Levy shifts the focus from one of show business's great egotists, Jerry Lewis (King of Comedy, 1996), to entertainment's...


"RAT PACK CONFIDENTIAL: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey, and the Last Great Showbiz Party"

Levy shifts the focus from one of show business's great egotists, Jerry Lewis (King of Comedy, 1996), to entertainment's most hedonistic gathering of narcissists, the Rat Pack. Most of its members were larger than life—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Peter Lawford. Joey Bishop wasn't, of course, but that was his charm. They gathered in Las Vegas in 1960 for the shooting of the less-than-immortal film Ocean's Eleven, an event that turned into one huge party, a lengthy day-and-night celebration of booze, broads, and bucks. With this lunatic extravaganza as its pivot point, the book traces the rise and fall of this quintet of famous men, trying somewhat vainly to explain their hipper-than-thou attitudes as some part of the Zeitgeist that produced the wretched excesses of the Kennedy White House. As Levy himself notes in the acknowledgments to the book, the lives and peccadilloes of these men are amply documented in dozens of books. We are treated to a snappily written retelling of Sinatra's rise from working-class Hoboken, NJ, fueled by his mother's high-octane shoving, to his success as teen idol and band singer, his catastrophic fall from grace in the early '50s and no less meteoric return with the film From Here to Eternity and a series of classic recordings for Capitol Records. Levy embroiders on the story of Martin's even more improbable success, which he touched on in the Lewis bio. Indeed, except for the material on Joey Bishop, which is (surprisingly enough) downright delightful, there isn't much that is unfamiliar—the Rat Pack's dalliances with the Kennedys, ties to the Mob, decline and fall. And although Levy's take on all this is suitably critical, there is something creepily voyeuristic about the relish with which he peddles these tales.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998


Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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