How the Rat Pack Transformed Las Vegas into an Entertainment Destination

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Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jr., Lawford and Bishop brought glamor and swagger to the small resort town.

They were the toast of Hollywood, a group of actors who came together at the Los Angeles home of silver-screen stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. But their effect on the popular culture would extend beyond California’s sunny climes and help put the then fairly modest resort and gambling destination of Las Vegas, Nevada firmly on the tourist map.

The Pack were singers and actors Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), Dean Martin (1917-1995), Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990), British actor and brother-in-law to President John F. Kennedy, Peter Lawford (1923-1984), and comedian and talk-show host Joey Bishop (1918-2007). At the height of their appeal in the first half of the 1960s, a reported 34,000 people flocked to the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas over a four-week season to take in their swagger, antics and camaraderie.

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The Rat Pack preferred to be called ‘the Clan’ or ‘the Summit’

Stories vary on how the “Rat Pack” moniker came into existence. In Rat Pack Confidential, author Shawn Levy writes that the group were christened when Bacall said they looked “like a goddamn rat pack.” The first version of the group often met at Bogart’s Holmby Hills residence and included, along with the hosts and Sinatra, a revolving door of various actors such as David Niven, Ava Gardner, Robert Mitchum, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

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After Bogart died in 1957, the name would eventually come to represent the five-person group of Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jr., Lawford and Bishop. Though they reportedly referred to themselves as “the Clan” or “the Summit,” the group never called themselves the Rat Pack, that name was generally adopted by the media and has stuck to this day, despite Sinatra’s public disdain for the label.



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