When Showbiz Ruled The World

For a brief time, entertainment was top dog

   Although it's difficult to imagine now, there was a time when a group of people in the entertainment industry exercised an influence on popular and political culture far in excess anything before or since. At the head of this group was a guy from Hoboken New Jersey called Frank Sinatra. Around him were lounge singer Dean Martin, tap dancer and all-round entertainer Sammy Davis, jr, actor Peter Lawford and comedian Joey Bishop. They became known as The Rat Pack.

The Rat Pack by Shawn Levy
The definitive book on
The Rat Pack

    The collective name was suggested by actress Lauren Bacall. In 1955, Sinatra would hang out with screen star Humphrey Bogart and Bacall. One night they went to see Noel Coward perform at The Desert Inn in Las Vegas. At the table with them was Judy Garland, David Niven, Angie Dickenson, agent Swifty Lazar and others. Bacall took one look at them and said "You look like a goddamn rat pack!"

    The myth of The Summit was that from January 20 1960 into early February, Sinatra's Rat Pack were working and partying around the clock. The schedule was filming Oceans 11 during the day, performing at The Sands Hotel in the evening, and then drinking and socialising all night. According to author Shawn Levy (see inset, right), the reality of it was that the earliest call for filming was 5.30pm, and all five (who were appearing in the film) only turned up together once, for the closing shot, where they are seen walking past a sign advertising their show at The Sands.

    Filming moved to Burbank in Los Angeles in mid-February, and completed on March 18. The story goes that director Lewis Milestone was so traumatised by the experience that he only made one more film before retiring. The film itself, supposed to be heist drama, went on to win an award for best comedy.

    On February 7, John F. Kennedy, Peter Lawford's brother-in-law, came to see the show. As a result of this contact, Kennedy's father got Peter Lawford to ask Sinatra to 'arrange' with some of his Italian friends for John to win a state vital to his success in securing the Democratic nomination. Kennedy went on to win the nomination and then become President of the most powerful nation in the world.

All courtesy of a singer from Hoboken, New Jersey.

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