Rat Pack

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The Rat Pack was an informal group of entertainers, the second iteration of which ultimately made movies and appeared together in Las Vegas casino venues. They originated as a group of A-list show business friends who met casually at the Los Angeles home of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.[1] In the 1960s, the group featured Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop among others. They appeared together on stage and in films in the early 1960s, including the movies Ocean's 11,[2] Sergeants 3, and Robin and the 7 Hoods (Bing Crosby replaced Lawford in the last movie). Sinatra, Martin, and Davis were regarded as the group's lead members after Bogart's death.[3][4]

1950s[edit]

Humphrey Bogart, original Rat Pack leader (from Sabrina, 1954)

The name "Rat Pack" was first used to refer to a group of friends in New York,[5][6] and several explanations have been offered for the name. According to one version, Lauren Bacall saw her husband Humphrey Bogart and his friends returning from a night in Las Vegas and said, "You look like a goddamn rat pack."[5] "Rat Pack" may also be a shortened version of "Holmby Hills Rat Pack", a reference to the home of Bogart and Bacall[5][6] which served as a regular hangout.

Visiting members included Errol Flynn, Ava Gardner, Nat King Cole, Robert Mitchum, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney, Lena Horne, Jerry Lewis, and Cesar Romero. According to Stephen Bogart, the original members of the Holmby Hills Rat Pack were Frank Sinatra (pack master), Judy Garland (first vice-president), Sid Luft (cage master), Bogart (rat in charge of public relations), Swifty Lazar (recording secretary and treasurer), Nathaniel Benchley (historian), David Niven, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, and Jimmy Van Heusen.[5][6]

1960s[edit]

The 1960s version of the group included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson, Juliet Prowse, Buddy Greco, and Shirley MacLaine were often referred to as the "Rat Pack Mascots". Comedian Don Rickles wrote that "I never received an official membership card but Frank made me feel part of the fun."[7]

Peter Lawford was a brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy (dubbed "Brother-in-Lawford" by Sinatra),[8] and Kennedy spent time with Sinatra and the others when he visited Las Vegas, during which members sometimes referred to the group as "the Jack Pack". Rat Pack members played a role in campaigning for Kennedy and the Democrats, appearing at the July 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.[9] Lawford asked Sinatra if he would have Kennedy as a guest at his Palm Springs house in March 1962 and Sinatra went to great lengths to accommodate the President, including the construction of a helipad.[10] Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy advised his brother to sever ties to Sinatra because of his association with Mafia figures such as Sam Giancana and he cancelled the visit.[11] Kennedy instead stayed at Bing Crosby's estate, which further infuriated Sinatra.[12] Lawford was blamed for this and Sinatra "never again had a good word" for him.[13] Lawford's role was written out of the upcoming 4 for Texas, and his part in Robin and the 7 Hoods was given to Bing Crosby.[12]

Revival[edit]

Sammy Davis Jr. in 1989

Sinatra, Davis, and Martin announced a 29-date tour called Together Again in December 1987. At the press conference to announce the tour, Martin joked about calling it off, and Sinatra rebuked a reporter for using the term "Rat Pack", referring to it as "that stupid phrase".[14]

Dean Martin's son Dean Paul Martin died in a plane crash in March 1987 on the San Gorgonio Mountain in California, the same mountain where Sinatra's mother was killed in a plane crash ten years earlier. Martin had since become increasingly dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs. Davis had hip replacement surgery two years previously, and was estranged from Sinatra because of Davis' use of cocaine.[15] Davis was also experiencing severe financial difficulties, and was promised by Sinatra's people that he could earn between six and eight million dollars from the tour.[16]

Martin had not made a film or recorded since 1984 and Sinatra felt that the tour would be good for Martin, telling Davis, "I think it would be great for Dean. Get him out. For that alone it would be worth doing".[17] Sinatra and Davis still performed regularly, yet they had not recorded for several years. Both Sinatra and Martin had made their last film appearances together in 1984's Cannonball Run II, which also starred Davis. This marked the trio's first feature film appearance since 1964's Robin and the 7 Hoods. Martin expressed reservations about the tour, wondering whether they could draw as many people as they had in the past. Sinatra and Davis complained during private rehearsals about the lack of black musicians in the orchestra.[16] The tour began at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena on March 13, 1988 to a sold-out crowd of 14,500.[17]

Davis opened the show, followed by Martin and then Sinatra; after an interval, the three performed a medley of songs. During the show, Martin threw a lit cigarette at the audience.[18] He withdrew from the tour after just five shows, citing a flare-up of a kidney problem. Sinatra and Davis continued the tour under the title "The Ultimate Event" with Liza Minnelli replacing Martin as the third member of the trio.[19]

Davis's associate stated that Sinatra's people were skimming the top of the revenues from the concerts, as well as stuffing envelopes full of cash into suitcases after the performances.[20] In August 1989, Davis was diagnosed with throat cancer which caused his death in May 1990. He was buried with a gold watch that Sinatra had given him at the conclusion of The Ultimate Event Tour.[21]

A 1988 performance of The Ultimate Event in Detroit was recorded and shown on Showtime the following year as a tribute to the recently deceased Davis. A review in The New York Times praised Davis's performance, describing it as "pure, ebullient, unapologetic show business."[22]

Reputation[edit]

Concerning the group's reputation for womanizing and heavy drinking, Joey Bishop stated in a 1998 interview: "I never saw Frank, Dean Martin, Sammy or Peter drunk during performances. That was only a gag! And do you believe these guys had to chase broads? They had to chase 'em away!"[23]

Films[edit]

Archival footage of Lawford and Sinatra was used in the 1974 compilation film That's Entertainment!.

Shirley MacLaine appeared in the 1958 film Some Came Running, along with Sinatra and Martin. She had a major role (and Sinatra a cameo) in the 1956 Oscar-winning film Around the World in 80 Days. MacLaine played a Hindu princess who is rescued by, and falls in love with, original Rat Pack associate David Niven, and Sinatra had a non-speaking, non-singing role as a piano player in a saloon, whose identity is concealed from the viewer until he turns his face toward the camera during a scene featuring Marlene Dietrich and George Raft. MacLaine appeared alongside Sinatra in Can-Can. She also had an appearance in the 1960 film Ocean's 11 as a drunken woman. The 1984 film Cannonball Run II, with MacLaine, marked the final time members of the Rat Pack shared theatrical screen-time together.

A biopic titled The Rat Pack, made by HBO in 1998, starred Ray Liotta as Sinatra, Joe Mantegna as Martin, and Don Cheadle as Davis, dramatizing their private lives and, in particular, their roles in the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.

Music[edit]

Christmas with the Rat Pack, a collection of holiday tunes sung by Sinatra, Martin and Davis, was released in 2001. The Ultimate Rat Pack Collection: Live & Swingin' went on sale in 2003. A concert featuring the three men, Live from the Sands in Las Vegas, is also available on CD.

Stage[edit]

The Rat Pack: Live from Las Vegas tribute show originated on stage in London in 2000 and has been running continuously since then throughout Europe and North America.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Koch, Ed; Manning, Mary; Toplikar, Dave (May 15, 2008). "Showtime: How Sin City evolved into 'The Entertainment Capital of the World'". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  2. ^ michel, peter. "UNLV Libraries, The Rat Pack, retrieved May 2, 2007". Library.unlv.edu. Archived from the original on September 8, 2008. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  3. ^ "Sergeants 3 (1962)". The Movie Portal. 1962-02-10. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  4. ^ "Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra: Dean Martin: Sammy Davis Jr): Big Three: 3cd (2008): CD". hmv.com. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  5. ^ a b c d Shawn Levy, Rat Pack confidential, Doubleday, 1998
  6. ^ a b c Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoel, The Rat Pack, Taylor Publishing Company 1998
  7. ^ Rickles, Don and David Ritz (2007). Rickles' Book: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. p. 91 ISBN 978-0-7432-9305-1.
  8. ^ Spada, p. 207
  9. ^ Spada, p. 228
  10. ^ Spada, pp. 292-293
  11. ^ Spada, p.293
  12. ^ a b Spada, p. 294
  13. ^ Spada, p. 295
  14. ^ Levy, Shawn. Rat Pack Confidential. Fourth Estate. London, 1999. p. 339
  15. ^ Haygood, Wil. In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.. Random House. New York, 2003. p. 450
  16. ^ a b Haygood p. 466
  17. ^ a b Levy, p. 339
  18. ^ Summers, Anthony, Swan, Robbyn. Sinatra: The Life. Corgi. New York, 2006 p. 440
  19. ^ Takiff, Jonathan (1988-09-27). "Frank, Liza & Sammy The Ultimate Event!". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  20. ^ Birkbeck, Matt. Deconstructing Sammy. Amistad. New York, 2008. p. 213
  21. ^ Summers, Swan, p. 440
  22. ^ "With Sammy Davis, the Spirit Lingers". The New York Times. March 6, 1989. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  23. ^ time.com – And Then There Was One

Bibliography[edit]

  • Gehman, Richard (1961). Sinatra and His Rat Pack. Belmont.
  • Levy, S. (1998). Rat Pack Confidential. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-84115-001-0.
  • Spada, James (1991). Peter Lawford: The Man Who Kept the Secrets. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-07185-8.

External links[edit]