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‘Pack' mentality

Sinatra, Dino, Sammy Davis Jr. — to a certain generation, they are known as the ‘Rat Pack,’ and they are the focus of one of the more popular Senior College classes.

March 24, 2012
Story, photo by Karin Elton , Marshall Independent

Area residents were transformed into greasers, hoods and molls last week as they listened to stories about Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. - the Rat Pack, the coolest cats in Vegas during their heyday in the late 1950s until the early 1960s.

The Southwest Minnesota State University Senior College students listened raptly to Jim Tabaka, SMSU music professor, as he told behind-the-scenes tales about the Rat Pack.

Delores Buchholz of Hendricks was in her 20s during the 1950s and remembers the Rat Pack well. The long-time Senior College student said she was enjoying "The Rat Pack: Kings of Cool" class.

David Doering of Redwood Falls said he wanted to take the class because he is a "huge Rat Pack fan - especially Frank Sinatra. I had a lot of Sinatra records, but they got flooded."

Doering said he is hearing a lot of things about the Rat Pack that he had forgotten.

The class watched a video of Sinatra's fourth and final Timex TV special from 1960.

"The first three (specials) were well-received, but were not successful," said Tabaka. "That's why Elvis Presley was the special guest."

Tabaka said that Sinatra did not like rock 'n' roll or Presley, but knew he needed the ratings, so he allowed Presley to appear on his show.

"Presley got paid more than Sinatra for the show," Tabaka said.

Nevertheless, "they performed well together."

After the pompadoured Presley sang a song, comedian Joey Bishop commented to Sinatra that "that's the first time I've ever heard a woman screaming at a male singer."

Sinatra gave him a dirty look and said, "Remember me, Charlie?"

Sammy Davis Jr. was also on the show.

"Sammy was one of those performers that was so talented no one wanted to go on after him," Tabaka said. "But the Rat Pack did; they didn't mind."

On the Timex special, Davis Jr. sang and did impressions - with Bishop and Sinatra butting in when Davis Jr. did impressions of Cary Grant and Jimmy Cagney.

The students howled with laughter as they watched a clip from "The Dean Martin Show" with comedian Bob Newhart portraying a man who wanted to take back the toupee he had bought earlier from store clerk Martin.

"It was a crewcut with a widow's peak," Newhart said.

Martin asked Newhart what was the problem with the toupee and Newhart said that people laughed at him when they saw it and the other day at a party he leaned over to dip his cracker into the cheese dip and the toupee fell off into the cheese dip.

Martin laughed throughout the skit and barely managed to get his lines out. He said to Newhart, "What would you like?"

"I'd like a straight man who didn't laugh," Newhart replied.

Martin was known for his relaxed demeanor on and off the stage, Tabaka said. He barely rehearsed for his show, which was on the air from 1965-1974.

Tabaka said Martin often had a drink in his hand while he sang, but

"he didn't drink when he performed. It was apple juice."



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