Saturday, December 15, 2007
Hey pallies, here's some great tribs to the Rat Pack.....even better if you view it in it's original source at the Toronto Star....so just click on the title of this Dinoblog Dinopost and view it in it's original Dinoglory!
Rat Pack still rulers of cool
Original Rat Pack members pose outside the legendary Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1959 during a break from filming Ocean’s 11. From left: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
Dean vs. Frank: Who was cooler? They're making it a groovy Christmas A rat pack glossary
Bag: A particular area of interest, as in "Not my bag, baby" (also "thing")
Big Casino, The: Dead, death (also "cash out," "check out," "dirt nap")
Bird: Specifically, a reference to male genitalia; generally, as an inquiry about the state of a pally's sex life, as in "How's your bird?" (also "hey hey" – more often a reference to the actual act)
Broad: One of several offensively sexist Pack euphemisms for an attractive woman – though somehow less mean-spirited and more socially acceptable at the time (also "chick," "dame," "doll," "mouse," "pussycat," "skirt," "tomato")
Bum: A nobody; a has-been; a heel; a journalist (also "bunter," "creep," "crumb," "fink," "punk")
Cat: Another cool guy
Clam-bake: A party or get-together (also "shin-dig")
Clyde: Straight, square, uncool (also "Charlie," "Harvey," "Sam")
Coo-coo: Terrific, great – see also "groovy," "The End"
Crazy: See "coo-coo"
Croaker: Doctor (also "saw-bones")
Dig: An enthusiasm for, as in "I dig that jazz."
The End: The very best, often modified with "livin'," as in "The Livin' End" (also "gas," "gasser")
Fracture: To laugh or make laugh (also "kill," "knock 'em dead," "murder," "paralyze")
Gasoline: Jack Daniels
Groovy: See "The End" – most often employed by Sammy
Joint: A nightclub, bar or showroom (also, more regularly, "saloon")
Locked up: A sure thing
Pally: Term of inclusive endearment, as in "Hey pally, how's your bird?" (also "baby," "buddy," "chum")
Ring-a-ding: Expression of enthusiasm, approval – see "groovy," "The End"
Solid: See "groovy"
Swing: To make enjoyable, to celebrate, make merry, as in "This joint swings!," or "That cat can swing!"
"ville": As in Dullsville, Endsville, Nowheresville, Scramsville, Splitsville, Squaresville. Places you never want to go. Unless you're a Clyde.
- Rob Salem
They're making it a groovy Christmas Ring-a-ding-ding, Santa, the Rat Pack's here for the holidays.Only a Clyde wouldn't know Frank, Dean, Sammy et al. remain the quintessence of hip
Dec 15, 2007 04:30 AM
They're all gone now ... Peter Lawford was first, in 1984. Sammy Davis, Jr. died in 1990. Dean Martin cashed in his chips on Christmas Day, 1995, and Frank Sinatra followed in May of 1998. Joey Bishop, the last of the Pack, packed it in just last October.
The Sands Hotel, site of their greatest triumph, was demolished in 1996 to make way for the more elaborate, family-friendly attractions of the faux-Italian theme park, The Venetian.
The Rat Pack is dead. Long live the Rat Pack.
The coo-coo quintet – though really, in essence, its central trio – were the rulers of cool back in Camelot America, when Kennedy, the youngest, hippest president ever, was ascending to the White House, there was a brief, relatively peaceful calm between the Korean War and Vietnam, and youthful rebellion was still pretty much limited to loud rock 'n' roll and even louder apparel.
They were simpler times ... which goes a long way to explaining why the era is suddenly upon us again, in terms of culture and style, if not historical reality.
Rat Pack style is everywhere – even the hip-hop crowd is trading in its butt-baring, oversized track-suit and bling thing for nicely tailored suits with thin lapels, skinny ties, fedoras or pork-pie hats. The up-do in on the upswing, along with cocktail dresses, gloves and clutch-bags for women.
Martinis and high-balls are the libations of choice, and Michael Bublé is climbing the charts as even the iPod generation embraces ring-a-ding swing.
Mad Men, a painstakingly detailed period drama about Madison Avenue in the early '60s – currently in re-runs on AMC – is one of the few break-out hits of the TV season.
And next Thursday, a literal revival hits town, a seasonal edition of the long-running roadshow tribute, Christmas with the Rat Pack: Live from Las Vegas, featuring Frank, Dean and Sammy impersonators and a full-on orchestra recreating the show that might have been, but never can be again (but while it is, it runs Dec. 20-31 at the Princess of Wales).
Given their enduring and resurgent impact, not to mention the voluminous background material contained in today's comprehensive "Rat Package," it is somewhat surprising to note that the entire phenomenon was, in duration, the tiniest blip on the cultural curve, petering out almost as soon as it peaked thanks to flower power, bell-bottoms, the Beatles invasion and the Summer of Love.
They weren't even really the "Rat Pack," having inherited that name from the Holmby Hills crowd who hung out at Judy Garland and Sid Luft's in the1950s, among them Bogart and Bacall, Tracy and Hepburn, George Cukor and Swifty Lazar, David Niven ... and a young Frank Sinatra.
When Sinatra formed his own social circle, they initially referred to themselves as "The Summit," then "The Clan" – though that one was quickly vetoed by Sammy. They never did call themselves the Rat Pack.
And again, it was the key three, not the commonly accepted five, who would in fact never all work together again as a unit after filming Ocean's 11.
To be frank (so to speak), Lawford and Bishop were at best peripheral, the former, with his Kennedy and Marilyn connections, representing tragedy, the latter, synchronistically, comedy relief. Sammy, indisputably the most supremely talented of the group, was often as much a pet as a pally, nicknamed "Smokey" and constantly chided and derided on stage, though as much for being Jewish, short and one-eyed as for being black.
And to be fair, the Pack, and Sinatra in particular, made enormous strides in redressing the institutionalized inequities Sammy and other minority performers were still forced to endure.
At the centre of it all though, it was Frank and Dean, respectively, perhaps, the group's ego and id.
We'll let our expert enthusiasts argue which one was the true king of cool.
The point is, almost 50 years have passed, and they haven't gone away.
Truly, in the best possible sense, a "livin' end."
The Essential Rat Pack
As noted by our guest columnists Colin Mochrie and Patrick McKenna, "One for My Baby" for Frank and "Everybody Loves Somebody" for Dean. Alternately, respectively, "My Way" and "That's Amore."
Sammy will forever be identified with "Mr. Bojangles" and "Candyman," though he apparently hugely resented the career-reviving international success of the latter.
Hands down, The Rat Pack Live at the Sands Hotel. Frank, Dean and Sammy in their prime, singing and kibitzing – mostly kibitzing – before a sold-out audience of avid celebrity fans. If you want to see what we're talking about, check out the annotated DVD-Audio release of Rat Pack Live at the Villa Venice, a 1962 Chicago show reportedly staged at the request of mob boss Sam Giancana.
The original Ocean's Eleven, made at the height of their collective powers in 1960. The coo-coo cool caper classic has been retroactively trashed thanks to the Clooney-Pitt remake of 2001. But it is quite a remarkable accomplishment, not only for its cultural impact, but the fact it was shot, more often than not, in single takes, in between ritual steam baths, all-night parties, gambling, womanizing and double sets at the Sands.
By far the best retrospective look at the Rat Pack phenomenon is the 1998 HBO biopic, The Rat Pack, directed by Rob Cohen (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) and featuring quite uncanny evocations of Dean and Sammy by Ray Mantegna and Don Cheadle (Ray Liotta's Frank, not so much). It's available on DVD.
ESSENTIAL TV SHOW
Honourable mention, of course, to the various Sinatra specials and short-run series, and Sammy's endless episodic appearances – notably, the infamous Archie Bunker kiss on a 1972 All in the Family and, for my money, his 1969 Mod Squad guest role (one of three) as Father John, the cool priest who could talk to the kids.
However, it was The Dean Martin Show (but not the spin-off "Celebrity Roasts"), which ran from 1965 to 1974, that perfectly encapsulated Rat Pack cool through Dean's laid back, above-it-all, smoothly snockered persona.
Two fingers of Jack Daniels, three or four ice cubes, the rest water in a standard rocks (Old Fashioned) glass. Alternately, vodka – Stolichnaya, by choice – on the rocks or, as an afternoon eye-opener in a Bloody Mary. Martinis were de rigueur, but only before dinner, and never more than two. Served up cold and dry, Stoli or British gin with a tiny drop of vermouth, two olives ... it was a customary gesture to share one with a pally.
Pepe Ruiz, veteran bartender at Chasen's, also made a special martini for the boys, the "Flame of Love," featuring a La Ina sherry rim and incinerated orange peels.
(It should be duly noted here that neither Dean nor Frank drank nearly as much as they let on. On stage, Dean's glass was invariably filled with apple juice, and Frank's standard party trick was to take just a few sips of each drink, leave it, then go get a fresh one. Frank also never inhaled when he smoked. Sammy's drug use – cocaine, specifically – reportedly incurred Sinatra's wrath.)
Sadly, few of the following still exist: In New York, Toots Shor's, Jilly's, Patsy's, 21 and the Stork Club. In Los Angeles, Frank's own Puccini's, Chasen's, Nicky Blair's, Villa Capri, Bistro Gardens, Matteo's and La Dolce. (Dean, regrettably, spent his declining years sitting alone at Tony Roma's rib joint.) In Vegas, of course, Jack Entratter's main room at the Sands, and Frank's Cal Neva Lodge in Tahoe. In Chicago, The Pump Room, Twin Anchors and Gibsons.
In Toronto ... well, they never did hang out here, and if they did today, there would be precious few places to go, with local jazz joints dropping like flies. The one exception is the still-thriving Reservoir Lounge at Church and Wellington, offering nightly standards of swing.
There are probably more Sinatra biographies than there are Sinatra recordings, ranging from Kitty Kelly's famously controversial, unauthorized His Way to daughter Nancy's worshipful Frank Sinatra: An American Legend. The definitive Dean biography is Nich Tosches' exhaustive Dino, Living High in the Business of Dreams, though 2005's Dean Martin: King Of The Road, by Michael Freedland, includes revelations of mob ties based on released FBI documents. Ex-partner Jerry Lewis offers a unique inside perspective in his recently released Dean and Me. Sammy is best read in his own words, his 1965 autobiography, Yes I Can.
But if you want to truly understand Rat Pack style, you can do no better than The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin', by Esquire writer Bill Zehme, the source (along with several of the aforementioned) for much of the above material.
- Rob Salem
Posted by dino martin peters at 1:48 PM