Last of the 'Rat Pack' dies at 89

 

Comedian Joey Bishop, the last surviving member of the super-hip team of entertainers known as the Rat Pack and led by Frank Sinatra, has died at age 89, his longtime friend and publicist, Warren Cowan, said today.

Bishop, born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb on February 3rd, 1918 in the Bronx, New York, died on Wednesday night of multiple causes at his home in Newport Beach, California, south of Los Angeles.

The self-styled "mouse" of the Rat Pack, Bishop was part of a group of leading performers from the late 1950s and '60s comprising Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford.

With Sinatra's death in 1998, Bishop was the last surviving member of that group, who performed together as a legendary nightclub act and in such films as Some Came Running, Ocean's Elevenand Sergeant's 3.

Bishop, who started out as a burlesque comic, got his big break when he met Sinatra in 1952. The two teamed up for a series of gigs at the famed Copacabana nightclub in New York City and remained friends for life.

Referred to by Sinatra as the "Hub of the Big Wheel" and the "Speaker of the House," Bishop was one of the few who could get away with teasing the "Chairman of the Board" in public, even joking about Sinatra's long-rumoured ties to organized crime.

In one famous exchange with their audience, Bishop announced: "Mr. Sinatra will now speak of some of the good things the Mafia has done."

The fast-talking, stone-faced comedian developed a successful television career in his own right. He hosted The Joey Bishop Showfrom 1967-69, ABC's late-night talk show entry opposite NBC's dominant The Tonight Showstarring Johnny Carson.