This archive consists of five items: 1) an autographed program from the McGuire Sisters’ 1960 engagement at the Las Vegas Desert Inn where Phyllis McGuire first met Sam Giancana, 2) a press photos of Phyllis when she testified at the 1965 Federal Grand Jury investigating Giancana, 3) a press photo of Giancana at the same investigation, 4) a 1962 postcard of Frank Sinatra’s Neva-Cal Lodge where a McGuire-Giancana rendezvous ignited that investigation, and 5) a lobby card from the 1961 Noonan & Marshall film Double Trouble (released as Swingin’ Away).
The wholesome McGuire Sisters singing act hit the bigtime after they nearly blew the needle off the applause-o-meter during an Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts television show in December 1952. By the time the trio headlined at the Las Vegas Desert Inn along with the Noonan & Marshall comedy team in June 1960, they had a string of gold records including two #1 hits, Sincerely and Sugartime. While performing there, Phyllis caught the eye of the unstable, vicious, and violent boss of the Chicago underworld, Sam ‘Momo’ or ‘Moony’ Giancana. It is unclear how the couple were introduced, possibly by Frank Sinatra or a casino pit boss. Regardless, the pair hit it off and began a relationship that, except for a few gossipy scandal-sheet photos, was hidden from the public, although Phyllis’s sisters and long-time friend Peter Marshall, at that time a comedic straight-man and fellow headliner, were well aware. Long afterward in a Barbara Walters interview, Phyllis related that “When I met him I did not know who he was, and . . . I didn't find out until sometime later really who he was, and [by then] I was already in love.”
Perhaps that realization came when in the early 1960s when the couple traveled to Chicago, and they were met at the airport by the FBI who coerced Phyllis into an interview where she was either unable or unwilling to divulge anything about Giancana’s illegal activities. However, as other agents waited with Sam while the interview was conducted, he exploded, “I know all about the Kennedys and Phyllis knows a lot more about the Kennedys and one of these days we are going to tell all.”
It is likely Giancana was boasting about his well-documented (but vehemently contested by Camelot apologists) vote-fixing efforts in West Virginia and Illinois in 1960 that gave John F. Kennedy the presidency over Richard M. Nixon. Some, including the premier investigative journalist of his time, Jack Anderson, have claimed that the deal, probably cut by the family patriarch, Joseph, whose long-time mob-related investments built the family’s fortune, required the future president to turn a blind-eye underworld operations in Chicago and allow Giancana to assassinate Fidel Castro who had shut down his lucrative Cuban operations. Later, Frank Church’s Senate investigation discovered that follow-on secret Kennedy-Giancano discussions were conducted using messages passed between the president and the mobster by their shared mistress, Judith Campbell Exner.
Yet, the above information was not known until later, and the couple’s romantic relationship didn’t explode in the press until Giancana’s visits to Phyllis’s chalet, used while she performed at Frank Sinatra’s Neva-Cal Lodge (which he may have bought with the assistance of Joseph Kennedy), were discovered by a disabled state gaming commissioner in 1963. By that time, Giancana had been placed on the Nevada blacklist that forbade known gangsters from entering casinos. Upon his discovery, Giancana exploded at the “crippled Son of a Bitch” who confronted him, and the couple’s romance could no longer be hidden after Sinatra was forced to give-up his gambling resort and sell his interest in the landmark Las Vegas hotel, The Sands.Worse for Giancana, in an apparent double-cross, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother, directed the FBI to investigate his Chicago Unit perhaps, as suggested by several historians and journalists, in an attempt to intimidate the underworld into keeping the vote-fixing and Castro deals under wraps. After President Kennedy was assassinated, the federal probe into Giancana deepened to include the possibility that he ordered the ‘hit’ as pay-back for the Kennedys not fulfilling their part of the mutual deal. When Giancana and Phyllis were subpoenaed by an investigative grand jury in 1965, both remained mum. Although Giancana was granted immunity, he still refused to testify and spent a year in prison for contempt of court, after which he moved to Mexico. Phyllis returned to sing with her sisters, however the damage to the trio was already done. The McGuire Sisters were essentially blackballed by the entertainment world, and they stopped performing in 1968.
After Giancana returned to the United States, he was again subpoenaed but murdered before he could appear in court; one shot to the back of his head as he was cooking a meal of sausage and peppers, then five more into his mouth. Others connected to Giancana also met untimely deaths. Jimmy Hoffa disappeared, perhaps into an incinerator or stadium foundation. Warren Reynolds was shot in his head just before he was scheduled to testify. Two reporters covering Giancana were murdered. One potential witness was found hanging in her cell shortly after being arrested for disorderly conduct, and, the dismembered body of Johnny Roselli was found stuffed into an oil barrel floating off the coast of Florida.
The McGuire sisters finally returned to the oldies show circuit in 1986. Peter Marshall and Tommy Noonan split after their movie bombed, however Marshall found immense success on television as the host of Hollywood Squares for 17 years.. Very good. Item #010192
(For more information, see “The McGuire Sisters win Godfrey's Talent Scouts. . ..” at Youtube, “Sam Giancana” at the Spartacus Educational website, “Phyllis McGuire, Singing Star and Sam Giancana Paramour Dies. . ..” at the Mob Museum website, Nesteroff’s interview of Peter L. Marshall at the Classic Television Showbiz blogspot, Suri’s “The McGuire Sisters star Phyllis McGuire dead. . ..” at the Daily Mail website, the 18 July 1960 issue of Fabulous Las Vegas Magazine, Colloff and Hall’s “Married to the Mob” at the Texas Monthly website, Lane’s “The Murder of Sam Giancana” at the CIA website, Chicago ABC-7’s “Feds focused on Chicagoans, Outfit figures in JFK files,” and Schwarz’s “Venomous in the Extreme . . . Frank Sinatra’s Acrimonious 1963 Exit from Nevada Gaming” in Vol 24 No 7 of Gaming Law Review. The HBO movie, Sugartime, is an accurate account of the Giancana-McGuire relationship, and Netflix’s film, The Rat Pack, covers Sinatra’s relationship with the Kennedy family and the mob.)
A one-of-a-kind collection documenting the relationship between Phyllis McGuire and Sam Giancana..