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So much has been written about that marriage, the violent public rows, Sinatra’s suicide attempts and his jealousy, that some of this seems like old news. But Gardner never minces words. Her friend Lana Turner told her not to marry him. She refused to listen. “He was good in the feathers. You don’t pay much attention to what other people tell you when a guy is good in the feathers,” she observes.

At the time, Sinatra’s career was in the dumps, and her star was on the rise. He was often referred to as “Mr. Gardner,” which further deflated his ego. They were both drinking far too much. “We were really knocking it back and fighting all the time. Having to rely on a woman for some of the bills — most of them actually — made it so much worse. “

She not so modestly adds, “I was the one making the pot boil baby, it was me!”

Their split, like their marriage, was melodramatic, but Sinatra, whose career climbed back on top, helped her out financially over the years.

Most of the conversations for the book were conducted late at night when Miss Gardner was well into the bottle and unable sleep. For readers seeking Hollywood nostalgia, there is no stardust here.

Ava” is a tough and provocative look into the life of the compelling temptress who, though bruised, managed to stay afloat.

As she so triumphantly puts it: “You can sum up my life in a sentence, honey, ‘She made movies, she made out and she made a mess of her life, but she never made jam.’”

Sandra McElwaine is a Washington correspondent for Newsweek Daily Beast.