Despite his illustrious career and far-reaching group of friends, Frank Sinatra had a reputation for his temper. This often bubbled to the surface when the singer dealt with reporters. On one occasion, Sinatra was barred from leaving Australia due to comments he made about reporters. The country made it practically impossible for him to leave until he apologized.
Frank Sinatra was notorious for both his temper and his generosity
Those close to Sinatra have many stories about his duality. With his friends, and even strangers, the singer showed dramatic generosity. He once explained this tendency to give anything he owned away.
“If you possess something you can’t give away, you don’t possess it. It possesses you,” his friend Tom Dreesen recounted to the Desert Sun. “It’s OK if someone says, ‘I like your Mercedes Benz,’ and you don’t give it to them. But, when you’re alone in the bathroom shaving, you have to admit to that guy in the mirror that that car owns you because you can’t give it away.”
On the other hand, however, Sinatra had an explosive temper, especially when drinking. His screaming matches with ex-wife Ava Gardner are legendary. He was also known to throw food at restaurant walls if he didn’t like it.
The Australian government wouldn’t let him leave the country until he issued an apology to reporters
Sinatra showed little generosity where the press was concerned. On tour in Australia, he informed the media that he would not be conducting any interviews while he was in the country. Still, journalists arrived at his hotel and mobbed him with questions. At his show that night, Sinatra launched into a tirade about the press, ending with a derogatory comment about female reporters.
“They keep chasing after us,” he said, per the Sydney Morning Herald. “We have to run all day long. They’re parasites who take everything and give nothing. And as for the broads who work for the press, they’re the hookers of the press. I might offer them a buck and a half, I’m not sure.”
The Australian Journalists’ Association demanded an apology, which Sinatra refused. Instead, he requested an apology for the “15 years of s***” he had gotten from the Australian press. Soon, though, the issue grew more complicated, with different unions refusing to assist Sinatra until he offered an apology. Eventually, airport workers refused to refuel or work on Sinatra’s plane, which would effectively strand him in Australia.
“If you don’t apologize your stay in this country could be indefinite,” Bob Hawke, leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, told him. “You won’t be allowed to leave Australia unless you can walk on water.”
Frank Sinatra eventually offered a lukewarm apology
The issue continued to heat up, with Sinatra reportedly preparing to ask American labor leader Jimmy Hoffa to convince US truck drivers to refuse to handle any Australian goods. Sinatra canceled his second concert in Melbourne.
Finally, Hawke met with Sinatra’s representatives and, after some back and forth, the singer issued an apology to anyone who missed the concerts. Though the apology was halfhearted at best, Sinatra was finally able to leave his hotel and continue to the next leg of his tour in Sydney.
“Ol’ Blue Eyes is back,” he would later tell the audience at Madison Square Garden in New York, per ABC Radio National. “Or as they say in Australia, ‘Ol’ Big Mouth is back!’”