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Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy,…

Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey and the Last Great… (1998)

by Shawn Levy

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247746,499 (3.7)6
  1. 00
    Sinatra: The Life by Anthony Summers (wokaid)
    wokaid: Although obviously focused on Sinatra and covering a wider span of time, Summers' book is good for those seeking more detail on the events covered in "Rack Pack Confidential", especially the connections of Sinatra and the rest of the Pack with the mob and the Kennedy campaign.… (more)

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The Sinatra Martini. It's vivid blue and composed of I don't know what, but it made me think of this book and how these dudes made everyday vices so electrifyingly cool. Swingers. This book has an unfortunate tendency to focus on Ol' Blue Eyes, which isn't bad as he's The Leader, but it would have been nice to get much more on his cohorts. It's a great intro to folks discovering their style and a Vegas some of us never knew.

I used spirits for medicinal purposes only.
I manufactured it for medicinal purposes only.
And then I started drinking what I manufactured, and I drank myself out of a hell of a business...for medicinal purposes only.


Sammy with his wicked early 1960s suits, Dean-NO with his innate sense of wicked humor, Lawford with his wicked bizarreness, Bishop with his wicked sarcasm, and Frankie with his wicked vocal chops...ice cubes swimming along before assassinations changed the world.

Dean: You'd think they'd put a little heat in this room, I'm freezing.
Frank: Take your hand out of the ice bucket.
Dean: Oh.

Book Season = Summer (fly me to the moon)

( )
  Gold_Gato | Sep 16, 2013 |
This book is a gossipy, lurid, but always readable account of the rise and fall of the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. It charts how they came together in the first place (the name Rat Pack was given to them by Lauren Bacall, the wife of Humphrey Bogart, who Sinatra regarded as a hero), talks about their glory years when they seemed to rule the entertainment world from Las Vegas, and then the inevitable fall into, variously, drug abuse, alcoholism, bankruptcy and depression, leaving behind them a trail of broken marriages, broken hearts and more.

The book is not a biography of any of the Rat Pack members – their childhoods and very early careers are barely touched upon – and shouldn’t be read as such. Instead, it covers the most successful and most volatile parts of their various careers, including such things as Sinatra’s involvement with the Mob, and the Kennedys (and both together at some stages). Sinatra is the main focus of the book, with the others seeming to orbit around him – with the exception of Dean Martin, who, it seems fairly apparent, would kowtow to nobody.

Actually, despite the author’s obvious and understandable love for Sinatra’s singing, Frank does not come out of this account very well. He is shown to be domineering and paranoid, unpredicatable – apt to change his mood in a moment – and a womaniser, who had little respect for anybody other than those he feared. Dean Martin came out of it a little better – at least he was his own man. Sammy Davis Jr was probably the most interesting of all of the Rat Pack members, for me anyhow. The racism and abuse he had to deal with was shocking – while hotel and casino managers were happy to have him perform and entertain a crowd, they certainly were not about to let him mingle with that same crowd. The section about the eventual desegregation in Vegas was illuminating and very interesting. Sammy also seemed to be out of his depth in the Rat Pack – detested by white people because of the colour of his skin, and detested by black people for being friends with white men like Sinatra and Martin, he was caught between a rock and a hard place. Peter Lawford came across as a sad character – born to looks, charm and charisma, Frank spat him out after he believed that Peter had double crossed him, and it’s sad to see how such a beautiful man as Lawford ended up sinking into a haze of drugs and alcohol, which cost him his life. Joey Bishop was possibly the most enigmatic of the group – seemingly able to rib Frank without fear of reprisals, and remaining his own man as far as possible within the confines of such a group.

The Kennedys feature in the book – Frank was an ardent admirer of the family, and an overt campaigner for JFK when Kennedy was running for the democratic presidential nomination, and then the president. The family as a whole do not come over well(!) Also covered extensively was Frank’s connection with various gangsters – who were happy to use him, but clearly had little respect for him.

It was nice to read about a time when Las Vegas was a genuinely cool, sexy and glamorous place to be, unlike the commercial money making machine which it is these days; what a place it would have been to visit at the time!

The slang used in the book emulates the period covered, with mention of broads, dames and swells routinely peppered throughout the book. This may annoy some viewers, but I actually enjoyed it a lot. Overall I very much enjoyed the book, and it has whetted my apetite to find out more about the various Rat Pack members. ( )
  Ruth72 | Oct 31, 2011 |
Good job of capturing the flavor of the times. The breezy, hip writing style helps make you feel you are there in 1960's Vegas. ( )
1 vote wokaid | Oct 8, 2011 |
A most enjoyable read. A fascinating look about these great legends. ( )
  bennyb | Jan 13, 2011 |
A slice of cultural history. A great read ( )
  chicjohn | Dec 3, 2009 |
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For my mom, Mickie Levy,
who arranged for me to see Frank at the
500 Club when I was stil in utero...
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This was Frank's baby.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385495765, Paperback)

If you're not inclined to read individual biographies of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., Shawn Levy's Rat Pack Confidential is a perfect one-stop resource. Less a group biography than a series of impressionistic snapshots, the book is loaded with can't-miss material--the dirt on the making of Ocean's Eleven, information about Sinatra's wild stint as a casino owner, deep background on Peter Lawford's habit of introducing Jack Kennedy to glamorous starlets, wiretap transcripts of mobsters Sam Giancana and Johnny Formosa discussiong Dean Martin's lack of respect.

Levy, whose previous book, King of Comedy, is a serious consideration of Jerry Lewis's life and career, offers similarly well considered insights into the members of the Rat Pack. He covers Davis's lifelong struggle against racism and the complicated intertwinings of the Kennedy political machine and "the Clan," as the performers preferred to be called (they often denied anything like the Rat Pack even existed and resisted collective references).

The book's debts to its predecessors are often apparent; much of the material on Sinatra's friendship with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, for example, appears to have been gleaned from recent Bogart biographies. The writing style, which tries to capture the ring-a-ding-ding feel of the era, also owes serious debts to Nick Tosches by way of James Ellroy, while only intermittently reaching their level of mastery. But these are minor quibbles. As a synthesis of thirty years worth of journalism and celebrity biography, Rat Pack Confidential succeeds in portraying the supernova blowout of old-school showbiz in all its dazzling glory.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:17 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

January 1960. Las Vegas is at its smooth, cool peak. The Strip is a jet-age theme park, and the greatest singer in the history of American popular music summons a group of friends there to make a movie. The marquee of the Sands Hotel announces their presence simply by listing their names: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop. Around them an entire cast gathers: actors, comics, singers, songwriters, gangsters, politicians, and women, as well as thousands of starstruck everyday folks who fork over pocketfuls of money for the privilege of basking in their presence.… (more)

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