On Saturday, singer Paul Anka – who wrote the Frank Sinatra hit My Way – told how he was adopted by the Rat Pack and saw a side to Sinatra that was carefully hidden from the world. Today, in the second of two extracts from his new memoirs, he reveals his fascinating encounters with other famous names during his extraordinary 55-year career . . .
After his father bought Harrods, this young kid called Dodi Fayed turned up in Los Angeles. Sweet enough guy, but very much a daddy’s boy.
In fact, he started treating me as a kind of father figure, too – probably because I’d first got to know him as a child through staying at the Paris Ritz, then owned by Fayed Senior.
But news travels fast in that town, so I soon became aware that Dodi was heavily into cocaine, getting into skirmishes over unpaid rent, seeing the wrong kind of women and running around with a fast crowd.
I tried to advise him, but he was too young and wild to listen. Then, one day, he called to say: ‘I’ve got to talk to you.’
We met at the Ivy restaurant in LA, where he began with a long ramble – which always makes me nervous.
‘Paul, as you know, we go way back, our two families. I’ve known you all these years, and your family stayed at the Ritz . . .’
It turned out he’d come back from Europe recently and hadn’t declared he was carrying $150,000 (£98,500) in cash – which had promptly been confiscated.
‘I can’t tell my dad,’ Dodi wailed. ‘Could you just loan it to me for a week?’
Now, I don’t like lending money. But he kept pleading and saying it would be only be for a week, and somehow I found myself agreeing.
Dodi duly picked up the money from my bank, and a week later I tried to reach him.
By then he was in Australia, chasing an actress. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said when I tracked him down. ‘As soon as I come home this week, I’ll get you the money.’
And he did. It was a Bank of America cheque – and when I tried to cash it, it bounced. I couldn’t believe it!
I called him again. He was full of apologies and promised he was transferring funds to another account the next day – this time from a bank in London.
It wasn’t hard to work out that this was a bull**** story. I was livid. Checking around, I discovered he hadn’t paid his rent for months, he owed people money for jewellery, and was living way beyond his means.
Anyway, I called his bank in London that night and asked to speak to the manager – who happened to be a fan of mine.
‘Mr Anka,’ he said, ‘you know I’m not supposed to give out information, but let me be frank – this guy’s been a problem. There’s not enough money in that account to cover your cheque.’
It was one in the morning in LA, but I called Dodi and yelled: ‘You’ll be here tomorrow – or you’re going to jail!’ My voice was so loud that my wife thought I was being attacked by an intruder.
The following afternoon, Dodi came round with yet more excuses. ‘You know what?’ I told him. ‘I’ve found out you’ve been doing this all over town, and you need to be taught a lesson. I’m going to call your father.’
‘Don’t call Daddy,’ he pleaded – but I did. And I told Fayed Snr I was right on the verge of calling the police.
The upshot was that Daddy sent his brother round to see me the next day with an open cheque book and an offer to ‘name any amount’. Of course, I only wanted my $150,000 back.
Then Fayed’s people shut down Dodi’s house, paid off all his bills, put him on a plane and carted him back to England.
A few months later, I was lying in bed, sleepily watching TV. Suddenly the programme was interrupted by a bulletin about Princess Diana dying in a car crash in Paris – with Dodi.
At first, I thought I was dreaming. I’d just got over the business of the loan to Dodi, and now this. But that hair-raising drive through Paris made sense, when I thought about it.
One of Dodi’s problems was that he was very paranoid. And he was especially paranoid about kidnapping, hold-ups and vendettas, always thinking that someone might want to kill him.
That’s why he always went fast whenever he got into a car.
When he got involved with Princess Di, all that anxiety must have increased exponentially because the paparazzi were on their tracks, day and night. It was always about speed with him. Fast, fast, fast.