Humphrey Bogart was the center of the original Hollywood “Rat Pack;” however, the Rat Pack most remembered today was a core group of entertainers in the 1950s and 1960s who had Frank Sinatra at the helm. They were a unique combination of vaudeville performers, Hollywood actors, and bad boys. The members who ran together included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. They had a stage act and made films together. Their affiliations included rising stars, politicians, and mob figures.

Several actresses have been linked to the Rat Pack as their mascots, and these included Marilyn Monroe, Shirley MacLaine, Angie Dickinson, and Juliet Prowse. Monroe was arguably the most publicized. Sinatra was her close friend and they had been romantically linked. Lawford signed her up to sing happy birthday to President John F. Kennedy, and may have been the last person she spoke to before her death. Martin got her the female lead and was also starring in the last movie she worked on, Something’s Got to Give, which was never completed after her death. Davis visited Marilyn while she was filming How to Marry a Millionaire.

Watch The Rat Pack in 1960 at the Sands Summit

Las Vegas was the Rat Pack’s home away from home. They would perform, play golf, party, gamble, and live life in the fast lane every day they were in town. As a group, they filmed 2 movies: Ocean’s 11 and Sergeants 3. They took their stage act to the Sands Copa Room and performed to enthusiastic crowds and overwhelming applause. The price of a ticket to see the show, which included dinner and 2 drinks, was $5.95 per person. These guys were cool, they were happening, and they had a chemistry that became legendary.


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Peter Lawford

Peter Lawford

(September 7, 1923-December 24, 1984)

Peter Lawford was known as “The Man Who Kept the Secrets.” He was suave, very handsome, charming, and elegant; however, he had only a minimum of talent and was not particularly intelligent. He has been described as a man who was troubled, lacked depth, and lived on the edge of other people’s lives through a whirlwind of sex, rumors, and lots and lots of secrets, perhaps the biggest involving the death of Marilyn Monroe.

Peter Sydney Ernest Aylen was born on September 7, 1923 in London amid scandal, as his parents were embroiled in a hot-bed extramarital affair with each other, which led to double-divorces from their respective spouses. He was part of British aristocracy through his father, Sir Sydney Turning Barlow Lawford (1865-1953), who was an English military officer and a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath who served the British Empire. His mother, who many felt could rival “Mommy Dearest,” May Sommerville Bunny, also known as Lady May Lawford or Mary Somerville (1883-1972), authored her own biography (Bitch!) and admitted that she dressed Peter Lawford as a girl until he was age 11.

Lawford started his acting career in England with a debut at age 7 in a movie titled Poor Old Bill. He later went on to sign with MGM Studios. With many actors away at war, Lawford was utilized as a romantic lead by MGM. He dated many of Hollywood’s most beautiful starlets, including Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Anne Baxter, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Nancy Davis (Reagan), Dorothy Dandridge, and Judy Holiday.

For a while, he was one of the “cool guys” of Hollywood. He married President Kennedy’s sister Patricia in 1954, and they had 4 children: 3 girls and 1 boy. Pat Kennedy and Lawford divorced in 1966. It has been reported that he facilitated the introduction of Marilyn Monroe to President Kennedy and was perhaps the last person to speak to Marilyn before she died. In 1959, Frank Sinatra invited Lawford to join the “Rat Pack” and Lawford in turn brought the Ocean’s 11 project to Sinatra’s attention. It was the first film to include all the members of the Rat Pack: Lawford, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, and Joey Bishop. In 1960, this group was temporarily dubbed “The Jack Pack” by Sinatra while they worked to support the presidential candidacy of Kennedy. Sinatra also dubbed Lawford the “Brother-in-Lawford.” By the mid-1960s, Lawford and Sinatra had a falling out over Ava Gardner and political associations, and their relationship was never the same.

Lawford remarried and divorced 2 more women: first Mary Rowan and then actress Deborah Gould. His last marriage was to Patricia Seaton in 1984, who wrote an exposé of sorts after his death. The Peter Lawford Story describes a drunken, drug-addled life, filled with sexual exploitations, and ending with his collapse, hospitalization, and ultimate death. He died on Christmas Eve in 1984 at the age of 61 from cardiac arrest. He had suffered from kidney and liver failure as a result of years of substance abuse.

His body was cremated and interred at Westwood Memorial Park, but was later exhumed by his wife to scatter his ashes into the ocean. Peter Lawford was an actor, director, and producer, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sammy Davis Jr

Sammy Davis Jr

(December 8, 1925-May 16, 1990)

“Just do what you’re best at, and when you can’t do it any longer-stop.”

Samuel George Davis Jr was born on December 8, 1925 in New York City. He debuted as a child star in the 1920s and came to be known as “Mr. Entertainment.” He wore many hats, including as a vaudeville child star, singer, dancer, actor, comedian and writer. The neon lights in Las Vegas dimmed in tribute to this great performer upon his death.

Sammy was born into entertainment, as his parents were the vaudeville stars Sammy Davis Sr and Elvera “Baby” Sanchez. His childhood was spent in the midst of new gigs and different digs. “Baby Sammy” started appearing on stage at the age of 3, soon became the star of the act, and then there was no stopping him. His film career began in 1933, with a role in Rufus Jones for President.

Drafted at age 18, Davis left to serve in the US Army during World War II. In the military, Davis was exposed to extreme racism, which as a child he had been sheltered from by his father and uncle. He learned to cope with the brutal prejudice by using his talent, and he was assigned to an integrated entertainment unit. After his discharge, he resumed his career track by going on to record albums, and appearing on Broadway in 1956 in Mr. Wonderful for 400 performances. He prevailed against racism and became a legendary performer, as a successful actor, dancer, singer, and comedian. As his popularity grew, Davis refused to perform in any venues where they practiced racial segregation.

Davis had a serious auto accident in 1954 and lost his left eye. While in the hospital, the performer began studying Judaism and later converted. Davis married 3 times, first to Loray White in 1958. It was a hasty marriage and divorce that occurred after his relationship with Kim Novak, a well-known white American actress, ended. Next, Davis was married to Swedish-born actress May Britt in 1960, and was severely criticized for the interracial marriage. At that time, interracial marriages were still banned in 30 states. The couple had 1 daughter and 2 adopted sons. They divorced in 1968. Davis then married Altovise Gore. They adopted a son and were together until his death.

Davis defeated alcohol and cocaine addiction. He smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day. He was also a self-admitted compulsive gambler, and was said to have gambled and spent $50 million over 20 years, while earning $3 million a year. Davis also contributed generously to humanitarian causes.

His films include Porgy and Bess, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Sweet Charity, Taps, and of course Ocean’s 11 with his Rat Pack buddies. His musical credits include Candy Man, Mr. Bojangles, I’ve Gotta Be Me, andWhat Kind of Fool Am I? to name a few.

Sammy Davis Jr died on May 16, 1990 as a result of throat cancer. He was a top entertainer who broke through many racial barriers. Davis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Dean Martin

Dean Martin

(June 7, 1917-December 25, 1995)

Dino Paul Crocetti was born on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio. His father was an Italian immigrant and his mother was an Italian-American. He dropped out of high school and worked as a gas station attendant, in a steel mill, and prize-fighting under the name Kid Crochet. At 17, he moved on to performing in clubs in Ohio and eventually New York City, where he achieved modest success on the night club circuit. He changed his name to Dean Martin in 1940.

In 1946, Martin teamed up with comedian Jerry Lewis and the two of them created a highly successful stage routine. They made their first film as a duo in 1949 and 14 more films followed. They broke up their partnership in 1956 due to arguments and personality conflicts. Eventually, they reconciled their differences. Martin went on to his own success and made 51 total films during his career, in addition to stage performances and television series and specials.

Martin was a core member of the “Rat Pack.” His stage persona was that of a womanizing, cigarette-smoking, boozing playboy. However, much of the alcohol that he “drank” on the set was actually apple juice. He was a crooner, with a melodic voice that was very distinguishable. Martin had requested to work with Marilyn Monroe on Something’s Got to Give in 1962. Monroe passed away during production and the movie was never completed.

Dean Martin married 3 times and had 8 children. His first marriage was to Elizabeth “Betty” Anne McDonald and they had 4 children, followed by a marriage to Jeanne Martin where they had 3 children, and then a marriage to Catherine Hawn, with whom they adopted 1 more child. Martin suffered a terrible tragedy in 1987 when his son, Dean Paul Martin, died in a plane crash. Thereafter, Martin become somewhat of a recluse and never fully recovered from the loss.

He was nonchalant and had an obsession with the game of golf. In 1988, his close friendship with Frank Sinatra ended and they became estranged. They reconciled some years later.

Dean Martin died of acute respiratory failure brought on by emphysema on Christmas Day in 1995 in Beverly Hills. He was 78 years old. His ex-wife Jeanne was at his side.

Some of his biggest hits included Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime and That’s Amore. Dean Martin has 3 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: 1 for movies, 1 for television, and 1 for music.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra

(December 12, 1915-May 14, 1998)

Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey to Marty and Dolly Sinatra, Italian immigrants. His birth was traumatic and difficult. He was born in a kitchen, in a room full of women overseeing Dolly’s labor, which had stalled. The doctor was called in, and the birth required the use of forceps to deliver the child. In the process, the baby suffered a tearing of the left side of his face, neck, and ear. The doctor laid the infant, believed dead, by the kitchen sink and turned all his efforts to saving Dolly, who was also in distress. His grandmother, Rosa Garavanti, went to the child, picked him up, and ran water over him, and the baby began to cry. Both mother and child survived the birth. However, the scars remained and Sinatra was taunted as a child because of their appearance, and he avoided being photographed from his left side for his entire career.

Sinatra was an only child. He was known to retell a very bitter story of his massive birth weight (13.5 lbs) and how he had been left for dead. His relationship with his mother was turbulent. Dolly Sinatra was less than 5 feet tall, attractive, controlling, loud, talented, and ambitious. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as these are many of the characteristics that have been attributed to Frank as well. She worked as a midwife, abortionist (which earned her a criminal record), and later political advocate. She was abusive to her son. She would build him up and tear him down with a vengeance when he did not please her. Perhaps this is why Sinatra was so callous regarding women. His father was a prize-fighter who had a tough appearance, but was a quiet man.

Sinatra’s first job was at the Jersey Observer bundling newspapers, followed by jobs on the dock and in factories. In the evenings, he sang anywhere he could. He got $65 from his mother and invested in a microphone and amplifier, as he was determined to make it in the music business.

Sinatra decided to go into show business after seeing Bing Crosby perform. He dropped out of high school and picked up work singing in local clubs. He was noticed by Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, and the rest is a history of chart-topping success. Women would swoon at his performances. His nicknames included The Sultan of Swoon, Swoonatra, The Voice, Ol’ Blue Eyes, and The Chairman of the Board.

During World War II, while his contemporaries went into the service, Sinatra was rejected by the military because of a punctured eardrum. He stayed in the US during the war, recorded, and made lots of money.

Sinatra married his childhood sweetheart, Nancy Barbato, in 1939, and they had 3 children together. The marriage ended after Sinatra became involved with actress Ava Gardner. Nancy divorced Sinatra on grounds of mental cruelty. Sinatra married Ava Gardner in 1951; however, their relationship was stormy and unstable. They separated in 1953, made attempts at reconciling, but ultimately divorced in 1957. In 1966, Sinatra married the young actress Mia Farrow; he was 50 and she was 21. That marriage lasted only 14 months. In 1976, Sinatra married Barbara Blakely Marx, the widow of Zeppo Marx, and they remained married until his death. This relationship appeared to be the happiest one of his life. Barbara understood that there could only be one star in the household, and Frank was that star.

He was a political activist, having campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, and worked for the Kennedy campaign in 1960. In the 1970s, he switched his political affiliation from Democratic to Republican and supported Richard Nixon and later his friend Ronald Reagan. President Reagan gave Sinatra the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985.

He was the leader of the pack, the “Rat Pack,” that is. He has been described as talented, temperamental, masterful, and an autocrat. He gave the impression of being a hard-core boozer, womanizer, and gambler. Jim Morrison once said “No one can touch him.” He was romantically linked to actresses Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Juliet Prowse, Marilyn Monroe, and Angie Dickinson, among many others.

Sinatra died on May 14, 1998 of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California. He was 82 years old.

Frank Sinatra is an acclaimed vocalist with 1414 studio recordings. As an actor, he had a role in over 50 movies. He was strong willed and was used to running things his way. Sinatra has 3 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for music, film, and TV. He received an Oscar for his role inFrom Here to Eternity (1953) and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joey Bishop

Joey Bishop

(February 3, 1918-October 17, 2007)

Joseph Abraham Gottlieb was born on February 3, 1918 in the Bronx, New York. His family moved to Philadelphia when he was an infant. His parents were Eastern European immigrants.

Bishop knew that he wanted to be an entertainer at an early age and took up tap dancing and musical instruments. His father, a bicycle repairman, taught him to sing Yiddish songs. At the age of 18, he went into vaudeville comedy. He was known for his sarcastic frown and straight-line comic demeanor. He served in the US Army during World War II, but picked his career up very quickly upon discharge. Bishop was married to Sylvia Ruzga for 58 years until her death in 1999, and they had 1 son.

In 1952, Sinatra came calling to have Bishop be his opening act. Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe were close and Marilyn would frequent Sinatra’s performances. Once Marilyn walked in during Bishop’s opening act for Sinatra at New York’s Copacabana, and the audience started to buzz; they turned and watched her entrance. Bishop stopped his act, waited for her to be seated, and whispered into the microphone “Marilyn, I thought I told you to wait in the truck.” He preferred throwaway lines to memorization of jokes. Bishop later wrote much of the Rat Pack’s comic lines and gave them much of their comedic material.

His mild manner and deadpan comedic flare added a steadying influence to the group of entertainers. Bishop eventually got his own television talk show in 1967, where friends would drop by Joey’s apartment to banter and get into funny situations. Bishop’s signature phrase was “son of a gun!” during that era. Regis Philbin was Bishop’s sidekick. The show was cancelled in 1969.

Sinatra and Bishop were very close friends. Bishop was hounded by the press to reveal Rat Pack secrets but only defended his friends, and never caved in to the pressure to produce a memoir or tell-all. Bishop was the only member of the Rat Pack whose personal life never hit the gossip rags, at least until after his death, when his will caused a controversy and hit the papers. Nora Garibotti, his caretaker and companion, claimed she was his lover for nearly 25 years. Reportedly, they met when she was 16 and he was 66, and she felt entitled to a portion of his estate.

Bishop’s movie credits include Ocean’s 11, Sergeants 3, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Johnny Cool,Texas Across the River, Who’s Minding the Mint?, Valley of the Dolls, The Delta Force, Betsy’s Wedding, and Mad Dog Time.

Bishop’s health was declining for some time when he died on October 17, 2007, of multiple organ failure in Newport Beach, California. He was the last of the Rat Pack to pass away.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame has no star to honor Bishop, which seems an oversight since he had his own TV show as well as an outstanding long career performing on stage.

Reference

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