Published on: November 20, 2023 at 08:11 pm.
Last updated on: 20 November 2023 at 04:00 pm.
There has never been a show in Las Vegas in which Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and/or Peter Lawford have performed as the Rat Pack.
This is because Sinatra despised the nickname. In fact, when he, Martin and Davis announced a reunion tour in 1987, Sinatra seemed willing to offer a sandwich to a reporter who mentioned the “Rat Pack” in his presence. Sinatra’s old blue eyes turned red when he referred to her with “that stupid phrase.”
The group had its own names. Initially, “The Clan” was a favorite, although it fell out of favor once its racist overtones were recognized. The “summit” came next. This came from the name the quintet created for the special shows it gave in the Copa Room at the Sands starting in 1960: “The Summit at the Sands.”
When just one member of The Summit is booked to perform at The Sands, others often show up for impromptu collaborations. The tents began to read, “Dean Martin, maybe Frank, maybe Sammy.”
But they’ve never read “The Rat Pack.” Not once.
A scar was born
The Rat Pack originally referred to a group of Hollywood friends surrounding film star Humphrey Bogart in the late 1940s. Sinatra happened to be in that group, along with Judy Garland, her husband, Sid Luft, talent agent Swifty Lazar, composer Jimmy Van Heusen, and notable actors David Niven, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Cary Grant.
Honorary members included Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum, Nat King Cole, Mickey Rooney, Cesar Romero, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, and just about anyone who regularly hung out at the Holmby Hills mansion that Bogart shared with his wife, Loren Bacal.
By most accounts, it was Bacall who branded the group forever when a few members came home disheveled from a weekend in Las Vegas and said, “You look like a bunch of fucking rats.”
Sinatra never liked the name, but agreed to it when the others formed a drinking club based on it. The rat group had its own coat of arms (a rat gnaws off a human hand) and its own motto (“Never drag a rat”). Its members even gave themselves nicknames: Sinatra was master of the herd, Bacall was mother den, and Garland was vice president.
Although Bogie’s chosen job title was head of public relations, he was the club’s undisputed leader. After his death from esophageal cancer in 1957, Sinatra replaced him, not only as leader of the club, but also as Bacall’s main leader. They were engaged a year later, but Sinatra broke off the engagement when Lazarus leaked news of their planned marriage to the press.
By 1959, Sinatra, who had been careful to avoid Bacall for the rest of his life, was hanging out with a new group of friends. Whenever he got together with the singers Martin and Davies, the comedian Bishop, and the actor Lawford, either socially or on stage, tunes were sung and insults were hurled. (One of Sinatra’s favorites was his saying that Martin was so tanned because he “found a bar with a skylight.”)
Other than Lawford, everyone was entertaining around the Strip themselves: Sinatra at the Desert Inn with Bishop at Opening Ceremony, Davis at The Final Frontier, and Martin with Jerry Lewis at the Flamingo. Once their contracts were all up, they came together at the top in the sand.
Although they had nothing to do with the original Rat Pack, Hollywood gossip columnists continued to refer to anyone around Sinatra as his Rat Pack. They liked the name because it effectively disparaged the stars’ exclusionary affinity while also downplaying their dominance of popular culture. A quarter century later, another group of young Hollywood stars and affables were dubbed “The Brat Pack” for the same reason.
By 1960, the summit had reached a cold peak. during filming ocean 11, They manage to play two shows at The Sands every evening. In the last scene of the movie, The characters they play pass through the Sands marquee with their actual names listed.
The misconception that Frank and company endorsed the Rat Pack name comes from a combination of factors. Even more significant are more than 60 years of entertainment headlines screaming it from the front pages of the tabloids.
Help also goes to albums like “The Rat Pack Live at the Sands,” a 1963 live recording that wasn’t released until 2002, long after all its members had died and Sinatra could no longer hit the Capitol Records executive who nicknamed him – she.
Cover bands and acts, particularly the still-performing band Rat Pack is Back, founded by former ’70s teen icon David Cassidy in 1999, only added to the confusion.
Finally, in 2015, a bronze plaque was placed in the Venice hotel to cement the hated nickname for the ages. It pays homage to “The Rat Pack” at the spot where their famous 1960 photo was taken in front of the Sands marquee – a marquee that never read “The Rat Pack.”
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