July 01, 2015

From New York to Las Vegas: How the Rat Pack Influenced Modern American Culture



The Rat Pack were the icons of the swing era. Sharp dressers, heavy drinkers, and soulful singers, this group of friends made it from New York to Las Vegas, turning American culture upside down as they went.

The story behind the Rat Pack name says all you need to know about the group’s work-hard, play-hard ethos. The story goes that one night the friends came straggling in from a night of carousing. Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall exclaimed, “You look like a goddamned rat pack!” The name stuck.

Frank became the nominal leader of “the clan” following Bogie’s death in 1957. Soon after, the Rat Pack – or as Frank preferred, “the Summit” –  made their home at the Copa Room in Jackie Entratter’s Sands Hotel and Casino on the famed Las Vegas Strip.


Frank Sinatra was joined on-stage by Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis, Jr, Dean Martin and Peter Lawford. Together they put on one hell of a show. For two shows each evening the entertainers would appear on stage to sell-out crowds. Word spread quickly about the Summit’s raucous performances – they parodied each other, pulled off incredible dance numbers and poured drinks from a bar cart they rolled onstage. The American public couldn’t get enough of them.

By 1960, the Rat Pack were unstoppable. By night they stood in front of huge audiences, by day they stood in front of the cameras while they filmed their first movie – Ocean’s 11.

 Despite a lukewarm critical reception, the movie was a huge hit with the American public.  As Sinatra said, “We are not setting out to make Hamlet or Gone with the Wind. We are out to make films the people enjoy. It’s called Entertainment.”


But how did this unlikely group of entertainers become a worldwide sensation? The answer is simple: post-war America was hungry for change, and the Rat Pack offered it by the bucketload.

The group bucked trends left, right and centre. It was made up of one African American, one Jew, two Italians, and one feckless Hollywoodised Brit. Self-assured, successful and daring, these men challenged traditional notions of race and class to make music that liberated the American public.

By Alice Mulhern


With many thanks to Billionaires Newswire

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