The Rise And Fall Of The Career Of ‘Rat Pack’ Member Joey Bishop

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Joey Bishop was regarded as one of the most iconic personalities in show business during his time. The late comedian began his career in stand-up with an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1950 alongside his elder brother, Maury. The legend went on to play in the biggest nightclubs, created his own network television comedy show, and hosted The Tonight Show more than 200 times.

He also hosted the Emmy Awards on multiple occasions and starred in more than a dozen movies, 1960’s Ocean’s 11 where he played the role of Mushy’ O Connors. However, his career took a steep decline after that and he is probably looked upon as one of the most hated men in the history of showbiz.

Joey Bishop’s rise to fame

Joey Bishop
WHO’S MINDING THE MINT?, Joey Bishop, 1967

The performer landed his big break in the comedy industry when Frank Sinatra invited him to open his show in the early 1950s. He also joined Frank, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, and Pater Lawford in an event tagged The Summit, which was held in Las Vegas. The group eventually got featured alongside Bishop in Ocean’s 11, and also performed multiple times at the Sands Casino. The show was a great success, which rocked the whole of Las Vegas and gained the comedians a new moniker, The Rat Pack.

RELATED: Joey Bishop And Frank Sinatra Never Ended Their Feud

Bishop starred in the sitcom The Joey Bishop Show, which debuted  on September 20, 1961. It was at first aired on NBC for three seasons and, then, for a fourth on CBS, with a total of 123 episodes produced.  In 1967 he hosted a late night talkshow of the same name on ABC, which ran for two years. The comedian was later featured in a number of movies such as Pepe, Sergeants 3, Johnny Cool, Texas Across the River, and A Guide for the Married Man. He also appeared in a number of television shows like Richard Diamond, Private Detective; Make Room for Daddy and Chico and the Man.

Joey Bishop
SERGEANTS 3, Joey Bishop, 1962

His fall

Richard Lertzman, co-author of the book Deconstructing the Rat Pack: Joey, the Mob, and the Summit, explained that Joey Bishop had a fall-out with Frank Sinatra, which eventually led to him being ousted from the group and perhaps his career.

“Frank had just been through a very rough patch: his son, Frank Jr. had been kidnapped in December 1963. It was at that time that he asked Joey to fill in for him at the Cal Neva Lodge (of which Frank and Dean were part owners) during the summer of 1964,” he detailed in the book. “Joey said he would, but he began making demands on Frank, like providing him with a private jet and other amenities. Frank, who had been responsible for Joey’s success in the first place, was incensed. And once the Chairman was offended, that was it. Joey was no longer part of the Rat Pack.”

Joey Bishop’s lack of skills

Lertzman also disclosed in the book that Bishop had a lot of personality challenges ,which included a very volatile temper and a tendency to make others the subject of his jokes — which was not palatable to most people. one such occasion was his remark to Marilyn Monroe’s arrival while performing on stage at New York’s Copacabana. “I told you to sit in the truck,” he teased.

The writer further revealed that Bishop did not possess enough skills to headline and run a show for a long time. ”The fact of the matter is that Joey Bishop was perfect as an opening act,” he wrote. “Unlike his contemporaries Don Rickles and Shecky Greene, he did not project the type of energy needed to sustain a ninety-minute performance.”

Joey Bishop
WHO’S MINDING THE MINT?, Joey Bishop, 1967

Also, Frank Sinatra recognized Bishop’s energy rush and ability to captivate the audience at the beginning of a show, but the latter didn’t develop himself to be a better performer and this took a toll on his career. ”Sinatra used him as his opener for years for the simple reason that Joey was dependable, and he did not wear out an audience before the headliner came on,” the book notes. “When his fame skyrocketed in the early sixties, Joey was thrust into the headliner position, starring in his sitcom. It was an uneasy fit. Well into his career, at the dawn of the eighties, he was back to opening for performers like Lola Falana. The circle was complete.”

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