McMumble’s finest hour? Frankly, no

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RICK McNEILL, in an exclusive extract from his memoirs, remembers former Daily Express deputy editor John McDonald 

One day news came in that Frank Sinatra had cut short a Berlin appearance due to poor audiences, and was flying instead to give a performance in London. 

Deputy editor John McDonald – known perhaps unkindly as McMumble because his conversation was often flowery to the point of incomprehension – was a fan of the singer and decided to run a story about him on Page One with the grovelling headline YOU’RE WELCOME, FRANK. To this I confess I contributed the deathless line that Sinatra’s concert would be held at the “Francis Albert Hall”. Ouch!

McDonald sat down and wrote a fan letter to Sinatra, craving a meeting. Then, around midnight, armed with the letter and early copies of the paper, he was driven with Jill King, the night news editor, to Sinatra’s hotel, the Inn on the Park. There John Bodell, the driver, was instructed to take the papers and the letter, deliver them to Sinatra’s suite, and wait for the response, which McDonald confidently expected would be an invitation to Jill to enter the Presence and be given the Big Exclusive Interview.

After 10 minutes Bodell, a big man not easily intimidated, came running out of the hotel and jumped, pale-faced, back in the car. He’d had a response all right -- one of Sinatra’s burly bodyguards had told him: “If you’re not out of here in one minute we’re gonna break your fuckin’ legs!” 

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© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre