In the public eye, they lived a fantasy that mere mortals could only dream of. But between the ellipses of Rat Pack lore existed a carnival of leisure, stress, politics, starlets, heartache and happiness. For decades, some of the only photographic evidence was stashed in a cardboard box labeled "Do Not Print." That is, until now.
"The Rat Pack," a limited-edition volume by Reel Art Press, is a sprawling compilation of visual footnotes in the everyday world of Frank Sinatra and his band of brothers. In private life, their mystique lingered in the clothes they wore, the cigarettes they smoked, the women on their arms and the rules they broke. The bulky hardcover pools guarded snapshots with gems from the cutting-room floor taken at the Cal Neva Resort in North Lake Tahoe and the star-studded gatherings at Peter Lawford's Santa Monica beach house. Among them are shots by Bob Willoughby, Sid Avery, Ted Allen, Bernie Abramson and others in their inner circle.
"When you look through the book, it's like being a fly on the wall," said editor and RAP co-founder Tony Nourmand. He collaborated with Andy Howick of the MPTV photo agency to trace shots of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Lawford during their heyday in the '50s and early '60s. Excavations into MPTV's archives unearthed a trove of unprinted negatives; shots of Sinatra partying with Marilyn Monroe and Spencer Tracy, wisecracking with mobsters and sharing dinner with President John F. Kennedy. It also included photos of Sinatra with Lauren Bacall, who coined the "Rat Pack" phrase for Sinatra's friends. "They're not posed shots," Nourmand said. "It's the same as you going to your friend's house, taking out your iPhone and taking shots of people who were sitting around."