Friday, December 10, 2010

Johnny Carson and The Rat Pack

Although he wasn't considered a Rat Pack member, Johnny Carson was definitely associated with all of the Rat Pack stars. Frank, Dean and Sammy were all repeated guests on The Tonight Show, and Dean's variety show was produced at NBC, very close to Johnny's Tonight Show studio. One classic Tonight Show episode features a mischievous Dean as a guest along with Bob Hope and comedian George Gobel.

Johnny was also a guest on Dean's show, and was roasted on The Dean Martin Roasts. And Joey Bishop, who competed with Johnny at one point with his own late night talk show, was also a frequent guest host for Johnny. Frank guest hosted for Johnny one time as well.

But the closest association of Johnny with The Rat Pack was when he filled in for an ailing Joey Bishop at a charity benefit in St. Louis for an organization called Dismas House, a halfway house for ex-convicts. The event, which took place on June 20th, 1965, was filmed and later released on video, featuring Johnny emceeing, and joining in during the musical finale. . .with some surprisingly good singing.

The rundown of that show, featuring Dean opening, followed by Sammy and then Frank is often re-created by today's Rat Pack Tribute shows.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Four For Texas

It's considered the third of four Rat Pack movies produced in the sixties, but in this one, only Frank and Dean represent the group, which is missing Sammy, not to mention Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Released in 1963, Four For Texas also featured romantic interests Anita Ekberg and Ursula Andress, and villain Charles Bronson, plus The Three Stooges.

Frank and Dean play rival rogue types who join forces against a bad guy played by Bronson, and a corrupt banker played by Victor Buono, who also appeared in the final Rat Pack film, Robin and the Seven Hoods.

Other cast members in small roles are some actors known to movie and TV fans. They include Yaphet Kotto, who starred as a James Bond villain in Live and Let Die, Richard Jaeckel of The Dirty Dozen, and Ellen Corby, who played the grandma on The Waltons.

One more credit of note involved the Four For Texas music score, which was created by Frank's favorite arranger, the great Nelson Riddle.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rat Pack Impressions

When the Rat Pack performed, in addition to songs and jokes, there were often some celebrity impressions thrown into the mix. Dean did pretty good impressions of Clark Gable and Cary Grant, and Frank played around as James Cagney. But the real impressionist in the group was Sammy, who did some spot-on imitations, both talking and singing.

But when it was time for the impressions, Frank and Dean pretended to make it hard for Sammy, by inviting him to the microphone and then cutting him off. They're seen needling Sammy this way during the Rat Pack benefit show filmed in St. Louis that's available on DVD.

When Sammy did his impressions, they included great imitations of singers like Tony Bennett, Vaughn Monroe and Nat King Cole, with the crowning touch being his singing impressions of both Dean and Frank as they looked on.

Today, you'll see impressions of Frank, Dean and Sammy performed by Rat Pack Impersonators.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rat Pack Impersonators keep Mr. Bojangles alive

One of the most popular songs in a Rat Pack Tribute show is Mr. Bojangles, as it was performed by Sammy Davis Jr. Sammy's poignant treatment of the tune is captured by many of today's
Rat Pack Impersonators. Sammy had an album titled Mr. Bojangles, and after his death, his wife Altovise launched a live stage show about Sammy's musical career, named after the song.

But Mr. Bojangles, so associated with Sammy, was recorded by many diverse artists, including Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, John Denver, Chet Atkins, Elton John, Jim Croce, and Harry Belafonte, among others. In 1971, a version by a group called The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band reached number 9 on the Billboard pop chart.

These days, you're most likely to hear Mr. Bojangles performed in Sammy's style during a Rat Pack Tribute, where a performer will put on white gloves and a derby and offer a vocal, whistling, some tap dancing, and a lot of emotion. . .the way Sammy did it.

To see Sammy performing Mr. Bojangles, visit this Rat Pack Tribute Page at YouTube.