Frank Sinatra spent long nights at parties and casinos, drinking, smoking, and gambling. Despite the exhausting lifestyle, he never let it detract from his high standards for personal appearance and hygiene. According to his longtime friend Shirley MacLaine, the famous singer was deeply invested in his looks and cleanliness. She speculated about why that may be and revealed the one unsanitary practice he allowed with her.
Shirley MacLaine was close friends with Frank Sinatra
MacLaine befriended Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack in 1958 while filming the movie Some Came Running. She believed they accepted her into their group because they didn’t fully view her as a woman.
“I was comfortable and friendly around the guys because there had been a kind of communal decision made that I wasn’t really a girl,” she wrote in her book My Lucky Stars: A Hollywood Memoir, per Vanity Fair. “I was perceived as more of a mascot — a pal, maybe even one of the boys — and because of that I was the only woman they allowed in the house.”
MacLaine’s friendship with Sinatra continued long after filming. She quickly became a part of his social circle.
She shared that the singer had stringent hygiene standards
Because of MacLaine’s friendship with Sinatra, she spent a good deal of time observing him. She learned that he and his good friend Dean Martin had strict hygiene practices.
“Cleanliness was paramount to Dean and Frank,” she wrote. “Whenever they took me with them for a little side trip to some gambling joints near Cincinnati, I’d sit in their hotel suite, fascinated by the spectacle of them primping for a night out.”
She shared that his clothes were always crisply ironed and tailored to perfection. Sinatra’s wife Barbara gave further insight into his stringent hygiene practices.
“He was a guy who took about 12 showers a day,” she said, per the New York Daily News, adding that he “always smelled like lavender.”
MacLaine wondered if there was a connection between his hygiene habits and the company that he held.
“Why was it that they who consorted with gangster types and worked hard at entertaining people insisted on being perceived as so clean?” she wrote. “It was a fundamental obsession with them and one that endlessly fascinated me.”
Frank Sinatra allowed for one unsanitary practice with Shirley MacLaine
Despite his careful cleanliness, Sinatra allowed for at least one unsanitary practice. MacLaine explained that while filming, she always chewed gum right up until the moment the camera started rolling.
“I always chewed it right up to ‘Action.’ Frank laughed and was amused that I never had a place to put it,” she explained. “One day the director yelled ‘Action,’ and I took my gum out of my mouth and stuck it behind Frank’s ear. He mashed his ear up against it so that it wouldn’t fall. This became our game, and no one could figure out why Frank usually touched his ear before a take.”
This form of closeness between Sinatra and MacLaine persisted, and they remained friends up until his death in 1998.