OK…trivia questions. Who comes to mind with the “crooner”? What about “ole blue eyes”? The “RAT PACK”? I know some of you remember, I know I do. That’s why when Jaime, from Finn Partners, contacted me regarding today’s guest, I wanted to meet and also have the opportunity to introduce you to, today’s guest. Please help me welcome Mr. Franz Douskey to CMash Reads!
Franz Douskey’s work has appeared in nearly 200 publications, including: Rolling Stone, The Nation, The New Yorker, New York Quarterly, Las Vegas Life, and the Minnesota Review. His fourth book, West of Midnight, reached number 24 on the Amazon Best-Sellers list in 2011 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Douskey, who taught creative writing at Yale University for five summers, served as president of IMPAC University, in Punta Gorda, FL. Douskey resides in Hamden, Connecticut.
Visit Mr. Douskey at his website.
The Close Ties of THE RAT PACK by Franz Douskey
Let’s start with Sammy Davis, Jr. In the late 1940s Sammy performed with his father and his uncle in the Will Mastin Trio, a very energetic and talented musical group. Frank first saw the trio in Las Vegas. While in Vegas, the Will Mastin Trio, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, and many other famous African American entertainers were not allowed to stay in the hotels or casinos where they performed. Even if they were booked for shows over several nights, they were required to find lodging elsewhere. When Frank learned about this, he told Jack Entratter, manager of the Sands Hotel, if Sammy and Nat can’t stay here when they’re booked, then I don’t play here.
Frank had a lot of swag. If he went, that meant all of Frank’s pals would stop coming around too. Frank had a powerful impact and inspired change.
In November 1954 Sammy Davis Jr. lost his eye in a car accident. He was so depressed that he considered quitting show business. Unwilling to allow his friend to give up, Frank set Sammy up in his house, took care of his expenses and got him back on track. This is how one link of the Rat Pack got to be close.
Frank knew Dean Martin from his years performing with Jerry Lewis. Dean and Frank became close friends, a friendship that never wavered until Dean passed away.
Peter Lawford and Frank were under contract with MGM in the late 1940s. Peter’s position became strong when Peter brought his brother-in-law, future President John F. Kennedy, to Vegas and introduced him to Sinatra. Kennedy and Frank became fast friends, with Frank campaigning for him in 1960 and chairing the inaugural committee in 1961. However, their friendship didn’t last very long. President Kennedy was coming to visitCalifornia and planned to stay with Sinatra. Frank built an addition at his house for JFK that included a helipad. Bobby Kennedy told JFK that Frank was associated with the wrong people and advised him it was a bad idea to stay with Sinatra. It was Lawford’s job to call Frank and tell him that Kennedy was going to stay at Bing Crosby’s house instead. When Frank hung up he went outside with a pickaxe and began to tear up the concrete helipad. Frank never spoke to Peter again, and that was the end of his short reign as a member of the Rat Pack.
The fifth member of the Rat Pack was Joey Bishop. A quiet taciturn fellow, Bishop didn’t like parties, didn’t like staying out late, didn’t like booze and did not get involved with any of the young women who were always around. Joey was there for a few years, then faded away.
Frank, Sammy, and Dean remained life-long friends. There was a brief time when Sammy was doing cocaine and Frank told him right out not to come around while you’re on that stuff. Frank did not approve of drugs nor did he trust anyone who was involved with them. Sammy, Dean and Frank went on one final tour, The Summit, but Dean really wasn’t there. Since his son’s loss in a plane crash, Dean had become more distant, almost ghostlike. Frank told Dean, “Look, if you’re not going to give the people what they came here for, just go home. I understand. I’ll say you had stomach problems and are going into a hospital.” Dean went home, but The Summit went on, and Liza Minnelli replaced Dean.
Despite their ups and downs, for a few good years Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter and Joey were THE RAT PACK, the wild bunch who could do no wrong and had a great time doing it.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Walter Winchell, a popular and influential 20th century newspaper and radio commentator, once wrote: “The closest person to Frank Sinatra is Tony Consiglio.” Tony’s full account of his relationship with the iconic crooner has never been revealed – until now. Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years is based on dozens of hours of interviews over the span of eight years, concluding with Tony’s death in 2008.
Sinatra and Me, which features dozens of never-before-published photos of Sinatra and Consiglio, and details a period of time that spans from the 1930’s into the 1970’s. It takes an up-close and personal look into the exciting world of one of America’s greatest icons.
Not many people were allowed inside Frank Sinatra’s inner circle. But Tony Consiglio was a boyhood friend of Sinatra’s who remained his friend and confidant for over sixty years. One reason Sinatra valued Tony’s friendship is that he could be trusted: Sinatra nicknamed him “the Clam” because Tony never spoke to reporters or biographers about the singer. From the early days when Sinatra was trying to establish himself as a singer to the mid-1960s, Tony worked with Sinatra and was there to share in the highs and lows of Sinatra’s life and career. Tony was with Sinatra during his “bobby-soxer” megastar days in the 1940s, and he remained loyal to Sinatra during the lean years of the early 1950s, when “the Voice” was struggling with a crumbling singing and acting career-as well as his tumultuous marriage to Ava Gardner. Tony also had a front row seat to Sinatra’s comeback in the 1950s, starting with his Academy Award–winning role in From Here to Eternity and a string of now-classic hit recordings. Tony’s friendship with Sinatra allowed him to rub elbows with the Hollywood elite, including Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Kim Novak, Ava Gardner, and many others. It also brought him close to the political world of the early 1960s, when Sinatra campaigned for John F. Kennedy and then helped plan the Kennedy inauguration. Tony was even at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis, Massachusetts, when the election results came in. Sinatra and Me will shed new light on the real Frank Sinatra-from the man who knew him better than anyone.
Watch for my review in the near future.
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