How Leon Charney
Leon Charney with Tim and Nina Boxer at Bet
Hatfutsot gala in New York, December 2015
EW YORK POST celebrity columnist
Earl Wilson was running scared. The day his
tell-all book, Sinatra: An Unauthorized Biography, was
published in 1976 it enraged Ol’ Blue Eyes. No surprise there.
The volatile crooner, known for his combativeness with
photographers and reporters, called the book “false,
fictionalized, boring and uninteresting.” When his blood
pressure settled down he instructed his lawyer to sue for $3
Earl was in shock. He had considered himself
part of Sinatra’s world, a professional fan, always boosting him
in his widely syndicated column. Now he was crying, “I need a
Being his resourceful assistant, I offered to call a personal
friend, Leon Charney, a confidant to Hollywood
stars and Washington insiders.
Leon told me later that he formed a strategy whereby he had the
right to take Sinatra’s deposition. “My feeling was that Sinatra
would not make himself available because, in a sense, we could
ask the same questions he was suing Wilson on. He was saying
that Wilson made statements that were not true. I would ask what
is true. I would ask whether he was in love with Ava
Gardner or not, plus questions concerning his
relationship with Juliet Prowse and Mia
Farrow. I had my doubts that he would sit for such an
interview. His answers would explode into a media sensation.”
Leon flew to Los Angeles to meet the singer’s lawyer, the
invincible and fearsome Mickey Rudin. They rode
in Rudin’s Rolls Royce to Sinatra’s home in Palm Springs.
On the way he kept wondering if his strategy was going to
work. “Rudin sounded like a teamster from Hoboken,” Leon said.
“He kept a cigar in his mouth. I told him I hate cigar smoke and
could he please put it out. He glared at me. It’s his car and
who am I to tell him what to do. Then he put the cigar down.”
At that moment Leon knew he had won the case.
“Because,” he said, “if Rudin did not really want to
accommodate me, he would have dropped me in the middle of
the desert and tell me to take a cab.”
Sinatra settled. “The terms are secret,”
Leon said, “but all agreed that the beneficiary would be
A year later, Leon served as best man at my
wedding with Nina. As attorney for the Concord
Resort Hotel, he arranged for me and my bride to celebrate many
a Passover seder in the Catskills.
Leon, the real estate
founded the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences at the
University of Haifa), died in Manhattan on March 21 at age
77, leaving his wife Tzili, a former
Israeli theatrical costume designer, and twin sons,
Mickey and Nati.