sinatra’s place, which (it was maintained) could provide better security for the president. Sinatra blamed Peter Lawford for the sleight, because he felt that Lawford hadn’t gone to bat for Frank:

The change came at the last minute, after Sinatra had made extensive arrangements for the promised presidential visit, including the construction of a helipad. Sinatra was furious, believing that Lawford had failed to intercede with the Kennedys on his behalf, and ostracized him.

Peter Lawford organized the 1962 Madison Square Garden gala for JFK, where Marilyn infamously slurred ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ Frank never forgave Lawford, who believed that he was unfairly blamed for JFK’s snub. In the last year year of his life, Lawford sent a message to Sinatra, ‘but Frank never even acknowledged that he got the letter,’ however the rift between them ran deeper than that, going back to their common interest in Frank’s ex-wife Ava Gardner, but Frank was used to that. While seeing Sinatra, Ava Gardner also had an affair with the married actor Robert Mitchum. ‘I was crazy about him,’ she said, yet when she told Mitchum that she was also seeing Sinatra, he ended it immediately, saying “Get into a fight with him, and he won’t stop until one of you is dead,” Gardner said. “He didn’t want to risk it being him.” You just didn’t fuck with the Chairman of the Board.

Sinatra famously ended his marriage to Ava when he fell head-over-heels for Lana Turner after seeing her in the sultry The Postman Always Rings Twice (1958) and he began a new episode in his life that was perhaps inspired by his upbringing above the saloon that his parents Marty and Dolly Sinatra kept in Hoboken, New Jersey called ‘Marty O’Brien’s’ – a hint of the craftiness with which the Sinatras had always operated. Frank’s mother Dolly was a dynamo, once chaining herself to Hoboken City Hall in support of a women’s right to vote while also running an Italian-English interpreter business that juiced her in with the local Democratic Party. She could be counted on to deliver almost a thousand votes in local elections and her other side businesses included midwifery – and other needs not met by the hospitals or doctors of the day. A real character, most likely Dolly knew and worked with small-time mafia figures who appeared at the bar from time to time. Before he formed the Hoboken Four, young Frank Sinatra, between homework and bar backing, would occasionally belt out a few songs for the ragged crowd. Can you just imagine the scene?

The end of Sinatra’s third marriage (to Mia Farrow) was apparently sparked because production photography for her film Rosemary’s Baby (1968) overran and she was unavailable to begin a new project scheduled with Frank. He famously served her divorce papers right on Roman Polanski’s set and just after that, George Jacobs, Sinatra’s valet of 15 years, was seen dancing in an LA nightclub with Mia Farrow, whom Frank was still in the process of divorcing. Jacobs returned to Sinatra’s Bel Air compound to find the locks changed and a lawyer’s letter telling him he’d been shit-canned. Mr. Jacobs, an African-American, died in 2014, yet from 1953 to 1968, he served as Sinatra’s live-in valet at his homes in Bel Air and Palm Springs with a roster of duties that, he wrote:

Included cooking Italian meals for Sinatra’s underworld associates; securing the nighttime services of women in a storied profession; and, in the wee small hours of the morning (Sinatra liked to do his actual sleeping solo), settling their bills before sending them on their way.

When Sinatra and Farrow were married in 1966, Maureen O’Sullivan was only 4 years older than Frank when she announced her daughter’s engagement in the New York Times. After her divorce from Frank, Mia then traveled with her brother and sister Prudence Farrow to an ashram in Rishikesh, India to meditate and recuperate. The Beatles were also seeking guidance from the ashram’s Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh, at the same time and Mia’s sister Prudence inspired John Lennon to write the song ‘Dear Prudence‘ (1968), where Prudence Farrow spent all her time meditating and had no time to ‘come out to play.’ Mia, however, found plenty of time to play. She’d return to the states ready for a new start, then became pregnant with composer Andre Previn’s child(ren). He left his wife Dory and filed for divorce, then Farrow gave birth to twin sons in February, 1970 and Previn’s divorce from Dory became final in July of the same year. Dory Previn later composed a song about the affair, entitled Beware of Young Girls about the loss of her husband to Farrow. Andre Previn and Mia Farrow later divorced in 1979.

In February, 2014, Dylan Farrow publicly renewed her claims of sexual abuse against Woody Allen in an open letter published by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a friend of the Farrows. Ronan Farrow wrote at the time in The Hollywood Reporter:

My sister’s decision to step forward came shortly after I began work on a book and a television series. It was the last association I wanted. Initially, I begged my sister not to go public again and to avoid speaking to reporters about it. I’m ashamed of that, too. With sexual assault, anything’s easier than facing it in full, saying all of it, facing all of the consequences. Even now, I hesitated before agreeing to The Hollywood Reporter‘s invitation to write this piece, knowing it could trigger another round of character assassination against my sister, my mother or me.

Earlier, Ronan told Life magazine about his relationship with Woody Allen, “He’s my father married to my sister. To say Soon-Yi was not my sister is an insult to all adopted children.” Whatever. When asked directly by Vulture in 2012 about his parentage and DNA testing, Ronan said:

It was somewhat surprising to see it break in such a huge way of late. I’m fairly … I mean, I appreciate how hilarious it is. I mean, it’s a ridiculous situation. That said, I’m pretty unfazed by it in substance, because it’s been out there both publicly and privately for so long. You know, I have a relationship that I’m very happy with, you know, with all parties involved. For me, the imperative is ‘all right, we’ve talked about it, I get a kick out of it, everyone gets a kick out of it. Let’s move onto the substance,’ — which is one reason I’m so excited to be rolling out this show.

Ronan sure gave a song and dance around that one! Anyone who reads Ronan Farrow knows that he’s a lot more articulate when he wants to be and it seems to me that all he wanted to do back then was hump his new cable show, won for him after Mia’s bombshell Vanity Fair article in the first place. The MSNBC show was cancelled shortly after the premiere and it wasn’t until last year – when Ronan wanted publicity for his #MeToo inspired articles – that he once again renewed his allegations against Woody. As a result, ugly spats have been bubbling across Actors Equity since January, when Dylan Farrow again leveled accusations against Woody Allen in yet another New York Times article. Taking sides, actors Alec Baldwin and Diane Keaton defended Woody while director Judd Apatow condemned Diane Keaton for her support. Actress Hayley Atwell said she won’t work with Woody again and Kate Winslet expressed regret in working with him at all. Greta Gerwig, Mira Sorvino and Timothée Chamalet have all denounced and publicly acknowledged their regret in appearing in films for Woody Allen. Actress Rebecca Hall donated the wages she earned while working for Woody and finally, actor Colin Firth (who?) will never act for Woody again. My prayers have been answered! A production of Woody’s Bullets Over Broadway play was also canceled in Connecticut. The Onion couldn’t resist the obvious satire, with an article, ‘Aspiring Actor Dreams Of One Day Publicly Voicing Regret For Working With Woody Allen.’

Robert B. Weide is a documentary filmmaker that produced and directed the two-part PBS special, Woody Allen: A Documentary that premiered on the American Masters series. Weide later defended Woody in an article in the Daily Beast that may be the most concise and objective opinion on the ‘case’ out there. It preceded Dylan Farrow’s first open letter to the New York Times, and if you read one article on the Woody Allen allegations, other than Dylan and Woody’s own statements, read this one. It provides clear context to the murky debate and offers some inside pool on the story from behind the scenes. Weide recalled that Mia Farrow played both sides of the fence at the Golden Globes in 2013 where Mia gave the show runners full approval for a clip to be rolled at the event – only to denounce it on Twitter immediately after it was shown. Weide makes a convincing case that Mia has been lying about the charges for decades, coaching a young and impressionable Dylan Farrow on what to say at the time of the original accusations. Moses Farrow, Dylan and Ronan’s adopted brother, revealed that Mia coached him as well on what to say – and has defended Woody Allen of the charges in People Magazine.

I have to say that I’m actually a big fan of Ronan Farrow. He’s a far better writer than I’ll ever be and would’ve probably summed up this article about two thousand words ago (without ever having interjected himself once into the conversation) – and that’s the only problem I have with him. In his latest Vanity Fair piece, Ronan gave a tight, detailed account of Donald Trump’s tryst with a former Playboy Playmate, yet all I want to know is: does Ronan ever sing karaoke? His revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s sleazy dealings are certainly eye-opening, but all I care about is what’s Ronan’s favorite color? Frank Sinatra’s favorite color was orange, by the way. When Ronan Farrow visited Stephen Colbert back in 2013, the comedian played Fly Me To The Moon to introduce Ronan’s segment. I’m not alone folks. Just after Ronan Farrow was born, Woody Allen’s dreary Another Woman, was released and Woody worked out his angst with Mia in a scene where he flips gender roles:

Marion: Why have you stopped sleeping with me?

Ken: We are simply going through a less active period, that’s all. Its not uncommon.

Marion: Why? I just want to know why?

Ken: Why don’t we just go to bed.

Marion: There was a time that we were dying to be together.

Ken: Marion, you’re still the most desirable woman that I know.

Marion: But, we won’t make love tonight, because, they’ll be some excuse. I hadn’t realized how much of that had slipped away, until today.

Later in the film, Marion speaks to her father about the loss of her mother and says, “But you want nothing around to even remind you of mother?” The great actor John Houseman, playing Marion’s father says, “Well, there are times when even an historian shouldn’t look at the past.”

 

John Underhill
February 28, 2018


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