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Dean Martin: Singer, Television Star, Movie Actor, Celebrity Role Model and Charming
Dean Martin appealed to both men and women. Men liked him because he had this cool, suave demeanor and devilish attitude. Women loved him because he was literally tall and dark and handsome and had this mischievous twinkle in his eye.
Dean was often said to look like a model who had just stepped out of a men’s fashion magazine. I remember once hearing someone say that Dean looked as comfortable in his tux as most people in their pajamas. Laid back and flirtatious are perhaps two words that sum up his personality. Added to that, Greg Garrison, his producer, once said that Dean had a lasting smile and what you see with Dean is exactly what you get.
If anyone wanted to find a celebrity role model, it would be Dean. The entertainment industry has always had its share of scandals, but he kept his life private and certainly never contributed to it.
Instead, we see a man who was always nice to the people he worked with, who was on time for his stage calls, and who was supportive of the other artists who worked with him. Charles Nelson Reilly was a guest on Dean’s TV show. He said if they did a comedy sketch and Charles had a good laugh, Dean would kick him, which would be good for you, Charles.
Dean and his partner Jerry Lewis were part of one of the highest rated comedy teams of all time. The Martin & Lewis team lasted 10 years from 1946 to 1956. Towards the end, they hardly spoke to each other, except when they were performing on stage.
After several movies, their own television show which was part of the Colgate Comedy Hour and their many nightclub appearances, they called it quits. Their last team appearance was at the famous Copacabana in New York.
Although Dean had an easy-going and relaxed personality, he was his own man. For example, it was Dean who ended Martin & Lewis’ comedy number. Jerry had taken more and more control of their movie scripts and Dean had grown tired of the roles he had been told to play. He wanted to make more serious films. Dean had had enough and said he was ending their act.
Dean and Jerry both had their own management staff and of course there was a lot of money at stake considering all their various business ventures. Obviously, the lawyers for each team considered this a disaster. At the start of the huge process of sorting things out, one of the lawyers said to Dean “you can’t just do without $30 million in revenue” and Dean replied “oh yeah, you’re just looking at me” .
Many nightclubs and casinos on the West Coast and East Coast at this time were owned or run by the Mafia. Dean’s friend Frank Sinatra was kowtowing and hanging out with some mob members, but Dean was his own man again. He pretty much did whatever he wanted and occasionally did a special benefit show for them if asked, but he didn’t jump through hoops for any of them.
Another example was when Frank was in the mood to party and after the shows he wanted to party. A number of Frank’s friends were “yeses” but Dean was not. If Frank wanted Dean to hang out and party but Dean didn’t, then Dean would say no and catch up with him later.
One of Dean’s passions was to play golf. If he had to play the next day, he wouldn’t stay late at night because he liked to start early. Dean’s son Ricci said his dad was actually an early riser for most of his working life. Dean was a very good golfer and played scratch when he was at the top of his game.
There have been stories about Dean’s singing style that said he was influenced by Bing Crosby. But the truth is that his main influence was Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers. If one were to see a video of the famous brothers singing, it’s obvious that there are similarities between Dean and Harry’s style.
Dean had been married three times. His second marriage was to Jeanne Martin and lasted 20 years from 1949 to 1969 when they separated. The divorce was finalized in 1973. Later they were seen together from time to time and the public wondered if maybe they would get back together. Jeanne mentioned in an interview once that when Dean walked into a room at a reception, it was like magic. It seems she still has feelings for Dean.
Jeanne was a firm believer in family. She accepted Dean’s four children from a previous marriage to live and stay with and loved each of them as well as the three children she had with Dean.
Dean’s son, Dean Paul was an officer in the California Air National Guard and died in 1987 when his military F-4 Phantom fighter jet crashed in the San Bernardino Mountains. Many people in the entertainment industry and friends have said that Dean never got over the loss of his son.
In 1993, Dean’s health began to deteriorate and he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died of acute respiratory failure at his home on Christmas morning 1995.
How could anyone ever forget some of Dean’s songs whose melodies will remain etched in our minds. Songs such as “Somewhere There’s a Someone” written by my friend Baker Knight, “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and his signature song “Everybody Loves Somebody” written by Ken Lane will be around for a long time. Even to this day I miss Dean a lot but we all still have his wonderful songs to listen to (smiles).
And so, everyone loves someone sometimes and we all love you, Dean. Good evening.
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