Francis Wayne “Frank” Sinatra Jr. died on March 16, 2016. When I saw the report of his death, I was thrust back to 1963. I was just out of high school when I saw the dramatic reports of his kidnapping. A media frenzy commenced. He was the son of a famous father with purported Mafia connections. His sister, Nancy Sinatra was already receiving media attention for her acting and singing abilities.
At the time of this kidnapping, many in the entertainment media reported this was a publicity stunt. They speculated about Frank Sinatra Senior’s organized crime connections, particularly with Chicago Mob boss, Sam Gianacana.
My research revealed this was no publicity stunt or related to Sam Gianacana or any organized crime family. This story had its own dramatic and unusual twists. To my surprise, the perpetrators were former high school classmates of the younger Sinatra. Suspects Barry Keenan and Joe Amsler attended Beverly Hills High School with the Sinatra kids. Kennan had even participated in school activities with Nancy Sinatra. The ring leader, Barry Keenan was a successful young stock broker who was spiraling out of control because of drug addiction. He hatched and carried out this plot to get enough money to get back on track as a rising young star in the financial world. He even planned to either give the money back or donate it to a favorite Sinatra charity, once he made his comeback.
The kidnapping had to be postponed a few days when JFK was assassinated. Finally, on December 8, 1963, Keenan and Amsler used a room service ploy to enter Sinatra’s hotel room at Harrah’s Lodge in Reno, Nevada. As the kidnapping progressed, Sinatra Junior would use his personality and charm to charm his captors into believing that he was compliant and no threat to escape. When this came out, the entertainment media continued to speculate this was a publicity stunt. To more complicate this claim, Barry Kennan went to another childhood friend, Dean Torrence, of Jan and Dean, to obtain seed money for this venture. Dean Torrence did not believe Barry would actually follow though and that this was Keenan’s creative method to convince him to give a drug addict money. Even after the kidnapping hit the news, Torrence still did not call authorities. Even after,Keenan came back to Torrence for more money in the middle of the media frenzy and young Sinatra still missing, he gave Kennan more money and failed to tell authorities. Torrence would later be charged as an accomplice.