Connie Francis - Bipolar Singer / Actress

The trauma of rape worsened her bipolar disorder

Connie Francis
Paul Redmond / WireImage / Getty Images

Connie Francis was born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero in Newark, New Jersey. Her controlling father intended his daughter to make her living playing and teaching the accordion, but winning a competition at the age of 9 on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts set her in a different direction. (It was Godfrey who suggested she change her name to Connie Francis, because he had difficulty pronouncing "Franconero.") Connie's voice was beautiful even when she was very young, and she was not sorry to give up the accordion in favor of being a vocalist.

She recorded her first single at 16, but it was the 1958 recording of "Who's Sorry Now?" that rocketed her to stardom, just when she was thinking of giving up show business (she had accepted a pre-med scholarship at New York University). Not only did several more hit records followed, but she showed her versatility by recording languages including Italian, Hebrew, Spanish, French, German and even Japanese, making her an international star.

Connie Francis' career also included starring roles in the movies Where the Boys Are (1960), Follow the Boys (1963), Looking for Love (1964), and When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965).

In 1974, following a performance, Connie was the victim of a brutal terrorizing rape in her hotel room. She was unable to perform for many years afterward, and a couple years after she finally resumed touring in 1981 she was diagnosed as being manic depressive. It was revealed at this time that she had been addicted to pills for perhaps as long as 25 years, reportedly from being given uppers and downers to perform and sleep early, similar to what happened to Judy Garland.

She is said to have undergone shock treatments which were helpful. In 1991 she suffered a collapse due to lithium toxicity, but at last report, she is still giving the occasional concert, and retrospective albums continue to be released, delighting legions of adoring fans.

Continue Reading