Thursday, October 18, 2007

Joey Bishop, 1918-2007

Joey Bishop, born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb, dead at the age of 89. He wasn't just a member of Sinatra's Rat Pack (Sinatra preferred to call their group the Summit) but the key figure in their frequent Las Vegas appearances, planning out and writing their routines. In this he had to please not just the Chairman but the casino operators as well: "The casino bosses showed us how much money they lost if we went over an hour," Bishop said.

They hung out in the steam room together offstage. According to Bill Zehme's marvelous The Way You Wear Your Hat, a meditation on living your life ring-a-ding-ding style, Bishop once said: "When I first saw Frank nude in the steam room, he became my idol. When Sammy first saw me, I became his idol."

After the Rat Pack waned, Bishop became one of the first challengers to Johnny Carson's hegemony over late-night TV, hosting a talk show on ABC from 1967 to 1969. His sidekick was a ne'er-do-well named Regis Philbin. After that failed, he made many, many appearances on Celebrity Sweepstakes.

His dying words were: "Jan Murray lives on. Wait, Jan Murray's dead? OK, Don Rickles lives on."

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