Rat Pack Performance with Sammy, Sinatra, Martin & Unlikely Participant Johnny Carson, Who Was Terrific, St. Louis, 1965


After this show originally aired in 1965 on a closed-circuit TV transmission under the title The Frank Sinatra Spectacular, an edited version was screened during 1997 in the NYC/L.A. theaters of the Museum of Television & Radio as The Rat Pack Captured: The Only Television Performance. The 90-minute version telecast on Nick at Nite’s TV Land in 1998 was part of The Museum of Television & Radio Showcase series. The show is the only known concert recording of the Rat Pack, capturing the on-stage antics and raucous camaraderie that Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin made famous at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas during the five years following their appearance together in the Vegas casino caper comedy Ocean’s 11 (1960).

On June 20, 1965, Frank Sinatra organized a “summit meeting” of the Rat Pack in St. Louis as a benefit for Dismas House of St. Louis, the first halfway house for ex-convicts. Staged at St. Louis’ Kiel Opera House, the evening was televised via closed-circuit to select locations, where ticket buyers watched the live performance on screen. Martin, Davis, and Sinatra each take turns in the spotlight for a selection of songs. After Davis goes galvanic with his drums and vocal on “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” he ring-a-dings comedic chimes with ten impressions during “One for My Baby.”

With Quincy Jones leading the Count Basie Orchestra, the Sinatra standards include Luck Be a Lady, You Make Me Feel So Young, and Get Me to the Church on Time. Sinatra is hip, compelling, and very relaxed–despite heckling from the wings by Davis and Martin during one Sinatra number. For the finale, the trio was joined by a somewhat stiff and uncomfortable looking Johnny Carson (substituting for the Rat Pack’s Joey Bishop, ailing with a bad back). At that time, Carson had been the Tonight Show host for less than three years. Sharing the stage for 15 minutes, the four unleashed gags, comedy antics, and impressions — closing with “Birth of the Blues.”

This program was discovered by producer Paul Brownstein who saw a St. Louis clip of Sinatra and Davis (donated from Sinatra family archives) while watching the CBS Sinatra birthday special (Sinatra at 50). Brownstein saw two TV cameras at the edge of the stage, which led him to believe the entire performance had been televised and recorded. After extensive research, he eventually located a copy of the show sitting in a closet of a secretary’s office at Dismas House, where it had been since 1965.

The Rat Pack didn’t perform together that much and it was more of a media contrivance than anything else, although Sinatra had a big impact on Sammy’s career in breaking color barriers.
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