Frank Sinatra Hated the Name ‘Rat Pack,’ but None of His Preferred Names Stuck

Frank Sinatra’s name is virtually synonymous with the Rat Pack. The phrase immediately draws to mind the singer and his friends, celebrities like Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Judy Garland. Despite the group’s notoriety under this name, Sinatra reportedly was not a fan. The title stuck, but not without Sinatra trying to make other names work instead.

Original Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra wears a suit and tie and claps his hands.
Frank Sinatra | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Rat Pack were a group of household names 

In the 1950s, a group of entertainers frequently spent time at Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s Los Angeles home. Though the group, which primarily included actors and musicians, began in LA, their influence was strong in Las Vegas. When Sinatra began performing and spending time in Las Vegas, his group of friends came along.

“He was the spark that changed Vegas from a dusty Western town into something glamorous,” former Nevada Lieutenant Governor Lorraine Hunt-Bono told the Smithsonian Magazine.

In 1960, Sinatra and the Rat Pack starred in Ocean’s 11, which made the group intrinsically linked to Las Vegas’ rising allure.

Frank Sinatra wasn’t a fan of being called the Rat Pack

The origins of the Rat Pack were a bit less glamorous. According to Bogart and Bacall’s son, the term “Rat Pack” originated from a debaucherous weekend in Las Vegas. Sinatra had flown several friends out to the city, and by day four, the long nights of partying had begun to wear on the group. According to the book Bogart: In Search of My Father, “they all looked like hell.” Bacall told the ragged group, “You look like a goddamn rat pack.” 

The name stuck, and the group went by the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, named after a neighborhood in LA. Sinatra, Bogart, Bacall, Garland, Sid Luft, Irving Lazar, and Nathaniel Benchley all held executive positions. According to Bogart, the group existed for the “relief of boredom and the perpetuation of independence. We admire ourselves and don’t care for anyone else.”

Bogart was the group leader, but Sinatra took the reins after his death in 1957. At that point, the Sinatra-led group rebranded as “the Clan.” Sinatra also liked the name “the Summit.” According to PBS, Sinatra reportedly hated being called the Rat Pack and tried to make these new names work. Unlike Rat Pack, though, the Clan and the Summit did not stick. Even members like Martin, Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford, who joined the group later, are referred to as members of the Rat Pack. 

Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall had a short-lived relationship 

Though Sinatra had disdain for the name Bacall gave his group of friends, he held no ill will toward her. In fact, the two had a brief relationship after Bogart’s death. The relationship had its ups and downs, particularly because Bacall grieved her late husband and Sinatra “behaved like a s***.” Still, she told Vanity Fair that she couldn’t ignore the “insane electric currents running between them all the time.”

Sinatra even proposed, though he coldly broke up with her over the phone after news of their relationship leaked to the public. According to Bacall, Sinatra was so furious that he ignored her for the next 20 years.

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