John Stamos Debuts Madcap Podcast About Frank Sinatra Jr.'s Bungled Abduction: 'It's a Romp'

John Stamos hosts a riveting true-crime podcast about a man he befriended who divulged his harebrained scheme to kidnap the son of Ol' Blue Eyes in 1963

John Stamos talks to People about his new podcast The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra
John Stamos .

When Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped at gunpoint from Harrah's in Lake Tahoe, Nev., on a snowy December night in 1963, his famous father, legendary singer Frank Sinatra, did everything he could to get him back.

Once the 19-year-old returned safe and sound to his Bel Air, Calif., house — he walked most of the way home — his father wanted to put the ordeal behind him and never look back.

"Frank didn't want the story told," longtime actor, musician, and Sinatra fan, John Stamos, tells PEOPLE. "It was an embarrassment."

It wasn't the finest moment for the three kidnappers, either. Barry Keenan, the 23-year-old booze and drug-addled mastermind of the ill-conceived plan, left his gun and fake mustaches behind in the motel room and had to go back for them, Stamos explains. Keenan also claimed God told him to kidnap Junior.

John Stamos and Frank Sinatra
John Stamos and Frank Sinatra. Courtesy John Stamos

One of the other two kidnappers let Junior go from the Canoga Park house where they held him before he was supposed to, allowing Junior to find his way home. (When he reached the iconic gates of Bel Air, a security guard for the exclusive enclave drove him home in his trunk to keep him away from a throng of media.)

Perhaps most bizarrely: The kidnappers even turned down Sinatra's $1 million in ransom money, asking instead for $240,000.

In the end, they were all caught, convicted, and sent to prison.

frank-sinatra-jr.jpg
Frank Sinatra Jr. and Frank Sinatra.

For years, the zany, fasten-your-seatbelt, fiasco of a story was largely untold and was mostly forgotten — until now.

Starting Tuesday, details of the amateur-hour caper are going to be revealed thanks to Stamos' riveting new 10-episode podcast series, The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra, airing on Wondery and other podcast platforms. (A trailer is shown below.)

"It's a true-crime story with all the twists and turns," but without all the blood and gore, Stamos says.

The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra
Wondery

"No one died," he says on the podcast in a voice as tough and tender as the leather seats in the Chevy El Camino he drove through his southern California town back in the day with the Beach Boys and "Surf City" singers Jan and Dean playing on the radio. "But no one got out alive."

Known for his starring roles in Full House, Fuller House, (which he also executive produced), ER, General Hospital, and most recently, the hit Disney+ series, Big Shot, the actor asks on the podcast, "Why is John Stamos of all people telling you this story?"

Full House
Full House cast in 1989. ABC via Getty

The answer, he explains, goes back to his love of surf rock and the kind of networking that can only happen in Hollywood.

"I was 19 or 20 and I was at a gig with Jan and Dean," Stamos explains in a Zoom call from a hip room in his Los Angeles home with a montage of Sinatra's famed 1938 mugshot behind him and his cousin, Chris Whipple, visiting from North Carolina, listening in beside him.

"During intermission, Dean [Torrence] turns to me and says, 'Stamos, do you do any producing?'

"I didn't know anything about producing, but I said, 'Sure, I produce.'

"He says, 'My best friend kidnapped Frank Sinatra Jr. and he wrote this manuscript about it in jail and I have the rights to it.'"

His best friend, he went on to explain, was Barry Keenan.

John Stamos
John Stamos. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

For reasons Stamos explains on the podcast, it took years for him to finally sit down with Keenan, now 81, who told him the entire story.

"How often do you get the criminal talking about what he did?" he says. "I don't know who kidnapped Lindbergh's baby, but I'll bet they're not doing a podcast with me."

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Against a backdrop of rhythmically tapping cymbals, snippets of an old-time radio broadcast about the brazen kidnapping, and snappy jazz sets, Stamos tells the story of how Keenan came up with the ill-conceived scheme to kidnap the son of one of the most powerful men in the world — who had the most powerful men on the planet looking for the teen.

"The FBI. The CIA. J. Edgar Hoover. The Mafia. [Mob boss] Sam Giancana called Sinatra and says, 'Frank, let me take care of this my way,'" says Stamos.

Sinatra stayed on the right side of the law. He told Giancana to let the FBI handle it, says Stamos.

Sinatra Wanted Kidnapping Kept Quiet

Sinatra didn't want Keenan telling the story in part because Junior had been accused of making the whole thing up to drum up publicity for his burgeoning singing career.

"When they said that Junior was in on it, that really got Frank mad, and he just didn't want it talked about," says Stamos.

Keenan is repentant. "Look, he made a horrific mistake, and he knows it," says Stamos.

Stamos hopes the podcast will shine a light on mental illness.

"Barry was mentally ill at a time when people didn't talk about being mentally ill. They swept it under the carpet and that was that," he says.

Still, Stamos was a bit floored when Keenan told him he thought kidnapping Junior would help improve the teenager's strained relationship with his icon of a father, who was also known as Ol' Blue Eyes and the Chairman of the Board.

"Nothing like a good, old kidnapping to bring a father and son together," says Stamos.

Produced by Spoke Media in collaboration with Wondery, The Grand Scheme can be found at wondery.fm/SnatchingSinatra.

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