Alright, I've already done a 'In Praise Of' on Ol' Blue Eyes, but the man is (was) amazing. Today, I had a few minutes to kill while getting ready for the wedding of an old work acquaintance, so I dropped by Circuit City, and just for grins, picked up a copy of The Ultimate Rat Pack, a CD/DVD combo. I'm familiar with the standard acts of the boys from other recordings, so the CD, while entertaining, is secondary to me...what I really got it for was the DVD. More on that after some entertaining background.
The CD is a recording from late 1962 from the Villa Venice nightclub. The club was about a half hour outside of Chicago, and it was the entertainment arm of an illegal gambling joint run by Sam Giancana, the notorious Chicago mob boss who helped ensure JFK won the presidency, only to get doublecrossed by Bobbie Kennedy's War on the Mob as Attorney General (I'm not making this up - honestly). It was Sinatra who worked as the conduit between Joseph Kennedy and Giancana, and as a payback to Sam 'Flood', as he was also known, Sinatra, Dean, and Sammy did a multi-night stint for the total paycheck of - nada...that's right, zip. When Frank Sinatra and Sam Giancana said you were going to do a show, you did the show, baby.
The DVD background is almost as entertaining. Sinatra brought the Pack together for a 1965 benefit for the Teamster's favorite charity. (Imagine that - Sinatra and the Teamsters - hmm, what's the common link here?) Joey Bishop couldn't make it, so a young Johnny Carson filled in. As colorful as all of that is, though, I wanted to see the closest thing to a videotaped Rat Pack show that you can get.
I wasn't disappointed. Dean Martin was a wonderful, underrated entertainer, and of course, Sammy Davis performs energetically, but I must say, when you see Sinatra singing "I've Got You Under My Skin", in 1965, backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, conducted by Quincy Jones, well...electric is the word that comes to mind. Among the other Sinatra numbers are "Fly Me To The Moon", "Luck Be A Lady" (with suitable craps-shooting pantomine), and "You Make Me Feel So Young". Wow. Best of all, though, is to see Sinatra, not only near the top of his game, but so obviously enjoying himself. When Sinatra sings a song, it gets sung. And that's the end of that, as the man himself might say...baby.