Buddy Greco tells the story of Peter Lawford, the man who brought together The Kennedys, The Rat Pack, The Mob and Marilyn Monroe, and rose to the summit of showbiz but died alone.
Buddy Greco tells the story of Peter Lawford, the man who brought together The Kennedys, The Rat Pack, The Mob and Marilyn Monroe, and rose to the summit of showbiz but died alone and in poverty.
Sinatra's "Rat Pack'" was the epitome of show business sophistication, glamour, wealth and power. To be a member meant unlimited access to money, oceans of booze, harems of girls and power! Peter Lawford had been around Hollywood since the late 30s as a child actor and he was part of this exclusive group. English born, the debonair Lawford enjoyed a reputation as a jet-setting playboy, a surfer and a devoted party animal who was extremely popular with the ladies. He was the first actor to kiss Elizabeth Taylor on-screen and would be the last person to speak to Marilyn Monroe on the night she died.
Lawford fell foul of Sinatra in the early 50s for dating the love of Sinatra's life, Ava Gardner and Sinatra bore a grudge. But in 1954, Lawford married Patricia Kennedy and gained the protection and influence of the powerful Kennedy family. Brother-in-law JFK was tipped for political stardom, and Sinatra's gaze fell on Lawford as the "Brother-In-Lawford" who had JFK's ear; the conduit who could get Sinatra into the political inner circle.
Breaking his habit of a lifetime, Sinatra put aside the grudge and welcomed Lawford into his inner circle as a new-best-friend. A starry-eyed Lawford took the bait, was reeled in and for three heady years as a close "pal" of Sinatra, his showbiz fortunes turned around. He was in demand for night clubs, TV, Vegas and big movies and he actually brought the script of Ocean's Eleven to Sinatra. Lawford and Sinatra hung out all the time, went into business together, had matching wardrobes, tastes in women, booze and cars,
With Kennedy victorious, Sinatra became part of the "Camelot" inner circle and, when a Presidential visit to the West Coast was planned, JFK asked Lawford if he could stay at Sinatra's house in Palm Springs. Sinatra immediately dubbed his compound "The West Coast White House", paid out thousands for re-modelling the whole place, built a heli-pad and even put up a plaque stating "President John F. Kennedy slept here". The future looked rosy until Lawford had to inform Sinatra that Bobby Kennedy had made other plans and that Mr President would not be staying with Sinatra after all, but down the road with (of all people) Bing Crosby!
In Sinatra's eyes, it was all Lawford's fault. He had screwed up big time and was suddenly no longer worthy of Sinatra's friendship. He was immediately cast out, persona non grata, no more movies, no more parties, no more nothing! The "Ring-A-Ding" days were over for Peter Lawford. As years went by and Lawford attempted to get back into Sinatra's good books (as Sammy had managed to do after a nasty falling out), Sinatra would not budge and even refused to perform if he suspected that Lawford was in the room, having him physically thrown out.
The Rat Pack continued on through the 1960s sans Lawford but, by the end of the decade, they went their separate ways. On Christmas Eve 1984, aged 61, Peter Lawford died alone in hospital of cardiac arrest complicated by kidney and liver failure.
Contributors to this documentary include Christopher Lawford, Stefanie Powers, Joan Staley Sheets, James Spada, Robert Osbourne and Michael Winner.