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Encore in Las Vegas returns Frank Sinatra’s 1954 Oscar

Frank Sinatra’s 1954 Oscar, one of the Rat Pack ringleader’s most cherished possessions, has gone home.

After a 10-year stay at Encore in Las Vegas, the gold statuette has been returned to his family. It no longer greets diners at a Steve Wynn-created restaurant named after Sinatra. Wynn acquired it as part of a rare loan arrangement with the singing legend’s family.

Also missing from the showcase at the entrance of the Sinatra Italian Restaurant: one of Sinatra’s 11 Grammys and an Emmy. All three awards were returned last spring, shortly after a sex scandal drove Wynn out of control of his gaming empire. He turns 77 Sunday.

A year ago this weekend numerous accusations by employees of sexual misconduct, allegedly perpetrated over decades, began surfacing. Wynn denied them, calling the charges “preposterous.” He stepped down as the controlling shareholder of his empire a week later.

Sinatra’s daughter Tina confirmed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the Academy Award has been returned to The Sinatra Family Estates and is headed for a Sinatra memorabilia collection at the University of Southern California.

Sixty-five years ago, the Best Supporting Actor Oscar went to Frank Sinatra for his role in “From Here to Eternity” as Pvt. Angelo Maggio, who was bullied by an Italian-hating Sgt. “Fatso” Judson, played by Ernest Borgnine.

Asked if the move was linked to Wynn’s departure amid a storm of lurid headlines, Tina Sinatra responded via email, “To be clear, the Oscar was on personal loan to Steve Wynn. It was intended to remain on display for five years, but you know Steve! After ten years, it seemed a good time to change-out the display and return the items to Sinatra Hall at the USC campus.”

In a brief phone interview Friday, she said that’s where her father’s Academy Award belongs.

“He prized the Oscars,” she said.

The statuette was featured in a glass showcase, in front of a gold-framed photo of Frank Sinatra kissing Donna Reed at the 1954 Academy Awards. She won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Alma “Lorene” Burke, the girlfriend of Montgomery Clift’s character in “From Here to Eternity.”

Replacing the Oscar, Grammy and Emmy is a new Sinatra exhibit, which Tina Sinatra described as a treasure trove of her “very personal keepsakes.” It includes two glass showcases with records, vintage photos and miniature busts.

Wynn could not be reached. He opened Encore on Dec. 22, 2008, and called the restaurant “the closest to my heart.” He became a steward of Frank Sinatra’s legacy after forging a friendship with the singer in the early 1980s when he lured Sinatra, then in his late 60s, to perform at Wynn’s Golden Nugget hotels in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Wynn’s profile soared after he appeared in self-deprecating TV commercials with the celebrity.

Frank Sinatra’s heirs had fiercely protected the icon’s name from appearing on restaurants and nightclubs around the world. Lawsuits stopped numerous attempts to take advantage of the prominent brand name.

His daughter said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences takes a highly proprietary approach when it comes to Oscars.

“If someone broke in and ran off with it the Academy would be all over us,” Tina Sinatra told the Review-Journal in 2010 at a Wynn dinner. “They make you feel like the award was leased.”

Norm Clarke, a former Review-Journal columnist, may be reached at normclarke@me.com.

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