Dr. Gilbert L. Gigliotti is an English professor at Central Connecticut State University and a HUGE Frank Sinatra fan. From the end of August through October 20th, he had an exhibit at Elihu Burritt Library entitled, Not ‘Frankie Satin’: An Exhibit of Sinatra Memorabilia, as part of a the 2013 The Year of Italian Culture Symposium. So you might be asking, Who is Frankie Satin? That was the stage name that Harry James, the person who gave him his first contract, wanted him to take.
How does an English professor come to study an icon of pop culture? Gigliotti was brought up in an Italian American household. He always knew who Sinatra was, even though his father was a big Bing Crosby fan. Whenever Sinatra was on TV, his parents would watch. In high school in the late 70s, Gigliotti was working in Cincinnati, Ohio at a chili parlor when a large record store opened across the street. In the vocalist section, he came across Frank Sinatra’s early hits for a reduced price and bought it. One of the songs was a hit called The Coffee Song. He listened, fell in love with it, and started buying more albums. Once hooked, he started looking for other Sinatra albums at record stores and tag sales. This turned into a quest to find the original albums. For the past ten years, the internet has helped his obsession!
Gigliotti collects everything about Sinatra. He has music, books, albums, sheet music, movie posters, backstage passes, advertisements featuring Sinatra, and various collectibles from Sinatra concerts. He finds the life and loves of Frank Sinatra interesting, too! I was able to hear a biography about Sinatra and his love life! Sinatra was married to four different women. His first wife, Nancy Barbato, was his high school sweetheart. Together, they had three children: Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina. Ultimately they divorced in 1951, when he married Ava Gardner a week after the divorce. Ava was his “soul mate”, but they were so alike that they couldn’t stand each other. They loved each other very much, but couldn’t live with each. In the mid-60s, he married Mia Farrow, who was some 20 years his junior. At the time, Sinatra said to his daughter Nancy about Mia Farrow – We know it is a long shot, but we have to take a chance. The primary reason that this relationship didn’t work out was because Mia didn’t want to give up her career. She was making Rosemary’s Baby, and Frank wanted her home only working on being Mrs. Sinatra. While on location for Rosemary’s Baby, he sent her the divorce papers. His final wife, Barbara, has been the caretaker of his name and memory. She has used the Mrs. Sinatra name to raise money for many great causes. According to Gigliotti, Sinatra’s children never warmed to Barbara and, after their mother, preferred Ava and Mia. Recently Mia Farrow has announced that her son Ronin may be Frank’s instead of Woody Allen’s. As Dr. Gigliotti tells me this juicy piece of gossip, there is a gleam in his eye. He wants to investigate this claim!
Gigliotti is a full professor in the Department of English. He completed his Ph. D. in Comparative Literature at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C. in 1992. He teaches courses in early American literature, Latin and Greek literature, the novelist and songwriter Wesley Stace, and freshman composition. He also teaches two Latin courses for the Department of Classical and Modern Languages. And, of course, he teaches a course on Frank Sinatra and his second wife, Ava Gardner! Dr. Gigliotti was the chairman of the English department from 2003-2010.
Based on his passion for Sinatra, he and published three books. His first book, published in 2002, was A Storied Singer: Frank Sinatra as Literary Conceit. In 2008, he published an anthology of poems Sinatra: But Buddy I’m a Kind of Poem and followed it up in 2010 with another anthology Ava Gardner: Touches of Venus. Since 1993, Gigliotti has had a radio program at the university’s station WFCS 107.7 FM New Britain, Frank, Gil, and Friends. He has also been the organizer of the CCSU Alumni Association Classic Film Series since 2010. Finally, he is a frequent guest speaker for local organizations. Topics? Sinatra’s music, movies, and sex life!
Gil is married to Martha Perry, and they have two children, Cecilia and Celeste. Cecilia, a freshman at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, is a recent winner of a Women’s Leadership Award through the New Britain YWCA. His younger daughter, Celeste, is a freshman at New Britain High School. Both children grew up on the CCSU campus, and recently Celeste was asked to lead a campus tour for her high school classmates and made sure to include her father’s exhibit among the stops!
It was fascinating to see some of the Sinatra memorabilia that Gigliotti has collected over the years. Make sure to catch the exhibit in the Elihu Burritt Library on the second floor. (This will be gone if you don’t publish until November.) If you miss that exhibit, you only have to go to Gigliotti’s office to see various memorabilia hung all over his wall!