Saturday, May 08, 2010

DEAN MARTIN’S DEEPWATER HORIZON: Or How We Like Our Life In The Land Of Menefreghismo

Hey pallies, from the blog "Purple State Of Mind," from the prophetic pen of Mr. John Marks comes probably the most amazin' piece of Dino-prose that I have ever read (perhaps second only to Nick Tosches' Dino-bio that is so freely quoted here.)

As you will read here Mr. Marks became a Dino-addict at the tender age of seven. Quotin' John:

"Let me explain. When I was a kid, there were three poles to my pop culture existence: Marvel Comics, the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows and Dean Martin. Like faith, hope and love in the Bible, these were the three great pillars, but the greatest of these was Dean. He sang Iron Man and Barnabas Collins into succulent, enveloping silence."

As our Dino has a profound influence on all us Dino-holics, so he has on the life of John. And, in this outstandin' Dino-theme, Mr. Marks speaks so elequently 'bout how the Dino-way has so so influenced where we finds outselves today as a society. I does thinks pallies that Mr. John Marks hits the nail on the head as to why our Dino is more sought after then ever....'specially 'mong today's youthful hipsters. In a world that gets crazier by the moment, our Dino is the only thin' that truly makes sense outta the craziness!!!!

So, thanks so much for Mr. John Marks sharin' his personal Dino-adulation story and demonstratin' the profound influence our Dino has on today's life and times. So, please pallies-o-mine takes the time to soak in each and every Dino-thought shared by Mr. Marks....words that are likes so deep, so dark, so so true!!!! Dino-awed, DMP btw pallies, to read John Mark's Dino-perspective in it's original form, as always likes just clicks on the tagg of this here Dino-gram.

DEAN MARTIN’S DEEPWATER HORIZON: Or How We Like Our Life In The Land Of Menefreghismo

Filed under: Books, Dean Martin, Featured, Movies, Music
Posted by: John


Lately, what with oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, shady trading on Wall Street and collapsing mines in West Virginia, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dean Martin. Dean had it down. He was the ultimate American success, triumphing across the platform peaks of the entertainment industry of the 1950’s and 60’s: music, television, movies, Vegas. In 1965, his single “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” knocked the Beatles off the top spot. By the end of the decade, he was a major movie star with his own hit TV series.

Yet by the time he died in 1995, he was virtually forgotten, eclipsed by Frank Sinatra, living like a hermit in southern California, a man out of time, indifferent, lost, separated from the race. But then, he had been a menefreghista, as Nick Tosches wrote twenty five years ago in the definitive account of the singer’s life, one of the great show business biographies of all time, Dino: Living High In The Dirty Business Of Dreams.

A menefreghista is he who lives by the code of menefreghismo. Translated, Tosches tells us, the Italian word means the state of “not giving a fuck.” Dean Martin was one of those men, a model for the mob and seemingly for a vast slice of American corporate professionals; Martin may have been dead and forgotten for a decade and a half, but the code to which he subscribed seems to have outlived him, to have so wholly engulfed American business that it has come to be an unofficial, almost national ethos.

He who did not give a fuck sang beautifully, soulfully, superficially about the coming world of those who do not give a fuck. Turn down the sound on the YouTube footage of the Gulf of Mexico, on the Goldman hearings, on the statements of the Massey Mines officials, and you can hear the strains of “Bummin Around” or “Remember Me, I’m The One Who Loves You” or “I Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am”. These aren’t throwaway numbers. They are anthems of a condition of the heart.

I believe it is also mine, which is part of the horror and thrill of reading the Tosches biography.

Let me explain. When I was a kid, there were three poles to my pop culture existence: Marvel Comics, the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows and Dean Martin. Like faith, hope and love in the Bible, these were the three great pillars, but the greatest of these was Dean. He sang Iron Man and Barnabas Collins into succulent, enveloping silence.

So it was with a thrill beyond words and a certain tragic despair that I began to read the Tosches book, almost a quarter century old, but timeless, too, to my eyes anyway, bigger than the sum of its parts. The author wrings deep, dark American reality from the jaws of forgotten trivia. Somehow, the story also feels as if it’s about the country and about me at the same time.

At seven, I bought utterly and completely into the image of Dean. Other kids might have been focused on the Monkees or the Jackson Five or Bobby Sherman, but I had been watching the westerns since I was old enough to understand English, and the Dean Martin who appeared in those movies, slouching toward the bar, singing with Ricky Nelson, mounting a horse with the same laziness and indifference that he seems to have mounted cocktail waitresses at the Sands, felt very much of a piece with the voice on the albums.

The voice felt so real and reassuring, so “grounded”, we might say now, that I found myself compelled at the age of seven to write a letter of condolence on the occasion of the collapse of Dean’s second marriage. He wrote back, thanking me for my concern, and included a signed black and white photograph that might have been taken a decade earlier.

He seemed to me the nicest and most decent of all possible men, the very symbol of confidence, excellence, superb diffidence, a human model for the corporate faces of our own time, a smooth, incomparable, unassailable face, a Goldman Sachs, a British Petroleum, a Massey Mines Inc. Nothing could ever go wrong with Dean Martin. One could never doubt that his inner trades were sound, his hidden wells securely capped, his ventilation systems running impeccable.

Sure, he drank. Sure, he made silly, off-color wisecracks about his dancers, the Gold Diggers. Sure, sure, sure. But his hair was never messy. He memorized all his lines, and he sang like molten silver on numbers like “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife”, or “Houston” or “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You”, and you believed. This was success. This was what it looked like. This was what it sounded like. You felt it in your pants.

Behind it all, though, or so Tosches theorizes (the author never actually interviewed Martin, who’d long since sworn off publicity), ran something else, an implacable emptiness, or rather a slate that wasn’t empty, just comprehensively unreadable. Tosches said that Giancana and the other mafia hoods and even Sinatra all admired Dean, because he couldn’t be touched, he couldn’t be muscled, he seemed to have no fear. He seemed to embody what a generation of American companies must have seen as the ultimate blue print. He made money, but he did not give a fuck, and that was the condition of making the money.

He did not really give a fuck about singing. He did not give a fuck about the movies. He did not give a fuck about anything, finally, and for reasons that the author doesn’t ultimately explain. Maybe it was a position of safety. The menefreghista takes indifference to the metaphysical level. Make your money, and embrace the frozen sea within, to borrow a line from Kafka.

If the a mine collapses, and people die, that’s fate, that’s life, that’s business. If a million trades contain a million lies, and the economy goes off the tracks, and tens of millions lose jobs and homes, that’s tough, that’s amore, that’s business. And if the Gulf Of Mexico fills to the brim with light crude that destroys ecosystems, cities and countless lives, what is all of that nonsense to the menefreghista, who made his bet, won his stake and can recede into stillness and quiet as if he were made of stone or sky? He who does not give a fuck must only answer to lawyers, guns and money, the very weapons that allow his great silence to exist.

Dino used up his share of lawyers and money, and he won through and was able to eat his nightly steak and watch his nightly western in peace and quiet, but the worst thing he ever did, maybe, was pollute our ears with a music of sweet, heedless duplicity. I still love the songs, but I hear an elision in them that was never there before. “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes” sounds different when you know the singer doesn’t give a fuck.

The successors in ethos of Dino didn’t let the rest of us off so easy. Their legacy is beginning to look post-apocalyptic: death, ruin, corruption. But hey, like the committed menefreghista managerial class they represent, the professionals who signed off on the security of the Deepwater Horizon well, the methane reduction capabilities in the Upper Big Branch Mine, the soundness of the collateralized debt obligations must now bear the consequences of failing to cover their tracks. They must, like Dino in Vegas, face audiences whose eyes are glazing over, and whose former love is beginning to turn sour.

They must be able to drop their mikes and stare back with implacable, ferocious eyes at the people who no longer believe them when they sing about the beauty of profits, free enterprise and unimpeachable markets.

They must rise to this occasion, or they are not worthy of the code. They must be able to listen to the laments for the dead, the cries of the dying, the fear and mourning of our coastal cities, the rage of the people they cheated, and they must show no sign of remorse or hesitation. They must stare back like the sun itself, like a huge, intransigent heat source, and answer the questions of Congressional subcommittees with the musical non-chalance of Dino Crocetti of Steubenville, Ohio.

“Come Running Back To Me, Back To The Arms That Long To Hold You, Forever and Ever, My Love.”

If they can’t give us what Dean did, a music to distract and dissuade, then what good are they? If they aren’t equal to the disaster they made in the name of their depthless menefreghismo, why should any of us hesitate to put them behind bars, to make them pay to the full extent of the law? Why shouldn’t we as a people deal with the corporate houseflies at British Petroleum, Goldman Sachs and Massey Mines in exactly the same way they have dealt with us? Why should of any of us regard them with anything less than the pitiless gaze of a man who simply doesn’t give a fuck as they are led away to perdition?

What kind of people are we if we don’t?


cariart said...

I remember that they interviewed Tosches when Martin passed away, and he said he was surprised and disappointed; he was certain Martin would live to 90, the age that the Chinese Menefreghismo, Buddha, lived to.

Tosches, in his extraordinary book, makes the point that being Menefreghismo did not make you an outcast in Italian society; indeed, you were considered quite unique and special, because you existed on a different 'plane' than others, and were cooler, more detached, and dangerous. I can certainly imagine this would be yet another reason Sinatra and Lewis were jealous of him (both were quite insecure of his looks, talent, and charisma, both loving and hating him).

A very well-thought out article...thanks foir sharing!

Always On Watch said...

I'm not so sure that Dino didn't give a fuck. I think that it was more Maybe a position of safety.

Rather, I think that his menefreghismo was a sort of defense mechanism, as in a coping mechanism. To cope with what, I'm not exactly sure. And perhaps what he was coping with changed throughout his life.

Growing up in Steubenville, Dino came from the school of hard knocks. In that particular school, showing any caring about what other thinks is a way to be the object of bullying. I'm sure that there was plenty of bullying in a steel-mill town. Based on my research there, years ago I interviewed one of his teachers: she thought the world of our Dino. "He was a good boy and very quiet in class. Never in trouble in school."

In my 38 years of teaching, I've seen many students with learning differences put on an air of menefreghismo. That way, they can't be hurt as much by failure.

Did Dino have learning differences? Maybe. He didn't like reading -- not even reading a menu. Though he would read certain comic books, so he wasn't terribly dyslexic, if indeed that were an issue for him at all.

I must say that after Dean Paul died in that terrible accident, our Dino did slide fully into menefreghismo. In fact, my father-in-law treated Dino at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Dino's final days and emphatically told me: "He didn't want to live."

I'll tell you one thing that Dino did really care about: never leading the kind of life he had to endure in Steubenville. He viewed leaving there as the great escape.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, thanks so much Ben for creatin' a blogger 'count...hopin' you will be willin' to often share your Dino-thoughts here....loves your Dino-patter...loves how Tosches referred to our Dino and an American Buddha...glads you liked this Dino-prose...thought you would....

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, thanks so much Miss AOW.....your Dino-perspective gives this Dino-devotee much to ponder....and thanks for sharin' from your teachin' makes some great points....just wonderin' if it would be possible for you to do some special writin's for this Dino-blog...for example woulda loves to have you write about how you interviewed one of our Dino's teachers...and, also your father-in-law's Dino-tale...

Always On Watch said...

just wonderin' if it would be possible for you to do some special writin's for this Dino-blog...

Sure! I'd love to!

I also have Steubenville-related photos over at on one of my web sites.

But my writing will probably have to wait for about a month or so because of my work schedule. The end of the school year is grueling.

Why don't you email me to discuss?

Title the email "our Dino" or some such.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, that woulda be likes so so Dino-cool....will be emailin' you soon.....keeps that Dino-calm as you enter the last weeks of the schoool year.....

Always On Watch said...

I always play Dino CDs in the car the last few weeks of classes. Gotta chill out!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, likes of one can helps us relax in the midst of daily stress and strains likes our Dino...keep listenin' to Dino as you draw the school year to a close....thanks for all your Dino-patter this Dino-day...finds it so encouragin' to have great pallies likes you encourage the Dino-work here by leavin' your Dino-thoughts....