It’s hard to imagine the culture of cigars without some of its most famous members: The Rat Pack. Known for alcohol, casinos, women, mob ties, and stogies, the Rat Pack was a group of Hollywood superstars who did everything in excess. Leaving no vice unturned, they were known as the rulers of Vegas, the raisers of Hell, the biggest indulgers, and the setters of culturist trends.
While Frank Sinatra is generally credited with being the leader of the Rat Pack, it actually began with Humphrey Bogart when he served as the common tie in a group of friends who frequently partied together. The term “Rat Pack” is rumored to have been coined by Bogart’s wife, Lauren Bacall, when she saw this group of red-eyed, tired, drunken friends after a five night party binge in Las Vegas and stated that they looked like a “Rat Pack.” Others believe the term came from the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, a group of many of the same people who typically partied at Judy Garland’s house. From a scientific perspective, it is believed that the term “Rat Pack” was adopted because of the biological law where rats reject outsiders. Wherever the name was derived, it stuck, adhering to the group and to pop culture forever Situs Judi Bola Resmi.
Though the Rat Pack is thought of as a pseudo-traveling gentlemen’s club, it did include women. Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall, and Judy Garland were all involved to some degree. However, when Humphrey Bogart died, Frank Sinatra took over and many of the original group was no longer affiliated with the pack. At Sinatra’s hands, the Rat Pack eventually included a variety of others. Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop are typically thought of as its most famous troupe.
While many of the members of the Rat Pack where often associated with each other, appearing together on film and in concerts and skits, each person involved was also famous in his own right. Frank Sinatra, or Old Blue Eyes, was known as one of the greatest singers of all time, sitting near Elvis Presley and the Beatles on the spectrum of musical greatness. He was known as living larger than life and making sure things were done to his liking, a desire he epitomized in his classic song My Way. Dean Martin was also known as one of the finest singers of his time. His acting abilities and his comedic sense of timing left him permanently imbedded in pop culture as well. Sammy Davis Jr. was a man of many talents, a virtual renaissance man of the arts. He was an actor, a comedian, a musician, a singer, an impressionist, and a tap dancer. Peter Lawford was not only famous for his acting talents – taking roles in several highly acclaimed films – but also for his family relations; John F. Kennedy was his brother-in-law. Joey Bishop was a comedian who served as the straight man in Rat Pack performances. He also holds the honor of hosting the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson more times than anyone else.
The tightest knit friends, this group virtually adopted its own society, making the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas their headquarters. Here they drank, smoked, gambled, dated, and even adopted their own lingo. In “Rat Pack Language,” death was known as “The Big Casino,” anywhere that wasn’t Vegas was known as “Dullsville, Ohio,” and the average Joe was known as “Clyde.”
Partying aside, the Rat Pack was instrumental in important aspects of social and political reform. On a social front, they helped desegregate Las Vegas by refusing to perform or do business at any hotel that didn’t provide full service and amenities to African Americans. As the Rat Pack became more popular, and tickets for their shows were in higher demand, the Vegas hotels were left with the choice of removing their unfair segregation policies or losing the most sought-after performers. Politically, the Rat Pack is credited with helping John F. Kennedy get elected. Strong advocates of his candidacy, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Peter Lawford sang the Star Spangled Banner at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.
While they took part in these social and political acts, their fast lifestyle didn’t cease: they still lit up Vegas, frequently performing and partying for days at a time. But, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas and the Rat Pack was soon under FBI surveillance because of their rumored affiliation with the Mob.
The negative light shed on them led John F. Kennedy, at the insistence of his advisors, to distance himself from the pack. This had a domino effect and caused Sinatra to distance himself from Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Peter Lawford. Despite the distance, it was John F. Kennedy’s assassination that is generally credited as the beginning of the end for the Rat Pack. Their reputation began to wane upon his death and by the end of the 1960’s the Rat Pack had all but diminished. The members, with the exception of Peter Lawford, all remained the closest friends for life.
With Frank Sinatra’s death in 1998, Joey Bishop became the last remaining member. The rest of the pack have undoubtedly gone to “The Big Casino” leaving all of us to wonder, when the clouds are the very shade of cigar smoke, if that’s the pack, indulging in their favorite stogies and talking about old times.