Sinatra Opens The Wrong Door 

           Thanks to author William Schoell for sharing

William Schoell is the co-author of The Rat Pack: Neon Nights with the Kings of Cool and sole author of I Can Do Anything: The Sammy Davis Jr. Story (for young adults) and Martini Man: The Life of Dean Martin


         By William Schoell

When Sinatra went looking for Marilyn Monroe, he got a big surprise - and a lawsuit.

It all started when Marilyn Monroe got her final divorce papers from Joe DiMaggio.

Jealous of the actress' fame and the attention she got from other men, he reportedly smacked her around once too often. DiMaggio, however, was convinced that the real reason for the divorce was another man. If only he could catch her in the act. That's where buddy Frank Sinatra came in.

Private Eyeful

Sinatra told a bitter and heartbroken DiMaggio to get in touch with L.A. private eye Barney Ruditsky. While the two buddies were hanging out in the Italian bistro Villa Capri, DiMaggio got a call from Ruditsky. The ballplayer knew that Marilyn hung around with her pal, Sheila Stewart, and was convinced that Stewart let the movie star use her apartment for assignations with a vocal coach named Hal Schaefer. Phil Irwin, a young associate of Ruditsky's, saw Monroe's white Cadillac convertible parked near Ms. Stewart's building and made his report. DiMaggio told Ruditsky to meet him near the apartment in question.

It wasn't long before there was a small crowd assembled on the corner of Waring and Kilkea Avenue. Although there was confusion later as to who was actually among the group, Ruditsky and Irwin did bring their wives along; perhaps the ladies were hoping for a glimpse of one of the most beautiful and famous women in the world. Billy Karen, the maitre'd of Villa Capri, came along for the event, and possibly John Seminola and Henry Sanicola, the former of whom was a friend of Sinatra's and the latter his manager. As for Sinatra, he later admitted under oath that he had been there as well.

It was a Friday night, November 5th, 1954 and the time was around eleven PM. The private eyes' wives stayed outside while Sinatra and the others tried to decide which of the apartments in the building was the correct one. Ultimately the raiding party went to 8120 Waring instead of 8122, the upstairs unit where Marilyn was talking to her friend, Sheila. Busting open the back door to the downstairs apartment, armed with axes and cameras, the men rushed into the bedroom expecting to find Marilyn and Schaefer in flagrante delicto but instead ...


...there was a terrified 39-year-old single secretary named Florence Kotz, in bed with cold cream and curlers, aghast at all the strange men in her bedroom. Florence screeched, the men realized their mistake, and ran out the door while Florence could only recline there in utter astonishment. Ms. Kotz had been convinced that it was what today we would call a "home invasion" and that she was about to be attacked en masse. During their hasty escape from the apartment, the men had smashed into glasses and cutlery that were littering the floor of the kitchen. Florence quickly called the police.

The LAPD came to Kotz' apartment, but they could make no arrests. The bedroom was dark, the light from the flashbulb blinded her, there were too many men, and it all happened so quickly. Florence was unable to make a single positive identification.

Frank Sinatra breathed a sigh of relief. Joe DiMaggio went to lick his emotional wounds and sought counseling. Marilyn Monroe eventually married the playwright Arthur Miller.

But the repercussions from the raid were only beginning.

One Year Later

The scandal sheet Confidential, a magazine that held many Hollywood celebrities with secrets to hide in terror, broke the story about the "Wrong Door Raid" about a year after the incident. Up until that time, Florence Kotz did not know a thing about what had actually happened in her bedroom, but now it was a different story; she would get some literal payback. Behind the scenes, authorities - egged on by the studios -- were drawing a bead on Confidential, the articles of which came dangerously close to libel. The government didn't want to raise the deadly specter of censorship, so they concentrated on the private eyes who gathered incriminating information for Confidential and similar publications, forming the Special State Senate Interim Committee on Collections Agencies, Private Investigators and Adjusters. Because it was chaired by a Republican senator from San Diego named Fred Kraft, it was known as the Kraft committee.

Meanwhile, people wondered who had leaked the story of the Raid to Confidential. Phil Irwin, who had left Ruditsky's employ, insisted it was Ruditsky, who was angry that DiMaggio had (understandably) stiffed him for his fee, only Sinatra payed Ruditsky's bill. Neither Sinatra nor DiMaggio had any motive for airing the embarrassing story, and it seemed unlikely that Sinatra's close associates would have gone up against the Chairman of the Board. The chief suspect was Phil Irwin himself, but this was never proven.

The Wrong Door Raid got more attention in the hearings and elsewhere than it might have gotten because two of the prominent participants were private eyes - not to mention Monroe (an indirect participant), DiMaggio, and especially Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra soon would find himself the unwilling subject of another, highly unwelcome night-time "raid."

Malicious Conspiracy

Neither Florence Kotz nor the LAPD had quite forgotten what had happened in November 1954, and they wouldn't let Frank Sinatra forget, either. It was three years later in early 1957 at four in the morning that two police officers arrived at Sinatra's house in Palm Springs, forced themselves inside, and woke the man up so they could serve him with a subpoena. A grand jury had been convened by the Kraft committee to delve into the Wrong Door Raid. Sinatra was apoplectic. Having once been considered a simple burglary, the raid was now categorized as a "conspiracy to commit malicious mischief." Sinatra accused LAPD chief William Parker of violating his civil rights and filed a complaint, but he didn't sue the police. Parker explained that he sent officers to Sinatra's house because the police often helped out government committees, but the blatant criminal aspects of the raid may have rankled him.

Sinatra testified for the Kraft committee's grand jury that he had been at the scene, but had not entered Kotz' apartment. Phil Irwin contradicted Sinatra, saying that only the two women - the wives -- had stayed outside. The landlady of the building, Virginia Blagsen, identified Sinatra as one of the men coming out of Kotz' back door. Although Sinatra and others were threatened with perjury charges, no one was ever prosecuted.


A trial for criminal libel against Confidential brought by the state of California, which served subpoenas to dozens of celebrities named in the magazine (not including Sinatra, who sailed for international waters on his yacht), ended with a hung jury, but the publication still had to clean up its act if it wanted to avoid a retrial; its claws were sheathed. Barney Ruditsky later alleged that Monroe was indeed having a tryst with Hal Schaefer, and he deliberately broke into the wrong apartment to prevent DiMaggio from going ballistic and maybe committing murder - an unlikely scenario.

As for Florence Katz, she sued Sinatra, DiMaggio, and the rest of the raiding party for $200,000.

Florence got $7500. Not a bad pay-out for one big exciting scare and perhaps the thrill of having Sinatra in her bedroom, if only for a moment.

William Schoell is the co-author of The Rat Pack: Neon Nights with the Kings of Cool and sole author of I Can Do Anything: The Sammy Davis Jr. Story (for young adults) and Martini Man: The Life of Dean Martin