Thursday, October 18, 2007

OBT: Joey Bishop


Comedian Joey Bishop Dies at 89
Bishop Was Last, Most Famous of Sinatra's Rat Pack
LOS ANGELES Oct. 18, 2007

Joey Bishop, the stone-faced comedian who found success in night clubs, television and movies but became most famous as a member of Frank Sinatra's boisterous Rat Pack, has died at his home, his publicist said Thursday. He was 89.

Bishop 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 Pitt in 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.

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