They were "The Rat Pack," and in an A&E Biography segment, Angie Dickinson offers a glimpse inside their elite club.
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop each had his own solo act, but when they performed together they were known as "The Rat Pack."
Angie Dickinson co-starred with them in the film Oceans Eleven, about a group of army buddies who rob Las Vegas casinos. The group had full access to the city and its casinos during that time. So by day, they filmed the movie and at night, they performed on stage and hung out together.
Dickinson says Joey Bishop was the "writer and the comic" of the group, but its "heart and soul" was Sinatra. She explains: "Wherever he was, whether it was a restaurant or a stadium, a nightclub or a living room, he just had such a presence and such a power that you were just drawn to him, whether you were in the audience or sitting beside him."
The nights after filming Oceans Eleven were special for Dickinson. She recalls:
"That was maybe the best time of my life, I think. At night they went on to The Sands to do a show. And it was just the antics of these five terrific men, clowning around on the stage. It was a privileged time. Not everything was televised then, so if you weren't there you never saw it but heard about it. It was just one of the special nightclub acts of all time."
Were their after-hour antics as wild as we were led to believe? Dickinson says:
"They were rascals, I would say, but not bad. They just had a wonderful time. And they were in the prime of their lives, so why shouldn't they let it all hang out?"
Could these guys survive the politically correct '90s? Dickinson says they would probably act a little differently today, but adds that what they did was accepted at the time. When Dean Martin raised Sammy Davis Jr. in his arms and announced, "I have an award from the NAACP," it was done with love and humor, and the audience knew that, Dickinson says.
In fact, Dickinson says it was Frank Sinatra who helped break the color barriein their act by ensuring that Sammy Davis Jr. appeared on an equal billing with his white colleagues. In those times, Dickinson says, only Sinatra's power could make that happen.
The Biography segment on The Rat Pack airs on A&E on Jan. 3.
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