Sunday, December 08, 2013

It Wasn't the Lindbergh Baby or Patty Hearst,

but the Frank Sinatra, Jr. kidnapping still was one to note. Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the crime. It helped put northern Nevada in the news, as if it needed anything negative in the headlines. At least for a short time Reno/Tahoe had more publicity than Vegas, so any news, even bad news, was better news than no news at all.

Some people quoted in the piece claim this was the "last hurrah" of Reno-Tahoe being more prominent than Vegas, and it was downhill from there.

I wouldn't say that is entirely true. After all, northern Nevada was the setting of the Kathy Augustine murder case, the Darren Mack murder case, and the horrible Sparks Middle School shooting, all of which knocked Vegas off the headlines in the years since. However, Reno was in its final days as a major tourist attraction by the time of the Sinatra, Jr. kidnapping.

Frank, Jr., now pushing 70, was just a 19-year-old and his old man's only son (until Ronan Farrow came along a couple of decades later) when he was victimized:

The story began on Sunday, Dec. 8, 1963, when Sinatra Jr. was taken at gunpoint from his motel room before a scheduled performance at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. He was held blindfolded until being released in Los Angeles early Wednesday morning, upon payment of the $240,000 ransom, newspaper reports at the time said.

Harry Spencer was publicist for the Mapes Hotel in downtown Reno when he received a telephone call from the hotel manager on Dec. 8, telling him to get to the hotel. Sinatra Sr. and Washoe County District Attorney Bill Raggio were on their way.

The Mapes Hotel “put (Sinatra Sr.) up in Charles Mapes’ private suite,” Spencer said.

Sinatra, Jr. had been kidnapped by two men just before his 10 p.m. singing appearance. Frank, Sr. had flown into Reno, and Raggio met him at the airport, Spencer said, but a snowstorm kept them from driving to Stateline.

Obviously Sinatra Jr. was freed and went on to continue his singing career. He still performs in the northern Nevada area.

A vintage newsreel:

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