Sinatra biography crew visits Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Sinatra biography crew visits Tahoe

Justin Broglio

Frank Sinatra and Bill Harrah share a laugh in this photo from the 1970s.

INCLINE VILLAGE – He was called old blue eyes, the chairman of the board or simply Frank.

He was known by many names and made his home in even more places. He was a hero to some and a liability to others. He’s even been called the greatest entertainer of his generation.

The life of a performer took Frank Sinatra to many places, including the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. Now, Sinatra’s life also brings people from all over the world to Tahoe as well.

“The Cal-Neva is a fundamental part of telling Frank’s story,” said Michael Freedland, a British journalist who was at the Cal-Neva Resort Spa and Casino this week interviewing residents who encountered Sinatra for a BBC Radio 2 (British Broadcasting Company) biography.

Freedland started tracing Sinatra’s “footsteps” in Hoboken, N.J. years ago and has spent the last week touring Sinatra’s famous hang-outs along the West Coast.

“This is a different way of looking at Sinatra,” Freedland said. “Instead of talking to celebrities, we are going to the places he frequented and interviewing people who knew him or were involved in his life.”

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Sinatra owned and operated the “Lady of the Lake” from 1960 to 1963 until he surrendered his Nevada Gaming Control Board license for entertaining “suspicious” guests, according to reports from CalNevaResort.com.

“We’re learning more and more everyday about his power and influence in the government and the things he used to do here,” said Cal-Neva Director of Security Rick Talbot. “He is more popular now than he was when he was alive.”

Talbot gives weekly tours of a secret tunnel at the Cal-Neva that Sinatra and his guests used to travel between the casino and his cabin.

“A lot of people come here just for the history,” Talbot said, as he pointed out Ava Gardner’s initials on one of the tunnel walls, which are said to be carved by Sinatra himself in 1946. “It’s really neat walking in his footsteps and the mystique of this place is fascinating.”

Freedland said Sinatra’s mafia ties and suspicious dealings at the Cal-Neva are often overplayed and there is much more to his story than illegal activities.

“A lot of books and TV programs have investigated Sinatra’s mafia ties, but our biography is about the people who knew him,” he said.

Freedland will interview anyone who knew Sinatra. Contact Barbra Paskin, “Sinatra Trail” producer, at (310) 497-7270 or e-mail her at BBC1n2@aol.com.