Published on June 19, 2016
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 Corbett Monica also worked as the frequent opening act for Frank Sinatra – later including Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. – and played Larry Corbett, manager and friend, to Joey Bishop’s character on “The Joey Bishop show” from 1963-1965.
The post-Bogart version of the group (Bogart died in 1957) was reportedly never called that name by any of its members – they called it the Summit or the Clan. “The Rat Pack” was a term used by journalists and outsiders, although it remains the lasting name for the group.
Often, when one of the members was scheduled to give a performance, the rest of the Pack would show up for an impromptu show, causing much excitement among audiences, resulting in return visits. They sold out almost all of their appearances, and people would come pouring into Las Vegas, sometimes sleeping in cars and hotel lobbies when they could not find rooms, just to be part of the Rat Pack entertainment experience. The Rat Pack’s appearances were of unprecedented value because the city would always become flooded with high rollers, wealthy gamblers who would routinely leave substantial fortunes in the casinos’ coffers. The marquees of the hotels at which they were performing as individuals would read, for example, “DEAN MARTIN – MAYBE FRANK – MAYBE SAMMY” as seen on a Sands Hotel sign.
Peter Lawford was a brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy (dubbed “Brother-in-Lawford” by Sinatra), 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 11, 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Lawford had asked Sinatra if he would have Kennedy as a guest at his Palm Springs house in March 1962, and Sinatra went to great lengths (including the construction of a helipad) to accommodate the President When Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy advised his brother to sever his ties to Sinatra because of the entertainer’s association with Mafia figures such as Sam Giancana, the stay was cancelled.Kennedy instead chose to stay at rival Bing Crosby’s estate, which further infuriated Sinatra. Lawford was blamed for this, and Sinatra “never again had a good word for (him)” from that point onwards. Lawford’s role in the upcoming 4 for Texas was written out, and his part in Robin and the 7 Hoods was given to Bing Crosby.
On June 20, 1965, Sinatra, Martin, and Davis, with Johnny Carson as the emcee (substituting for Bishop, who was out with a bad back), performed their only televised concert together during the heyday of the Pack at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis, a closed-circuit broadcast done as a fundraiser for Dismas House (the first halfway house for ex-convicts) and fed live to movie theatres across the country. Thirty years later Paul Brownstein tracked down a print of the “lost” show in a St. Louis closet after someone noticed mysterious cameras onstage during a CBS documentary on Sinatra which filmed part of the show. It has since been broadcast on Nick at Night (in 1998) as part of The Museum of Television & Radio Showcase series and released on DVD as part of the Ultimate Rat Pack Collection: Live & Swingin.