In her new book Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank, Barbara writes that Frank told her in 1976, "If I'm going to continue working, then I think maybe I should get a toupee." The Times Magazine's Andrew Goldman remembered that a decade previous to her anecdote, Talese had reported that Frank had already owned 60 hairpieces and even employed a gray-haired lady to care for them. Barbara responded to Goldman, "I don’t think that’s true. He never had a lady comb or brush his hair. He always had men. Right there you know that’s a lie."
Well, that's not sitting well with Talese, who called this afternoon from his wife's cell phone in Connecticut to set the record straight. At first, he gave us the business, because he thought he was talking to someone at The New York Times, and he was mad at us for not calling him before we ran the Sinatra quote. After clarifying that we were from The Atlantic Wire, we asked if he wanted to respond to Sinatra's comment. Boy, did he:
"I say this woman is wrong!" he said. "The point is what I wrote is right. I saw this."
He then stopped to ask us if we knew who to call at The New York Times to request a correction. We said we did not, and he continued: "Barbara Sinatra is mistaken. I saw the hairpieces I mentioned. I talked to the woman. And I saw the hairpieces. [Barbara] wasn't around [in 1966]. She doesn't know what she's talking about."
He then apologized for not being able to produce the name of the "inconspicuous little gray-haired lady" who carried around Sinatra's toupees in a satchel because he did not bring along his notes from the 45-year-old story to Connecticut this weekend. We said that was understandable. Talese then said he had plans to play tennis at 4 p.m., but made us promise to call back later Friday and maybe tomorrow "as a courtesy." We promised.
Update: The Atlantic Wire gets results! The Times removed Sinatra's "lie" line from the online version of the interview Saturday and added the following editors' note:
In the Talk interview in the Magazine this weekend, Barbara Sinatra, Frank Sinatra’s fourth wife, disputes an account by Gay Talese in a 1966 Esquire article, in which he described Sinatra’s toupees and the woman who cared for them. In taking issue with those details, Barbara Sinatra said her husband always employed men to care for his hair, and added, “Right there you know that’s a lie.”
In fairness, that characterization should not have been included in the interview without any corroboration or any response from Mr. Talese. He stands by his original account.