Quite often names don’t really have a lot of meaning, but there are times when they can tell a story. A long-time custom in show business has been to change your name to something deemed better suited for the public. Maybe the name is difficult to pronounce or is too similar to another famous person. Perhaps you’d just like something that sounds a little less boring. Of the five core members of the Rat Pack that would go on to become household names, three were born with a less familiar moniker. Do you know why?
Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. both used their actual names, but the most famous of the group to change their name was Dean Martin. Dean was born Dino Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio. During his fairly short-lived boxing career he went by Kid Crochet, then became Dino Martini, like the Metropolitan Opera singer Nino Martini, when he began his singing career, finally settling with Dean Martin in the early ‘40s when bandleader Sammy Watkins suggested it.
When you go from a boxer to a singer referencing an Italian opera tenor, then switch to a crooner with a purely generic name, there’s likely enough to fill a book! Luckily for us, the King of Cool became famous enough to have plenty of books chronicle his story.
Joey Bishop’s story is more of a mystery. Born Joseph Gottlieb in the Bronx, he dropped out of high school to start in vaudeville. At some point he joined a comedy group called The Bishop Trio and, it seems, the name stuck. It’s interesting that in his final film appearance, a movie called Mad Dog Time written and directed by his son Larry, Joey’s character was named Gottlieb.
For something completely different, we cut to Peter Lawford. Born in London, England, his original last name was Aylen. When his mother revealed to her husband (they were living apart) that Peter was not his, the result was two divorces, as the other party was married too. So, he took on the surname of his real dad, Sir Sydney Turing Barlow Lawford. This sounds like it could be made into a Downton Abbey-esque scandalous movie!
We all have our stories and sometimes a mere change of name can bring them out.