Posts Tagged ‘Rat Pack


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“.


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.


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.


The Rat Pack’s Home in Las Vegas


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



Rat Pack Books

Rat Pack Conf.

Much has been written about The Rat Pack, and there’s more coming out all the time.  A couple of good books about the Rat Pack members both individually and collectively would be Rat Pack Confidential:  Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey and The Last Great Show Biz Party by Shawn Levy, and The Rat Pack:  Neon Nights With The Kings Of Cool by Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell.

The life of Dean Martin is well-detailed in Memories Are Made Of This:  Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes by Deanna Martin and Wendy Holden.

For Joey Bishop there’s Mouse In The Rat Pack:  The Joey Bishop Story by Michael Seth Starr.  And Peter Lawford’s biography is laid out in Peter Lawford by James Spada.

When it comes to books about Frank Sinatra, there are almost too many to count.  One we like has always been Frank Sinatra My Father by Nancy Sinatra.  It’s a pretty complete biography from the inside with the added bonus of tons of photos and great reference lists of all his movies, albums, awards and milestones.  Another interesting family memoir is My Father’s Daughter by Tina Sinatra and Jeff Coplon.  And of course, there are many, many others of the tell-all variety.

And then there’s Sammy Davis Jr., the only Rat Pack member who told his own story, not just once, but a few times, in Yes I Can:  The Story of Sammy Davis Jr., plus Why Me?:  The Sammy Davis Jr. Story, and even Sammy:  The Autobiography of Sammy Davis Jr., all three by Sammy, with Burt Boyar and Jane Boyar.