The RatPack - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop
|Our esteemed Chairman has finally abdicated the board. Now that my man Francis has bought the Big Casino, who are we gonna look to as our guide for masculinity with style? Is there anyone out there who possesses the genuine cool and swagger that can act as a beacon for us to follow, or are all the rest of ‘em just a bunch of hapless clydes? Believe me baby, people today are lookin’ to ‘em, ’cause interest in the Rat Pack is higher now than any time since their late 50’s-mid 60’s Vegas heyday, as the flood of Pack related books and the recent TV Land special can attest to. It’s ’cause they set the standard for classy, adult entertainment while still cutting up like frat boys. That’s a feat that requires style to pull off successfully. So what makes the Rat Pack the pinnical of style? Grab a drink, light up a square, and enjoy the discourse, baby.
“We’re not setting out to make Hamlet or Gone with the Wind. The idea is to hang out together, find fun with the broads, and have a great time. We gotta make pictures that people enjoy. Entertainment, period.” - Frank
Okay, suppose you’re an American male, circa early to mid 1960’s, you’re in your late twenties to mid-thirties, who are you looking to as a cultural role model? A politician perhaps? Back in those days, when our Presidents earned a bit more esteem than they do now, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect them to set an example for us to follow. But who did you look to? Eisenhower? Squaresville, baby. The popular entertainers of the era? Remember, this was when Perry Como and Danny Williams were extremely popular. Dullsville, clyde. You thought you were maybe a little to old for Rock ‘n’ Roll, or perhaps it’s style just didn’t appeal to you…who ya gonna turn to baby? Luckily, a group of show-biz buddies decide to turn their proclivity for cutting up into a stage act. When the Rat Pack made the scene, adult males at last had role models to show them you could project an aura of style and sophistication and still have fun. They showed that you could dress to the nines and still not come off as a stuffed shirt. They taught us that acting a little chauvinistic wasn’t necessarily bad if you did it with style. And as Francis told us in song baby, You gotta have style.
The era in which the Rat Pack came to prominence was one where people, were expected to conform to a certain type of expectation. The workin’ nine to five, come home to your wife and 2.5 kids day in and day out grind was not most mens’ idea of livin’ life to it’s fullest. They couldn’t buy into the younger generations notions of what constituted non-conformity, their way of life being totally foreign to them. But when they saw men their own age or close to it livin’ life like the world was one big adult playground, they could live vicariously through them.
And who wouldn’t want live like that–dressin’ in tux’s, drinkin’ like fish, swingin’ from one good lookin’ broad to another, singin’ to adorin’ audience’s and getting paid to do it!
|The Pack represented a time when you didn’t have to worry about people giving you grief if you fired up a square, had one drink too many or cracked an ethnic joke. They represented something we don’t have enough of today– complete unadulterated raw freedom. Was the Pack chauvinistic? Damn straight. Did they sometimes cross the line with the racial comedy bits? Hell yeah. Women? Love ‘em and leave ‘em. But they had the freedom to make asses of themselves, something the homogenized “please everybody and offend nobody” entertainers of today wouldn’t consider attempting. And let’s be honest–a lot of the “insensitive” routines they preformed were pretty damn funny, baby.|
| They epitomized raffish cool. They possessed panache in spades. They told off-color jokes, boozed and smoked and still looked like class personified. While the Pack had attitude enough to spare, they came from an era where entertainers didn’t solely rely on attitude to carry their act. Today, far to many entertainers lean on an “image” to get their message across. It’s as if they hope that all their bullshit posturing masks their innate lack of any real talent. With most of them, when you look past the slick, prefabricated veneer, you find a surprisingly shallow act underneath the surface. And shallow isn’t the word that comes to mind when you hear Frank sing.
Frank, Dino and Sammy always had genuine talent to carry them through the act, the on stage hi jinks simply being the package it was wrapped in. Frank Sinatra, the undisputed entertainer of the century, and upon who’s shoulders the entire popular music industry was built, practically invented swagger and attitude, two traits entertainers strive for today, but without having the goods necessary to make it authentic. His career spanned decades when most entertainers are lucky to enjoy a few years of success. He was the first solo superstar singer in popular music, inventing the phenomenon of enthusiastic, screaming fans. He went from a singer that men resented and couldn’t relate to, to a legend every other man emulated. He did something that was rare then and is practicaly unheard of this age of disposable celebrities–he grew into his image.
And there was Dean Martin–otherwise known as Dag to the rest of the Pack, a man so smooth he must have been born packed in grease. It was performing with the rest of the Pack that Dino showed he was a hell of a lot more than just Jerry Lewis’ straight man. Dino was without a doubt, one of the most naturally funny men to ever walk on to a stage. He wasn’t afraid to poke fun at his own image, and was one of the few men ever allowed to poke fun at Sinatra’s image. Dino never cared much about being percieved as a serious artist. He was simply trying to have a good time, while to letting his audience in on the fun. He had what Frank called “gorgeous indifference”, an attribute that made everything seem to come so easy to him, which may explain why he’s never gotten his due for being the great entertainer he was.
Sammy Davis Jr., was one of the most versatile performers in the history of show business. He could act, dance and sing. Man oh man, could that cat sing. Anyone who remembers him for just being the guy who sang the “Baretta” t.v. theme song would do themselves a great service by discovering his musical catalog.
Is that all? Well of course there were Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. The Brit and the comedian and most aren’t even aware of the fringe members of the Ratpack: Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Prowse, Angie Dickinson, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
By themselves, they were formidable showman, but when they joined forces, they showed what camaraderie and chemistry were all about.