Fan who killed self leaves '60s singer Connie Francis $300G
BY PATRICIA TOWLE
Thursday, August 16th 2007, 12:01 AM
PALM BEACH, Fla. - Sixties superstar Connie Francis, who topped the charts with "Who's Sorry Now," is suing the family of a Florida fan for $300,000 the woman signed over to the singer days before committing suicide.
Relatives of Patricia Nilsen, who shot herself in November after putting nearly all her assets in Francis' name, accuse the singer of using "undue influence" to get the cash.
Francis, 68, calls that "absurd."
"I didn't even know she had any money," Francis told the Daily News. "It's not my fault she left me the money."
Francis, who, like Nilsen, is originally from New Jersey, said she remembers the fan well, but that they hadn't talked in a decade.
"This woman was a fan of mine who came to all my shows in the '70s and '80s," she said.
"The only real conversations I ever had with her were regarding music. She would send me these beautiful cassettes - hundreds of them - that she would make off the radio. She had great taste in music."
Nilsen, 57, had no immediate heirs and few friends when she put a gun to her head Nov. 27 in Summerfield, Fla.
She had moved to Florida about 10 years ago from Lawrence Harbor, N.J., and managed a 7-Eleven until she retired with a workman's comp settlement.
Based on letters she wrote, relatives claim in court papers, Nilsen was "under the insane delusion" that Francis was her friend or, variously, "out to get her."
Seven days before Nilsen died, she visited two banks and put $200,000 into two CDs in Francis' name payable upon her death, according to court papers. Two days later, she went to a third bank and put another $99,074 into a third CD for Francis.
"That $300,000 represents nearly the total value of Ms. Nilsen's estate," said Vero Beach, Fla., lawyer Richard Brown, who represents three of Nilsen's kin.
Brown said Nilsen previously directed her assets be divided among a few relatives and friends as well as St. Jude Children's Hospital.
"Our primary contention is that Ms. Francis enacted undue influence over Ms. Nilsen, which caused her to change the beneficiaries in her estate, or that Ms. Nilsen was insane at the time of her death," he said.
Nilsen's nephew, Gerald Nilsen, a former carpet salesman in Toms River, N.J., accused the singer of "stealing money from me, the kids at St. Jude, and two other friends that my aunt intended her money to go to."
Francis angrily disputed the claims and said her phone records would prove there had been no contact with Nilsen.
She said her lawyers have found no evidence that Nilsen was under psychiatric care or taking any medication when she killed herself.
The family's lawyer said Nilsen's behavior says it all. "This isn't something a sane person would do," Brown said.
The singer said she was shocked when she first heard of the suicide and bequest.
"I felt so bad when I heard the news about this woman," she said. "At first I was willing to give her family half and also make a $25,000 donation to St. Jude Hospital."
She said they turned down the offer and threatened to embarrass her publicly if she didn't give them the full amount.
"They were trying to hold up the payment. So I sued them," she said.
Francis, born Concetta Rosemarie Franconero in Newark, N.J., soared to the top of the charts after she sang "Who's Sorry Now" on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in 1958.
During her heyday, she appeared regularly on TV, headlined Vegas and even played a command performance for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Her hits included "Where the Boys Are," "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" and "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You."
She still performs and will appear in Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles in October.
Despite her career successes, Francis' personal life was littered with tragedy. She was divorced four times. Her lawyer brother was murdered by the mob. Her father ran off the man she calls the true love of her life, teen crooner Bobby Darin, at gunpoint.
After a 1974 appearance at the Westbury Music Fair, a rapist broke into her Howard Johnson's motel room on the Jericho Turnpike and attacked her, sending her into years-long seclusion.
Francis credited loyal fans like Nilsen for helping her to get through her darkest days.
"They are more like friends than fans," she said.
As to the bequest, Francis said Nilsen wanted her to have the money, not her distant family.
"I don't want to be greedy about this, but it's clear she didn't provide for these people," the singer said.
Source: NY Daily News
Edited correct- sorry it's early