Why Frank Sinatra Couldn't Stand Joey Bishop

Singer Frank Sinatra and comedian Joey Bishop started out as friends. The pair met in 1952, and the popular crooner brought Bishop along as his opening act for several performances at a New York City nightclub, according to Reuters. Born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb, Bishop had started his career as part of a singing comedic trio called the Bishop Brothers, even though the members weren't named Bishop and they weren't related, per The Hollywood Reporter. After serving as a medic during World War II, he launched his own comedy act as a solo standup.

Sinatra appreciated Bishop's comedic talents –- his low-key, deadpan style and his quick-witted comebacks. Bishop became known as "Sinatra's comic," according to Fox News, since he often warmed up the crowds at Sinatra's performances. Sinatra even brought Bishop into his troupe of entertainer friends, most commonly known as the "Rat Pack." Sinatra reportedly hated that name, and tried to get the press to use "The Summit" instead, but it didn't really catch on, according to the book "Deconstructing the Rat Pack: Joey, the Mob, and the Summit" (via Deadline). The New York Times pointed out that Bishop was generally considered the "least flamboyant" of the group that became infamous for "their dedication to hell-raising." Nevertheless, numerous sources credited Bishop with being the writer of the group, creating the wisecracks and shtick with which they were identified.

Sinatra and Bishop started out as friends

All was good between Sinatra and Bishop for years with Sinatra acting as the "Chairman of the Board" while Bishop served as the "Speaker of the House" for the Rat Pack (via Reuters). Bishop was one of the few people who could poke fun at Sinatra and not get on the wrong side of the Chairman. They worked together both on live shows and the 1960 film "Ocean's 11."

"Ocean's 11" starred Sinatra and fellow Rat Pack members Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Sammy Davis Jr. along with Bishop. This crime caper set in Las Vegas also featured Angie Dickinson, and during the filming Sinatra and his Rat Pack cohorts also played gigs at night. But it may have been during these crazy Vegas days that some discontent began to fester between Sinatra and Bishop. According to The New York Times, Bishop sometimes felt more like a sidekick than a full member of the Rat Pack.

Bishop ticked off Sinatra

Things between Sinatra and Bishop allegedly turned sour in 1964, according to a Deadline interview with Richard Lertzman, co-author of "Deconstructing the Rat Pack: Joey, the Mob, and the Summit." Bishop had been enjoying some success with his own TV show when Sinatra asked him for a favor. He wanted Bishop to take over some of Sinatra's dates at the Cal Neva Lodge during that summer. Both Sinatra and Dean Martin owned a piece of the resort, and Sinatra had just come through a difficult time personally. His son, Frank Sinatra Jr., had been kidnapped in late 1963.

While Bishop initially agreed to perform in Sinatra's place, he also started making a lot of demands. He reportedly even asked for a private plane to take him to the show and for $50,000, according to Fox News. Bishop ticked off Sinatra with all of these demands. After all, Sinatra had helped Bishop achieve his success, so it may have seemed like Bishop was acting ungrateful. Sinatra allegedly felt slighted by Bishop, and things between the two soured after that.

Sinatra never made up with Bishop

After the Cal Neva incident, Sinatra basically cut Bishop out of the Rat Pack and out of his life, according to Fox News. Bishop was supposed to appear in the movie "Robin and the 7 Hoods," but he was dropped from the project. This 1964 musical comedy film starred Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Sinatra and Bishop never made up after that. Once wronged, Sinatra apparently wasn't the type to forgive and forget. It's unclear whether Bishop ever really understood what led to the end of his friendship with Sinatra.

Sinatra wasn't the only person Bishop rubbed the wrong way. As Richard Lertzman explained to Deadline, "Bishop alienated co-stars, writers, directors, and producers." His bad temper, his big ego, and his habit of blaming others for problems contributed to his professional downfall. After the cancellation of "The Joey Bishop Show" in 1965, Bishop's career declined sharply, and by the end of the decade it was effectively over. It seems that fewer people were willing to work with Bishop when he wasn't connected to Sinatra. Bishop was 89 when he died in 2007.