Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Frank and Bing Christmas

Rat Pack stars Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were both influenced by Bing Crosby. And Bing had another Rat Pack connection as one of the stars of the Rat Pack film Robin & The Seven Hoods. So Frank and Bing were well matched for a Christmas TV special in 1957 called Happy Holidays With Bing and Frank. It has Bing dropping in on Frank for some banter and songs, which also includes scenes of the two stars in England, and a duet of Bing's signature song, White Christmas.

The show is available on DVD and includes interviews with Frank's daughters Nancy and Tina. Plus, there's a photo gallery bonus of never-before-seen Christmas cards that show some of Frank's original paintings.

Rat Pack Tribute shows often include songs from this Frank and Bing special, performed by Frank, Dean and Sammy Impersonators.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Celebrating a Rat Pack Member's Life

Every year, Ohio is the site of a celebration of the life of Dean Martin in the city of Steubenville, where he was born and spent his early years. The event goes on for four days each June, the month in which Dean was born (birthday: June 7th) During the festival, locals and visitors take in parades, contests, Italian food, and plenty of entertainment including performances by Rat Pack Impersonators. And of course, there are many fond reminiscences of Dean from people who knew him. It's an upbeat, fun event, with festivities including a meatball eating competition.

The star of the Festival is Dean's daughter Deana who presides over the celebration and sings for the visitors. Deana happens to be a fine singer who does concerts around the country and has also hosted her own nationally syndicated radio show.

To learn more about the Dean Martin Festival, visit the festival's official website, and for a show re-creating Frank, Dean and Sammy, visit this tribute to the Rat Pack.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Original Rat Pack around Bogart and Bacall

Before Frank Sinatra assembled his Las Vegas Rat Pack of the 60's, he was part of an earlier Rat Pack group of the 50's set in Holmby Hills California, near Beverly Hills. It centered around Humphrey Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall, who is believed to have come up with the name, not necessarily as a compliment.

There were even titles for the key members, with Bogart as rat in charge of public relations, Bacall as den mother, Judy Garland as first vice-president, her husband Sid Luft as cage master, and agent Swifty Lazar as recording secretary and treasurer, plus of course, Frank Sinatra as pack master.

Other members of the original Rat Pack were actors David Niven, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy, director George Cukor, restaurateur Michael Romanoff, and Sinatra friend and songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen.

Someone in the group even created a coat of arms -- a rat gnawing on a human hand, and a motto: "Never rat on a rat". But in spite of those refinements, and those official titles, the members' only real responsibilities were to show up and drink together.

Today, it's Frank's 60's group that's re-created in theaters and casinos presenting tributes to the Rat Pack, featuring performers known as Rat Pack Impersonators.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Photographer In The Rat Pack

Besides singing and dancing, Rat Pack star Sammy Davis Jr. had another passion: Photography. He always had a camera on hand and took photos that often included his Rat Pack co-stars Frank and Dean, and other celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, and James Dean.

Sammy also captured up-close images of famous figures like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. And he documented his everyday life as well as his participation in events like the 1963 Civil Rights march on Washington.

Sammy's camera work is featured in a book called Photo by Sammy Davis Jr. which also features recollections by Sammy's friend and associate Burt Boyar, who also collaborated with Sammy on two autobiographies of this versatile performer who's so important to any tribute to The Rat Pack.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Rat Pack Party at Dean's House

According to Frank Sinatra's longest running opening act, comedian Tom Dreesen who related this story to the Rat Pack Impersonators Group, a party one night at Dean Martin's house took an unexpected turn. The guys were all there, along with some other guests, as a trio played and people joked and drank. About 11:00 PM the doorbell rang and when Dean's wife answered it, she saw the police standing there. They told her that there were complaints about the noise. Jeannie was surprised, because she had alerted the neighbors that there was going to be a get-together, and they were all fine with it.

Then Frank noticed that Dean was nowhere to be found. He went to Dean's bedroom where he found Dean on the bed. It soon became clear who blew the whistle. Dean, who had a passion for golf, explained that he wanted to get a good night's sleep and get up early to play, thus becoming possibly the first person ever to call the police on his own party.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Me And My Shadow & The Rat Pack

Rat Pack stars Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. performed many solo hits during their Rat Pack years. But one song, Me And My Shadow, teamed up Frank and Sammy for some playful singing and dancing. And the lyrics about closeness between two friends fit them well. They even had a version with special lyrics making reference to things like the Kennedys with Frank and Sammy singing "we're closer than Bobby is to JFK". Their special lyrics also referred to Frank's restaurateur friend Toots Shor and Frank's best friend Jilly Rizzo, also a restaurant owner and regular Sinatra companion.

Rat Pack fans might think the song originated with Frank and Sammy because it was so appropriate, but it had history long before they performed it. It goes back to 1927 and was written by Billy Rose and Dave Dreyer, with a credit also for Al Jolson, whose name often appeared with the writers.

Me And My Shadow was performed by many singers over the years, including Perry Como, Judy Garland, Vic Damone and Peggy Lee. Today, the song is performed more than ever, as a regular number during shows by Rat Pack Impersonators. A performance of Me And My Shadow by Frank and Sammy appears on the DVD titled Sinatra: The Classic Duets.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson Impersonators

The legendary stars with the most impersonators paying tribute to them would be Elvis and Marilyn Monroe of course, and there are also several Rat Pack Impersonators, not to mention Cher and Neil Diamond acts. But right up there with that group would be impersonators of Michael Jackson. There are many accomplished performers who transform themselves into MJ, even creating the look of his much modified nose. Some even do a remarkable job of moving on stage like Michael did.

They will probably enjoy a resurgence of interest with audiences who will want to re-live Michael's legacy, at least in a tribute.

Most of them are in the U.S. like the most prominent performers E'Casanova and Joby Rogers, both of whom could claim the support and encouragement of Michael. But MJ impersonators have even turned up in far away locations like the People's Republic of China where you'll find someone named Wu Di, the performer seen here in Beijing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rat Pack Impersonators Songs

Some Rat Pack Impersonators groups start their show with their Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. tribute artists taking the stage all at once for an opening song. It might be Where Or When or The Lady Is A Tramp. After that, one of the performers usually remains on stage for some solo songs, after which the others also take their turns for solos.

There are almost always duets of Me And My Shadow featuring the Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra impersonators, and Sam's Song with the Dean and Sammy acts.

Popular songs for all three to perform include Luck Be A Lady, Birth Of The Blues and Mack The Knife.

And finally, the show often includes two Frank Sinatra titles that aren't really Rat Pack era songs, but are crowd pleasers. And those would be My Way and New York, New York.