Barry Keenan was a bright young student at UCLA in 1961 when he swerved his car to avoid hitting a dog. The resultant accident and back injury, he later claimed, left him addicted to alcohol and pain killers. His stockbroker father would suffer a severe economic setback that left him suicidal, and Keenan sought a quick fix to “rescue” his family financially. Somehow, he decided that kidnapping was the ideal solution – technically, no one would get hurt, and the ransom money would solve his problems. As an alumnus of Los Angeles’ University High School, he had rubbed elbows with many celebrity offspring. After much consideration, he decided that Frank Sinatra, Jr., would be the perfect target.
Keenan needed “seed money” to set his project in motion, so he appealed to his best friend from high school, Dean Torrence, of surf-music duo Jan and Dean. Keenan had actually printed out his plot as a “business plan” and presented it to Torrence, asking for a $5,000 loan. Dean laughed nervously, thinking it was just an elaborate ruse to ask for money, and gave Keenan $500, telling him to “get back to me when you get your life together.” Keenan ultimately enlisted two other men and went through with his plan. “Little Blue Eyes” was rescued, the $240,000 in ransom money recovered, and the trio were arrested and convicted.