LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas icon Frank Sinatra had an FBI file that was one=foot thick. So, why did agents follow the singer for more than 40 years? And why were they interested in Marilyn Monroe's lovers?
The FBI has created an online vault packed with millions of pages of once confidential information including reports on everything from Las Vegas casino moguls and gangsters to UFO's and animal mutilations.
The vault was created in the interest of public information but it was also done so the FBI could cut itself some slack in responding to huge numbers of public records requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act. Most of the documents inside the vault have been made public to one degree or another but they never before been so accessible.
To Las Vegas casinos, Frank Sinatra was a god, a moody magnet for high rollers. To the FBI, Ol' Blue Eyes was a wannabe mobster. FBI agents compiled more than 1,200 pages in their Sinatra dossier, from his 1940's friendship with supreme Mafioso Lucky Luciano to his 1960's secret partnership with Chicago boss Sam Giancana, a hidden co-owner of Sinatra's Cal Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.
Included in the file are news clippings about Sinatra's drunken Las Vegas rampages. A 1963 memo shows the FBI planned to pressure members of the Rat Pack to rat out their chairman. It never happened though. And in 1964, heat from the FBI prompted Sinatra to announce he was selling his interest in Cal Neva.
When FBI agents formally interviewed Sinatra, he admitted his friendships with wise guys but denied any criminal involvement. FBI documents first released in 1998 suggest Sinatra was so thankful for the bureau's help in the kidnapping of Sinatra Jr. that he offered to be an informant regarding the entertainment world but never made good on the offer.
The FBI file of movie goddess Marilyn Monroe intersects with Sinatra's at several points. While Monroe was in Las Vegas in the company of rat packers and then Senator John Kennedy, agents took notes. Monroe's file is remarkably explicit.
Memos allege there were sex parties involving Monroe, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and others. She had an ongoing affair with Robert Kennedy, the FBI believed, and a lesbian affair at the same time. The FBI said Monroe visited Cal Neva and spent time with Sinatra and Sam Giancana.
A recent claim by Monroe's hairdresser says she was flown to Tahoe, spent the night with Giancana, and then died the following night in Los Angeles of a presumed overdose though Monroe confidantes say she was murdered by Giancana to protect the Kennedy's.
The Aviator, Martin Scorcese's Hollywood movie, about the life of industrialist and Las Vegas casino kingpin Howard Hughes intimated that Hughes relied on booze and sexual favors to coax defense officials into buying Hughes airplanes. The huge FBI file on Hughes seems to confirm the legend. FBI memos show agents watched as Hughes entertained customers with liquor and women to secure contracts.
Las Vegas gambler Lem Banker has always suspected that his friend, former heavyweight champ Sonny Liston, threw his second fight against Muhammed Ali. FBI files show that suspicion was shared by FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover who, two days after the fight, ordered his agents to begin a discreet inquiry. A month later, agents reported they had found no solid proof the fight was fixed.
Before the Freedom of Information Act existed, the FBI told the public it had no interest in UFO reports. After the act became law, the bureau reluctantly coughed up more than 2,000 pages of FBI files, including a sensational report in March 1950 from special agent Guy Hottell to J. Edgar Hoover stating that three flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico along with three tiny bodies.
The memo first surfaced years ago but generated a new burst of controversy this year, then fizzled when UFO researchers pointed out that the FBI source was a notorious con man. Another FBI memo is not so easily dismissed. It's a July 1947 teletype to Hoover about a "flying disc that had been recovered near Roswell, New Mexico." Reports that the object was a weather balloon were not borne out, the memo states. The object was flown by special plane to Ohio, the agent reported. And from there?
"We're talking about tens of thousand of cases. No one has ever been arrested. No one has ever been prosecuted. No one has ever been caught," said Ted Oliphant, former sheriff's deputy, in an interview in the Killing Fields series in May 2008.
Former Las Vegas filmmaker Ted Oliphant investigated a mystery more perplexing than UFO's --animal mutilations. As an Alabama lawman, he saw dozens of reports of cattle carved with surgical precision in the middle of the night.
FBI files show the bureau took such reports seriously for a period in the late 1970's. FBI files show Attorney General Griffin Bell promised to get to the bottom of it. He didn't. Thirty years later, the mutilations continue and no one has ever been caught or punished.
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