Connie Francis Interview Part II: Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Hollywood
The amazing 1950s and '60s singer Connie Francis is being honored by the Friars Club tonight at the Waldorf, where no one will say, "Who's sorry now?"
Meanwhile, let me honor Connie with Part Two of our incredible interview, in which she talks about her craft, her background, and her regrets.
Me: Hi, Connie. What would you say is your main gift as a performer -- your emotionality?
Connie: Yes. I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I guess it shows.
Me: Sure does! You're so Italian!
Connie: You can't get more Italian than I am.
Me: Even more than Sinatra was?
Connie: Absolutely. I said to him, "You gotta do an Italian album." He said, "Connie, I don't know Italian." I said, "I'll teach it to you, line by line. Imagine the legacy of an Italian-American singer doing an Italian album." He said, "I'd be too embarrassed."
Me: The only Italian I learned growing up were the curse words because that's what my parents would say in Italian.
Connie: That's what I learned! People would say, "Where did you learn those words?" I'd say, "My grandmother taught me!"
Me: Your father was extremely strict, right?
Connie: He wasn't just strict -- he was a vigilante with every boy I had a milkshake with. I was not allowed to date in high school or go to the prom, and even in college he had a problem.
Me: Is it true he broke up you and Bobby Darin?
Connie: With a gun. He learned Bobby and I were starting to elope one night. We were 18, 19. I was doing the Jackie Gleason show and Bobby and I were cuddling in a corner. He barged through the rehearsal room of the Sullivan Theater with a gun in his pocket and a fierce determination to obliterate Bobby once and for all. One of the biggest regrets of my life is I didn't marry Bobby.
Me: I loved you in Where the Boys Are, by the way.
Connie: You're the only one. That was my Gone With the Wind and then it was downhill. I never went to a premiere. I tried to keep my films a closely guarded secret. I never saw Boys until 1981. My son said, "Mommy, everyone talks about it," so I called the Gateway Theater in Fort Lauderdale, where it premiered, and arranged to see it. It was a little cute -- but the other ones, forget it.
Me: Who was your biggest competition as a singer back in the day?
Connie: When I heard Brenda Lee, I sent her a telegram and said, "Now I know who my competition is."
Me: She's terrific, but you're the best! Future projects?
Connie: I'm writing a second autobiography. The first was the worst -- I did it on the run. This time, I tell it all.