Sunday, December 25, 2005

Music to My Ears, Part 2: Remembering Dean Martin

I vaguely remember watching Dean Martin's show as a kid. (See my first post regarding Dean Martin.) Perhaps some of the shtick went over my head. Now that I've got about 26 volumes of DVDs with highlights from his show I'm glad it went over my head. ;) However, I wish for that simpler time... and that I knew more about Dean while he was alive.

My adolescence occurred when Dean ruled television. (Perhaps you could say Dean was NBC's original Must See TV star.) His waning years coincided with my teens when I attempted to be cool (rarely succeeding). I might have appeared even more square if I would have been a fan of Dean in those days... then again, running counter to culture and respecting the class of the swing/crooner/Rat Pack crowd might have been just what I needed. (Then again, maybe not... you've either got it or you don't.)

Regardless, I never would have been able to see Dean or the other guys. I was simply born in the wrong decade. At least I was if I wanted to revel in the style (and the boorishness) of Frank's Summit and the King of Cool himself, Dean Martin. Even the reunion tour with Frank, Sammy, and Dean only lasted a week before Dean couldn't take it anymore. After Dean got out, Frank and Sammy went on to Bloomington, Minnesota... probably the Met. I was in high school. I could have seen them, but I wouldn't have seen Dino.

Ten years ago on Christmas night (3:30 am according to his obit) Dean Martin slipped away... finally able to see his boy Dean Paul after more than eight years. It is said that Dean never recovered from the death of Dino, who died in an airplane crash. (The crash happened in the same area where Frank Sinatra's mother died in a plane crash.) According to Paul Anka, after this tragedy Dean said he was, "just waiting to die."

A TV biography mentioned that the last couple of years of Dean's life included failing health and a public that mostly forgot him. He'd go to the same restaurant night after night to eat the same meal with a glass of Scotch (I believe)... if a fan recognized him and approached him Dean would be surprised that someone remembered him.

He lived alone. He was found by his housekeeper. One of America's greatest entertainers. An American icon. A performer loved around the world. He died alone... on Christmas. A man with so much talent, a man who made millions laugh and cheer, a man with seven children, a man so cool that even cool guys like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley wanted to emulate Dino.

No man like that should die alone, let alone on Christmas of all days.

Hopefully in the past ten years his spirit has found peace and the love of fans new and old. He's with Sammy and Frank, President Reagan, Johnny Carson, Bing and Bob, and his son Dean Paul. I can only imagine what it must be like.

I hope he still does the drunk act.

If you liked good ol' Dean, please raise a glass in his honor sometime between now and New Year's Eve. If you're abstaining from booze you should still take part... Dean often drank apple juice on stage in lieu of a glass of scotch. ;)

Why give so much attention to a guy from the old school of song, film, and television... and who has been dead for ten years? He reminds me of another great American whom I respect. President Ronald W. Reagan.

Recently, I finished reading Peter Robinson's book How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. (He's the guy who wrote the "Tear Down This Wall" speech.) A fun read with some nice anecdotes about President Reagan (including a wonderful Italian joke that sent me rolling with laughter for more than ten minutes). If I am to believe what I've read of Ronald Reagan in various books, I see a lot of Reagan in Dean. Perhaps I should say that the two men share some characteristics.

Both seemed to love telling jokes. They came from humble beginnings. Both seemed to have the great ability to charm an audience and put them at ease. Unfortunately, it also seems that neither man gave enough to their children. Both loved their families dearly, but apparently they didn't connect in the way some fathers do. Dean kept many folks at bay, never letting most folks see the real Dean. Reagan seemed to lack many close personal relationships (certainly not with Nancy, though).

A couple of similar qualities and a couple of similar flaws. Big deal, huh? I'm certainly not making my case with just a couple of lines about these two. Maybe I am making something out of nothing, but I doubt it. We won't see men of their like for some time. It isn't a tragedy, but it is unfortunate.

Perhaps something else to write about in future.


Some of the books I've read on Dean and Reagan (with more books on Reagan on my to-read list):

Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams
By Nick Tosches

That's Amore : A Son Remembers Dean Martin
By Ricci Martin

Rat Pack Confidential : Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey and the Last Great Show Biz Party
By Shawn Levy

All or Nothing at All: A Life of Frank Sinatra
By Donald Clarke

How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life
By Peter Robinson

By Dinesh D'Souza