Frank Sinatra's Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ended in a Brawl

Frank Sinatra’s fraught relationship with the press lasted for years and even made a mark on his wedding. In 1976, Sinatra prepared to marry Barbara Marx in his fourth wedding ceremony. During the rehearsal dinner, persistent members of the paparazzi began to frustrate Sinatra. He instructed one of his close friends to stop them from taking photos, resulting in a physical dispute.

The singer had a contentious relationship with the press

Despite his level of celebrity, Sinatra tried to keep the press at a distance. He gave surprisingly few interviews and resented any attention from the paparazzi. He would even violently lash out at journalists who wrote unflattering articles about him. On one occasion, he was nearly trapped in Australia after widespread union protests over comments he made about journalists.

When the Australian Journalists’ Association demanded an apology for his comments, Sinatra said he was owed an apology instead. Per ABC Radio National, the singer cited the “15 years of s***” he’d gotten from the Australian press.

Frank Sinatra’s rehearsal dinner for his fourth wedding ended in a fight with the paparazzi 

When Sinatra married Barbara in 1976, he didn’t want the press anywhere near the ceremony. A 1976 article from The New York Times described the scene outside the wedding venue in Palm Springs.

“Armed guards stood at each of the gates to the estate today barring any but the invited guests, and threatened to eject physically a New York Times reporter who ventured too close to one of the entrances to the estate, which is a green oasis amid the dry desert. Reporters were made to stand outside the gates in temperatures approaching 115 degrees.”

Sinatra also wanted to keep reporters far away from the rehearsal dinner, which he hosted at Melvyn’s, one of his favorite restaurants. The maître d’ Matt Butorac explained that while the event was a “very successful night,” it did end in a physical altercation.

“The guys were trying to take pictures and Mr. Sinatra did not want to have pictures taken that night,” Butorac told Inquirer Lifestyle.

Sinatra’s close friend Jilly Rizzo threw a few punches, broke open cameras, and tore the film out. Butorac explained that Rizzo beat up at least two people. Later, as Sinatra and Rizzo left the event, more members of the press jumped out from behind the trees and started taking pictures. Rizzo attacked them and ripped the film out of their cameras.

Frank Sinatra’s fourth wedding caused further drama within his family

The physical altercation between Rizzo wasn’t the only drama surrounding Sinatra’s fourth wedding. His family had problems with the event. His daughter, Nancy, was distraught, crying for a week before the wedding. With this wedding, she realized that there was no chance for her father and mother — Sinatra’s first wife, Nancy Barbato — to end up together. She also disapproved of the fact that Sinatra was annulling his first marriage in order to marry Barbara in the Catholic Church.

 “I found the concept of annulment shocking,” Nancy wrote in the book Frank Sinatra: An American Legend, “and my brother [the late Frank Jr.], sister, and I were concerned about how it would affect our mother.”

Ultimately, his fourth marriage would be Sinatra’s final and longest relationship. He remained married to Barbara until his death in 1998.

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