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Dean Martin: Dino at the Sands!

Dean Martin first performed in Las Vegas in 1949 at the Flamingo Hotel with Jerry Lewis. Martin and Lewis were at the height of their nightclub career. Together they were paid $15,000 a week. By the end of the first week, Jerry Lewis had run up a casino debt of $137,000. In 1952, the Sands Hotel opened under the baton of Entertainment Director, Vice-President and later President Jack Entratter, the night club impresario from New York's Copacabana Club. Entratter brought the biggest names in show business to the Sands by offering the biggest money. Entratter's headliners included Danny Thomas, Tallulah Bankhead, Tony Bennet, Edith Piaf, Lena Horne and of course Frank Sinatra. Sinatra in turn brought his friends, especially Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Dean Martin. Sinatra's Rat Pack presided over the Sands in its hey-day, lending their glamour to a town dominated by gambling and the mob. It was the entertainers who made Las Vegas a legitimate resort town.

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Frank Sinatra had been a part of a Hollywood drinking group that gathered around Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack. After Bogart's death Sinatra held court with his own friends, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Shirley MacLaine -- the Clan. Dean Martin was not one to play the sycophant and although close to Sinatra, he was never dependent upon him. Dino never liked being "one of the guys" but he liked performing with Sinatra.

The Rat Pack came to prominence in January 1959: that year Sinatra conducted the orchestra on Dean's album Sleep Warm; the film Some Came Running with Sinatra, MacLaine and Martin opened; and on January 28, Sinatra joined Dean onstage at the Sands for the first time. It would become a routine. And they would become legend in Las Vegas.

Sinatra changed the name from "Clan", with its racist connotations, to the Rat Pack, when Sinatra was courting the Kennedy clan in 1960. Kennedy came to see them perform at the Sands and was royally entertained by Jack Entratter and company. The Pack sang the national anthem to open the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, which nominated Kennedy for President. They christened their Sands performances "Rat Pack Summits" in honor of the Kennedy-Kruschev Summit.

Ocean's Eleven, the Pack's film legacy, was shot in Las Vegas. They all had parts. Sinatra produced it and starred as Danny Ocean, the mastermind of a five-casino heist carried out with his World War II buddies. From January 26 - February 16, the Rat Pack filmed by day and took to the stage at the Sands by night much to the delight of the Sands execs.

Not long after Howard Hughes bought the Sands Hotel in 1967, Frank Sinatra had a falling out with the management after they cut off his credit in the Casino. After throwing some furniture at Casino boss Carl Cohen, who promptly punched out some of his teeth, Sinatra signed a contract with Caesar's Palace. It was expected that his friends would follow their leader's exodus from the Sands. Speculation swirled fiercely around Dean Martin, the Sands biggest draw. But to Dino, friendship with Sinatra did not require such macho displays of loyalty, and he negotiated another year's contract with the Sands. But without Sinatra and Jack Entratter, who soon left, the Sands would never be the same, and in 1969 Dino was persuaded by his pal Eddie Torres to move to the Riviera, where tickets for a Dean Martin show cost more than tickets for Sinatra's shows at Caesars.

 

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