According to Wikipedia, the Rat Pack was a group of popular entertainers most active between the Mid-1950s and mid-1960s. Its most famous line-up featured Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, who appeared together on stage and in films in the early-l960s, including the movie Oceanâ€™s Eleven.
My definition: they were the coolest guys ever.
And how lucky for me, even if it was after their Rat Pack heyday, to have met all but one of them. If youâ€™re wondering, it was Peter Lawford I missed meeting. However, I did get to be in the presence of his brother-in-law, Ted Kennedy.
Joey Bishop, the actual comedian of the group, was always a sweetheart. A down to earth type of guy who, whenever you approached him would automatically reach out to shake your hand. And then would proceed to talk to you as if you were a long lost friend.
Sammy Davis, Jr. I saw several times, but the most memorable was when he came to CBS to do the Carol Burnett Show. He was so touched by the warm welcome he received from everyone in the building, so to show his gratitude he put on a one man show for all the employees to see at five oâ€™clock. To this day, I canâ€™t hear â€œThe Candy Manâ€ on the radio without picturing Sammy singing and dancing to the tune, only a few feet in front of me on Stage 33.
Then there was the man himself, so fondly known as â€œThe Chairman of the Boardâ€, Mr. Sinatra. I must have seen him at least four or five times. Iâ€™m also happy to say, that he was always nice to me on all the occasions. Whenever he was in Vegas, people would just watch him. He was always surrounded by guards whose main job was to keep the public a safe distance away from him–otherwise he was sure to get mobbed. It was pretty funny to watch Frank move from one part of the casino to the other and see a group of people in a huddle follow him. Once he sat in an open restaurant inside Caesars Palace with a bunch of friends and his wife Barbara, eating and drinking and conversing. All the while, people just standing, watching his every move. And if youâ€™re wondering, yes, I was front and center among the crowd.
Luckily I had my Polaroid camera with me, so I seized the opportunity by snapping a picture of him. When Frank realized it, he motioned for me to hand the picture over. Because you donâ€™t say no to the Chairman of the Board, I did. He must have liked what he saw because he signed it and returned it to me. He then blew several kisses in the air at me. And to paraphrase Sally Fieldâ€¦â€œFrank liked meâ€¦he really, really liked meâ€. Considering my age at the time and being a brunette, I figured I must have reminded him of his daughter. Needless to say, I was the envy of all his fans that night.
Another time I was in Vegas and my mother spotted him and handed me the camera and went racing over to â€œOld Blue Eyesâ€. The security guard next to Mr. S. was about to push my mother away when Frank held up his hand to stop him. â€œItâ€™s okayâ€, he said. When I saw this, I tossed the camera over to the guard and ran to stand next to Frank myself. With my mother on one side of him and me on the other, Frank looked over to me and asked, â€œAnd just who are you?â€ â€œHer daughterâ€, I boasted. â€œOh, okayâ€, he said, as he wrapped an arm around me, posing in the middle between me and my mother. To this day, that picture is proudly displayed in my living room for all to see.
And then there was Dean Martin, the most elusive of them all. Unlike the rest of the Rat Packers, he seldom ever made any appearances around town. It almost seemed impossible to spot him anywhere in Hollywood. But then one day Ann Margaret was doing her special at TV City. I liked her, and more than curious to see her, I wanted to see her husband, Roger Smith (star of TVâ€™s 77 Sunset Strip) who Iâ€™d had a crush on since before I was a teenager. Unfortunately, it turned out that since he was such a pest to have around, they had him banned from the set. Rumor had it that Ann was a doll to work with, but Roger kept interfering with what he thought the show needed and more important, what his wife needed. It ended up causing a lot of delays and the simplest solution was to ban Roger from coming on the set altogether.
I took a seat, front row, just as Ann Margaret was about to do her song. All dressed up in a black cocktail dress, she was perched on the bench seat of a buckboard. The wagon behind her was filled with hay and above her suspended in the air was a collection of elaborate crystal chandeliers. The whole set was one big contradiction. But since the TV special was called â€œFrom Hollywood with Loveâ€, the whole premise was to show that Hollywood is nothing but an illusion. Well, maybe not everything is an illusion. Certainly, not the tall dark handsome man dressed in a tuxedo, seated next to Ann. He was real. And nothing could have blown me away more. It was Dean Martin.
To say I went into shock would be an understatement. According to the man who had accompanied Dean to the studio that day, when he looked over at me, all color had drained from my face and I had gone completely white. He said he thought I was going to pass out. After I explained my love of Dino and all my unsuccessful attempts of trying to see him, the man nonchalantly asked, â€œWhat would you do if he kissed you?â€ Breathlessly, I replied, â€œOh dieâ€¦just dieâ€. Thatâ€™s when this sweet, anonymous stranger must have realized he was in the company of a deeply disturbed young woman. But if he did, he never let on. All he did was smile and told me to stay where I was. I figured he was either going to get me a drink of water, or bring over security. But instead, he brought Dean Martin.
This kind, wonderful stranger, without being asked, took it upon himself to bring my Dino over to me. Whoever he was, agent, friend or producer, I have no idea, but he had enough influence over Dean Martin to persuade him to come meet me. I vaguely remember the introduction. All I know for sure was of my own babbling and telling Dean how much he meant to me and my entire family. Iâ€™m certain that the king of cool was afraid heâ€™d be held responsible if I dropped dead from all the excitement.
Now with just the two of us alone, Dean managed to coax me up from my seat and guide me over to an isolated part of the studio. And then in the manner you would use to try to sober someone up, he walked me around in circles, his arm entwined with mine. As we walked, he continually whispered words of assurance in my ear. â€œYouâ€™re going to be all right. Now take a deep breathâ€¦thatâ€™s rightâ€¦youâ€™re going to be all right.â€ And then he did the unthinkable, he put his arm around me to support me and then told me he wasnâ€™t going to leave me until he knew that I was going to be all right. My heart stopped, as I looked away from him and focused my attention on his arm around my shoulder. Yes, I was going to dieâ€¦happily die. Not only was he handsome, charming and niceâ€¦but he was caring. How sexy was that? And it only made me love him more, as I reminded myself this was not a dream and it was really happening.
When the color in my face apparently had returned and my breathing was back to normal, he asked me one final time if I was all right. I simply nodded and uttered, â€œOh, yeahâ€. After he left, I didnâ€™t walk–I ran–no, more like scampered back to my office and to the nearest phone. Because I had to share my excitement with someone, I called my mother at work. She was as thrilled for me as I was for myself. However, she ended our conversation with these words, â€œYou do know that should have been me with himâ€. Yes, in the closest of families, there can always be a little bit of rivalry. Which proves the point, â€œEverybody Loves Somebody Sometimeâ€, and in this case it was Dean Martin.
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