The Amazing Rat Pack
Tough Times, Good Times, and Memories
All of the five men who formed the most famous Rat Pack of the Sixties are deceased, but their memories linger on. There was the leader, Frank Sinatra, the former teenagers' idol of the Forties. Then there was Dean Martin, originally part of a famous comedy team with Jerry Lewis but later a TV star and famous singer in his own right. Sammy Davis, Jr., the beloved multi-talented singer, actor, comedian, and dancer was in the group too. Peter Lawford the famous British actor since the Forties, and Joey Bishop a popular TV-star comedian, rounded out the group of five.
A few years prior to the Rat Pack there was another group of Hollywood greats who also used that nickname. This was during the time of Humphrey Bogart who, together with his wife Lauren Bacall, hosted the group throughout the Fifties. Sinatra actually was included in that group too. But the Rat Pack of the Sixties is the one most well known to the public today.
There were women who often joined the Sixties Rat Pack on stage and screen performances, and during informal parties for which the Pack became famous. Marilyn Monroe, Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Prowse, and Angie Dickinson were close friends of the Rat Pack guys.
Sinatra never did like the name Rat Pack, a term given the group by the press. Frank preferred to call the group the Summit or the Clan. He felt that was more dignified. Frank wanted to be on the highest social level possible. Since Peter Lawford was married to John F. Kennedy's sister, Frank Sinatra wanted to meet the president whom he admired greatly, and came to like on a personal level as well. Frank Sinatra preserved the honor and esteem of the clan.
The acknowledged leader of the pack, Frank Sinatra, was from New Jersey. In the Forties and Fifties he was a very popular singer and movie actor. Frank's parents were Italian immigrants. When he was young, his hero was Bing Crosby. Frank started singing in nightclubs while still in high school. This interfered with his education, but he became so famous singing with the nationally known big bands that his life was too hectic for him to finish school. There was a brief slump in his career after the Second World War, but he made a strong comeback in the early Fifties. His popularity became greater than ever in his more mature years. Frank was married four times. In his first marriage, he and his childhood sweetheart had three children. With a great career lasting more than fifty years, Sinatra became one of the finest entertainers in the world.
The unique singer Dean Martin was renowned for his casual style. His real name was Dino Crocetti. He was from Ohio. Early in life he became known locally as a first-class boxer. Because he also worked at nightclubs, he was given a chance to sing. Like Frank Sinatra, Dean loved the relaxed style of Bing Crosby. For ten years, Dean appeared on stage and in movies with comic Jerry Lewis. Later, Dean had his own TV show and often appeared in Las Vegas. Although he pretended to drink during performances, he confessed later that it was just a big act. Dean Martin made singing seem effortless. He approached life with courage and good cheer, and was tremendously easygoing.
Sammy Davis, Jr., appealed to people everywhere, all over the world, of all races and creeds. He came from the old Vaudeville culture and served in the military in World War Two. After the war he quickly reached stardom. Sammy was a big hit in the New York and Las Vegas entertainment world. Although everyone loved the cheerful Sammy Davis, his personal life was marred by racist hatred at times, especially when he married his white wife. The frantic life of show business also took its toll on Sammy, who eventually died of complications from his drinking and smoking.
Peter Lawford was a movie actor all his life, even from when he was a little boy. He came from an acting family, his father also having been a movie actor. Lawford was extremely handsome, a native of London, England. He married John F. Kennedy's sister and had four children. He was also a close friend of Marilyn Monroe. Although he was part of the Rat Pack, Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra eventually didn't get along after Lawford's brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy, accused Sinatra of mafia ties. Like Sammy Davis, Peter Lawford suffered from excessive drinking and died while still in his sixties.
The popular comedian Joey Bishop was born in the Bronx and grew up in South Philadelphia. He served as an entertainer in the military during the Second World War and later became a close friend of Frank Sinatra in the Fifties. Joseph Gottlieb was Joey's real name. Unlike some other Rat Pack members, Joey stayed married to the same woman, Sylvia. They had one child. While Bishop may have been less of a celebrity than the rest of his Rat Pack, leader Frank Sinatra referred to him as the "hub" of the clan. Joey eventually outlived the others.
Although the Rat Pack now is only history, since the last passed away in 2007, tremendous tributes to their greatness continue to be made. They were the famous entertainers of the World War Two generation and the idols our elders admired so much throughout their lives. This article is dedicated to the memories of these great entertainers and to our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who knew and loved the gleeful talents of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.
The Marilyn Monroe Connection
Marilyn Monroe has been the topic of much speculation including a possible intimate connection with Rat Pack members. It's been acknowledged that she was one of the "mascots" of the Rat Pack at their many parties. It's also reputed that she dated Frank Sinatra at a time when both celebrities were single.
Since both Sinatra and Monroe were Hollywood icons, it was only natural that they would know each other well. Their friendship is rumored to have gone back many years.
Frank Sinatra purchased a lodge near Lake Tahoe called the Cal-Neva Lodge (representing the area where the California and Nevada borders meet near the famous lake in Northern California). There is proof that Marilyn Monroe did stay at that lodge during the final years of her life, cut short at age 36 due to an accidental dose of sleeping pills while under pressure to show up very early in the morning for work on her final film, which costarred Clark Gable, who allegedly suffered heart disease due to the tension of waiting for Monroe to arrive for filming. Marilyn felt guilty and overdid the sleeping pills in an effort to get to sleep early enough to be on time the next morning.
Frank Sinatra felt sorry for Marilyn when she divorce writer Arthur Miller and had to give the couple's pet dog to Miller under the terms of the decree. Frank gave Marilyn a little dog to make up for her loss.
Another Rat Pack member, Peter Lawford, was one of Marilyn's best friends since her early days in Hollywood when she was just getting started in the movies. John F. Kennedy's younger sister, Pat, was married to Lawford. Apparently Marilyn met JFK when he was still a senator, not yet president.
Marilyn definitely joined the Rat Pack at a special rendezvous called the Farralone Estate, located near Beverly Hills. She was privileged to have her own private guest room with her own private swimming pool at the estate. It is reputed that President Kennedy also stayed there.