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Both Sinatra and Gooding were married to other people at the time, but their liaison seemed to continue until June 1942, when Julie’s mom got pregnant. “That’s when she broke it off,” Julie says.
But the singer and the aspiring starlet stayed in touch. Julie now knows that her parentage was never discussed with Sinatra – there are certainly no photos of Sinatra with the baby girl. But you can see a glimpse of Alora Gooding in Anchors Aweigh, the classic 1945 Sinatra musical (after the sailors hit shore and go to make phone calls, Gooding has a non-speaking role as one of the switchboard operators).
“This was one of my clues,” Julie recalls. “One summer, I got a job as a telephone operator. When I told mom, she mentioned she had done that, too. Now, I knew she never worked a day as an operator; when I questioned her about it, I found out she meant she did it in Anchors Aweigh.”
It took Julie 2 or 3 years to put the facts together and confirm the information from her mother. Unfortunately, Frank passed away before Julie had enough facts to convince the family of her parentage. She never got the chance to meet him.
For Julie, the discovery was crucial to accepting who she was. For much of her life, she felt she “didn’t belong. When I’d try to sing or play piano or perform, I would be told to ‘knock that off – be yourself.’ I didn’t know who ‘my self’ was.” As an adult, she has played occasional gigs at local folk clubs, singing folk music and playing piano and guitar.
Her first attempt to find her place in the Sinatra universe was to attend a fan conference at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., on Nov. 13 and 14, 1998. “On the first day, Tina Sinatra was introducing VIPs, musicians who’d played in Frank Sinatra’s band and others, I was sitting in the audience and just burst into tears. It hit me – I missed all of it. He missed all of me, and I missed all of him.”
Now that she felt she had the key piece to accepting who she was, she wanted official validation. When Frank Sinatra’s will was in probate, Julie went to California to attend the court proceedings,despite advice from more than one lawyer not to bother. At the hearing, she stood up and announced that Frank Sinatra was her father. “You should have seen their faces,” she says.
The claim put the estate proceedings on hold. Julie says she offered to take a DNA test, in exchange for giving up any claim to an inheritance. She says the Sinatra family declined. A legal contract regarding Julie’s claim was reached, about which both parties will only say, “We signed a confidential contract for the benefit of our mutual undertakings.” She legally changed her name to Julie Sinatra in 2001.
“I feel like I’m 7 years old at 60,” Julie now exults. “I belonged.”
During her trip east to the Sinatra conference, she made a side trip to Hoboken. “Someone there told me, ‘You don’t just look like him, you have his heart.’ It felt so good. I finally feel like I’m happy with me. I’m not rejecting who I am.”
As for the Sinatra family, she says she’s only ever spoken to Frank Sinatra Jr., who she calls “a gentleman. I’m very proud of him. At times our conversations were brother and sisterly, but for the most part, he just wanted to find out what my intentions were. He wanted to protect the family.”