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- Posted on Feb 14th 2011 4:15PM by Melinda Newman
The new collection 'The Very Best of the Rat Pack' captures 18 songs by the individual members, including Sinatra standards 'Come Fly With Me' and 'I've Got You Under My Skin,' as well as Martin's 'Ain't That a Kick in the Head,' featured in the Rat Pack's classic 1960 film, 'Ocean's 11.'
Sinatra's daughter Tina, who helps oversee her father's legacy, sums up the Rat Pack's enduring appeal by simply stating, "They're beyond everything we've ever seen before or since. They're just a treasure to be passed on." In a candid interview, Tina talks about hanging out with the Rat Pack, why they hated that nickname and what she misses most about her dad, who died in 1998.
You were in your teens during the Rat Pack heyday. What was it like hanging out with your dad, Dean and Sammy?
I adored Sammy and Dean. They were really like uncles to me, to us. They were fun and they had such a camaraderie on and off [stage]. When they got together, the force was just unstoppable.... I was old enough to go to the late show, but I always feel like Dad preferred me to go to the first. I guess the second one got a little blue.... I don't think they really drank as much as they seemed to in the first show. I know the second show was ... that bar was real, I'm pretty sure.
They were huggable and fuzzy and sweet. For Dad, of course, losing them was horrific, but we suffered the loss, too, because they were really part of the family.
What's your first memory of Dean Martin?
Constant, considerate, caring. Would talk one on one with me when felt it was important...I was in a motorcycle accident off Sunset Boulevard [in Hollywood], and when I woke up on the asphalt, i looked up and there was Dean looking down. He saw these kids get into an accident and he stopped and he was the one looking after us until the ambulance came. And when he saw it was me, he said, "Is your father going to have a fit!" I said, "Oh, God, I'm going to be in such trouble." I tried to negotiate to have him not tell Dad. There was no negotiating with him when he knew he had a bloody kid on his hands.
Mike Coppola, Getty Images
Sam was more like a brother, a big brother, often a baby brother. He was a rascal. He was smart, of course, funny and warm. He had a wonderful ability to approach you when he knew he'd been an idiot and he'd want to get a hug and give one and tell you that everything's OK. He struggled with his own little demons and stuff, so ...
Was he an idiot often?
When I say that, I mean, you know, he'd just be dumb. He'd go dumb. He had certain weaknesses and habits that just weren't healthy, but he'd always end up doing the right thing and come around and be responsible to himself. He was special. He was very special.
This new CD collection includes a never-before-released alternate take of your dad singing 'I'm Gonna Live Till I Die.' What light can you shed on that take?
It was deep down in the recesses of our vault. It was just tucked away. I can't tell you how many we have. We bring them out sparingly, but they seem to make a bit of a bonus track and it's something extra.... There's always great stuff to find.
What is the enduring appeal of the Rat Pack?
I think it was their air of cool. I think that period -- post-James Dean, that Camelot period -- I think there was something pertinent to our psyche and society. Then and now. It's a pity that people born after the '80s will probably never grasp it. They may pick up some of the fashion, like start to wear hats like they are now, but there's something about the style and the uniqueness. There was not another act like this before or since. They were part vaudeville and [part] Vegas. They had tremendous chemistry. There was something between them that was not only fun, it was intelligent.... They could make fun of anything and everybody, and did, [like] Dean Martin thanking the NAACP for this award and he's carrying Sammy Davis across the stage.
The Rat Pack was colorblind at a time that was very turbulent and racially divisive. Here was this band of brothers and it didn't matter that one was black and Jewish.
Exactly... I must tell you, it wasn't just for the sake of a laugh or for the act because both Dad and Dean were very interactive in integrating show business, so to speak, particularly in Las Vegas. So I think they deserved their place, and their humor was earned and it was never at the risk of harming anyone. But it got edgy, but that's who they were.
There seems to be no groups like that these days that have that kind of style. Do you see anyone who's a modern-day Rat Pack, other than the reconstituted Rat Pack of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, etc., from the 'Ocean's 11' remakes?
Well, I didn't really see it with them, either.... If I honestly put my head back to the first remake, I don't think I felt that. I think I learned to think it because they didn't go away and they were very good, but ... you can't replicate something that unique. You just can't do it.
The Rat Pack never called themselves by that name, did they?
They really resented the term, but the group that was the Rat Pack was initiated with Humphrey Bogart and [Lauren] Bacall and my dad.... It was a whole other group in a whole other environment. I think it was Mr. Bogart's living room when he was ill and couldn't go out anymore and they would meet every day and have a cocktail with Bogie and keep him company. I think Bacall named them the Rat Pack. [Sinatra, Martin and Davis] called themselves the Summit.
What do you miss the most about your dad?
Everything. Every day.... Even when was nearing the end and was not physically strong or mentally strong or emotionally strong, he was sort of solid as a father. Just always protective. Always concerned. And when you lose that constant in your life, I don't care how old you are, I was turning 50, I really lost a father. I lost a real father figure and a core of strength that I had to find for myself alone. I had to find it in me and develop that for myself.
His life has been picked apart in some ways that have been very upsetting to you. How do you deal with that?
First of all, you really become impervious to stuff. He really tried very hard to teach us when we were old enough to learn that. We would have been early teens. Don't worry about anything you read. Don't question it. Don't question what I do because often likely, I didn't do it. If it's something serious and i'm worried about it, I will call and tell you before you even hear it, so in that regard he made us strong to withstand it, but he was always there to warn us if it was necessary.
What is the latest on your father's biopic that Martin Scorsese is working on? There have been so many names bandied about to play your dad, from Al Pacino to Johnny Depp. Who do you want?
He wants Leonardo DiCaprio. I don't contradict Marty. I believe and trust in Marty. I think the film is sometime down the road now, I'd say a good 20 months, and that's if we get a really good script on schedule. I believe we will. I will support anything he feels. I do have a couple of other choices in my head. In addition to Leonard and Johnny Depp, I think Robert Downey Jr. I wouldn't care if it were an unknown as long as the person has a certain intangible that I believe Phil Casnoff had in the mini-series,which was from '92.
Your dad would have been 100 in 2015. What can we expect for the centennial?
Hopefully, the Scorsese movie and we're planning releases. My sister's working on a documentary with Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. There's a lot going on. It's going to be an interesting process to see what sticks to the wall and what doesn't because we have a lot of work to do.