Patterico's Pontifications


Everybody Loves Somebody: Dino at 100

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:03 am

[guest post at JVW]

Dino Paul Crocetti was born one hundred years ago yesterday in Steubenville, Ohio. His Abruzzian father, Guy, worked as a barber and his first-generation American mother, Angela, kept the family home. Italian was the language spoken in the Crocetti household, and young Dino dropped out of school early to work as a boxer, bootlegger, and card dealer and croupier at one of Steubenville’s many unlicensed casinos.

But young Dino also loved to sing, and began appearing behind local bands in the city’s nightclubs, and changed his name first to Dino Martini and then finally Anglicized it to Dean Martin. Handsome and charismatic, his easygoing singing style was influenced heavily by hitmakers Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and, especially, Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers. Years later when the Mills Brothers would appear on his television show, Dean’s abiding respect and affection for the older man would be evident, as seen on this clip:

Classified as 4-F during World War II (as was his later friend Frank Sinatra), Martin had a middling career singing in nightclubs all along the Eastern seaboard through the war years. In 1946, he met young comedian Jerry Lewis and after convincing Skinny D’Amato of the 500 Club in Atlantic City that they two of them had a great duo act (which they largely improvised on the spot), the Martin & Lewis comedy team was born. With Dean playing the suave, worldly singer and Jerry playing the clown, the team became one of the most sought-after acts in the country with bookings from coast-to-coast, seventeen movies together, and a weekly television hour. In 1956, ten years after they first paired together, the act broke up after filming their final movie, Hollywood or Bust.

After splitting from Lewis, Martin launched himself into a movie career where his natural charm became a box office draw. Mary Steyn wrote earlier this week about Dino’s movie career in an article typical of Steyn’s vast knowledge and keen insight. At the same time as his movie career, Martin became a mainstay on the Las Vegas where he would remain a top-grossing act for three decades. (Interesting aside: while Sinatra continually broke new ground on the weekly fee that an entertainer could command, Martin became the first major entertainer to sign a contract which stipulated that he would only be required to do one show per night, even on weekends). A good example of his stage act was captured for the 1964 Billy Wilder film, Kiss Me, Stupid, in which Dean played a smug and decadent nightclub singer named Dino:

Dino was in fact a fine comedian with impeccable timing and an uncanny ability to play the straight man. One of the main challenges of being the straight man is to allow the funny guy to do his thing and have the punchline while still making your own contribution to the sketch. Famously unrehearsed as his television contract only required him to show up on the day of the show’s taping, watch Dino work with the great Bob Newhart here.

As a singer, Martin was in many respects the anti-Sinatra. Whereas Frank was a perfectionist, known for pushing for dozens of takes in studio sessions, Dean was the laid-back crooner who was generally happy with just a few run-throughs being captured on tape (“I hate guys who sing serious,” he once told an interviewer). Whereas Frank was the vocal acrobat whose clear tones and intricate phrasing is hard to emulate, Dean’s best-known song is an easy sing-along that even the most novice caterwauler can belt out without much problem. Whereas Sinatra did not speak Italian and thus did not sing Italian songs, Dean cut several songs in his first language many of which are compiled on an excellent collection. In 1964 his biggest hit, “Everybody Loves Somebody,” pushed “A Hard Day’s Night” out of the Number One spot on Billboard’s Top Hits (“I’m going to knock your little pallies right off of the charts,” Dean had promised his Beatles-loving son) and held the spot for seven weeks. It became the theme song to his massive television hit variety show, “The Dean Martin Show” which ran for ten seasons on NBC and made its host a very wealthy man (at one point, Dean Martin was the single largest individual shareholder of GE, NBC’s former parent company).

But my own personal favorite Dean Martin album is one he recorded in 1964 with a bare-boned backing crew of Ken Lane on piano, Barney Kessell on guitar, Red Mitchell on bass, and Irving Cottler on drums. Dream with Dean contains the first version of “Everybody Loves Somebody” before it was re-recorded with a full orchestra and started on its Billboard climb, and it also has what is, for my money, the very finest version of Rube Bloom’s “Fools Rush In” ever recorded as well as wonderful renditions of “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)” and “I Don’t Know Why (I Just Do).” The album is out of print, but it’s worth tracking down especially if you can buy it in the two-for with the follow-up collection Everybody Loves Somebody. Have a listen:

Above all else it was Dean Martin’s personality that made him such an icon. It’s fitting that a recent re-release of some of his biggest hits was titled The King of Cool. It was said that the difference between Frank and Dean is that Frank always wanted to be like the gangsters and made men that hang around the entertainers but the gangsters and made men all wanted to be as suave and unflappable as Dean. From fashion to comportment and everything in between, Dean Martin set an example of confident manliness that is still appealing today. One last clip from his television show demonstrates his undeniable sex appeal, as he charms the gorgeous Ann-Margret in a duet of the great Merle Haggard song, “I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am”:

Like many other famous and wealthy people, especially in entertainment, Dean’s life was marked by marriages and divorces, problems with drinking and pills, and family tragedy. He was devastated when his son Dean Paul was killed in a crash while flying with the California Air National Guard in 1987, and after that tragedy Dean cut back on his public appearances and had pretty much retired by the end of 1990. He died from emphysema on Christmas Day 1995. In marking his death, National Review pointed out that Dean was one of those entertainers who never tried to tell us how we should vote. Dean Martin was successful at pretty much everything he tried, and I hope that we are still watching his shows and listening to his music for the next 100 years.


21 Responses to “Everybody Loves Somebody: Dino at 100”

  1. When the moon hits your eye
    Like a big pizza pie …
    Go home, you’re drunk.

    I have a copy of his albums in vinyl — 33 1/3 LPs. Got them in the early ’70s when all the cool kids were listening to Alice Bowie and David Cooper (sic).

    nk (9651fb)

  2. Alice Bowie, in concert. 😉

    nk (9651fb)

  3. Thank you JVW. Dean was a large part of my youth

    Angelo (3855b7)

  4. a *couple* of his albums

    nk (9651fb)

  5. I love the Matt Helm movies. He’s drinking, he’s smoking, he’s womanizing. The 60s were a lot of fun.

    Joe Miller (64cdc0)

  6. It’s also the 1150th borthday of Frank Lloyd Wright. The New York Post had a profile. There’s not very much good about him.

    The most interesting thing (for a issue discussion) is this:

    She was also nearly 32 years younger than Wright, married and a mother, but that didn’t stop her from bearing him a love child, Iovanna. In 1928, they wed and, four years later, hit on a genius way to pay the bills: by founding the Taliesen Fellowship, where for the next three decades, architect wannabes labored on Wright’s home for less than nothing.

    “They not only worked in the drawing room but farmed his crops, made his food, cleaned . . . and paid tuition for it,” Roger Friedland, co-author of 2006’s “The Fellowship,” told The Post. “It was brilliant, because Wright was broke,” after years of expensive living.

    This would not violate any minimum wage laws. It’s only illegal to pay something something between nothing and the minimum wage. But not above or below – where they pay you, and that’s called tuition.

    I am surprised to hear that someone many years ago, had actually done this very consciously.

    Sammy Finkelman (375edc)

  7. * 150th birthday. He changed his middle name from Lincoln to Lloyd.

    Sammy Finkelman (375edc)

  8. [Brewery owner Quintana describing exoskeletal-robotics used to assist workers]: “It gives an average man the strength of a giant. He can handle a 1,500 lb load”

    Matt Helm: “I know the feeling”.

    The Ambushers – 1967

    harkin (f611c5)

  9. Dean, cancel this invitation for drinks for a lot longer…

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  10. Absolutely stellar post, JVW.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  11. “I’ve got seven kids. The three words you hear most around my house are ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ and ‘I’m pregnant.” — Dean Martin

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  12. McCain is either drunk or senile. Ohmigosh!

    nk (9651fb)

  13. Sorry, wrong thread.

    nk (9651fb)

  14. 11, Damn, he channeled the amazing Ann Romney with that remark.

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  15. “Jeannie and me, we’ve got seven kids at home.” [audience starts to applaud] “No, don’t try to make a hero out of me. It only took me seven minutes.”

    JVW (c775f8)

  16. I grew up listening to everything from Herb Alpert to The Beatles to James Brown but we also listened to the crooners such as Sinatra, Nat Cole etc. including Dean Martin.

    I think if there was one song of his my folks played more than any other it was this simple number from his country album:–KIzM

    harkin (536957)

  17. JVW, great post. Thank you.

    Ipso Fatso (7e1c8e)

  18. When I was young in the 1960s I was even more pig-ignorant than now, and hated Dean Martin.

    As time passed I gained a few IQ points and realized that he is one of the great artists of the age.

    His music – memories are made of this.

    Fred Z (05d938)

  19. @18. Had the same experience w/Benny Goodman.

    Parents literally forced me to go to a Goodman concert in the Stones/Beatles era– at the Albert Hall of all places. And it was absolutely magnificent– a lifetime memory.

    When they tell you to eat your peas and carrots, sometimes it pays to listen.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  20. “Parents literally forced me to go to a Goodman concert in the Stones/Beatles era– at the Albert Hall of all places”

    One of the concerts I was too young for but would loved to have seen was Goodman at Carnegie Hall in 1938.

    The Beatles at Carnegie too, or better yet, Red Rocks, in 64′.

    harkin (70fe68)


    Dean Martin 12/12/75 hilarious on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson 1975

    Steve57 (0b1dac)

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