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By the time Weisman met Sinatra in 1976, he was already the Voice, a man who held sway over popular music and pop culture for forty years, who had risen to the greatest heights of fame and plumbed the depths of failure, all the while surviving with the trademark swagger that women pined for and men wanted to emulate. Passionate and generous on his best days, sullen and unpredictable on his worst, Sinatra invited Weisman into his inner circle, an honor that the budding celebrity manager never took for granted. Even when he was caught up in a legal net designed to snare Sinatra, Weisman went to prison rather than being coerced into telling prosecutors what they wanted to hear.
With Weisman’s help, Sinatra orchestrated in his final decades some of the most memorable moments of his career. There was the Duets album, which was Sinatra’s top seller, the massive tours, such as Together Again, which featured a short-lived reunion of the Rat Pack—until Dean Martin, having little interest in reliving the glory days, couldn’t handle it anymore—and the Ultimate Event Tour, which brought Liza Minelli and Sammy Davis Jr. on board and refreshed the much-needed lining of both their pocketbooks. Weisman also worked with many other acts, including Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and an ungrateful Don Rickles, whom Weisman helped get out from under the mob’s thumb.
Over their years together, Weisman became a confidant to the man who trusted few, and he came to know Sinatra’s world intimately: his wife, Barbara, who socialized with princesses and presidents and tried to close Sinatra off from his rough and tough friends such as Jilly Rizzo; Nancy Jr., who was closest to her dad; Tina, who aggressively battled for her and her siblings’ rights to the Sinatra legacy and was most like her father; and Frank Jr., the child with the most fraught relationship with the legendary entertainer. Ultimately Weisman, who had become the executor of Sinatra’s estate, was left alone to navigate the infighting and hatred between those born to the name and the wife who acquired it, when a mystery woman showed up and threatened to throw the family’s future into jeopardy.
Laden with surprising, moving, and revealing stories, The Way It Was also shows a side of Sinatra few knew. As a lion in winter, he was struggling with the challenges that come with old age, as well as memory loss, depression, and antidepressents. Weisman was by his side through it all, witness to a man who had towering confidence, staggering fearlessness, and a rarely seen vulnerability that became more apparent as his final days approached.
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