Dean Martin was the embodiment of cool for decades. And in many ways still set the standard for cool. Perfectly poised demeanor, dark hair, tanned, beautifully tailored suits, often a cigarette in-hand. And that voice. What a voice.
He made cool seem so effortless.
By the late 1950s, Dean Martin was a mainstay on the Las Vegas Strip. Dean's daughter wrote in her memoir that the normally reserved Martin could "let his guard down" in Las Vegas.
Dean's first regular gig, here, was at The Sands. Dean performed as a headliner for years in Las Vegas. This was on top of an already successful movie, TV, and recording career that only got bigger: "Ocean's Eleven," The Rat Pack, Top-40 Hits. He was the host of a Los Angeles-based TV variety show that ran for nine years on NBC.
Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti 100 years ago this month. To commemorate this milestone, Friday and Saturday night his daughter - singer and actor Deana Martin - will be in Las Vegas honoring her father with tribute shows at the South Point Hotel. Her 2004 memoir, "Memories Are Made Of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter's Eyes" was written with Wendy Holden with a foreword by Jerry Lewis.
On her father’s birthday place, Steubenville, Ohio, for his birthday:
Walking down the same streets that he walked down and they look the same. Eating at the Naples Spaghetti House and going to the Steubenville Bakery. All the places that my dad would frequent. A lot of his old friends are here and its’ remarkable.
I think there were more horses here than cars when he lived here. He loved horses. He loved riding and he loved golf. He made it out of Steubenville. He was a fantastic singer. But hearing the stories from people here is remarkable for me. He would sing at weddings and birthdays and bar mitzvahs. And he was funny between the songs and then off he went and he became Dean Martin.
On the South Point Casino:
The South Point Casino Showroom there reminds me very much of the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel. When I first saw my dad there.
My dad walked out in his tuxedo, the red pocket square. He looked so handsome. He was funny. He sang. The audience around me would say – ‘aw! There he is!’
It was amazing and that’s when I knew I wanted to do that. It was magical. Then Uncle Frank would come on stage and then Uncle Sammy. I’ve learned from the very best.
On her show at the South Point:
That is what the show will be about. It is going to be so much fun on Friday and Saturday night. I have the original Golddiggers from the Dean Martin Show. And they are beautiful. They’re going to be singing and dancing. I’ll have Deana’s Divas my backup singers.
The great music and memories. It’s just going to be a lot of fun.
On her father’s charm:
First of all, the way he looked. He was tall, dark, handsome, always tanned. His clothes always fit him perfectly, everything was tailored. I think he got that from my grandmother, his mom – Angela – was a seamstress, tailor, dressmaker. I think he got his sense style from that.
When I think about him and I say – yes he did have a cigarette in his hand, I’m sorry about that – but he would have cufflinks and a pinky ring. And he looked great, but he sang so beautifully. The way he would pal around with his friends.
He was cool.
In fact, when I met Elvis Presley it was at Paramount Studios they were both there. I remember standing out by my dad’s dressing room and I see this man come riding up on a bicycle and as he gets closer, I see it’s Elvis Presley.
He gets off and he says hi to my dad. And he says ‘Dean are these your daughters?’ Elvis kneeled down and took my hand and said, ‘you know, I love your dad. People call me the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll but your dad is the King of Cool.’
On “Everybody Loves Somebody”:
That became his theme song. That song in 1964 knocked the Beatles out of the first place on the Billboard Charts. He was very excited because nobody could do it at that time. Not Elvis. Not Frank. So dad sent two telegrams out. One to Elvis. One to Frank. And it said: ‘I did it.’
On the Dean Martin Show:
Everybody was on it. He didn’t rehearse. He knew his songs. He would go to NBC on Sunday afternoons after he played golf and he would sing his songs with Les Brown Band of Renown. He would go into his dressing room and look over his cue cards, do a run through, get dressed and then do the show. It was unbelievable.
Everybody else, all the dancers and singers and everybody else they were there all week, rehearsing. There was a man – Lee Hale, the musical director, he’s the one who put the show together – but Lee walked around with a sign on his chest that said ‘Dean.’ That whole week he played Dean Martin. And everyone would sing with him. Could be Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, The Mills Brothers but they all did it with Lee, then with dad on Sunday afternoon would just go in and be brilliant.
On what she learned from her dad about singing:
He knew that it was a tough business but I remember asking my dad, ‘Can I take voice lessons?’ He said why ‘You want to sound like everybody else in the choir?’ To me, Maybe he thinks everybody had a good voice.
I was doing the Dean Martin show. I was going to sing a song with Frank Sinatra. I looked up and said, ‘So, Uncle Frank, how do you do it? How do you sing? How do you get your style?’ He became very technical, he said, ‘Deana, it’s all about the air. I take in a big breath. I push from the diaphragm and I can tell even before a note comes out if I’m going to be on pitch or not.’ I said, ‘Does my dad so that?’ He said, ‘No! Your father has no idea what he’s doing!’
On the entertainment business:
I had no idea it was going to be this tough. He always made it look so easy. This is a tough business and it is a lot of hard work. And I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
On the myth of her dad’s drinking on stage:
For me to this day, when people come up after one my shows or they send me an email. They say, ‘Deana, I loved your show. I’m your dad’s biggest fan, but how did he do all that when he was drinking all the time?’ I say, ‘why would you even think that?’ Aside from the fact that he was a very good actor, people thought it was it true.
I remember an interview my dad did in London. The interviewer asked, ‘Dean how can you do this when you’re drinking all the time?’ He looked at the interviewer and said, ‘Do you really think that a person could drink and as much as they say I do and do all the body of work that I did?’ In fact, Frank Sinatra said, ‘I spill more than Dean drinks.’
It was his gimmick.
On Jerry Lewis:
I adore him. We called him because I wanted him to come to the show and he was not feeling well. He wrote the foreword to my book. They were, Martin and Lewis, from July 24, 1946, to July 24, 1956, ten years. They were brilliant together. I think that is just enough time.
On Dean Martin’s legacy:
I think people didn’t take him seriously enough. I don’t think he got the respect as an actor that he deserved.
He was the best at what he did. He would teach us. He said, ‘When you go to do something, know all of your lines. Know all the lyrics to your songs. Arrive early. Don’t be late. Don’t make people wait for you. Go in there do the work and make them happy. Happier when you leave, not happier that you’re gone. Leave people with a good feeling about you. Dad would say, ‘don’t be a jerk.’
Deana Martin, singer, and daughter of Dean Martin.
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