While I was performing in The Boy From Oz in Naples last winter, I got a call from the Bemus Bay Pops asking whether I would be interested in doing the Garland portion of a Frank Sinatra & Judy Garland symphonic pops concert. How very interesting, I thought, because although there are only a handful of recorded Frank and Judy duets, they had performed together regularly on wartime radio programs, then decades later on a 1962 television special along with Dean Martin — and for my money, they were the two finest pop singers of the 20th century. Moreover, they were close friends for nearly three decades — a friendship that also included two brief romantic affairs: in 1949 while Judy was still married to Vincente Minnelli, and in 1955, while she was briefly separated from Sid Luft and Frank’s marriage to Ava Gardner was on the skids.
But perhaps most interesting and not widely known, is that Judy and Frank were members of the original “Rat Pack,” a social group of fun-loving, hard-drinking night owls who would convene at the home of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the tony Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. Judy and husband Sid Luft moved into the English manor house two doors down from the Bogarts, 144 South Mapleton Drive, in the summer of 1953, right before the filming of A Star Is Born, and could soon be found hanging out with Betty and Bogey into the wee hours, along with (by various accounts) David Niven and his wife Hjordis, the restauranteur Mike Romanoff, the renowned agent “Swifty” Lazar, Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, songwriter Jimmy Van-Heusen, and others — but NOT Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. It’s not clear exactly how the name came about, but it is clear that they called themselves “The Holmby Hills Rat Pack,” with Bogart the ringleader until his death in 1957. Then some years later, it seems to be the press who began applying the name to the group of friends led by Frank, Dino, and Sammy, but they actually referred to themselves as “The Clan” or “The Summit.”
Upcoming Concert Details:
Sinatra & Garland Celebration with the Bemus Bay Pops, Joan Ellison, and Joe Gransden (John Marcellus, conductor), September 3, 2016 at 6:30 p.m., Bemus Point, New York. The concert takes place on a floating stage, with fireworks to follow! I’m not sure yet what duets I’ll be singing with Joe on the upcoming concert, but here are a couple of Frank & Judy duets, one from a 1944 radio broadcast of Command Performance and one from their 1962 television special: