On stage and in movies, The Rat Pack was the epitome of mid-20th century celebrity and a bygone era of glitz and glamour. They were a self-contained variety show, consisting of some of the biggest entertainers of the era. There was something special about seeing huge talents dressed in tuxedos, often with a cigarette or alcoholic beverage in hand, singing songs, doing impressions, and playfully insulting each other.
The Rat Pack in 1960 at The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, NV
For The Rat Pack, a casino night club was their playground, but the world was their stage. The core group was led by Frank Sinatra, who in the 1950's was reinventing himself as a singer and actor. Then there was Dean Martin, the crooner who exuded a playful charm. And lastly there's Sammy Davis Jr., the multi-talented performer who entertained audiences with his singing, dancing, and impersonations. The three played off each other and were sometimes accompanied by the debonair Peter Lawford and straight man Joey Bishop.
The Rat Pack was the original collaboration to go viral and it all went down in Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and others were in the desert to film scenes from Ocean's 11, a casino heist film. They filmed by day and performed in The Copa Room at The Sands Hotel by night. One night, Sammy's stage performance went on a bit too long and Frank walked on stage to interrupt Sammy and usher him off. The next night, Dean Martin did the same schtick. When all three joined together on stage, their mayhem became a well rehearsed routine that looked like spontaneous fun.
The Rat Pack was born!
Frank created the group but the name "The Rat Pack" came from Lauren Bacall, who was dubbed the "den mother" and once remarked upon seeing the group: "I see the rat pack is all here." In her memoir Bacall wrote, "in order to qualify, one had to be addicted to nonconformity, staying up late, drinking, laughing, and not caring what anyone thought or said about us."
The Rat Pack is considered by many to be the founding fathers of Las Vegas, drawing visitors far and wide to their casino performances. All members have now passed, but their films, television performances and music left behind an iconic legacy in the entertainment history.