Throughout his life, Dean Martin graced the nation with his voice, humor and all-around incredible talent.
Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio to Italian immigrants. He had only one sibling, an older brother named Bill. As a boy, he attended Grant Elementary School in his hometown of Steubenville, and picked up the drums as a teenager. However, school was not a part of his life for very long, he dropped out of Steubenville High School in the tenth grade. So, instead of going to school, he started working "odd jobs" such as an amateur welterweight boxer with the name "Kid Crochet." He also, believe it or not, dabbled in illegal activities that included selling lottery tickets, playing the role of a bookie, working as a card dealer and croupier in local gambling joints, and driving liquor across the state line during the Prohibition.
Starting off in Showbiz
His career in show business started at the age of seventeen when he began singing in Ohio nightclubs near Steubenville. His first big break came while he was doing a stint with the Ernie McKay band. Dean was noticed by bandleader Sammy Watkins who soon hired him to be his band's featured vocalist. In 1938 he started touring with Watkins and shortly after in 1940, changed his name to Dean Martin. He signed his first contract in September of 1943 with MCA records to sing at the Rioamba Room in New York, followed by his own fifteen-minute radio program called Songs by Dean Martin - broadcasted from New York City. In 1946, he signed a contract and recorded four songs with Diamond Records.
Then, during a club "engagement" in 1946, the laughs began when he met Jerry Lewis. The two started joking around with each other then teamed up in 1947 when Dean played the straight man to Lewis's clown - in other words, Dean kept the straight face and Jerry was the funny guy. Becoming a hit, NBC soon broadcasted a thirty-minute radio show starring Dean and Jerry in 1949, and they soon made a television debut on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1950. The hilarious duo would go on to make sixteen films together in only 7 years (1949-1956). They had their last performance together on July 24, 1956 at the Copacabana in New York. They split up due to "creative differences", and Dean picked up on his own and got back into his singing career. He began recording hit records such as "That's Amore", "Memories are Made of This", "When You're Smiling" and "Oh Marie". Dean also gained critical acclaim after appearing in The Young Lions with Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando in 1958.
Very shortly after, a truly historic and timeless group started to take shape. Dean started performing in Las Vegas with a group that was known in Hollywood as "The Rat Pack". This group included Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. The group soon started in the movies aside Vegas. The group starred as a whole in the movies Ocean's Eleven (1960), Sergeants Three (1962) and Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964).
Dean appeared in a total of fifty-one films in his lifetime, starring with some other greats such as Shirley MacLaine, Judy Holliday, and John Wayne. He continued to record music, but left Capitol Records in 1962 and signed with Reprise. It was in this year that he recorded his blockbuster hit "Everybody Love Somebody" (which by the way beat the Beatles to become No. 1 hit in America for one week.) He also had a "television variety series" that aired on NBC starting with The Dean Martin Show starting in 1965 and ran for eight year, followed by The Dean Martin Comedy Hour with "Everybody Loves Somebody" as the theme song.
Dean was married three times over his life. He was married to Elizabeth Anne McDonald on October 2, 1941 and had four children: Stephen, Claudia, Barbra and Deana. He married his second wife Jeanne Biegger on September 1, 1949 and had three children: Dino Paul Jr., Ricci James, and Gina Caroline. Dean married a third time in 1973 to Catherine Mae Hawn and adopted Sasha. That marriage ended in 1976. Dean retired from show business after a 1988-89 concert with Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. He was replaced on the tour by Liza Minelli after he took ill. Dean Martin died of acute respiratory failure in Beverly Hills on December 25, 1995.
Dean now rests in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles. His headstone simply reads the dates of his life and the quote "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime."
- Smith, Christopher. That's Amore: A son Remembers Dean Martin.
- Personal Knowledge