Sunday, July 24, 2011

Memories of a Rat Pack Member by a Rat Pack Daughter

Dean Martin's fourth of seven children is a daughter who was named for him. Deana Martin (pronounced like Dina) is an actress, recording artist and concert performer. In addition, Deana is also the co-author of a book about her dad called Memories Are Made Of This; Dean Martin Through His Daughter's Eyes.

Co-written with Wendy Holden, the book is an enjoyable reminiscence of Dean's life from the inside, which includes a foreword by Dean's former partner Jerry Lewis. There are many recollections of Dean as an entertainer, husband, and father, and it's an intimate look at family members and friends who were close to him, including of course his pals in the Rat Pack. Plus, the book includes many interesting accounts of Deana's own experiences as an entertainer. Written in 2004, the book will remain an enduring look at Dean's professional life and family life.

Also keeping Dean's memory alive is the Dean Martin Festival, held every June in Dean's birthplace of Steubenville Ohio, and the festival is staged each year under the loving direction of Deana Martin. The festival often features entertainment by some of the best Rat Pack Impersonators.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Judy Garland & The Rat Pack; Tribute to Their Memories

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford are remembered as The Rat Pack, with roots in Las Vegas, but a precursor to their famous partnership was something known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack. This group of entertainers didn't perform together or make films like Frank, Dean, Sammy and company. Instead, the Holmby Hills Rat Pack was really just an unofficial social club that gathered at Humphrey Bogart's house in the affluent Los Angeles suburb of Holmby Hills. The membership included Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall, actor David Niven, agent Swifty Lazar, often Frank Sinatra, and a movie producer named Sid Luft with his wife, the legendary singer and actress Judy Garland.

They gave themselves comical titles, like Bogart's designation as "rat in charge of public relations", Bacall as "den mother", and Frank as "pack master". Judy had a more establishment title as first vice-president.

But in addition to her membership in the Holmby Hills group, Judy also maintained a strong connection to the more famous Rat Pack of Frank, Dean and Sammy. Her connection to Frank was especially strong and long-lasting. Years before the 60's Rat Pack, Judy and Frank both worked on the MGM lot, and when Frank became a headliner at the Sands in Las Vegas, Judy was also signed to perform there. And at the peak of the Rat Pack's Las Vegas heyday in 1962, Judy hosted a network TV special, and landed Frank and Dean as her guest stars for some memorable music numbers.

Judy remained friends with Frank till she died in 1969 at the age of 47. But another Judy Garland Rat Pack connection appeared when Frank, Dean and Sammy attempted to revive the Rat Pack show in 1987. Unfortunately, with Dean ailing, it wasn't meant to be, at least not with the original three guys. Soon after the tour started, Dean dropped out. But the tour continued, with Frank and Sammy sharing the stage with a replacement for Dean in the form of Judy Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli.

In addition to being one of the twentieth century's greatest entertainers, Judy Garland's name should be included in any comprehensive Rat Pack tribute or reminiscence.