When Frank Sinatra moved his family from Toluca Lake to an estate in the Holmby Hills section of Beverly Hills, he joined his neighbor Humphrey Bogart, wife Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and others in an in-group of heavy-drinking Hollywood black sheep at the tables down at Romanoff’s.
It was the heyday of the Hollywood columnists, eager to create myths, who nicknamed these clannish gatherings the Beverly Hills Rat Pack, and reported their drinking, pranks, jokes and bon mots as if they were the Algonquin Round Table.
The individual stars denied The Rat Pack existed, but they resisted attempts of other ambitious celebs to penetrate their exclusive tables.
Eventually the pack moved on to Chasen’s. With Bogart’s death, celebrities came and went–Tony Curtis, agent Irving Lazar, Harry Kurnitz, comic Ernie Kovacs.
Redubbed the Clan, with Sinatra as the Chairman of the Board, the in-group in the late ’50s consisted of Dean Martin and Peter Lawford, who had been in films with Sinatra; song writers Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, who had penned may of his most memorable songs; Sammy Davis Jr.; and comic Joey Bishop. Shirley Mac-Laine was known as the mascot of the now all-male Clan.
One and all
“The Clansmen live close to each other, often go to the same tailor, drive the same kind of car, own homes in the same area of Palm Springs,” Joe Hyams reported back in 1959.
“They travel as a group, even have their own language, a cross between bop talk and high-school slang. The entourage and the Clan form a near impenetrable buffer between Sinatra and the outside world.”
Martin and MacLaine had starred with Sinatra in one memorable movie, “Some Came Running,” in 1958. He then produced or wholly financed four films–“Ocean’s Eleven,” 1960; “Sergeants 3,” 1962; “4 for Texas,” 1964; and “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” 1964–movies made with his pals for the fun of working together, even if they seemingly had more fun than the audience. All but the first lost money.
Sen. John F. Kennedy on his occasional jaunts west hung out with his brother-in-law Lawford and his pals. But when he became President, Kennedy snubbed Sinatra’s invitation to stay at his palatial Palm Springs estate. It created a rift with Lawford, who never again appeared in a movie with Sinatra.
Sinatra, Davis and Martin last joined together for a record-breaking concert tour dubbed “Together Again,” in 1988. Newspapers headlined it, “The Rat Pack’s Back.” Later, Liza Minnelli–whose father, Vincente, had directed Sinatra and Martin in their first film together– replaced Martin for a world tour. The Clan had moved into its second generation.