To hear John Stamos talk about the subject of his new podcast, “The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra,” you’d think you were listening to a lifelong academic mid lecture. Clearly, Stamos knows a lot about the topic, the result of the actor’s longstanding interest in both Frank Sinatra, Sr. and the world of music in general. The first season of Spoke Media’s “The Grand Scheme,” which goes wide on July 27, focuses on the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra, Jr. in 1963, a crime fraught with controversy considering it happened only a few weeks after the assassination of JFK. It’s still believed by many that Sinatra, Jr. had a hand in his own kidnapping, though that has never been definitively proven.
Stamos, recently the lead of the Disney+ family series “Big Shot,” had been attempting to tell the story of kidnapper Barry Keenan for years, first hearing about Keenan’s story through Dean Torrance, of Jan and Dean fame, at the Orange County Fair nearly three decades ago. Initially, Stamos was asked by Torrance about producing something based on Keenan’s story, which Keenan had written as a manuscript while in prison.
“I didn’t really know what to do with it,” Stamos told IndieWire about the manuscript. “I didn’t know about producing or anything, so it just kind of sat around.”
After languishing in his house for several years, Stamos attempted to pitch the project as a limited series of some kind, interviewing Keenan off-camera. “I always pitched it as the Marx brothers meet the Coen brothers,” said Stamos. He also saw it as an opportunity to touch on topics that, in the decades when Keenan was a young man, were considered taboo — such as mental illness and substance abuse. “Keenan’s still around,” said Stamos. “He’s 81. He’s a bright man, and he just wanted to take a shortcut to everything.”
Stamos eventually started collaborating with Spoke and Wondery, but was taken aback by the transition to a podcast format.
“I said, ‘Can’t you just use what I have and chop it up?” he said. The opportunity to narrate gave Stamos a chance to relax, especially as he knew the Spoke and Wondery teams would be able to focus on the story’s authenticity. “There was very little that they couldn’t find proof of,” he said.
To that end, the series gives listeners a glimpse true crime tale free of overt violence and physical pain. Instead, “The Grand Scheme” uncovers wounds that run far deeper. “There’s no blood, there’s no guts, there are no serial killers…nobody dies, but nobody quite gets out alive either,” said Stamos.
“The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra” is available now via the Wondery app.