February 23, 2010, - 11:39 am

Hilarious Sinatra Letter to Mike Royko Up for Auction By “Cheap Trick” Mom

By Debbie Schlussel

The only reality show I like is “Antiques Roadshow,” which unfortunately appears on PBS a/k/a Palestinian Broadcasting Service.  And my favorite segment on that show is one in which an older woman brings in a letter from Frank Sinatra to Mike Royko, the late Chicago newspaper columnist and one of my all-time favorite social commentators.  He was very pro-Israel, philo-Semitic (as was Sinatra), and saw the Muslims for the threat that they are, way ahead of his time.  Plus Royko was blunt and pulled no punches, always refreshing in his political incorrectness, even when I didn’t agree with him.  My father would always show me Royko’s columns.


The letter is priceless (though not literally), and was written by Sinatra after Royko wrote a column complaining that old ladies were being robbed on the streets of Chicago because the Chicago Police were busy providing free security to Ole’ Blue Eyes.  Sinatra’s letter chewed Royko out.  Royko wrote a column about the letter and offered it up for auction, with the proceeds going to the Salvation Army.

Apparently, the woman who won the letter, Vie Carlson, is the mother of “Cheap Trick” drummer, Bun E. Carlos.  Now, she’s offering the letter–which “Antiques Roadshow” estimated to be worth about $15,000–for sale.  She owns her own museum, Carlson’s Western Town in Rockford, Illinois.

Read the full Sinatra letter to Royko . . .


Read the Mike Royko column in response to the Sinatra Letter.

Read some of Mike Royko’s best columns (they’re all good!):

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27 Responses

Ha! Having grown up about 3 miles from where Sinatra did and with the stories about his Mother, Dolly and her political shenanigans, this letter is classic. He asks Royko to prove him a tough guy. Uh, Frank if you can read this, I think you pretty well covered it. However, I would seriously doubt that Frank would hit an elderly person. He had his soft side but that neighborhood he grew up in made it hard to be male, good looking and have a talent like singing. He had to be tough to survive. I haven’t done any recent research but Frank Sinatra gave millions to Isreal. I don’t think he was an anti-Semite in private, but I may be wrong.

M: Frank Sinatra not only gave considerable funds to Israel, but got those funds to Israel to get weapons when the country needed them. He was a good guy. DS

mk750 on February 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Thanks Deb, I thought so but I wasn’t up on my facts and I try not to shoot from the lip. My info may be flawed at times but I try to have some sources.

    mk750 on February 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Yes, this is true. Frank Sinatra was truly a stand-up guy. His values may have been shaped by a Mrs. Golden in his youth and that influenced him for the rest of his life. See this link:

    I once visited Israel and had to go to one of the hospitals there. To my delight, the hospital I went to had a painting of Frank Sinatra. I asked about it, and the hospital staff told me that he had donated a substantial sum of money to the hospital and that they hung the painting in his honor.

    Searching the web, I found this short video documentary featuring and narrated by Sinatra on Israel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh3MFTvWzik

    And, of course, some of Sinatra’s favorite songwriters of so many of his hits were Jewish, such as Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Carolyn Leigh, Cy Coleman, and so many more. And Sinatra personally knew and worked with many of these artists. (Even Sinatra’s favorite non-Jewish songwriter, Cole Porter, once said that one of the secrets to his success was that he learned to compose in the Jewish style.) On Sinatra’s gravestone it says, “The Best is Yet to Come,” which, of course, is one of the Sinatra signature songs by Leigh and Coleman.

    Finally, let me conclude with this hilarious take-off on a famous Sinatra song, with great new lyrics and an amazing Sinatra-esque rendition, called “Strangers on My Flight,” that was featured many years ago on the Howard Stern show. Somehow, I think The Chairman would approve: http://www.animatronics.org/strangers/strangers.htm

    Ralph Adamo on November 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I loved Royko’s wit,my dad used to send me his columns.Slats Grobnik still lives!

Chiefscotty24 on February 23, 2010 at 11:52 am

Very cute.

pat on February 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Deb: Having grown up reading Royko’s columns as you did, I appreciate the humor in this. I wonder if your minions and myrmidons could dig up the 2 columns by Royko, the one that prompted the letter and his response.

KS: Haven’t found the original column yet, but his response to the Sinatra letter is here:

Kaiser Sozay on February 23, 2010 at 12:11 pm

This was entertainig, thanks. And now off topic: I know how much you love to call out the phonies, so when are you going to call out Scott Brown?

juswondern on February 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Debbie – you forgot to include the best Royko book of all – “Boss”


dm60462 on February 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for the laffs!

JD on February 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm

[I don’t think he was an anti-Semite in private, but I may be wrong.

mk750 on February 23, 2010 at 11:51 am]

Trust me, he wasn’t an anti-Semite.

Norman Blitzer on February 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    😉 Thanks Norman, Just hedging a bit cause I hadn’t done any recent reading on the man.

    mk750 on February 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Growing up in Chicago I loved Royko. As mentioned by another reader, the book Boss is a classic. By the way, Royko considered himself a liberal, but a classical, old fashioned one. He believed in serving in the military (as he did). However he would have trashed the progressive, Obama style liberalism of today.

While Royko was not Jewish, some people, especially his critics often accused him of being Jewish. He took that as an honor.

This was my favorite Royko column:


I_AM_ME on February 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I, too, love the Antiques Road Show and watch all the new episodes with my roommate. It is the only thing we watch on PBS. We got a real kick out of this letter when it came up on the show. We paused the screen so we could read the whole letter. We got a big laugh out of Sinatra saying how he wasn’t a tough guy while esentially challenging Royko to a fight. Brilliant of Sinatra to copyright the letter with conditions that it could only be reproduced in full so that he could not be taken out of context. Thank you for pointing out the woman is the mother of a well known (at least in position) Rock musician. Reminded me of Mike Nesmith of the Monkees

Bob on February 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Many of the entertainers of the World War II era were very, very pro-Zionist; Ben Hecht really stands out, but in addition to the Jewish entertainers, there were others such as Sinatra as you indicated, Jimmy Durante, and many others. For those who are not familiar with him, he was among the biggest names of the 1940s. A totally different era;

Most of the stars were really pro-American then, and much freer of prejudice than most of the creeps who call themselves ‘entertainers’ today. With all his crudeness, Sinatra really stands out compared to the jerks we have today.

Little Al on February 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Off topic, perhaps, but FS weight 14+ lbs at birth. One might surmise that this was a necessary prerequisite of being born in such a tough neighborhood.

Graty Slapchop on February 23, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Graty, that high birth weight would explain why they used forceps when delivering him giving Sinatra those permanent scars by his cheak bones.

    Bob on February 24, 2010 at 4:34 am

@ I_AM_ME thanks for the link to that Royko column and thanks Debbie for posting this. As a Londoner I’d never heard of Royko, but I’m liking what I’m learning!

Keep up the great work Debbie – hope to see you in London one fine day!

Davieboy on February 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I was wandering around Google looking for Royko material when I found your tribute to Royko and the “Sinatra Letter”. But you took a great and hilarious moment in journalism and curiously strayed from the topic, Debbie. Suddenly you slapped a good housekeeping seal on Sinatra and Royko as friends of Israel and Jewish people everywhere.

Huh? Even if that were true, and hopefully it is, what’s that got to do with the funny letter? You go on to say that Mike Royko wasn’t just for Israel. No, you add that he “saw the Muslims for the threat that they are”. Hm. I grew up reading Royko, I have many collections of his columns, and while he often had sharp words for Israel’s neighboring countries, he occasionally tsk tsked Israel too for some of its policies.

See, it’s always a mistake to label Royko because his opinions ran the full spectrum. Liberals often thought he was a right wing reactionary, and Conservatives thought he was a bleeding heart. But he was all things, really. It’s this radical idea we have in this country called free speech. And Royko feasted on it.

Sure, generally speaking, Royko was “philo-Semitic” (as am I) . But it is incorrect and insulting to his memory to say that he “saw the Muslims for the threat that they are.” He didn’t, Deb. Nor do I. All Muslims are a threat, Debbie? Do you really believe that? I don’t. The Muslim on the street who sells me my morning paper isn’t a threat– though he did once threaten to raise the price of gum. Or the Muslim who makes great falafels around the corner from me, he once put too much hot sauce on my chicken shawarma and it threatened the life of my taste buds. But it didn’t feel like an act of terrorism.

There are some murderous zealots among Muslims (and a lot of fresh new recruits since we invaded Iraq). We’ve got to keep Israel and the U.S. safe from them, obviously. But we all know that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people. The moment we forget that is the moment we forget ourselves.


Tommy Ocean on September 16, 2010 at 7:23 pm

The Chicago Sun-Times, which is where Royko went before it was taken over by The Alien, was a Tabloid. Page 2 and the Front Page of the Sports section were therefore on the same sheet. This led to multiple arguments between my dad and myself.

Mike also despised Bill and Hillary and liked MDs. He was also a Cub Fan. And he was John Belushi’s godfather. All in all, a great guy and a great example of being a Chicagoan.

Occam's Tool on March 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm

What a sweet lady. Have to feel good for her, enough to comment even sixteen months after the original post.

Brian R. on June 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

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