5 Fun Facts About the Iconic Las Vegas Rat Pack

FILE PHOTO: An undated promotional photo of the ''Rat Pack'', (from left)Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.

They were the coolest of all cool. Handsome, savvy, brutally funny, chain-smoking, martini-fueled, gangster-friendly, middle-aged icons who mesmerized the entertainment world in the 1950s and ’60s. While they were known by many monikers — the Clan, the Summit, the Rat Pack — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop were Hollywood’s most unpredictable stars who dominated stage, film, late-night TV and the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.


1Behind Their Name

OCEAN'S ELEVEN, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, 1960

Everett Collection

In January 1960, they changed Las Vegas forever when they were headliners at the Sands Hotel and Casino. While they occasionally referred to themselves as the Clan, it’s rumored that Lauren Bacall once said the group looked “like a goddamn rat pack,” and the media grabbed on to it and christened them as that forever. Collectively they were actors, singers, comedians, talk show hosts and, for the British Lawford, brother-in-law to President John F. Kennedy.


2Frank Taking Joey Under His Wing

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Air Date 09/17/1965 -- Pictured: (l-r) Singer/actor Frank Sinatra, guest host Joey Bishop on September 17, 1965

Fred Hermansky/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Anything Sinatra touched seemed to turn to gold, including taking Bishop under his wing. Bishop recalled that in 1954 “Frank had asked me to open for him at the Copa. He had just won the Oscar for From Here to Eternity and was hot again. The place was mobbed. I came out, sized up the place and said, ‘Look at this crowd! Wait till Frank’s following shows up.’ In the middle of my act, Marilyn Monroe walks in all by herself, draped in a white ermine coat, and, of course, all heads turn towards her. I looked at her and said, ‘I told you to sit in the truck.’ That stopped the show. At ringside, sitting together were Victor Jory and Gabby Hayes. I introduced them and said, ‘For a minute, I thought I was watching the late, late show.’ After the show, I went over to Lindy’s and when I walked in, the whole place went crazy. After that, I was on my way.”


3Always There For One Another

Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra at the Cedars of Lebanon charity dinner, 8th July 1961.


According to the Desert Sun, in 1954 when Sammy lost his left eye in an automobile accident, Sinatra paid his medical bills and had him recover at his Rancho Mirage compound. When Sammy married May Britt in 1960, Sinatra also stood beside him as his best man.


4And Those Movies!

SERGEANTS 3, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, 1962

Everett Collection

While a few of the Pack starred in several films together, the whole gang was featured in their most famous hit, Ocean’s 11 (1960), and Sergeants 3 (1962).


5Forever Remembered

1962: Entertainers and members of the Rat Pack, (L-R) Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. record in the studio in 1962.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

While the magic of all of them performing together only lasted about four years, each would continue to find success in their solo careers. Lawford was the first to pass in 1984 at just 61 from liver and kidney disease/cardiac arrest. Throat cancer claimed Sammy’s life at just 64 in 1990. Martin passed on Christmas Day in 1995 at age 78 from acute respiratory failure. Sinatra died of a heart attack at age 82 in 1998. And Bishop outlasted them all, passing at age 89 in 2007.


Variety Shows
Want More?

Variety Shows

April 2023

Be astounded by many of our favorite classic variety shows!

Buy This Issue