Similar hats on similar heads: Uniformity and alienation at the rat pack's summit conference of cool

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Abstract

This paper considers the nightclub shows of the Rat Pack, focussing particularly on The Summit performances at the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, in 1960. Featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, these shows encompassed musical, comic and dance routines, drawing on the experiences each member had in live vaudeville performance. The discussion outlines these individual histories, and draws attention to a shared fascination with impersonation, which forms an explicit and implicit part of the act, as the performers' stage personas are already emulatory. In addition to the influence of vaudeville, the construction of the Rat Pack also draws on the structures of blackface minstrelsy, with the interactions of the five members being patterned on a fluid variant of the interlocutor-endmen relationships. The interweaving of these influences and performance styles underpins a dominant concern of the troupe, as the comic material frequently negotiates the racial, national and religious identities of the individual performers. In particular, this deals with their shared status of having immigrant ancestry, a status which I term as being 'hyphenated-American', suspended between historical, public and aspirational identities.

LanguageEnglish
Pages1-21
Number of pages21
JournalPopular Music
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2014

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alienation
performance
dance
immigrant
history
interaction
Hat
Rat
Uniformity
Alienation
Vaudeville
Performer
experience
Ancestry
History
Interaction
Performance Style
Hotels
National Identity
Frank Sinatra

Cite this

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abstract = "This paper considers the nightclub shows of the Rat Pack, focussing particularly on The Summit performances at the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, in 1960. Featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, these shows encompassed musical, comic and dance routines, drawing on the experiences each member had in live vaudeville performance. The discussion outlines these individual histories, and draws attention to a shared fascination with impersonation, which forms an explicit and implicit part of the act, as the performers' stage personas are already emulatory. In addition to the influence of vaudeville, the construction of the Rat Pack also draws on the structures of blackface minstrelsy, with the interactions of the five members being patterned on a fluid variant of the interlocutor-endmen relationships. The interweaving of these influences and performance styles underpins a dominant concern of the troupe, as the comic material frequently negotiates the racial, national and religious identities of the individual performers. In particular, this deals with their shared status of having immigrant ancestry, a status which I term as being 'hyphenated-American', suspended between historical, public and aspirational identities.",
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Similar hats on similar heads : Uniformity and alienation at the rat pack's summit conference of cool. / Calvert, Dave.

In: Popular Music, Vol. 34, No. 1, 19.12.2014, p. 1-21.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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