Today’s selection — from The Fat Lady Sang by Robert Evans. Frank Sinatra gave invaluable advice to an up-and-coming Robert Evans, soon to become chairman of Paramount Pictures:
“‘Those hangers-on I told you about? Don’t be fooled by ’em,’ [said Frank.] There’s not one who’s not going to hit you when you start makin’ it. Your ego tells you them dames are dying to fuck you. They are, yeah — but you’re the one who ends up gettin’ fucked. Hit up for every penny you’ve got. Need wheels, rent — you name it, they’ll ask you for it. If it ain’t a dame, it’s a guy, a relative, an old pal. They come out of the woodwork, need a temporary fix: fifty, a hundred, five hundred, a thou … Pay you back in a day, a week, a month? Don’t matter. Don’t loan ’em. Give. Give ’em half. That’s only if you wanna. If you don’t, then be tough about it, not like me. Tell ’em one, tell ’em all, you don’t believe in loanin’. With loanin’ comes losin’ — losin’ a friend, that is. If they don’t like the answer, fuck ’em. They ain’t worth knowin’.’
“Gulping down a straight shot of scotch with his beer, he shook his head. ‘Never fails. Every time I lend a buck, I lose a pal. No one’s fault. That’s not true. It’s the fault of the guy who loans. He knows better. You ask when you’re on empty. Most of them have intentions to pay ya back. They don’t want to lose your friendship. But few of them actually come up with the money. Where are they gonna get it? Close friend, close relative — don’t matter. When you can’t pay back the marker, embarrassment causes estrangement.
“‘You know what happens from estrangement? Disdain. Not from the guy who loans — from the guy who owes. Take it from a guy who’s loaned big. Lost big, too. Whenever I don’t stick to my preaching, I’m the loser. A year don’t go by without me erasin’ names from my invite list. Never fails. It’s the loaners ten-to-one over the field that the eraser hits.
“‘Giving half, that’s different. It don’t stay on the record, stops ’em cold from comin’ back for more, and everyone’s conscience is clean. And don’t forget, it’s the first half that’s always the toughest to get. Once they get it and don’t owe it back, the second half’s easy to borrow. They can put the first half up as collateral.
“‘Don’t be like me, Kid, spreadin’ your legs for everyone. Even when you give, it ain’t appreciated, it’s envied. If you wanna play Santa Claus, it’s your call. Give ’em half if you want. But don’t loan. Got it?’
“Got it I did. The Crooner’s wisdom was welcome, and I sucked it up like quicksand. Didn’t fall prey to it, though.”