The Significance & Influence of The Rat Pack
When you ask music enthusiasts about their favorite groups from the 1960s, they rarely mention a group that had a significant influence during those years. The Rat Pack may have faded in popularity over time, but they were the talk of the United States during those years.
Not only were their performances in Vegas sell-outs that attracted people from all over the country, but they took popular culture by storm.
Below is an in-depth look at what brought the Rat Pack together, and an assessment of their significance and influence in Las Vegas and beyond.
Who was The Rat Pack?
The Rat Pack was a musical group that consisted of several members, who were mostly singers and actors. These included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. The latter was a talk-show host, while Lawford was the brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy, also working as an actor.
The height of their appeal came in the early part of the 1960s. This was a time when they were easily able to sell out venues in Las Vegas as solo acts, which is why they were such a phenomenon around the country when they worked together
The origins of the group
The first time the members came together as a group was at the home of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
There are many stories about how the name, The Rat Pack, first came to prominence. The group had other ideas about their name, with the most popular choices being The Clan or The Summit. They were not able to get their way, as The Rat Pack stuck and became their moniker forever.
Author Shawn Levy, who wrote a book called Rat Pack Confidential, states that a popular assumption is that Lauren Bacall first referred to the group as a rat pack when they were at her and Bogart’s residence, which may have led to someone deciding it was a great name for the band.
Interestingly, the group The Rat Pack was an entirely different concept at the beginning. Bogart and Bacall wanted to engage in music themselves and invited some of their most talented and famous friends to their home for jamming sessions.
The likes of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, David Niven, and Spencer Tracy all had a go at one time or another. The initial group, however, did not last long. Humphrey Bogart passed away in 1957 and those sessions came to an end.
Eventually, the group of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop got together to form the group. While they never called themselves The Rat Pack, the name stuck in the media and in popular culture. That is what they were, whether they liked it or not!
Finding a home in glamorous Las Vegas
The first time Frank Sinatra performed in Las Vegas was in 1951. The legendary singer played at the Desert Inn and soon fell in love with the city.
Sinatra and his Rat Pack found a home in Vegas around this same time as the post-World War II boom. The population in the Vegas area was growing at a rapid rate, while a lot of money was pouring into the state as well.
Nevada had recently legalized gambling, which meant that both legitimate investors and organized criminals were pouring their funds into Las Vegas to create a magical city where people could spend their free time and indulge in the finer things in life.
Sinatra was one of many entertainers who were drawn to Vegas as a result of its newly found glitz and glamour and is one of those who made the most significant impression. His musical genius was one part of the occasion, with his sense of style only adding to his charm.
Those who knew Sinatra at the time suggest that he never went anywhere after sunset without wearing a sports jacket, while the idea of him performing at a venue without a tuxedo was akin to blasphemy. Sinatra embodied the sophistication, style, and class of Las Vegas more than anyone.
Ocean’s 11 adds to the Rat Pack’s Popularity
Even though the members of The Rat Pack were already performing, doing individual shows in sold-out venues in Las Vegas in the 1950s, they hit the big time in 1960 when Ocean’s 11 was released in theaters throughout the United States.
All the members of the group were in the film, along with stars such as Cesar Romero and Angie Dickinson. The movie, which has since been remade on multiple occasions, starred Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean.
In Ocean’s 11, Danny and his group of friends attempt to pull off an ambitious heist at a Las Vegas casino. The film showcases many themes that Americans loved at the time: decadence, glitz and glamour, ambition, and ruthlessness.
While people who had been to Las Vegas in these years were already familiar with The Rat Pack, the entire country was now enthralled by this charming and sophisticated group of entertainers. Anytime a person thought of Las Vegas, they recalled Ocean’s 11 and The Rat Pack.
That popularity led the group to seal a near-permanent spot at the Copa Room at the Sands in Las Vegas. Their performances at the Sands typically featured multiple members of the group, attracted huge crowds, and made the casinos a lot of money. Even if casino owners had to pay these entertainers to perform, they were raking in a lot more money from gambling high rollers who lost at games like blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps.
Viva Las Vegas
When singers and entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr., and others got together to form the Rat Pack, they were only having a bit of fun.
The group eventually found their way to Las Vegas, before the release of Ocean’s 11 turned them into household names across the United States. Countless sell-out performances and all-night parties at glitzy Las Vegas locations meant The Rat Pack were synonymous with the lavish lifestyle that most Americans were desperate to enjoy at the time.
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