If you're not inclined to read individual biographies of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., Shawn Levy's Rat Pack Confidential
is a perfect one-stop resource. Less a group biography than a series of impressionistic snapshots, the book is loaded with can't- miss material--the dirt on the making of Ocean's Eleven
, information about Sinatra's wild stint as a casino owner, deep background on Peter Lawford's habit of introducing Jack Kennedy to glamorous starlets, wiretap transcripts of mobsters Sam Giancana and Johnny Formosa discussing Dean Martin's lack of respect. Levy, whose previous book, King of Comedy
Is a serious consideration of Jerry Lewis's life and career, offers similarly well-considered insights into the members of the Rat Pack. He covers Davis's lifelong struggle against racism and the complicated intertwinings of the Kennedy political machine and "the Clan," as the performers preferred to be called (they often denied anything like the Rat Pack even existed and resisted collective references). The book's debts to its predecessors are often apparent; much of the material on Sinatra's friendship with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, for example, appears to have been gleaned from recent Bogart biographies. The writing style, which tries to capture the ring-a-ding-ding feel of the era, also owes serious debts to Nick Toches by way of James Ellroy, while only intermittently reaching their level of mastery. But these are minor quibbles. As a synthesis of 30 years worth of journalism and celebrity biography, Rat Pack Confidential
succeeds in portraying the supernova blowout of old-school showbiz in all its dazzling glory.
From the Back Cover
They alit in Las Vegas for a month to make a movie and play a historic nightclub gig they called the Summit; they hit Miami, the Utah desert, Palm Springs, Chicago, Atlantic City, Beverly Hills, Hollywood back lots, illegal gambling dens, saloons, yachts, private jets, the White House itself.
It was sauce and vinegar and eau de cologne and sour mash whiskey and gin and smoke and perfume and silk and neon and skinny lapels and tail fins and rockets to the sky.
It was swinging and sighing and being a sharpie, it was cutting a figure and digging a scene.
It was Frank and Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin and Peter Lawford for a while and Joey Bishop when they asked him and Jack Kennedy and Sam Giancana and tables full of cronies and who knew how many broads.
It was the ultimate spasm of traditional showbiz – both the last and the most of its kind.
It was the Rat Pack.
It was beautiful.
Rat Pack Confidential – you’re never far from a cocktail, a swingin’ affair and a fist-fight.