SANDRA White, a former Fleet Street journalist who lives part of the year in Cala de Mijas has written a fascinating book about her meeting back in 1988 with the journalist-hating Frank Sinatra. In this, the centenary of his birth and was happy to talk about it in an exclusive interview with EWN.
At the time, she was an investigative journalist for the Sunday Mirror and was surprised to be summoned by the features editor when she was in the middle of breaking a front-page news story. Nonetheless, she had to see him, as he was the third highest placed employee in the newspaper.
As it happens, she became involved in one of the most interesting stories of her career. She was told that Frank Sinatra had refused to give any interviews for several years and the Sunday Mirror had come up with a novel way to get to him.
Barbara Sinatra was raising funds for abused children, and arranging a charity weekend for a group of no more than 30 people. With Frank in Las Vegas, the paper had purchased two tickets at a cost in 1988 of $25,000 (worth €44,000 today) so she was to attend and to write as much as she could about the weekend.
She arrived in Los Angeles to meet with a fellow journalist who was to play her husband in the deception but immediately encountered problems when she couldn’t tell immigration officers where she would be staying. Eventually with the help of a friendly British Airways employee who gave her support, she was able to pretend that she had remembered the address and was allowed into the country.
Having read an unauthorised biography of Frank Sinatra by Kitty Kelly which described him, ‘warts and all’, Sandra was worried about what would happen if he discovered who she really was. She and her ‘partner’ Ian travelled to the Sinatra home in Palm Springs where they were made very welcome and with the rest of the party being flown in by his private jet to Las Vegas.
At the first meal, she found herself sitting next to the singer and they appeared to hit it off immediately. There was no way that she could take any form of recording device into the dinner, nor could she be seen with a notepad so she came up with the idea of going to the toilet and writing in tiny print on the back of her place card. When that was full, she wrote on her legs above her stockings!
Being a true journalist, Sandra was able to match Sinatra drink for drink, knocking back Italian liqueurs which delighted him and when they went through to the Casino, strolling arm in arm, she was quite proud to be seen walking with him on the red carpet even though nobody knew who she was.
Later that evening, his valet asked her if she would join Frank alone for a nightcap and she agreed although she had to first go to her room to transcribe the story and tell her ‘husband’ what was going on.
They spent the night just chatting about life and their families and he even suggested that she and her children should move over to Los Angeles where he would help to set them up. When dawn broke he said ‘thanks for helping me get through the night’ and she left. It transpired that he had spent so many years performing late at night that he could only sleep during the day.
On the next day there were a number of special events including a fashion show and although the guests were not allowed to take photographs, there was a professional photographer on hand. He had been instructed not to take any photographs of Frank Sinatra with them. Unexpectedly however Sandra was invited to stand with him for two photos which appear in her book.
Having written the story, they now had to wait for the photographs to arrive from Barbara Sinatra’s office and these were immediately rushed to the UK in time for the whole story to be the main piece in the launch of the Sunday Mirror colour supplement.
As a courtesy she did alert his office to the publication of the story and although she never received any formal response, she did learn that he was not unhappy with the piece although he didn’t like one of the photographs.
The 63 page book ‘Strangers in the Night’ is available from Amazon as a paper back at £6.99 or kindle book at £3.99 and is already gaining good reviews from various lovers of the man and fan clubs.
Sandra is now working on a crime novel based on her investigations into celebrity paedophiles, which she had never managed to have printed in any newspaper.