Tony Oppedisano was Frank Sinatra's road manager, boy Friday, minder, mentee, surrogate son and best friend. Two decades after Sinatra's death, Oppedisano has another role: he's "one of the last living experts" on the mythic singer, which makes his lovely remembrance, Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours, an invaluable record.
The author, who was born in Brooklyn in 1951, was thunderstruck upon meeting the singer in 1972: Oppedisano was a Sinatra fan and a musician devoted to the American songbook. The men found common ground as blue-eyed Italians whose fathers had discouraged their artistic ambitions, but the 1992 death of former club owner Jilly Rizzo, their mutual friend, led to a new level of closeness: "Over the two thousand nights and mornings that followed... Francis Albert and I talked." Those recollected conversations, supplemented with notes that Oppedisano took at the time, fuel Sinatra and Me, which is organized around themed chapters, as on Sinatra's love life, his famous friends, and--let the record show--"the fiction that Sinatra was a major player in the Mob."
Oppedisano doesn't gloss over his subject's flaws: Ol' Blue Eyes could be spineless when it came to his fourth and last wife, whose tussles with Sinatra's children the author had to mediate. But Oppedisano leads with Sinatra's virtues, especially his generosity and ahead-of-the-curve work to erase the color line in the entertainment industry. Sinatra and Me may leave readers longing for a friend like Frank; they'd be equally lucky to have one like Oppedisano. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer