Watch out Jack, the Rat Pack Is Back ; They Drank, Sang, Dressed to the Nines and Womanised - and Now Frank, Dean and Sammy Are Wooing Us Back to the Days When Men Were Men and Women Were Broads
Barber, Nicholas, The Independent (London, England)
Las Vegas was their playground. Tonight, though, they're in the Southend Cliffs Pavilion. The most charismatic entertainers of the 20th Century begin the 21st in a seaside theatre in Essex, where they'll be wisecracking, dancing and crooning America's best popular songs, before going on to Canterbury, Torquay, Basingstoke and the rest of the country. The Rat Pack is on tour. It used to be so different.
At the turn of the 1950s, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, and, less centrally, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, seemed to have it all. They were the Summit, the Clan, the Rat Pack.
In January 1960, America's richest politicians, movie stars and Mafia bosses packed out their cabarets at Las Vegas's Sands Casino every night. During the day, filming was under way for the quintessential Rat Pack movie, Ocean's 11. Any time left over was devoted to campaigning for John F Kennedy, Lawford's brother-in- law. And any time left over from that was passed with Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and, apparently, any other women who took their fancy.
A tribute show hit the road last week. "Frank, Sammy & Dean: The Rat Pack, Live From Las Vegas" is produced by Paul Walden. "The music has always been very, very strong," he says. "But the show is about more than that. It's the comedy, the rapport, the slightly anarchic vibe that those guys had when they got together."
The Clan, busy as ever, hasn't confined its comeback to Walden's homage. In 1998 there was a Rat Pack TV movie featuring Ray Liotta as Sinatra. A remake of Ocean's 11 is in the works and Martin Scorsese is preparing a Dean Martin biopic with Tom Hanks as the hard-drinking, easy-living star. Closer to home, there was a Rat Pack-themed club night in London last year, and the Music To Watch Girls By lounge compilations were hits. Next week, Warner Records are re-releasing the outstanding Sammy Davis Jr album of the Rat Pack period, The Wham of Sam.
"The whole style is back in fashion," says Stuart Batsford, who organised the reissue. "Dean Martin was in the top 10 longer than a lot of pop acts last summer. Look at the Super Furry Animals. They get acres of press coverage and Dean can outsell them without even trying." And, indeed, without living. The Very Best of Dean Martin has sold 300,000 copies since its release last May. Mike McNally, marketing and promotions manager of EMI Catalogue, is currently culling a Volume Two. He sees nothing mysterious about the Rat revival - "They were, after all, gods among men" - but admits that the Pack's current appeal has as much to do with lifestyle as music.
"There was Nick Tosches's biography of Dean [Dino] and an excellent Omnibus documentary, and they both exposed him to a much younger and wider audience than he'd had before. They contextualised him in an era which is perceived as romantic and glamorous - what's more romantic than the picture of them walking along in their suits and ties in Ocean's 11? I collect film posters for my sins and that is one of the most expensive posters you can buy." McNally believes that the films of the past decade have helped put the Rats back on the map.
"Quentin Tarantino has confirmed that the opening scenes of Reservoir Dogs are his tribute to Ocean's 11 and it's gone on from there. Swingers was like the Rat Pack in the Nineties, and Goodfellas had that feel to it, too, with Ray Liotta wandering into the club through the …
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Publication information: Article title: Watch out Jack, the Rat Pack Is Back ; They Drank, Sang, Dressed to the Nines and Womanised - and Now Frank, Dean and Sammy Are Wooing Us Back to the Days When Men Were Men and Women Were Broads. Contributors: Barber, Nicholas - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 31, 2000. Page number: 13. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.