Joey Bishop, the last surviving member of the “Rat Pack,” has died.
Bishiop, who died Wednesday at 89 at his home in Newport Beach, Calif., was one of two Jews in the group of five singers and comedians who epitomized in their Las Vegas appearances and moviesan early 1960s relaxed machismo.
A low-key standup comedian, Bishop was in the group by dint of his friendship with singer Frank Sinatra, who often was the brunt of Bishop’s jokes. “They know you can sing,” he would tell Sinatra. “Why don’t you tell them about some of the good things the Mafia has done?”
The other members of the group were Dean Martin, the singer; Peter Lawford, the actor and in-law of the Kennedys; and Sammy Davis Jr., the song and dance man who also was Jewish.
Bishop, who was a TV star in the 1960s and who for a while had his own late night talk show, was born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb in the Bronx, in 1918. His parents, immigrants from Eastern Europe, later moved the family to Philadelphia. Bishop caught the bug for entertaining from his father, who taught him Yiddish songs.
His Jewish sensibility informed his act. Roasting his rival and friend Johnny Carson, Bishop said he would reveal a secret about the phlegmatic Nebraska-born talk show host: “Johnny Carson is Jewish,” he said, and pulled a yarmulke out of his pocket, placing it on Carson’s head.