By Richard W. Carlson

If Frank Sinatra were alive, he would be 101 years old. His only son, Frank Sinatra, Jr., was 72 when he died of a heart attack recently in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Calling him Frank Jr. was an appellation designed for clarity. The name given him when he was born in 1944 was Franklin Sinatra, not Francis Albert, as his father was named. It was in honor of FDR, who was president.

This sounds like I knew Frank Jr. I didn’t, though I covered his kidnapping in 1963 and knew his father reasonably well. I was a 22-year-old reporter for United Press International in Sacramento on December 8, 1963, when Frank Sinatra, Jr., was snatched at gunpoint from his room at Harrah’s Casino Lodge on the shores of Lake Tahoe, about 100 miles away.

I had transferred to Sacramento from UPI’s San Francisco Bureau a few weeks after President Kennedy was killed to become night bureau chief at the state capitol. I had arrived three days before the kidnapping.

The bureau manager, Van Shumway, welcomed me, outlined my duties (I was assigned a daily 650-word column on California agriculture — a chore no one wanted, though it carried a by-line) and introduced me to Jimmie, the Teletype operator who would work nights with me.

Later, Van took me up to the governor’s office to meet Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, a fleshy, ebullient politician who gave me an autographed photograph of himself and suggested I have it framed. I never did, although I still have it. (Pat, the father of the present California governor, Jerry Brown, lost his bid for a third term to Ronald Reagan and retired to Beverly Hills as a multi-millionaire after a lifetime career as a public servant.)

On Sunday afternoon I began my first day. I would work from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. I was making beat checks, calling police and sheriff’s offices looking for news, when the dispatcher at the Washoe County sheriff’s office in Reno told me that Frank Sinatra, Jr, had been kidnapped by men with guns in South Lake Tahoe and that road blocks were being thrown up on highways and mountain roads.

I typed out what I knew, gave the copy to the Teletype operator, talked to the Washoe sheriff’s office again and headed for my car, adrenalin pumping. An intense snowstorm was raging.

The 1959 Austin Healey roadster had no rollup windows. They were Plexiglas, easily removable, and a thief had easily removed them weeks before. I pushed piles of snow from my bucket seats, scooped it from the floorboards, wrapped myself in blankets, put chains on my wheels and headed to Lake Tahoe and then to Reno, where the dispatcher had tipped me that Frank Sinatra pere would soon be arriving on a chartered plane from Palm Springs.

The drive through the narrow, treacherous passes of the snowbound Sierra Nevada Mountains was slippery and exhilarating.

The kidnappers, two men in parkas, had dragged young Sinatra out of Harrah’s, put him on the floor of a rented car, covered him with a blanket and headed south towards Los Angeles, talking their way through a police road block. I likely passed them in the mountains.

In Reno, at 1:30 a.m., Frank Sinatra huddled in a suite with police, FBI agents and the Reno D.A. Bill Raggio at the Mapes’ Hotel, by the frozen Truckee River. Sinatra Sr. had played the Mapes’ Sky Room in the late 40’s and 50’s. In 1947, the charming hotel was the tallest building in Nevada — 12 stories.

The Mapes’ bar was jammed with a wet gaggle of reporters, newspaper photographers, TV camera crews and interested citizens who had heard about the kidnapping.

I handed a note to Mr. Sinatra’s publicist asking to get a pool interview — the AP hadn’t yet arrived, and I was, so far, the only wire service reporter present: Just a brief interview. He read the note and looked at me. “You, OK?” he asked. “I’m fine,” I said, “why?” “Because your face is bright red,” he said. I had driven more than 100 miles in the blizzard, with my head out the window for at least an hour.

I told the PR man, “Mr. Sinatra knows me.” “Right,” he said, with snappish disbelief. “The answer is still no.”

The previous year, Frank Sinatra was often at the Brissons’ house at 706 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, where I frequently stayed. Mrs. Brisson was the actress Rosalind Russell, famous as Auntie Mame on Broadway and in the movie. Frederick Brisson was a producer and then president of Columbia Pictures. Their son Lance was my best friend. We had been copy boys together at the Los Angeles Times, struggling to become reporters. 

Sinatra had been a close friend of Mrs. Brisson’s for 25 years, beginning when she was already a movie star and he was becoming popular as a singer. I had spent Christmas Eve, 1962, with him at the Brissons’ house.

A couple of years later, when Frank Sinatra became infatuated with Mia Farrow and pursued her, I played the beard for him, albeit unintentionally.

I first met Mia in early ’63 at Louella Parson’s house at 619 North Maple Drive. She was there with her mother and a sister named Tissa. Miss Parsons was then the most famous movie columnist in the world. I was working at the office in her Beverly Hills home two days a week while taking classes at UCLA and working as a copy boy at the Times. I was living in the Brissons’ guesthouse, six blocks away.

Mia’s mother was an actress named Maureen O’Sullivan, a very pretty Irish actress. Mia’s father was an Australian film director named John Farrow. According to Miss Parsons, Farrow was a legendary womanizer.

Mia’s real name was Maria. She had gone to boarding school in England and had a whispery way of talking. She was about 17 when I first met her, tall and slim, with freckled, ethereal looks. You wouldn’t have been surprised to see her, beatific and spacey, with spring flowers woven into her long blonde hair, wearing a thin, white robe, wandering barefoot behind some Swami with a complex, multi-syllabic name. 

Brisson called me one day in 1965. I was then a 24-year-old reporter in San Francisco. She asked if I would like to fly to Las Vegas with her and a crowd of Frank Sinatra’s friends for three days at the Sands Hotel, all at Mr. Sinatra’s expense. 

Lance would be Mr. Sinatra’s daughter Tina’s date. I would escort Mia Farrow, who was then starring on a popular ABC daytime soap. We flew from Hollywood-Burbank on Mr. Sinatra’s jet, leased from Flying Tiger Airlines.

There were 40 people on the plane, all of them much older than Lance, Tina, Mia and me. They included the Brissons; Count Bertil Bernadotte, son of the World War Two Swedish hero Count Folke Bernadotte, who had been murdered after the war by the Stern Gang in Jerusalem; Cary Grant and his new wife, Dyan Cannon; Random House publisher Bennett Cerf and his wife Phyllis Fraser; Broadway director Joshua Logan; Gloria and Prince Mike Romanoff, whom I knew well because they lived next door to the Brissons; Oscar-winning actress Greer Garson and her husband, a Texas oilman named Buddy Fogelson; Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Stewart; and Bill and Edie Goetz. Bill Goetz was the head of 20th Century Fox Studios, and Mrs. Goetz was Louis B. Mayer’s daughter. Mr. Sinatra’s closest male friends, Jilly Rizzo, who owned Jilly’s Saloon in Manhattan, and Sinatra bodyguard and driver, Sarge Weiss, with his wife Jill, a former Copa Cabana chorus girl, were also aboard.

Tina and Mia shared a suite in the tony Lincoln Downs section of the Sands, and Lance and I had another suite down the hall. Mr. Sinatra, who had met us at the plane, gave us each $500 in chips — about $5000 today — to gamble with. Mia and I wandered around the casino spending it, with Mia rubbing a lucky cat’s eye marble she had brought for that purpose. We won at blackjack and then at Chemin de Fer, which had a high minimum bet. I played with Prince Romanoff and Count Bernadotte and walked off with a couple of thousand dollars, a fortune to me at the time.

I was standing with my arm around Mia, drinking champagne, counting my blessings and watching Count Bernadotte lose a lot of money, when Lance’s father came up from behind and pulled me aside. He looked serious. 

“You should know,” he said, “that Mr. Sinatra is very interested in Mia. You are her escort and he thinks that’s great, but be very careful. Be her friend, but don’t get too cozy.” I nodded in agreement. Mr. Brisson, who wasn’t much of a kidder anyway, didn’t look like he was kidding. I was stunned. Mia was maybe 20 and Mr. Sinatra was almost 50, an age I thought of as elderly at the time.

Later, Mia and I sat on my bed in the room and ate from a fruit basket Mr. Sinatra had delivered. Lance was off with Tina somewhere. Mia and I kissed. I told Mia what Mr. Brisson had said. She said, that can’t be true, but I could see in her eyes that she was lying. She knew he was hot for her, and she was both flattered and interested. 

The group sat at front row tables at the black-tie opening. Mr. Sinatra came to the edge of the stage and smiled at his friends and tipped his black fedora at the four young people sitting together at a table. Two of them, Mia and I, knew it was really for Mia. She was glowing. It was a fun three days, but there was no more kissing with Mia Farrow, at least not by me.

When Frank Sinatra married Mia the next year, he asked the Brissons to join them on their July honeymoon yacht trip off the coast of New England, and they did. Before and during the marriage, Frank Sinatra sometimes brought food over to the Brissons’ house and cooked for them. One of those times was around Christmas of 1966, and I happened to be staying there at the time. After dinner, Mr. Sinatra went into the bar with Mrs. Brisson and, as she told Lance, Mr. Brisson and me later, he leaned on her for advice to save his foundering marriage.

Brisson had recently begun acting as emissary between the couple, “Special advisor to Mr. Sinatra in Matters of the Heart” as she described herself. But their problems were overwhelming, too deep to be overcome and too private to be exposed publicly, even these many years later. They were divorced after 14 rocky months.

Earlier in the year, Mr. Sinatra had given me a small sterling silver box engraved “Frank and Mia —1966.” This Christmas, 50 years later, I gave it as a gift to my granddaughter Lillie, a junior at the University of Virginia and about Mia’s age when I knew her.

 Oh, the kidnapping of Frank Jr.? The defense lawyers claimed it was all a cynical stunt, engineered by the Sinatra family to get publicity for Frank Jr.’s career. The jury didn’t believe that and the three men were sentenced to life in prison.

But, the planner of kidnapping did know Frank Sinatra’s daughter Nancy, and there were charges that the kidnapping itself was financed by a famous rock and roll singer. 

Tough days for ‘Old Blue Eyes’

The last few months of 1963 were fateful for Frank Sinatra, then the most famous singer in the world. At the close of October, he lost his licensed ownership in the Cal-Neva Casino Lodge at Lake Tahoe, accused by the Nevada Gaming Commission of arranging a free stay for Chicago Mafia boss Sam “Momo” Giancana in a casino cottage, a practice known as “comping.”

The open secret of the day was that Sicilian crime families from New York, Chicago, Milwaukee and Kansas City controlled the casinos in Nevada.

Their Jewish Mob surrogates — Bugsy Siegel in L.A., Moe Dalitz in Cleveland and Meyer Lansky in Miami Beach, had created lucrative gambling casinos in Las Vegas and Reno in the 1940’s (and in Cuba, the Bahamas and London.) But Mob ownership was expected by the Gaming Commission to be maintained sub rosa. Mafia chiefs and other bent-nose characters were publicly banned from casinos. The publicity about Frank Sinatra’s mob friendships was relentless and damaging.

On November 22, Sinatra’s friend President John Kennedy was assassinated.

Two weeks later, on December 8, 19-year old Frank Sinatra, Jr., who was performing with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, was kidnapped from Harrah’s Casino Lodge in Lake Tahoe, practically next door to his father’s Cal-Neva.

A month earlier Frank Jr. had been a music major at UCLA studying to be a songwriter when he was offered a chance to sing in a six-week gig with the Dorsey Orchestra at Harrah’s.

Carlson’s wild ride

I was then a 22-year old reporter for United Press International in Sacramento. December 8 was a Sunday. It was my first day of work at the Capitol Bureau after being transferred from UPI in San Francisco. A raging snowstorm began that morning.

I learned about the kidnapping from the Reno Sheriff’s Office about 10 p.m. Thirty minutes earlier two gunmen in ski masks had snatched Sinatra, Jr. from his Harrah’s hotel room. He was in his boxer shorts and had been eating a chicken dinner with a young trumpet player named John Foss, who was left behind tied up, gaffer’s tape on his mouth.

I drove more than 100 miles in a pounding blizzard through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Tahoe in a three-year-old English sports car missing its side windows. I was wrapped in two blankets. Blowing snow accumulated in the car, piling on the seats and dashboard and my lap. My windshield wipers were weak and the snow so heavy, I had to lean out of the window to see ahead.

I learned later that I had passed the kidnappers’ white Chevrolet Impala — Sinatra, Jr. was lying on the rear floor under a dark robe, threatened with death, as they descended the narrow mountain road on the long drive to a rented safe-house in Canoga Park, in Los Angeles County’s San Fernando Valley.

Kidnappers and their background

Barry Keenan and Joseph Amsler, the two kidnappers in the Impala, were each 23 years old. They had been in the same University High School class in LA as Frank Sinatra’s oldest daughter, Nancy. (James Brolin, now the suffering husband of Barbara Streisand, was in the same class.)

            Amsler, fit and athletic, was an amateur boxer and abalone diver. He was also the dumber of the pair. The kidnapping was Keenan’s idea. He was a middle-class striver, self-involved, obsessed with money and status.

His father was a failed stockbroker who had abandoned the family. Barry had successfully invested in the stock market when he was 21 but lost it all in the Crash of ’62. Barry wanted quick cash from a kidnapping to invest in more stock and buy a house for himself. He had been living at home with mom. (A decent Valley house could be had for $12,000.) Barry also was determined to buy a color TV for his mother. [A Zenith floor console with a 21” screen was then about $400 — more than $13,000 in 2016 dollars.]

Barry Keenan was also a burglar and a thief with a police record but he had charm, pleasant looks and ambition.

His closest friend was Dean Torrance, a student at the USC Architectural School. They had been in high school together. Dean and his buddy Jan Berry, had risen to huge success that year as “Jan and Dean.”

Unlike Barry Keenan, Jan and Dean attended college fulltime and the two achieved hit after musical hit, beginning shortly before the Sinatra kidnapping when their genre-pioneering “Surf City,” written with Dennis Wilson, raced to the top of the Billboard charts. It was soon followed by “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” “Honolulu Lulu,” “Barbara Ann” “Dead Man’s Curve” and others. Millions of records were sold and the money rolled in.

Barry Keenan sat down with Dean Torrence, he later said, and outlined his plans to kidnap the son of a celebrity and hold him for ransom. He was desperate for money, he said. He named Bob Hope’s son Tony as a target — their home was in nearby Toluca Lake; or any one of Bing Crosby’s three boys in Holmby Hills, or maybe Frank Sinatra’s son, whose apartment was only a few blocks from Dean Torrence’s parent’s house. Dean claimed later he thought Barry was just kidding.

Barry asked Dean for a loan to cover initial expenses. Dean gave him $1,000 in cash. Barry Keenan definitely was not kidding.

Barry hired his friend Amsler for $100 a week to work on the kidnap plans with him and then enlisted a third man, John Irwin, a house painter and handyman, who was paid the same amount.

Irwin had been a boyfriend of Keenan’s mother. He was a 42-year old doofuss, an amiable fellow with a petty but long criminal record and a room temperature IQ. Irwin was told to wait in a vacant house Keenan had rented in Canoga Park, further out in the Valley, as he was to guard the victim once Keenan and Amsler delivered him.

The nefarious plans

The plans were detailed in a 27-page notebook prepared by Keenan and useful to prosecutors in the later trial.

Keenan settled on Frank Sinatra, Jr. after discarding the Hope and Crosby ideas. He liked Bob Hope for his patriotic USO tours and didn’t want to frighten him, he said, adding that he would have felt “un-American” for snatching Hope’s son.

Keenan was given to self-serving and ludicrous moral preening, avidly picked up by the media. After his arrest, he told reporters that he kidnapped young Sinatra because he believed the boy was “estranged” from his father and that as much as he wanted the money, Barry thought the kidnapping was a kind of useful social service that would bring father and son back together. “I knew Frank senior was tough — and I knew Frank always got his way” he told a reporter “and it wouldn’t be morally wrong to put him through a few hours of grief worrying about his son.”

Barry thought Crosby’s boys had a reputation for combativeness and might present a physical problem, so they were also crossed off the prospect list. Trying to overpower Dennis or Phil or Lindsay Crosby, wiry men, could be a mistake.

Keenan bought a handgun with the Jan and Dean money, some ski masks and rolls of gaffer’s tape, rented the Chevrolet, lashed skis to the roof to mesh with the winter snow-bunny crowd around Lake Tahoe’s many ski resorts and he and Amsler made a successful 900-mile round-trip drive, grabbed Frank Sinatra, Jr. and then dropped him off 12 hours later at the house in Canoga Park.

By trip’s end, Keenan had spent all of the borrowed money and took $11 from Sinatra’s wallet for some snacks and a final tank of gas, priced at 25 cents a gallon.

Frank Sinatra, Sr. was waiting with FBI agents at the Mapes’ Hotel in Reno when I arrived in the early morning. The lobby and bar were already filling up with reporters and film crews.

Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had called him. Then one of the kidnappers called. He directed Frank Sinatra to a series of gas station pay phones in nearby Carson City and ultimately let the father talk to his son, who sounded frightened but said he was OK.

Frank Sinatra offered one million dollars for the return of the boy. The caller — it was John Irwin, the house painter, said no, $240,000 was all they wanted.

            A series of complex drop sites and pay phone calls resulted in Amsler and Keenan picking up the bag of cash while Irwin spent a lot of time talking sympathetically with Sinatra, Jr. in the Canoga Park safe house. Sinatra had been tied up in a darkened bedroom. Irwin was now so nervous that he was literally shaking.

He took the boy to Mulholland Drive at the 405 overpass and booted him from the car. Frank Sinatra, Jr. walked for more than a mile along the dark two-lane road before he flagged down a passing (and shocked) sheriff’s deputy who drove him to Sinatra Seniors’ house. Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s first words when he saw his father were, “I’m sorry, Dad.”

John Irwin immediately confessed his role in the kidnaping to his brother who called police and drove him to the FBI office to surrender. Amsler was immediately scooped up along with his pregnant wife (who was released) and Barry Keenan, ransom money of almost $50,000 stuffed in his suitcase, was picked up in Imperial Beach, close to the Mexican border.

The prosecution

            Keenan, Amsler and Irwin went on trial in L.A. within two months. Three defense attorneys, led by the flamboyant 60-year old Gladys Towles Root, who wore giant hats in court, some with flashing lights or fruit attached, labored to convince the jury that the kidnapping was a cynical hoax to promote the career of Frank Sinatra, Jr. There was no evidence to support this charge but it was carried widely by the press and damaged Frank Jr’s reputation.

            Dean Torrence testified one morning and lied under oath about funding Keenan and whether he knew in advance about the kidnapping, despite the fact that the FBI had found some of the ransom money in a safety deposit box belonging to Torrence.

That afternoon Dean approached the Justice Department prosecutor, Tom Sheridan, who Bobby Kennedy had sent from Washington to try the case. Dean confessed his perjury to Sheridan. That afternoon Dean went back in front of the jury and admitted that he had given Keenan the money for expenses for the crime and that he knew about the planning in advance and had been kept abreast by Keenan as the drama unfolded. The negative publicity about Dean Torrence and his role in the case was enormous. For reasons unknown, Dean was never charged.

The jury was out for less than seven hours. They rejected the “hoax theory” and found all three men guilty. Thirty minutes after the verdict was read, the judge pronounced sentence on all three defendants.

Barry Keenan and Joe Amsler received life in prison plus 75 years. The sad-sack John Irwin was sentenced to 75 years for aiding and abetting the crime.

Frank Sinatra, Jr. was performing that night in Cherry Hills, New Jersey. Beleaguered by reporters for comment, he said, “The whole business is over; let’s just forget it.”

Four years later, with scant public notice, the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, overturned the verdicts of Amsler and Irwin on technicalities. Ultimately all three men served only a tiny fraction of their sentences and were quietly released from prison.

Carlson dines with Sinatra, Sr.

            One night, a year after the kidnapping, Lance Brisson and I were headed to the bar of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The hotel owner, who both lived in the hotel and ran it exceptionally well, was a dapper fellow named Hernando Courtright. He saw us in the lobby and chased us down. Mr. Courtright was as deaf as a paving stone. He sometimes spoke loudly. People turned as he said, with intensity at a decibel level of more than 50, “Frank Sinatra is in the dining room. He saw you and asks that you boys join his table for dinner.”

Lance’s parents, actress Rosalind Russell and producer Freddie Brisson, were close friends of Mr. Sinatra. I had known him for a couple of years because of them. Lance had recently spent a weekend at the Sinatra home in Palm Springs and had flown in the middle of the night (Sinatra was an insomniac) to Las Vegas with him.

Frank Sinatra was sitting in a banquette with two friends, both of whom we also knew: Jilly Rizzo, who owned a saloon in New York and Sarge Weiss, Mr. Sinatra’s driver and bodyguard. These two were his closest male friends. (Three women were exceptionally close to him as well, Rosalind Russell, Lance’s mother, Gloria Romanoff, the wife of Prince Michael the Beverly Hills restaurateur and Nancy Sinatra, his former wife.)

More than 50 years later, I remember just two things about that dinner: First was the deep camaraderie of the three men in the generation ahead of Lance and me. What great fun it was to listen to them gossip and tell stories about famous people while drinking bourbon and eating steak.

The second was that one of those three men had been recently having sex with the wife, or it might have been the former wife, of one of the imprisoned kidnappers.

            Frank Sinatra and Jilly Rizzo and Sarge Weiss talked about this openly in front of Lance and me, saying there was nothing conspiratorial about the affairs’ origins, there was no pre-kidnapping relationship, meeting the woman and starting an affair with her was just one of life’s odd but pleasant and not surprising coincidences. That’s what they said.

Where are they now?

And where are they all now?

Frank Sinatra died in 1998 at 83.

            His son, Franklin Wayne Emanuel Sinatra, died of a heart attack while on a musical tour in Daytona Beach, Florida on March 16, 2016. He was 72.

            In an interview ten years before, he said, “I was never a success. Never had a hit movie or hit TV show or a hit record.” The son had spent his life obliterated by the long shadow of the father. But he did say about his music, “The only satisfaction is that I do what I do well.” Frank Sinatra’s boy didn’t seem to know that that was more than most people would ever believe about their own lives.

Rosalind Russell Brisson, 69, died at her home in Beverly Hills in 1976.

Frederick Brisson, Broadway and movie producer of “Damn Yankees,” “Pajama Game” and many others died in New York City at 71 in 1983.

Lance Brisson, 74, lives with his wife Lane in Encino, California. He recently retired as CEO of a major public affairs firm headquartered in Century City.

Ermengildo “Jilly” Rizzo died the day before his 75th birthday in May, 1983 when a drunk driver struck his Jaguar in Rancho Mirage, California near Frank Sinatra’s house. JiIly was trapped in the vehicle and burned to death. The other driver ran to his home nearby where he was arrested. He was sentenced to life in prison and actually did 22 years.

Irving “Sarge” Weiss was about 80 when he died in the San Fernando Valley in 1985.

Barry Keenan, 76 lives in Houston and is a multi-millionaire real estate developer. Keenan went to a Frank Sinatra, Jr. concert in Malibu 20 years or more after being released from prison. He wandered backstage at the show’s end with a knot of fans. Sinatra Junior and Keenan saw each other at the same time, Keenan later said. They made eye contact and then each looked away without speaking.

Keenan and fellow kidnapper Joe Amsler kept up their friendship for 40 years after their release from prison.

Amsler became a Hollywood stunt man and a stunt-double and bodyguard for actor Ryan O’Neil, who was also a former University High School classmate.

Joe Amsler slipped deeper into alcoholism and left Hollywood. He moved to rural Salem, Virginia, near Roanoke, where he worked as a farm hand. He died of liver failure in 2006, age 65.

John Irwin, the third kidnapper, vanished from the media radar screen after leaving prison. If he is still alive he is 95 years old.

Gladys Towles Root, the flamboyant defense attorney who mercilessly smeared Frank Sinatra, Jr. at the trial where he was the victim, was indicted twice, in 1964 and 1965, by federal grand juries, charged with perjury and similar crimes, for fabricating the claim that the kidnapping was phony, a publicity ruse orchestrated for Frank Sinatra Junior’s benefit. She was never prosecuted.

Gladys died of a heart attack at 76, stricken in a Los Angeles County courtroom while defending two brothers charged with rape. She was wearing a gold lame ball gown with a matching gold-colored sombrero hat, a small, stuffed barn owl attached to it, when her heart gave out and she crashed to the floor in front of the judge. The prosecution thought it was an act but it was not.

Gladys is remembered by a generation of criminal clients with this popular LA Jail ditty: “Rooty Toot Toot, Gladys Towles Root. Her dresses are purple. Her hats are wide. She can get you one instead of five.”

Jan Berry died of a stroke in 2002, the result of decades old injuries, including brain damage, suffered when he crashed his speeding Corvette into a parked truck at the corner of Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills in 1966.

Berry had completed two years of medical school at USC but because of his injuries he was unable to finish. Dean Torrence attended the funeral. So did Nancy Sinatra.

Dean Torrence is 76 and lives in Huntington Beach, California with his wife and two grown daughters. He has long been considered one of the three finest, most versatile record producers of that period. The other two are Phil Spector and Brian Wilson.

John Foss, the trumpet player who was chewing on chicken wings with Frank Sinatra, Jr. when Amsler and Keenan burst into room 417 at Harrah’s is now in his early 80s. He lives in the village of Palermo, Maine, retired as a music teacher.

As noted in Carlson’s Universal Book of Coincidences, John Foss toured for two years with Brian Wilson, Jan and Dean’s friend, and his Beach Boys. He also played trumpet in the Navy Band at the inauguration of president John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Meyer Lansky was 80 and Moe Dalitz was 90 when they died of natural causes more than 20 years ago.

Their mutual friend Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel preceded them in death when he was shot in the face at his girl friend’s Beverly Hills home in 1947. The case was never officially solved.

Almost exactly 40 years later a Mafia member named Eddie Cannizzaro, dying of cancer at his Encino, California home, confessed to retired IRS Intelligence agent John Daly, who was at his bedside, that he had murdered Siegel on the orders of LA Mafia boss Jack Dragna and that it was done at the request of the Chicago Mob, long annoyed with Siegel.

Sam Giancana, Frank Sinatra’s friend (who shared a girl friend, Judith Campbell Exner, with President John Kennedy) and who once headed the Chicago Mafia, also came to a violent end. He was shot to death in the summer of 1975, age 67, in the basement kitchen of his Oak Park, Illinois home while he cooked sausages and peppers. The crime was never solved.

Dick Carlson — author of this article — was a reporter, magazine writer, documentary filmmaker and TV correspondent from 1963 through 1976 in California. He has won four Hollywood Emmy’s and the George Foster Peabody Award. In Washington, D.C., he was director of the Voice of America for the final five years of the Cold War, head of Radio Marti to Cuba, U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and then vice chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a counter-terrorism think tank in Washington, D.C. and Brussels. He has written a newspaper column for a dozen years and also co-hosts a syndicated radio show about national security, “Danger Zone,” with retired U.S. Marine Special Forces operator and Fox News military analyst Lt. Col Bill Cowan.

Carlson lives with his wife Patricia and two dogs, Lucy and Ethel, in Chevy Chase, Maryland and in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.


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