Frank Sinatra Was Arrested for Assaulting a Journalist: ‘I Saw Red’

Frank Sinatra made little effort to hide that he disliked the press. The singer gave a limited amount of interviews and lashed out at journalists on multiple occasions. He had a specific dislike of journalist Lee Mortimer, who often wrote about Sinatra. In retaliation for an unflattering article, Sinatra and several friends attacked Mortimer as he was leaving a restaurant. Mortimer took the singer to court in response.

A black and white picture of Frank Sinatra wearing a tuxedo and holding a microphone.
Frank Sinatra | Art Zelin/Getty Images

Frank Sinatra was known for his temper

Anyone who knew Sinatra was aware that the singer had a volatile temper, particularly when he’d been drinking. While he could be warm and generous to fans and his close friends, people wanted to avoid getting on his bad side.

“He didn’t suffer fools gladly. This man had no gray in him,” Quincy Jones told the Desert Sun. “He either loved you from the bottom of his heart – unconditionally – or he was capable of running over you in a Mack truck, backwards.”

His daughter Nancy said that while her father’s anger burned bright, it didn’t last long.

“He can be a hothead — like a child sometimes,” she said. “But once he gets it off his chest, it’s over and done with and he gets on with his life and you can get on with yours.”

He was once arrested for attacking a journalist he disliked

Though Nancy said that Sinatra moved on quickly, he held a notable grudge against Mortimer. The journalist had written several articles linking Sinatra to the mafia. In response, Sinatra physically attacked him.

“I was leaving Giro’s with Miss Kay Kino, a band singer, when Sinatra and three men jumped me,” Mortimer explained, per a 1947 article in the Baltimore Sun. “The first thing I knew, I was on the floor and the next thing I knew was when I saw a face that looked like Sinatra’s above me.”

Sinatra did not deny it.

“I saw red. I hit him,” he explained. “I’m sorry that it happened, but I was raised in a tough neighborhood where you had to fight at the drop of a hat.”

Despite this admission, he pleaded innocent when Mortimer had him arrested. His attorney, Albert Pearlson, argued that Mortimer was the instigator for calling Sinatra a “nasty name.”

“Frankie told him to mind his own business,” Pearlson said. “Mortimer made a lunge for him and Frankie let him have it. Actually, if anyone’s at fault, it is Mortimer. There’s a law against using profanity.”

Sinatra and Mortimer ultimately settled out of court. The singer also issued a public apology to the journalist.

Frank Sinatra reportedly urinated on Mortimer’s grave

Though Sinatra apologized, he still held a grudge against Mortimer. After Mortimer’s death, he asked a friend to drive him to the writer’s grave. Once they arrived, Sinatra allegedly urinated on the grave.

“He talked against me, wrote articles, caused me a lot of grief,” Sinatra said, per the book Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown (via Vanity Fair). “I got back at him.”

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