Joey Bishop has died

Along with his pals, Frank, Dean, Sammy and Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop helped usher in the age of cool in Las Vegas.  Their Summit performances at the Sands Hotel during the making of the original Ocean's 11 are the stories that myths are made of.  Bishop had outlived his buddies but passed away last night at his home in Newport Beach.  He was 89.  He was often called "the glue that held the Rat Pack together".

Bishop originally came to Las Vegas in 1951, performing at Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn and at the El Rancho Vegas. 

Jack Entratter, who ran the Sands Hotel, "knew it would be chaotic. There was nothing to hold it together as an act. He wanted a comic," Las Vegas comedian Pete Barbutti recalled Thursday. "So he asked Joey if he would do it. He told Joey upfront: 'This is a big opportunity for you, but I'm not going to pay you a lot of money. I don't have any money left over.'

"Joey said, 'I don't care, I would do it for nothing.'"

According to author Mike Weatherford (Cult Vegas), Bishop provided the one-liners and ad-libs that the others tossed around on stage like bon mots.  The group worked so well together that the audience often thought there was no script.

Entratter, sensing that Bishop was responsible for more than he was getting credit for, made the comedian a twice-a-year headliner in the Copa Room.  Bishop also served as the Master of Ceremonies for President Elect, John F. Kennedy's inaugural gala.  The Rat Pack performed as well.

When the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in 1963, Bishop was co-billed with them at the Sands during the week of Christmas.  The Las Vegas News Bureau filmed the show.

As his film and television career began to wind down, he did a pilot for a game show that was to origninate from the Tropicana Hotel.  It was called "Punch Line" but never got past the pilot stage.  That same year he was the spokeperson for Opportunity Village, a local charity group that helps disabled children and adults.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a renewed interest in the Rat Pack.  Several shows around town were built  around the premise of the Summit at the Sands.  The Rat Pack is Back- The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean is still playing at the Greek Isles.  Of all the characters, Bishop was the only one who authorized his name to be used, primarily as a favor to Producer Sandy Hackett's father, the late Buddy Hackett.


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Joey Bishop, the stone-faced comedian who found success in nightclubs, television and movies but became most famous as a member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, has died at 89.

He was the group's last surviving member. Peter Lawford died in 1984, Sammy Davis Jr. in 1990, Dean Martin in 1995, and Sinatra in 1998.

Bishop died Wednesday night of multiple causes at his home in Newport Beach, publicist and longtime friend Warren Cowen said.

The Rat Packers became a show business sensation in the late 1960s when they appeared together at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in shows that combined music and comedy in a seemingly chaotic manner.

Reviewers often claimed that Bishop played a minor role, but Sinatra knew otherwise. He termed the comedian "the hub of the big wheel."

The quintet continued their hilarity whenever members were free of their own commitments. They appeared together in such films as "Ocean's Eleven" and "Sergeants 3" and even at a special performance for President Kennedy.

The late 1990s brought a renaissance of the Rat Pack, with the group depicted in an HBO movie and portrayed by imitators in Las Vegas and elsewhere. The movie "Ocean's Eleven" was even remade in 2003 with George Clooney and Brad Pittin the lead roles.

Before the renaissance, Bishop defended his fellow performers' rowdy reputations in a 1998 interview.

“Are we remembered as being drunk and chasing broads?" he asked. "I never saw Frank, Dean, Sammy or Peter drunk during performances. That was only a gag. And do you believe these guys had to chase broads? They had to chase 'em away."

Away from the Rat Pack, Bishop starred in two television series, both called "The Joey Bishop Show."

The first, an NBC sitcom, got off to a rocky start in 1961. Critical and audience response was generally negative, and the second season brought a change in format. The third season brought a change in network, with the show moving to ABC, but nothing seemed to help and it was canceled in 1965.

In the first series, Bishop played a TV talk show host.

In his next series, he really was a TV talk show host. The program, which aired on ABC, was launched in 1967 as a challenge to Johnny Carson's immensely popular "The Tonight Show."

Like Carson, Bishop sat behind a desk and bantered with a sidekick, TV newcomer Regis Philbin.

But despite an impressive guest list and outrageous stunts, Bishop couldn't dent Carson's ratings, and “The Joey Bishop Show" was canceled after two seasons.


He was often called "the glue that held the Rat Pack together".