Barbara Sinatra, Frank’s Fourth Wife and Icon of Vintage Vegas, Dies at 90

Posted on: July 26, 2017, 02:17h. 

Last updated on: July 26, 2017, 02:17h.

Barbara Sinatra, wife of iconic entertainer Frank Sinatra and one of the last links to vintage Las Vegas, died Tuesday at age 90. She had been in declining health the last few months and died of natural causes, surrounded by family in her home in Rancho Mirage, California.

Barbara Sinatra, 1927-2017
Philanthropist Barbara Sinatra, a former showgirl and Frank Sinatra’s fourth wife, died Tuesday at the age of 90. (Image: AP)

While her third husband was famous for his performances on the Strip, appearing with fellow singers Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin as part of the renowned Rat Pack, she too had a strong association with the Sin City and its glamorous casino image.

A model who won a beauty contest in Long Beach, California, Sinatra came to Sin City to work as a showgirl at the Riviera. There she met Zeppo Marx, whom she married in 1959. The two would eventually settle down in Rancho Mirage, the toney desert town 120 miles east of Los Angeles.

Meeting Ol’ Blue Eyes

With Marx’s connections, Barbara soon started socializing with many of the Hollywood elite. One of her neighbors was Sinatra. The two began a friendship after he asked her to play tennis with his ex-wife, Ava Gardner.

For years, the two remained nothing but friends, according to Hollywood biographers. She was still married to Marx when they met, and the two, along with Sinatra and then-wife Mia Farrow, would often travel to Las Vegas to watch Sinatra perform at the Sands casino and Caesars Palace.

Marx reportedly was jealous of Barbara and Frank’s friendship, which was one of the reason cited for her divorce from Marx in 1973.

Budding Romance

Soon after, the friendship with Sinatra blossomed into a romantic relationship. The two were seen around town in Las Vegas and Southern California, though Frank’s mother, Dolly, supposedly disapproved so much that she would not visit her son when Barbara was there.

The relationship took Barbara by surprise and she was not sure why the two initially got involved.

“I’ve tried to analyze it,” she once told The Desert Sun. “I think it’s because we were friends before anything romantic happened. He would call and chat, but it wasn’t romantic until later. It’s something you can’t explain why or how it happened.”

It took her threatening to leave the relationship before Sinatra finally proposed, on a flight from Las Vegas to Chicago following a tennis tournament she was in. The two were married in 1976 until his death in 1998.

It was Sinatra’s fourth and final marriage, and the longest-lasting one for both. She converted to Roman Catholicism before they married. According to her book, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank, “He never asked me to change faith for him, but I could tell he was pleased that I’d consider it.”

Upon his death, Frank left Barbara $3.5 million in assets, along with mansions in Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Palm Springs. She also inherited the rights to Sinatra’s Trilogy recordings, and control over his name and likeness.

Together the two were involved in philanthropic activities, with Sinatra performing to raise money for causes such as abused children. In 1986, they founded the Barbara Sinatra’s Children Center Foundation, which is next to the famed Betty Ford clinic.