From Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack to Taylor Swift’s Squad: the coolest members-only clubs in Hollywood
Inside the all-star celebrity gangs, past and present, that Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio, Paris Hilton and Steve Carell like to kick back with
“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members,” US comedy legend Groucho Marx famously once said.
But let’s not forget that Marx was speaking in the 1940s, when Leonardo DiCaprio had yet to dominate the New York club scene with his posse and Taylor Swift’s squad were yet to be born.
Because we’re sure that even Marx would have wanted to join forces with some of these legendary celebrity gangs.
From the 1950s all the way up to the 2020s, we’ve put together a retrospective of the most exclusive clubs in the world. And all you needed to get into them was to be an A-list actor, supermodel, singer or even just in possession of a world-famous surname.
The Rat Pack
Members: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford
The term “Rat Pack” was coined by The Big Sleep actress – and wife of Humphrey Bogart – Lauren Bacall, who herself earned the nickname “Den Mother” as the pack's honorary member.
Although Bogart was the original head of the club, Sinatra took the reins as “chairman of the board” when Bogart died in 1957, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Starring in films together – including the original Ocean’s Eleven – the five would regularly appear together in Las Vegas, and were also famous for crashing the stage while other stars performed.
Peter Lawford, who was president John F Kennedy’s brother-in-law (dubbed the “brother-in-Lawford" by Sinatra), would later be booted out of the gang after falling foul of the famously prickly chairman of the board.
A culturally and racially diverse group, in the 1950s and 1960s Sinatra refused to play at any club that discriminated against black people, writing in Ebony Magazine in 1958: “A friend to me has no race, no class and belongs to no minority. My friendships are formed out of affection, mutual respect and a feeling of having something in common. These are eternal values that cannot be classified.”
Members: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lukas Haas, Kevin Connolly, Sara Gilbert, David Blaine, Tobey Maguire and Harmony Korine
DiCaprio’s legendary gang essentially ran New York in the mid-to-late 1990s. Before cameraphones, social media and the all-prevalent paparazzi, the young Romeo and Juliet actor and his pals ran wild in the Big Apple with no photographs around to document their allegedly very naughty, though often childish, behaviour.
With Roseanne actress Sara Gilbert famously the only female member of the gang, the group was accused of setting off stink bombs in New York bars and brawling over Showgirls actress Elizabeth Berkley.
And it was journalist Nancy Sales's legendary New York profile, titled “Leo, Prince of the City”, which really nailed the era.
“‘The models are all over him,’ said Jeffrey Jah, director of the club Life,” she wrote. “‘He’s got rock stars, Puff Daddy, Donald Trump, going over to his table to sit with him. Leo just comes in to hang out with his friends.”
The Brat Pack
Members: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy
If you starred in one or more of the following films, then you were admitted entrance to this gang that epitomised 1980s Hollywood glamour: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, St Elmo’s Fire or The Breakfast Club.
The group owes their name to a journalist, New York Magazine's David Blum, who coined the term “Brat Pack” while profiling a then-23-year-old Emilio Estevez in his native Los Angeles.
He came up with it after watching Estevez on the phone negotiating a free cinema ticket. The actor later called Blum to tell the journalist he had “ruined my life”.
In 2011, Estevez told The Hollywood News: “Personally, the biggest disappointment about it is that ‘Brat Pack’ will somehow figure in my obituary at [the] hands of every lazy and unoriginal journalist.”
Members: Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Nicky Hilton and Casey Johnson
Fresh off the success of their hit reality TV show The Simple Life, which ran from 2003 to 2007, childhood best friends Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were the busiest club-hoppers in LA.
With Paris’s younger sister, Nicky, co-opted into the gang, the other spot was filled by Johnson & Johnson heiress, Casey Johnson, who tragically died at the age of 30 in 2010.
Satellite members included actress Bijou Phillips, daughter of Mamas and Papas musician John Phillips, Sharknado actress Tara Reid, Lindsay Lohan and stylist-to-the-stars, Rachel Zoe.
The gang would be snapped out and about most nights, hitting now-defunct Hollywood clubs including Les Deux, Teddy’s or Hyde, with their fame coinciding with the explosion in celebrity websites such as Perez Hilton, which offered 24/7 coverage of early Noughties stars.
Members: Karlie Kloss, Cara Delevingne, Gigi Hadid, Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding, Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Aldridge, Lena Dunham, Zendaya, Martha Hunt, Blake Lively, Lorde, Jaime King
The full power of the Squad was famously unleashed in May 2015 when Swift released the video for Bad Blood, which featured all her famous besties in what was said to have been a revenge track aimed at Katy Perry.
Following up with a full squad appearance at the MTV Music Awards in August that same year, Hadid told Elle Canada: “‘Squad Goals’ is a big social media thing right now, and that’s what we want to inspire in other groups of friends. To be proud of the power you all have when you’re together, which can be amplified so much by each person.”
However, the squad later disbanded, although not after throwing some truly epic Fourth of July parties, one of which almost ended British actor Tom Hiddleston’s career by turning Swift’s then-boyfriend into an international laughing stock thanks to his "I heart Taylor Swift" vest.
“In my 20s I found myself surrounded by girls who wanted to be my friend,” Swift wrote in a personal essay for Elle last year. “So I shouted it from the rooftops, posted pictures and celebrated my newfound acceptance into a sisterhood, without realising that other people might still feel the way I did when I felt so alone.”
The Frat Pack
Members: Ben Stiller, Owen and Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Jack Black, Paul Rudd and Vince Vaughn
Hollywood’s comedy stars got the "pack" treatment after many of them appeared together on the big screen in some of the highest-grossing comedy films of all time.
Although the pack in its entirety has never appeared on screen together, the closest they came was 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which starred Ferrell, Carell, Rudd, Black, Luke Wilson and Stiller.
In 2008, Stiller declared to Britain’s Heart FM radio: “I think the whole thing about the Frat Pack group is completely fabricated anyway. The group doesn’t exist but it rhymes, at least there’s that, so it must be true right?”
The Goop Girls
Members: Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Leslie Mann, Nicole Richie, Jennifer Meyer and Reese Witherspoon
This collection of super A-list Hollywood mums have been friends for years, with Paltrow and Diaz’s friendship going back to 2008, and The Mask actress calling the Goop entrepreneur “the epitome of a nurturer". Diaz and Nicole Richie share a close bond as sisters-in-law, with Richie married to Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden and Diaz to his twin brother, Benji.
Jewellery designer Meyer, ex-wife of Spider-Man star Maguire, is also a group staple, and one who is considered Hollywood royalty owing to the fact her father is Ronald Meyer, former president and chief executive of Universal Studios.
Director Judd Apatow’s actress wife Mann, actress-turned-talk show host Barrymore and Oscar winner Witherspoon round out the famous group, although it wasn’t always sweetness and light between Paltrow and Witherspoon.
“Even [with] actresses that you really admire, like Reese Witherspoon, you think, ‘Another romantic comedy?’” Paltrow once told The Guardian. “You see in her something like Walk the Line and think, ‘God, you’re so great!’ And then you think, ’Why is she doing these stupid romantic comedies?’ But of course, it’s for money and status.”
The Goddess Circle
Members: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Laura Dern, Molly Kimmel and Jennifer Meyer
“The women … gathered for a ritual they’ve been doing for three decades: a goddess circle,” revealed The New York Times last year of one of Aniston and her friends’ favourite rituals. “Seated on cushions, cross-legged on the living room floor, they passed around a beechwood talking stick decorated with feathers and charms, much as they had done for every major event of their lives.”
With Aniston and Cox having been close since their Friends days, the members of the goddess circle include Marriage Story actress Dern and screenwriter Kimmel, wife of US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
And jewellery designer Meyer pops up again in the gang, proof that she’s one of the most well-connected women in Hollywood.
“I think it’s important for women to support each other and to not root against each other and to understand the power of friendships,” Aniston told Variety, last year. “One of the most powerful things I have in my life are the women that I cultivated friendships with almost 30 years ago, 35 years ago and they are still my girlfriends today.”
Updated: October 29, 2020 01:25 PM