Year End Memories of Days Past

Sometimes, I can recall some incredible events in my 30-plus-year career as a private investigator and security provider. It is a spectacular career by any standard. As I memorialize my thoughts, I am not including my time as a State Prison Guard, Police Officer, Deputy Sheriff, and Deputized U.S. Marshal (this was a special assignment). All of that was beyond the moon to have worked. Locking up and chasing bad people, I ran and supervised a juvenile division, talk about funny! ** The Manson Girls, Charlie, Sirhan, and so many other “famous “killers and scum that I had the opportunity to observe and get close to!

How could I have ever imagined back then I would work for and sit in the same room as the kings of entertainment that I watched on the Ed Sullivan show as a youngster. Sunday nights in America in the 1960s was a time when families gathered around their black and white television sets, and we were entertained by some of America’s greatest entertainers the world ever knew. Once again, I and others took it for granted as it would last forever; we all know how that story ends. We would go to my uncle’s house in Medford, Massachusetts. Uncle Jack had a color TV, which was huge back in those days. Color television sets cost a fortune! Uncle Jack had a little variety store in Cambridge in a very low-income area. Funny, it was safe in those days as those who lived in that neighborhood knew their place. Unlike the chaos, we observe in our cities today.

When I first met Connie Francis on board of one of my father’s commands, I was 11 years old at the time, and Miss Francis was a passenger on the ship that my father was “Master. To spending time with Mr. Sinatra and Miss Peggy Lee who could have ever imagined. Traveling the world with Paul Anka on his concert tours, as a youngster, I would listen to Paul Anka, Peggy Lee, Doris Day, Perry Como, Dean Martin, and dozens of others on my father’s reel-to-reel. (And here I am, hanging out with some of the same people) The sound quality was incredible on the reel-to-reel systems, and it was a unique method to listen to the really “made “music. Singers and musicians in those times could really sing and play instruments. Not to mention the obvious ‘Fake Music’ and ever bigger ‘Fakers who think of themselves as artists today,’ laughable; it is all pretend.

Later, I would attend Mr. Sinatra’s funeral at the Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills, California. Millions can speak of attending a Frank Sinatra concert, staying at a Las Vegas hotel, and seeing members of the Rat Pack. Being a typical John J. Nazarian story, I met Mr. Sinatra under different circumstances. I would attend his funeral in Beverly Hills, California. As odd as it may seem, I would attend Mr. Sinatra’s funeral with my good friend and confidant Miss Peggy Lee (Tuesday, May 19th, 1998), the two of us again! I say, “The two of us again “over the years, very few were as close as I was to Miss Lee. I believe her family would agree with me on this statement. Miss Lee and I spent hours in her personal space when I visited or traveled with her. Her mansion was just so incredible. For me, what was ever more incredible was to sit and watch the re-release of Lady and the Tramp, just the two of us having an incredible dinner. ** When I say, “personal space, “it was the most gorgeous bedroom you could imagine, and the size was as spacious as some people’s entire homes. ** Yup, I hung out in Elizabeth Taylor’s bedroom too, and ‘Sugar’ was there too. Even as I type this, it sounds like some fantasy; it was not, and I have plenty of testimony from third parties that all of this is 100% true.

Upon arrival at the Good Shepherd Church, Miss Lee and I were treated like royalty and seated in the front row of the chapel. The Sinatra family was sitting in the family room to our left. It felt uncomfortable as to the interaction amongst the family from what I was watching and observing.
Nothing more will be spoken by myself as to those observations. The Good Shepherd was the church where my friend Bernard Lafferty’s funeral was held. At that time, Elizabeth Taylor and Miss Peggy Lee attended and, by request, were seated at opposite ends of the church. And here I was again. Note: We did not attend the services in the desert the next day; it was a different ticket and a different memorial folder.

Mia Farrow, looking a little displaced, was standing in the aisle introducing herself to whoever got close, “Hi, I’m Mia Farrow “she looked great and appeared to be sitting far enough from the immediate family, as I recall, to not make anyone uncomfortable, just an observation.

The casket containing the remains of Mr. Sinatra was closed during the entire service. It was a dark-colored bronze, one of the best that money could buy, of course. ** as a former embalmer and funeral counselor, I know an incredible bronze; this was one for the ages. As Tony Bennet walked up to speak, he stopped and spoke with Miss Lee; it seemed like forever that the two spoke. Tony would talk of his memories of Mr. Sinatra, which was light-hearted and, at the same time, sad in a jovial way. Others would speak, too, and soon the services were concluding. One of my television heroes was Robert Wagner, and there he was, too. I spoke to him briefly outside the church as we waited for our limo.

Part one of the funeral for one of the most famous entertainers in the world was over, and those in attendance filed out. As I have written and spoken before, looking at those seated, everyone in that church was a “somebody “; what I was looking at could have been a poster! To be invited was by invitation only. I still have my ticket, it was blue. The memorial folder for this service had a very peaceful and simple photo of Mr. Sinatra holding his dog wearing a sweater. Through my years of being close to and at times a confidant of the rich and famous, I have learned that they have two sides. One side is what we all have enjoyed on stage and screen, and the other is remarkably interesting when they are at home or resting in their suite. Another side of all this for me is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be so close. I cherish the time and speak cautiously of those times.

As those in attendance filed out of the Good Shepherd, I noticed that Barbara Sinatra seemed to have left quickly. Miss Lee was speaking with Eydie Gormet, and Ms. Gormet sang a few lines in Miss Lee’s ear. Again, imagine I am standing at the foot of Sinatra’s casket, and all of these legends are within arms reach. Here was Eydie Gormet and Steve Lawrence inches from where I was standing, another duo I listened to as a kid sailing across the world’s oceans with my father! Don Rickles (the guy who did more for hockey pucks than any hockey team in the world) stayed behind, and members of the Sinatra family likewise remained in the chapel with the casket. Unless it was wiped exceptionally clean, my fingerprints are at the base of that casket; I touched it as a last goodbye.

Since that day, many of the greats who attended that funeral service have had their own coming to Jesus moment. Two, in particular, have left a void in my life as I so enjoyed their advice and thoughts, as I have stated many times before, the late-night conversations with Peggy Lee, and the laughs I will miss till the end of my days.

By John Nazarian
Memories John J. Nazarian, Private Investigator
December 22, 2022
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author

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