Comedian Joey Bishop Dead at 89

The Rat Pack i

Joey Bishop (far right) was the last surviving member of the Rat Pack (from left): Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. Newsmakers hide caption

itoggle caption Newsmakers
The Rat Pack

Joey Bishop (far right) was the last surviving member of the Rat Pack (from left): Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford.

Newsmakers

Joey Bishop, the last surviving member of the Rat Pack, has died at 89.

The stone-faced comedian found success in nightclubs, television and movies, but he became most famous as a member of Frank Sinatra's quintet of show business stars, which also included Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.

Lawford died in 1984, Davis in 1990, Martin in 1995 and Sinatra in 1998.

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

The Rat Pack was originally a social group surrounding Humphrey Bogart, but it became a show business sensation in the early 1960s, appearing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in shows that combined music and comedy.

Reviewers often claimed that Bishop played a minor role, but Sinatra called him "the Hub of the Big Wheel." The five stars appeared together in films Ocean's Eleven and Sergeants 3.

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 TV series, both called The Joey Bishop Show. Neither did well and the second version was canceled in 1965.

He became a TV talk show host in 1967, in which he bantered with a sidekick, TV newcomer Regis Philbin. But despite an impressive guest list and outrageous stunts, Bishop couldn't dent Johnny Carson's Tonight Show ratings, and The Joey Bishop Show was canceled after two seasons.

Bishop played character roles in The Naked and the Dead, Onion-head, Johnny Cool, Texas Across the River, Who's Minding the Mint?, Valley of the Dolls and The Delta Force.

In 1941, Bishop married Sylvia Ruzga and despite the rigors of a show business career, the marriage survived until her death in 1999.

Bishop spent his retirement years on the upscale Lido Isle in Southern California's Newport Bay. He is survived by son Larry Bishop; grandchildren Scott and Kirk Bishop; and longtime companion Nora Garabotti.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.