This June 7 we celebrate the 100 birthday of a true fantastic icon of the Italian music: Dean Martin. Born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio, Dean Martin was a wonderful artist who already is part of the history of the American show business.
To celebrate him and his legacy, we are honored and happy to welcome on We the Italians his daughter Deana Martin, who has written a wonderful book about her father and whom we thank for this wonderful opportunity.
Mrs. Martin, you are a successful singer. Your book "Memories are made of this" tells the story of a family not that easy to grow up in. Did you become a successful singer thanks to, or despite being Dean Martin's daughter? Or maybe none of the above?
I think it's both. First of all, I was born to be a singer and an entertainer like my dad. I am proud to be named Deana Martin: "Dean" with an "A".
My father set a good example for me, when I was young: I watched him record at Capitol Studios, I watched him on stage in Las Vegas, how magical he was. I knew from a very young age that that’s what I wanted to do!
On the other hand, being the daughter of such an important iconic, fantastic entertainer, singer and movie star was not easy, I had to share him with the world.
Your book is full of stories about your relationship with your father. For those who haven't read it yet, could you please tell us a curious non famous anecdote regarding you and him?
The book "Memories Are Made Of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter's Eyes" was a labor of love. Jerry Lewis wrote the foreword and said, “It's a love letter to your dad” ... which it is! The book is about my father’s incredible life. Growing up with him was amazing, he was such a wonderful man. We were a family just like every other family in the world, there are marriages, divorces, there are children and grandchildren, their successes and failures. For me living with my dad in Beverly Hills with my brothers and sisters was an awesome life. Imagine the people that would come over to our home: uncle Frank Sinatra, uncle Sammy Davis Jr ...and the list goes on. I went to school with Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball's children, with Frank Sinatra's children, they are my friends, so as you can see it was an exciting life.
When I think about my father and all that he accomplished, his recordings, his movies, the nightclub acts, all his hits, going to Vegas … and he was still able to have time with us at home and to play golf. I remember him telling me "Deana, you know, the reason why I work is so that I can make money to take care of you kids ... and play golf!" He loved to play golf!
Growing up in that environment was incredible, with all those people, and learning from the best: it really helped me in my career, I saw the discipline, I saw how all of them worked. I remember a time when I went out with my dad, I was 16 years old and he asked what I wanted for my birthday, I said I wanted a leather coat from Wilson’s House of Suede. He said, "Great go get it!". I said "No, I want you to come and pick it out with me!" So, he showed up the next day, he left his golf game early and was there waiting for me with all the salesladies running around him "Oh, Dean Martin's here!!" and he sat there and watched me try on every coat, every style, every different color, and he was so sweet and patient.
Those times are important to me, because I had him all to myself. I loved those moments when I had my dad alone! And he smelled so great! He wore a cologne called Woodhue made by Faberge and when he would give me a hug he just smelled great. I have the bottle of Woodhue that he left in his dressing room, there is still a little bit left and every now and then I open it, inhale and I am right back there with him!
Those are the little things that I remember about him: how he smelled, how he walked around with a golf-club in his hand practicing his grip, and he was so funny and so charming in all those things ... those memories make me feel that he's still with me all the time!
What was the most "Italian" aspect of your father?
He was very Italian in the way that he would run his home: he was a perfect Italian Dad. He used to say, "This is my house, these are the rules, you are living in my house and you go by my rules and if you can't go by my rules, there's the door!" And I would say "But Dad, I'm nine years old!" And he would laugh and say, "Come on, rules are rules: you must be home on time for dinner, make your bed, clean up your room, follow the rules!" Now that’s an Italian dad!
Every Sunday night my grandmother would come to our house and cook a big Italian dinner, gnocchi, Pasta and Fagioli and chicken. There were just things about him that were very Italian and traditional, he was proud to be Italian!
He was great both in singing and acting. What did he prefer between music, cinema and television?
We know he loved being on television because he was just so natural and fabulous: but for him I think it was singing, he loved to sing and he had that beautiful natural voice he could pick up a piece of music, hear the song once and sing it! I remember actually asking him "Can I take voice lessons, singing lessons?" and he said to me "Deana, why? You want to sing like everybody else in the choir?" Maybe he didn't understand that not everybody had that fabulous beautiful voice. He said: "First find your own voice. And then, if you feel that you're not ready, ok, voice lessons!"
Frank Sinatra instead gave me a totally different answer: we were going to sing a song on my Dad's TV show, and I said to Frank: "Uncle Frank how do you do it, how do you get that great tone, how do you sing?" He said "Well Deana, it's all about the air" and then he talked very technically: "I take in a big breath, I push from the diaphragm, and I can tell even before the note comes out if I'm going to be on-key or not!" And I said “Whoa, does my dad do that?" And he said "No, your father has no idea what he's doing he just does it!" And it's true, he was so natural with his God-given voice. I know Frank Sinatra had an unbelievable voice, but I think he worked for every note he ever hit and he taught me: I learned from the very, very best and it's such a joy for me to be on stage and to sing these incredible songs and to follow in the footsteps of all of these amazing entertainers!
The last album that I did, "Swing Street", in which, by the way, I sing "Quando, quando, quando" and Tony Renis loves my version … I recorded it at Capitol Studios with incredible musicians. It was overwhelming!
Talking about Frank Sinatra, your father and him were best buddies. It is very rare to see something similar in the show business. Maybe this has to do a bit with the fact that both were Italians?
I think because they were both Italian and they were both the best at what they did. Everybody idolized them, my father sang many more Italian songs than Frank, but there was something very very similar about them: women all wanted to be with them, men wanted to be like them, because they were classic and cool. They both had a very good sense of humor, my dad happened to have a lot of fun with Frank, Frank loved my father. It's amazing how long they lasted, through the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s. There was just something so cool and fabulous about them.
“That's Amore” is one of the most beautiful and popular songs in the history of music. It is also a declaration of love to Italy, right?
Yes, he loved Italy, and "That's Amore" actually is a declaration of love for Italy. It is a terrific song, everybody knows it all over the world. No matter where I go, even if people don't speak English they know all the words. In fact, I sing it in every one of my shows and I go out into the audience, and everyone is singing, it doesn't matter if they are 80 years old or 10 years old, they know all the words to "That's Amore". "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, That's amore": and it's true. Every restaurant plays Dean Martin's "That's Amore": and every time I hear it, it brings joy to me, I see my dad singing it with a big smile on his face. He loved everything Italian!
What was Dean Martin's relationship with the Italian American community?
He had a great relationship with the Italian American community, they loved him, he was generous with his time and performed at numerous charity events. He was and still is loved by all Italians.
His favorite restaurants were Italian: La Dolce Vita, Da Vinci, La Famiglia and La Scala.
I remember him doing an interview and when the reporter asked him a question and he said, “you would not understand because you’re not Italian!” and I thought it was very cool. And he really believed that! He was a proud Italian American!
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