Inside Frank Sinatra's Miami Stay
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Her decision apparently didn’t sit well with her husband. “I saw him on the phone a few times when he got pretty upset,” recalls Lund. Perhaps to get his mind off his wandering bride, Sinatra threw himself into Tony Rome. “Sinatra worked hard, and always knew his lines,” says acclaimed actress Gena Rowlands, a costar. “I found it very easy to work with him.”
Lund agrees, and recounts one particularly touching moment on the set: “After we finished our scene [in which Rome barges in on Lund’s character, home undressing after a late night out], I was down to my underwear. He came over and put a robe around me. He was just a charmer.”
There was, though, a flip side to Sinatra’s gallant displays—a dangerous one. “He had these steely blue eyes and he’d look around [the set] and spot anybody who didn’t belong there,” says Beverly’s husband, Jack McDermott, a radio personality who spent time around the production. The penalty for angering Sinatra could be severe, as comedian Shecky Greene discovered. In a wellpublicized incident, Greene—who, in addition to playing one of the bad guys in Tony Rome, was also Sinatra’s opening act at the Fontainebleau— somehow ran afoul of his host and was subsequently ambushed by some men in the hotel lobby. The beating landed the comic in the hospital. “[Sinatra] did what he wanted and had a couple of big guys [around] to help him do what he wanted,” is all Lund will say about that and similar episodes reported at the time.
Soon after filming wrapped, Sinatra would be romantically linked to a beautiful young starlet named Tiffany Bolling, who made her debut in the film. The relationship wouldn’t last. Neither would Sinatra’s midlife marriage to Mia; they were divorced a year later.
Tony Rome had its world premiere at the Carib Theatre on Lincoln Road in late 1967. Sinatra would return to Miami Beach the following year to reprise his role as Tony Rome in Lady in Cement. It was the old routine—shoot during the day, play the Fontainebleau at night. But somehow things just weren’t the same. Hard-boiled private eyes, with their armor of certainty, were more than a little out-of-date in the Age of Aquarius. Musical styles were changing, as well, and not even “The Voice” could drown out the siren song of the Beatles, Hendrix and Dylan. His choke hold on popular taste was slipping.
Sinatra had made turning 50 look like a lot of fun. Being 50, he was discovering, was a different matter. From the balcony of his penthouse at the Fontainebleau, staring out over the water, the past must have seemed like a distant land—and the future, the greatest mystery of all.
TOP IMAGE: Frank Sinatra and Jill St. John beachside at the Fontainebleau, in a scene from Tony Rome, 1967
BOTTOM IMAGE: Sinatra with crony, bit player and Hollywood restaurateur “Prince” Mike Romanoff
photograph courtesy of everett collection (John); gaspar gonzalez (romanoff)