Sin City’s Golden Era: The Rat Pack and Las Vegas History

Las Vegas History

Nestled in the heart of the Nevada desert lies a city known as the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” Las Vegas has made its mark, drawing millions of visitors from all over the world every year. However, back in 1855, this glitzy town was once a small valley settlement known as Los Vegas Rancho. In the early 1900s, the Los Angeles and Salt Lake railroads connected the city to the country’s Pacific and main railroad lines, making the area easily accessible. With gambling being legalized in 1931, and construction on the Hoover Dam taking place nearby, this remote town was the perfect location for organized crime to start taking roots. With the influx of workers due to the construction of the dam, casinos and entertainment venues were built on Fremont Street, Sin City’s legendary status would begin.

Hollywood in Las Vegas

Through the years, Las Vegas has been a resort for several Hollywood stars, both classic and modern. This was established in the 1940s by mobster Bugsy Siegal with his opening of The Flamingo. The Flamingo was developed as a luxurious casino and hotel, boasting all of the comforts of Hollywood, but in a more exotic and secluded location.The hotel attracted Hollywood’s biggest stars including Marilyn Monroe, Rose Marie, and Frank Sinatra. Following Siegal’s death in 1947, several developers mirrored his vision of what Las Vegas should be, and built such famous casinos as the Sands, Sahara, and the Rivera. From here, Vegas would be synonymous with all thing Old Hollywood, boasting entertainment by the top musicians and comedians in the business including the infamous Rat Pack, Jerry Lewis, and Elvis Presley.

A Swingin’ Good Time

On January 20th, 1960, the Rat Pack members—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford—began a four-week run of Rat Pack “Summit” gatherings at the Sands Hotel’s famous Copa Room in Las Vegas. The general form of the Rat Pack Summits consisted of ad-libbed jokes, heckling, gags, and, of course, the liquor cart that was rolled out during every performance. A typical show was opened by Dean Martin, showcasing his famous persona as the drunk, but charming crooner. Sinatra, also known as “The Chairman of the Board,” joined Martin in a few duets before introducing the incredible Sammy Davis Jr. Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop acted purely as comedians, and never hesitated to throw jokes at Sinatra, Martin, and Davis. Martin then closed the show and was mercilessly interrupted by other members of the group as he attempted to finish his last songs. During this four-week period, the Rat Pack also filmed Oceans 11, a heist film which features the group as World War II veterans who plan to rob every casino on the Las Vegas strip. In the film, Martin premiered his new hit song, “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head.” While this song was enormously popular in terms of record sales, it was banned by several radio stations in America due to its suggestive lyrics.

Vegas Today

While Las Vegas today is the same bustling and busy strip, there are many differences from the days of the Rat Pack and Elvis Presley. The Sands Hotel and Casino, home of The Rat Pack, was demolished in 1996 and replaced with the palatial Venetian Hotel in 1999. A commemorative plaque and footprints are in place at the location of the immortal photo of the Rat Pack in front of The Sands Hotel sign in the 1960s. The Sahara and New Frontier, once home to Elvis Presley, have undergone major renovations, and have several tour opportunities and statues paying tribute to the legendary performer. While some of thelandmarks and ambiance has changed, the all-star entertainment remains the same. Las Vegas still sees high traffic of incredible performers making their residency in Las Vegas. From Celine Dion, Wayne Newton, and more recently Adele, the Vegas strip is glittering with talent to this day. If you happen to be someone who still enjoys the classics, there are always excellent Rat Pack tribute shows that are worth checking out!


A&E Television Networks. (n.d.). Las Vegas – history, the Mafia & Casinos.

The Mob Museum. (2023, March 23).

Sirett, P., & Levy, S. (2002). Rat pack confidential. Oberon.


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