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The Creation Of 'The Rat Pack'


Frank Sinatra is indelibly linked in the minds of film and music fans with the Rat Pack, a rough-and-tumble group that consisted of friends Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford.

The group made several movies together, and were notorious for their wild lifestyles - drinking martinis, smoking cigars, and wooing elegant women.

The gang of four originated with actor Humphrey Bogart as its fearless leader. In 1955, Sinatra joined Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland and David Niven went on a sleepless rampage through Las Vegas. On the fifth day, Bacall surveyed the disheveled group.

"You look like aÂ…rat pack!" she said. When Bogart died, Sinatra took over his reign.

Sinatra brought Sammy Davis Jr. into the pack and whoever else could keep up with the nonstop party-goers. The group staked out the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas as their unofficial hangout.

Most of the original Bogart group dropped out, but the Pack began to fine-tune their wild lifestyle further.

The Pack had their own lingo: Death was "the big casino"; the average guy on the street was known as "Clyde"; and any place other than Las Vegas was "Dullsville, Ohio."

In 1960, the Pack was brought together in Las Vegas to film the casino flick, Ocean's Eleven. The Sands' entertainment director, Jack Entratter, called the gathering of Rats the 'Summit.' The movie stirred the viewing public's imagination, and cemented the Rat Pack's notoriety.

The group filmed by day and played at the Sands Copa Room stage by night. Aided by alcoholic refreshments, the gang would drink and sing onstage.

Dean Martin would often tell his audience: "Be sure to buy a copy of my new book, The Power of Positive Drinking.

When it came out, Ocean's Eleven shocked conservative viewers, and some critics warned audiences to guard their children against the Rat Pack's possible influence. But the future President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, (who was Peter Lawford's brother-in-law) was often present to watch the group's antics.

Kennedy announced his candidacy for president in 1960, and at the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles that summer, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Dr., and Peter Lawford sang The Star-Spangled Banner.

"The Rat Pack era is renowned not only for bolstering Kennedy's election but for binding American politics to the entertainment industry. These were the new gentlemen of leisure whose cavalier antics had sparked existential hunger in a world-weary middle class finally convinced that the 'good life' had nothing to do with the afterlife," wrote Rat Pack chronicler Joseph Lanza in his book, Bottoms Up: The Cocktail, Shaken and Stirred.

After JFK was elected president, he was advised to distance himself from the Pack, to keep his public image in the moral shap of the day. The FBI began to follow the movements of the Rat Pack, since they were linked with the Mafia as the top entertainment for their Las Vegas casinos.

The assassination of JFK ended the gang's carefree party, and broke up the group.

Despite his reputation as a man who dabbled with the wrong side of the law, the last Rat Packer alive said the performer had a generous side that he hid from the rest of the world.

"If you wanted to get on the wrong side of him, talk about the good things he did," Rat Packer Joey Bishop said in an interview Friday with CBS News affiliate KCBS-TV.

Bishop said that Sinatra paid for the funeral of B-actor Bela Lugosi, and singer Mildred Bailey, who both died poor.

But the cool intrigue of Sinatra's Rat Pack has made a resurgence. The gang that invented "cocktail culture" - as Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis described it - has drawn new fans from today's generation.

Sinatra: 48 Hours Home

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