The Rat Pack – Naming Names

The Rat Pack

The names by which we know the members of the Rat Pack are all familiar, but for the most part those are not the names the guys began with in life.  For example, Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti and briefly used the name Dino Martini when he started out.

Joey Bishop was born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb, and Peter Lawford came into the world as Peter Sydney Ernest Aylen.

Sammy and Frank however, used their real names, although early on, a bandleader suggested a name for Frank that might have changed the course of the chairman’s career.   It was a name that Frank said would have kept him singing in lounges and small venues for the rest of his life as you’ll probably agree when you hear it.

One of Frank’s favorite composers and a close friend, Jimmy Van Heusen started out life as Chester Babcock and was probably well-advised to change that one.

Possibly Frank’s closest friend, restaurant owner Jilly Rizzo was born with the first name Ermenigildo that definitely warranted shortening.

It’s believed that Frank’s dad, Marty Sinatra tried boxing and briefly took the name Marty O’Brien because for some reason boxers with Irish names were the thing at that time.

By the way, Frank Sinatra Jr. is not technically a “junior” because his middle name Wayne is different from his father’s middle name which is Albert.

The Rat Pack itself would have been remembered by a different name if Frank had his way.  According to The Rat Pack Authority, Frank didn’t like the Rat Pack title, and preferred to call the group The Summit, after the high profile U.S./Soviet summit conferences of the time.

And oh yes. . .The name suggested for a young Frank Sinatra was “Frankie Satin”.  Hearing that, it’s a good thing Frank said no thanks.

For more stories on Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, visit this Frank Sinatra tribute resource.


The Rat Pack & Their Early Jobs

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. are known primarily for their singing, dancing and acting abilities.  But each worked at other jobs in their early lives, with the exception of Sammy, who was an entertainer through his entire life, from the time he was a little boy. 

Frank, born in Hoboken New Jersey as Francis Albert Sinatra, once delivered copies of the Jersey Observer newspaper, worked as a riveter at a local shipyard, and even waited tables at a New Jersey restaurant, also singing there, in the job that led to his being discovered for his vocal talent.  He never served in the military due to a perforated ear drum.

Dean, born in Steubenville Ohio as Dino Paul Crocetti, once delivered bootleg liquor, worked in a steel mill, and was a blackjack dealer and roulette stickman at local underground casinos.  Plus, he had a short boxing career under the name “Kid Crochet”.  He was drafted into the army in 1944 and served for a year in Akron Ohio.

Sammy, born in Harlem as Samuel George Davis Jr., never knew any kind of work other than performing on stage, starting with his father at the age of five.  He also served in the army, but even there he was assigned duty involving his awesome skills as an entertainer.  If he ever tried another occupation, it might have been photography, which was a passion of his.  He was said to always carry a camera, and even had a book of photographs printed, with his favorite subjects being his fellow performers, like Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Jerry Lewis, and of course, his Rat Pack pals, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. 

This article printed in association with a  Rat Pack Impersonators Tribute site.



The Rat Pack Goes To College


The Rat Pack’s lasting impact on Las Vegas not only permeates the Strip, but even stretches to UNLV, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where a great web resource celebrates Frank, Dean, Sammy and company.  It’s called the UNLV Libraries Special Collections, featuring some great photos of the Rat Pack performing, along with some rare candid shots of the guys backstage.  There’s also a glimpse of Jack Entratter the legendary Sands Hotel executive who hosted the Rat Pack during the glory years of the early 60’s, who’s seen with the guys in several of the shots.

The photos came directly from the Sands office of publicity and advertising, which donated them in 1980, several years before the historic landmark was imploded in 1996.

To view those great photographs, visit UNLV’s page saluting The Rat Pack.  And while you’re there, you might want to peruse some of the other collections of Las Vegas history on display at UNLV’s University Libraries.

The Rat Pack is also remembered in live shows performed by Rat Pack Tribute performers, also known as “Rat Pack Impersonators“.


The Original Rat Pack Tribute

In 1987, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. reunited to announce they would be performing together again, reviving their Rat Pack glory days of the 60’s.  But instead of taking the stage in a Las Vegas showroom as in times gone by, they would tour the U.S. in large concert halls.  And at their press conference, Frank made it clear that the words Rat Pack would not be in the title, expressing his dislike for the term when a reporter brought it up.  The tour would be called Together Again

Frank felt it would be good for Sammy, who had been experiencing financial difficulties, and good for Dean, whose emotional state had suffered since the loss of his son in a plane crash earlier in the year.  As the tour started, there was some friction between Frank and Dean, and Dean’s health was declining, so it was not totally surprising when Dean dropped out of the tour after only four performances.

But instead of scrapping the whole project, a replacement for Dean was brought in.  Frank and Sammy were joined by Liza Minnelli and the tour was renamed Frank, Liza and Sammy, The Ultimate Event.

It was a good mix, and went on to become a success for Frank, Sammy and Liza.  Liza had been around Frank all of her life and said that she had first seen him on stage when she was four years old.  And she said about Frank “He may be Frank Sinatra to most people, but he’s Uncle Frank to me”.

Not too long after the road trip concluded, Sammy passed away, and it’s said he was buried with a gold watch given to him by Frank at the conclusion of the Ultimate Event tour.

Today, audiences can see a Rat Pack Tribute show peformed by Las Vegas Rat Pack Impersonators, but Frank, Dean and Sammy’s Together Again was the original Rat Pack Tribute.


Never seen Rat Pack Photos

According to one of America’s top Rat Pack Tribute groups, Life Magazine has unveiled a collection of photos of the Rat Pack that include rare shots of Frank, Dean and Sammy, plus some of their Rat Pack associates.  The magazine that used to sell widely at newsstands, lives on today as a great Web resource with one of the finest photo collections around.  At Life Magazine on the Web, you’ll find photos from politics, sports, science, the arts and entertainment, and even from today’s headlines.  The exclusive Rat Pack photo series is called The Rat Pack: 25 Never-Seen Photos.

Among the shots are Dean in his dressing room before a show, Frank taking a shortcut through the kitchen to get to the stage of Miami’s Eden Roc Resort, and Sammy laughing over dinner with his wife May Britt.

Other shots include Peter Lawford in the barber chair, Frank and Dean together in a recording studio and in wardrobe on a movie set.  And there are still many more fascinating pictures.  All of the photos have a candid, real-life feel and are accompanied by memorable quotes associated with the Rat Pack stars.

To see The Rat Pack: 25 Never-Seen Photos, click on this link to go to Life.com.


The Lady Is A Tramp – A Rat Pack Song

In 1937, a musical called Babes In Arms featured a song that would become a staple for Frank Sinatra, not to mention Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and the Rat Pack.  The song was The Lady is a Tramp, by the Broadway songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart.  It was recorded by Lena Horne in 1948, and she performed it in a film about the two famous songwriters, called Words and Music.

In the 1957 film Pal Joey, Frank Sinatra serenades Rita Hayworth with the song, and soon afterwards, it became a regular part of Frank’s nightclub and concert shows.  Though it started out with a mellow arrangement with a piano lead-in, in later years the song got a new treatment with a bold horn introduction, and became one of the most exciting numbers in the Sinatra show. 

Sammy also liked singing the song and performed it regularly during his concert appearances.  And Dean did it too, but his version was a comical parody in which he sings the gentleman is a tramp, as part of the opening of his time on stage.

Throughout the years, The Lady is a Tramp was also associated with Ella Fitzgerald, who sang the song many times, including as a duet with  Frank on one of his TV specials.  And it was recorded by the Supremes in an album of Rodgers and Hart songs.  Most recently, it was heard sung by two of the main characters on an episode of the TV series Glee.  And there were recordings of The Lady is a Tramp by the group Yes, They Might Be Giants, and even Alice Cooper.  But it will always be most associated with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. 

To see Frank’s performance of The Lady is a Tramp in Pal Joey, visit Rat Pack Remembered at YouTube, and to see Frank’s duet of the song with Ella Fitzgerald, visit the Frank Sinatra Tribute, also at YouTube.


Portraits Of The Rat Pack

There are many photos, posters and paintings perpetuating the images of the Rat Pack members, both individually and together.  One unique collection of Rat Pack images are the work of a fine artist in California named Ms. Bruni Sablan.  She has created over 1300 paintings of famous music stars and musicians, among them Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.  The artist calls her collection the Jazz Masters Series, and it includes the portrait of Dean Martin seen above.

Along with her portrait of Dean, Ms. Sablan created a couple of portraits of Sammy, one of which is shown here.  And by the look of his derby hat and body language, he appears to be performing his classic song and dance number Mr. Bojangles

Although the artist only displays one work of Dean and two of Sammy, her collection of Frank Sinatra portraits is quite extensive.  They show Frank at many different ages, from the young crooner to The  Chairman of the Board and Ol’ Blue Eyes.  And each one of the Sinatra paintings is named for a popular Sinatra song, like the one shown here, called Too Marvelous For Words.

For a complete look at Bruni Sablan’s Jazz Masters Series and her numerous other works, visit her on the Web at brunijazzart.com.  And visit the home of a popular Rat Pack Tribute Show, also helping to perpetuate the images of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

July 2019
« Jun