Trendsetting Stars

The leader of the Rat Pack, the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra is one of the best-selling artists of all time. He was the king of show business from the 1940s-1960s. Renowned for his style, presence and undeniable musical talent, Sinatra commanded audiences, as well as taking a natural leadership role among his peers.

With friends such as Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., the Rat Pack was an unstoppable force. Their magnetism on stage was captivating and created an era in music that could never be replicated. However, many groups have tried, in paying tribute to the originals.

Doug Starks’ group, The Chairman and The Board, doesn’t attempt to impersonate the Rat Pack, but rather gives an informative look into their lives through a fabulous musical journey, which Starks likes to call “edu-tainment.”

“There was a time when there was a lot of Rat Pack shows out there, and now that is starting to thin, because the novelty of Rat Pack is not that novel,” Starks said. “The shows that sustain, are the ones that deliver something pretty innovative and engaging, and this show is one of those. One of my goals is to provide insight into who these people were, more so than what you know just by listening to the songs. You’re going to be entertained and you’re going to learn some things. I call it edu-tainment.”

Starks has been an entertainer all his life, playing several instruments, singing and performing standup comedy. He has been involved with several tribute shows and created The Chairman and The Board show about seven years ago.

“I’ve been in several Rat Pack productions but there are a lot of elements in this show, that other shows don’t have,” he said. “If you have only heard the music of the Rat Pack and don’t know what their relationships were like and why they still prove to be influential decades later, you will find out about the backstory at this show. I’ve been licensed to use rare photographs and video footage to tell the story of their relationships, their triumphs and trials, and why they’re so influential and it just makes this show different.”

Starks has a special connection to the role he plays in the show, as Sammy Davis Jr. was actually a friend of his.

“I actually knew Mr. Davis, I was actually a friend of Mr. Davis,” Starks said. “I loved him dearly and still do. I learned a lot from him. I had an introduction arranged for me by a gentlemen named Jack Sheldon, who used to do ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ for ABC. When I met Mr. Davis, it was before he was going to go on stage with Jerry Lewis at the Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas. We had about an hour to talk beforehand and he invited me to come to the show and he gave me his number. He said, ‘I live in Los Angeles and if you ever want to talk again, call.’ It took me two weeks to call that number and I thought it was going to be a manager’s number. The lady who answered the phone said, ‘Davis residence.’ I hung up because I wasn’t prepared for that. I waited another three days and called again and said, ‘This is Doug Starks and I’m calling for Mr. Davis.’ Next thing you know it’s his voice on the phone and he said, ‘Hey I was wondering if you’d call. What are you doing tonight? I’m having some people over to the house, why don’t you come by.’ That started a series of visits to his house. His home was an extension of his stage, he was the same onstage as offstage. There was never an occasion I was there that music wasn’t involved. He would always perform. It was just part of him.”

Davis died of throat cancer in 1990. Starks takes special care in paying tribute to his friend and giving an authentic performance full of the same life that Davis brought to the stage.

“I never tried to imitate Sammy,” Starks said. “I try to bring his essence to the stage in subtle nuances and respect his character. The greatest compliment I ever got was from his late wife Altovise Davis. She came to my show and she told me, ‘Doug I love you and Sammy did too, but this will be the last time I come and watch your show. I can’t, because it just hurts too much because you remind me so much of him.’ I understood what she was saying and at the same time I was very flattered that I had captured something that the person who had lived with him was stirred by.”

The rest of “The Board” includes Lucca Ellis as Frank Sinatra and Craig Canter as Dean Martin.

“Lucca has the essence of Frank Sinatra onstage and offstage,’ Starks said. “Some people just have that commanding presence, and he does. Aside from the fact, he has a pitch perfect voice of Frank. It’s just natural for him. He’s a staple in the Hollywood community as a Frank Sinatra.

“Dean Martin was very witty and quick on his feet — Craig is just that. Aside from being a great singer, he’s hilarious. I’ve never seen him do the same performance twice and I’m always in side-holding laughter. He’s quick on his feet and doesn’t miss anything.”

The show includes another bonus character, who wasn’t exactly a part of the Rat Pack, yet was another influential artist of the time.

“I’ve also included in this show, another character who was a trendsetter – Marilyn Monroe,” Starks said. “A lot of people know the obvious about her, but they don’t know that she changed the way studios do business with artists. She demanded creative influence and artist approval. She was a record-setting, box-office female actress at the time, and has never been surpassed ‘til this day. Marilyn Monroe put her celebrity status on the line to help Ella Fitzgerald cross the color barrier in nightclubs, which helped take her career to the next level and achieve international fame. When you watch this show you will learn all of that and you’ll still get to hear the music you love and be terrifically entertained.”

Nicollette Holman portrays Monroe in the show.

“Nicollette is a very accomplished and studied singer, dancer and actress,” Starks said. “She’s also a woman who naturally has a commanding presence. What she and I love about Marilyn is, in the midst of Marilyn being this super sexy, seductive character, she was equally a strong, brilliant businesswoman. She was goal-oriented and she made things happen. She was a boss. Nicollette brings that essence, along with the sexy and seductive.”

The Chairman and The Board is coming to Laughlin for the first time Jan. 25-29 at the Riverside Resort. Each character will perform solo and there will be a multimedia narration which plays between each set to tell their story. They will come together to perform an unforgettable finish to the show.

“Each of them had an equal amount of influence, and together, they were a force,” Starks concluded.