Frank Sinatra’s Daughter Thought She Would ‘Die of Heart Failure’ During Her Father’s Christmas Special

For many, pressing play on Frank Sinatra’s Christmas music or his holiday special with Dean Martin would make for a cozy evening. For Sinatra’s daughter, however, the Christmas special provided an ample portion of holiday stress. She explained why she felt like she would “die” while participating in the special and how she feels about it now.

Frank Sinatra hands presents to Deana Martin and Tina Sinatra during a Christmas special.
Deana Martin and Tina Sinatra get a gift from Frank Sinatra | Martin Mills/Getty Images

Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were close friends

Sinatra and Martin were both members of the Rat Pack, and they formed a close friendship both on and off the stage.

“To watch them on stage together was brilliant because you could see the love in their eyes, the respect for each other,” Martin’s daughter Deana told the Desert Sun.

The pair wore matching rings, and in one TV sketch, joked that they were akin to soul mates.

“If you were a girl, I would probably go for you,” Martin told Sinatra. “Darn it. Why aren’t you a girl?”

Their families grew close as well. Martin had seven children, and Sinatra had three. Deana explained that she and Sinatra’s daughter Tina were best friends.

“Tina was my best friend at Marymount in Brentwood,” she said, adding, “Tina was beautiful and just like her father — tough, strong, and opinionated. Tina and I hung out together all the time.”

Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin put on a Christmas special in 1967

Capitalizing on the friendship between families, Sinatra and Martin put on a Christmas special with their children. The 1967 program featured Sintra, Martin, and their families singing, dancing, and cracking jokes. Though the easy chemistry between the families shone through, Sinatra’s daughter Tina said she was worried about having to sing on television. After recently rewatching the special, she vividly remembered her discomfort.

“I was flooded by the recollection of unadulterated fear! I truly was thinking I was going to die of heart failure that day,” she told People, explaining, “I arrived at NBC and sat in my car outside the studio thinking, ‘Well, I just won’t show up. They’ll be fine. They’ll do it without me. Deana can sing two parts.’ I did not want to make a fool of myself.”

Sinatra’s two other children pursued singing careers, but Tina was not as comfortable performing. Ultimately, though, she decided to appear in the Christmas special.

“I mustered the energy, and as soon as I walked in and saw how everybody else was natural, was comfortable. I felt more natural doing it – I thought, ‘OK, what a good way to die. If you’re going to die, you’ll do it having a good time,’” she said. “It was pressure, but it was an experience that I have had never had before, have never had since and never will again.”

The Sinatra family loved the holidays

According to Tina, the Sinatra family loves the holidays.

“We love the season as a family — we still love it,” she said. The holiday special and Sinatra’s Christmas albums prove this. 

“Nobody embraced Christmas as [my father] did,” Sinatra’s daughter Nancy told Variety. She believes that there are few people whose music represented the holiday like her father.

“I really think he might be the voice of Christmas. Someone might argue that, because of ‘White Christmas,’ Bing Crosby’s is. I don’t know. I just think that the sentimentality of my dad’s recordings is what grabs people,” Nancy said. “He was emotional when he sang them, and people are emotional when they hear them. That doesn’t really change. And we can hope that every child who hears ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ will carry that through life to his or her family.”

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