Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Dean Martin – Happy Birthday Dino Vino!

Hey pallies, truly can't tells you in mere words the thrill I gets to see so much love flowin' our Dino's way from so many fans from so many places. Case in point...Mr. Ott Bruno at his self-tagged blog ottobruno shares the followin' Dino-prose in honor of our beloved Dino on the anniverary of his birth (likes clicks on tagg of this Dino-gram to goes directly there).

Mr. Bruno's Dino-essay is so jammed with Dino-love it simply brings tremendous energy to this Dino-heart of mine. Mr. Bruno speaks of often havin' to sneak a peek at our Dino on Thursday nights when he was not quite a Deanager in age. And as you will read Otto also tells the true story of how one Dino-night he simply had to leave a BB game before it was over so that he wouldn't miss a single moment of one of our Dino's amazin' roasts.

To read Mr. Otto Bruno's Dino-essay is to read the amazin' impact that our beloved Dino had on one young man durin' is formative growin' up years. Now multiply that by the tens of thousands of young men, like myself, who have had quite similiar Dino-experiences over the decades. The impact that our Dino has had on youth for decades and decades is likes totally amazin' to say the least.

Loves the classic Dino-pixs that Bruno has used to enhance his Dino-devotion as well. Thanks Mr. Otto Bruno for sharin' your Dino-testimony and helpin' more and more pallies to comes to know, love, and embrace likes total total Dino-devotion!!!! Dino-embracin', DMP

Dean Martin – Happy Birthday Dino Vino!

June 7th, 2010 | Classic Television, Italian America

One of the great TV shows of my childhood was The Dean Martin Show – an hour of variety television filled with the biggest stars in all of Hollywood. Most of the time, I’d have to sneak a look at it on the old black and white TV in my bedroom keeping the sound really low and sitting right up close to the screen so no one would hear. Once in a while, probably school vacations and such, my dad would let me stay up to watch the show with him and my mom. He would make us all popcorn and we’d sit and laugh at Dean’s exploits and enjoy the wonderful music. Undoubtedly, I didn’t understand all of the jokes but Dino’s humor was always accompanied by a mischievous smile and twinkle of the eye that made it obvious to even the youngest viewer that this guy, as my mom used to say, was a rascal.

After seven years of Dean’s variety show (1965-1972), NBC shifted the format to The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. These were basically “cleaned up” versions of the ribald dinners that The Friar’s Club used to host in the private confines of their New York and Los Angeles establishments. The format meant even less work for Dean, if that was possible, and much less in production costs for NBC. The roasts became a Friday night ritual at 9:00 p.m. just as the variety show had been on Thursday nights.

I remember one particular Friday evening when I was down the street in the vacant lot where we kids used to play baseball, football and other assorted games. My friends and I were in the very late innings of a tight baseball game. All of a sudden I remembered what night it was and yelled out “What time is it?” My friend Dean (who was actually named after Dean Martin – I swear it!) answered “It’s ten to nine.” “Oh my God,” I replied. “I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I ran home with their angry cries of disbelief echoing in my ears. I ran into the house, up the stairs, took the fastest shower in history and was downstairs in front of the television just as the picture of the MGM Grand flashed up on the tiny screen.

I was growing older and beginning to appreciate more of the humor of these adults who, to me, were the coolest people on the planet. More importantly, I felt like I was one of the guys – Frank, Dean, Sammy, Don Rickles, Orson Welles, Danny Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Joey Bishop. These were my idols and I felt a fraternity with them through these weekly gatherings. Before, and especially after, my dad’s death in 1976 (I was 12 yrs old) I thought of these gentleman as a second echelon of uncles – I adored them all.

The one great gift of technology for me is that it can bring the past back to us. I was thrilled beyond words when many of the old Dean Martin TV shows and roasts were made available on video and then DVD. Even if you didn’t buy them all like I did, you must have seen the infomercials – entertaining in and of themselves – which feature clips from a variety of the shows. The clips from these shows are like a visual encyclopedia of American entertainment in the twentieth century. All the giants are represented: Sinatra, Jack Benny, George Burns, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Lucille Ball, Rosemary Clooney, Jimmy Stewart, Lena Horne, Milton Berle, Alice Faye, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr. and the list goes on and on. In the center of it all is Dino, the glue that held it all together.

Dean Martin may well be one of the most underrated stars of our time for the simple reason that his act was to appear drunk, lazy and detached. He did his job so well that people believed he really was nothing more than a drunken stumble bum albeit a charming one. He played this character with such aplomb that most of us, including many critics, failed to notice what a brilliant entertainer he was. His ex-partner, the woefully overrated French icon Jerry Lewis, has said numerous times that Dean Martin was the greatest straight man in the history of comedy. This is a sentiment shared by many comedians and straight men alike. The fact of the matter is that in addition to being a brilliant straight man, Dean had the flexibility and talent to be a wonderfully funny comedian as well. Many stars from Angie Dickinson to Don Rickles to Regis Philbin have all acknowledged what a truly funny man Dean was offstage.

If you watch the Dean Martin roasts today they are somewhat dated and stale. (Most of the variety shows, however, hold up very well – particularly the early ones.) Most of the insults and jokes of the participants in the roasts were provided by Dean’s writers. Reportedly, only Don Rickles and Jonathan Winters had free rein to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Yet in the case of Dean, even when simply reading the cue cards, he provides the humor more often, and more deftly, than most of the guests.

One other testament to either the depth of Dean’s talent or the fact that he’s a beloved and recognizable icon that bridges the generations is the fact that his character would never be successful in today’s world. Our present society’s problems and concerns with alcoholism, drunk driving and substance abuse would render the characterization of the happy-go-lucky drunk as not only politically incorrect but terribly irresponsible. Even so, when you watch Dean today, you still smile. The thought is, “Oh, that’s just Dean. He’s such a cute little rascal”

Let’s not forget that Dean was a fine vocalist as well – when he wanted to be. While I don’t think Dean was the lazy drunk that his character seemed to be, I do think it’s true he didn’t have the same ambition or drive like his pally Frank Sinatra. Even so, Dean was one of the top singers from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s. His satisfaction at being the first singer to knock The Beatles off the top of the Billboard charts in 1964 with Everybody Loves Somebody is further proof that he did actually care about his work and his legacy.

The most amazing and telling statistic of the Dean Martin story is that Dino is as popular today, almost fifteen years after his death, as ever before. His CDs sell like hotcakes and his fans range in age from one to ninety-two. Like fine wine, “Dino Vino” seems to just get better and better as the years go by. Happy Birthday Dean!


Lisa said...

could not have expressed it better myself - my sentiments exactly!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, indeed Miss Lisa, I thought that this one one well written piece of Dino-prose....loves to see so many who loves our Dino so much as to write such wonderful Dino-tribs....thanks for sharin' some Dino-patter....