Archive Page 2

31
May
10

A Classic Rat Pack Photo

It’s one of the most widely seen images of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., and it’s been reproduced as an art poster and even embellished by artists with colors and additional imagery.

Here’s the where, when and why of the photograph.  It was January 27th, 1961, and Frank, Sammy and Dean were at Carnegie Hall in New York for a benefit performance in honor of  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sammy was instrumental in getting the Rat Pack involved in the event, which poet Maya Angelou helped organize.  In this famous photo, the Rat Pack members are seen backstage at the historic concert setting.  Today, in addition to seeing the original, you’ll sometimes see this photo re-created by Rat Pack Impersonators to promote a Rat Pack Tribute Show.

Also entertaining at that Carnegie Hall fundraiser were  Tony Bennett and comedians Nipsey Russell and Jan Murray.  In fact, there’s another version of the photo that’s rarely seen, which shows Jan Murray actually seated next to Dean.

Advertisements
28
Mar
10

The Rat Pack in St. Louis

On June 20th, 1965, the Rat Pack took the stage at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis for a fundraiser to benefit Dismas House, the first halfway house for ex-convicts.  Frank,  Dean and Sammy were joined by Johnny Carson as emcee, filling in for Joey Bishop, who was out with a bad back.

The performance that night was captured on film but was lost for over 45 years until a TV producer and vintage TV expert, Paul Brownstein tracked down a print of the show that had been sitting in a closet in St. Louis.  Soon afterwards, it was released on DVD as part of the Ultimate Rat Pat Collection:  Live & Swingin”.

Johnny Carson surprised the audience and his co-stars alike with some pretty good vocals during the musical finale of Birth of the Blues.  Other highlights of the show include some hysterical physical moves by Dean, and some playful heckling of Frank from backstage as he tries to get through a solo.  Frank customized his hit My Kind of Town by changing the lyrics to salute St. Louis instead of Chicago.

And there’s a pretty good little practical joke played on Frank by Dean.  When Frank performed I’ve Got You Under My Skin, it was the second time the audience heard it that night because Dean inserted it into his set preceding Frank’s. 

The lineup of solo sets by Dean, Sammy and then Frank, followed by group numbers involving all three is followed today by many Rat Pack Impersonators

The Rat Pack’s St. Louis show is available for viewing on YouTube, including the great closing number, Birth of the Blues, at the Rat Pack Impersonators site.

25
Dec
09

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Each Christmas, you’re bound to hear Rat Pack star Dean Martin’s recording of Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.  It gets a lot of seasonal play and has been featured in commercials.

Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne in 1945, the song was first recorded by Vaughn Monroe that year, and reached number one on Billboard’s music chart in 1946.  More recently, the Vaughn Monroe recording was used in the first two Die Hard movies.

Dean Martin’s version is featured on his many Christmas albums including Christmas With Dino, My Christmas Album, My Kind Of Christmas, The Dean Martin Christmas Album and Season’s Greetings from Dean Martin, plus Christmas With The Rat Pack.  Although it’s one of the most popular songs every holiday season, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow never actually mentions Christmas. 

The song can be heard in the Dean Martin style at Christmas-time during Rat Pack shows performed by Las Vegas Rat Pack Impersonators.

21
Nov
09

A Rat Pack Member’s Racial Struggles

It wasn’t easy to make it to the top for Sammy Davis Jr. back in the 50’s and 60’s.  He had the talent of a superstar, but  being a young  black man subjected him to humiliations that civil rights campaigns had only started to address.  And it hit Sammy hard.  Segregation was prevalent in many of the places Sammy performed, including Las Vegas.  Back in the 50’s a casino called the Moulin Rouge was practically the only place in Las Vegas where African Americans could gamble and stay.

One  particularly troubling incident for Sammy occurred at the 1960 Democratic convention, at which John F. Kennedy won the presidential nomination with help from Frank Sinatra and friends, including Sammy.  As Sammy was introduced, boos erupted from the Alabama and Mississippi delegations.  During that campaign, instead supporting Sammy, the Kennedy camp was worried about the consequences among voters in the South among others, and actually put pressure on Sammy to keep a low profile.  They even wanted him to put off his upcoming marriage to a white woman, May Britt, until the voting was over.  Frank refused to ask that of Sammy, but Sammy felt obligated, and so, for Frank and the campaign, he postponed the wedding.

Although it tooks years, Sammy eventually did get to see the times change and racial relations improve in America, although he didn’t stay with us long enough to see Barack Obama elected president.  That, Sammy would have loved. 

Sammy’s experiences are well documented in the book Rat Pack Confidential by Shawn Levy.  And Sammy’s on-stage personality is re-created in today’s Rat Pack tribute shows, featuring some of America’s top Rat Pack Impersonators.

29
Sep
09

The Second Rat Pack Movie

Sergeants 3

Frank, Dean, Sammy, Joey and Peter followed up Oceans 11 with a film called Sergeants 3, which was a remake of the 1939 film Gunga Din.  The remake, set in the American West, was supposed to be known as Soldiers 3, but that title was already owned by another film studio.

Also appearing in the movie were Oceans 11 stars Henry Silva and Buddy Lester, plus actress Ruta Lee and three of Bing Crosby’s sons, Dennis, Phil and Lindsay.

In Sergeants 3, Frank, Dean, Joey and Peter play cavalry officers, with Sammy as a cavalry bugler, and all of them are up against hostile Indians.  The inspiration for Sergeants 3, Gunga Din was a dramatic film, but much of the action in Sergeants 3 is for laughs. 

Although there were two more Rat Pack films after this one, Sergeants 3, along with Oceans 11 were the only Rat Pack films that featured all five Rat Pack members, with Frank, Dean and Sammy re-created on stage today by groups like this  Rat Pack Tribute Cast.

27
Jul
09

The Rat Pack’s Home in Las Vegas

SandsA

During the Rat Pack heyday of the 60’s, if you got to see Frank, Sammy and Dean perform together in Las Vegas, it was at the Sands Hotel.  And when they weren’t there, you might see stars like Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Milton Berle, Peggy Lee or Bobby Darin on the Sands showroom stage. 

The Sands opened way back in 1952 with a casino and just a couple hundred hotel rooms.  The showroom was named the Copa Room after the famous Copacabana in New York.  The first entertainer to appear at the Sands was comedian Danny Thomas.  It was ten years later, in the 60’s, when five hundred more rooms were added in the form of the well-known circular tower.

In 1960, the Sands was the location for filming of the original Ocean’s Eleven, where the Rat Pack filmed by day, and then assembled on the Copa Room stage and performed together at night in a gathering of talent Frank Sinatra named “The Summit”. 

 In 1996, after forty-four years as a Las Vegas landmark, the Sands was demolished in a much-publicized implosion to make way for the Venetian, which marks the spot today.  And although the Rat Pack isn’t around any more, their shows are re-created by Rat Pack Impersonators, like these performers of a tribute to The Rat Pack

SandsB

25
Jun
09

Michael Jackson and The Rat Pack

SamSpec

From The Rat Pack Tribute:  Michael Jackson respected Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., and was a big fan of Sammy in particular.  Both Michael and Sammy stood out as singers and dancers and both had started performing on stage as young children. 

Shortly before Sammy’s death in 1990, he was honored with an all-star TV special saluting his 60 years in show business.  Michael was there along with Frank and Dean and many other stars.  Sammy also respected Michael, and used to get a big reaction imitating Michael on stage with a little moonwalking and a trademark MJ gesture or two.

In the cast photo above from Sammy’s TV salute, he’s surrounded by stars including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Clint Eastwood, Goldie Hawn, Whitney Houston, Richard Pryor, Dionne Warwick and many others.  And standing right beside Sammy is Michael.