On June 20, 1965, Johnny Carson, only three years into his stint as host of “The Tonight Show,” stepped to a microphone on the stage of St. Louis’ Kiel Opera House and introduced Frank Sinatra by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present our hoodlum singer.”
Somehow, his kneecaps remained intact. The line was actually a pretty good in-joke. Sinatra’s appearance — along with his other Rat Pack pallies Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. — was a benefit for Dismas House, a halfway house for ex-convicts founded by Father Charles Dismas Clark, who was immortalized in the 1961 film “The Hoodlum Priest,” which was set and shot in St. Louis.
“The Frank Sinatra Spectacular” — for which ticket prices ranged from $10 to $250 (the latter amount granting patrons a champagne dinner and preshow cocktail party with the entertainers) — was broadcast to 10 cities via closed circuit.
According to a report published in the Post-Dispatch in 1965, approximately $300,000 was raised for Dismas House.
More significant to fans of the Rat Pack, though, is the film of that show still exists. It was lost for decades but found in 1997 and shown at the Museums of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills and New York. Later, it aired on the cable channel TV Land.
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