Dear Straight Dope:
My roommate and I have been going back and forth about Frank Sinatra's rather sketchy reasons for not fighting in World War II. He says that old Frankie poked a hole in his eardrum with a needle to avoid serving. I say it's just an old rumor, and a star of Sinatra's stature could find better ways to dodge his duty than self mutilation. Any truth to it, and if not, where did the story start?
I’ve heard the theories about poking out his own eardrum and trying other tactics to avoid WWII at what was close to the height of his career. Why not stay home and bring in a little more lettuce, plus have all the girls to yourself? Some men threw rotten vegetables at him during those years, while the women in the audience (including my mom) swooned, screamed and made fools of themselves. Probably some of those jealous guys started those rumors.
Another story I read was that he got in a street fight as a kid in Hoboken, N.J. (gee, that’s hard to imagine) and got hit in the ear by a bicycle chain. The truth is that Frank tried to sign up and was rejected from the military with a 4F listing – medical ineligibility. Turns out skinny little Frank was a big ol’ baby, weighing in at 13.5 pounds. The doctor had to pull him out with forceps, in the process puncturing his eardrum and almost tearing off the left half of his face. He suffered health problems as a child as a result of this traumatic birth, and you can see the scars on his face in some pictures of him. Nowadays, they would’ve sued the hell out of that doctor.
And now for my obligatory editorializing.. Though many of the musicians I most admire credit Frank Sinatra with being one of their greatest influences and mentors, blah blah blah, I always thought he was a big fake. To me his singing sounds phony, manipulative, and redundant. To many others, Frank’s phrasing and the feeling he gave his lyrics were his most artistic gifts. To each his own–give me Ruben Blades or Otis Redding.
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