New ‘Rat Pack’ book on Sinatra, who would’ve turned 105 on Saturday
Before there was the "Fab Four" there was the "Rat Pack."
This week, two of their main members share historical moments. It was 40 years ago Tuesday, Dec. 8, that we lost John Lennon to an assassin's bullet and this Saturday we mark what would have been Francis Albert Sinatra's 105th birthday.
It's also the 60th anniversary of "The Rat Pack."
Richard A. Lertzman and Lon Davis marks the occasion with a new book called Deconstructing The Rat Pack: Joey, The Mob, and the Summit. It breaks down the 28 consecutive nights in February 1960 that Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford took over the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, made the original Ocean's 11, performed shows in front of packed audiences including future President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and partied in between.
"This was bigger than anything the Beatles did," Lertzman told me in a phone interview. "The Beatles did it over a period. This was one major spectacular that drew everybody from around the world and for 28 days, these guys ruled Las Vegas and put it on the map."
How did it all begin?
"The guys in Vegas came to Frank and said we want to make this uber event with your friends. Frank was watching the great guy named Louis Prima and Keeley Smith and Sam Butera at the Sahara with this loose show and it was really wild, so Frank took that event and said 'Let's do an event.' I was working with Dean Martin in 'Some Came Running,' Sammy was getting back on his feet from an accident where he lost his eye. Let's put everybody together and let's create this event."
So how does Peter Lawford get involved?
"Frank never liked Peter Lawford, he once almost broke his jaw. But when Lawford married Patricia Kennedy, he got into Frank's good graces because Sinatra wanted to be near the future president."
Lawford also had something very important to bring to the party.
"Peter brought him this script from a guy named George Clayton Thomas, who was working as a gas station attendant at the time. He would go on to write 'Logan's Run' and all those great Twilight Zone episodes like 'Kick the Can' but he was in the black market in World War II and wrote this heist film about his buddies getting together and heisting the casinos."
Peter tried to sell the script, no one wanted it, finally took it to Frank and Frank loved it, saw himself as "Danny Ocean," and thus was born the original "Ocean's 11," which included all the casinos because as Lertzman says, "In those days you don't step on toes."
"For 28 straight days, they had two shows at 8 p.m. and 12 a.m., then at 6 a.m. they were back in makeup shooting 'Ocean's 11.'"
There are exclusive interviews with Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hacket, Jack Entratter, Nancy Sinatra as well as some participants including Moe Dalitz, Carl Cohen, Max Diamond and Rat Pack member Joey Bishop.
To get "Deconstructing the Rat Pack," click here.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.