Thursday, July 03, 2008
Hey pallies, this Dinoarticle just appeared at the official Branson web site Branson.com, and originally appeared in the mag 417 ( go to: http://www.417mag.com/417-Magazine/February-2008/The-Princess-of-Cool/ ) While this article features our Dino's girlpallie Deana, it certainly contains some great Dinoinformation and that is why I am sharin' it with you...and if you wanna read it in it's original format, just click on the tagg of this Dinopost. Loves to see more and more Dinopublicity meanin' that more and more pallies will comes to know, love, and follow our Dino.... Dinoinformatively, DMP
The Princess Of Cool
By Katie Pollock
Sometimes, if you are Deana Martin, people hold on to you, and they won’t let go. Women old enough to be your mother wrap their hands around your arm in a death grip, and they won’t release you until they’ve had their say. They want to tell you stories about the man who they fell in love with decades ago—your iconic father, Dean Martin. The man who you resemble. Maybe they won’t let go because they see him in your face.
But other times, if you are Deana Martin, the world reacts to you in a different way. Not with doting fandom, but with celebrity pampering. Photographers come into your home and pose you underneath pictures of your father. Restaurants make last-minute room for you, have food waiting on the table when you arrive and seat you beneath pictures of your father’s contemporaries: Andy Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., Mama Cass, Judy Garland. The people in charge of being in charge at Branson shows sneak you into a packed house (through the back door) and corral you backstage afterward to meet the star of the show… an aging “Moon River” singer you’ve known for decades. All on a whim. All last-minute.
Today, Deana Martin lives in Branson but travels with her husband, John Griffeth, singing the classic songs of her Rat Pack crooner father, Dean Martin, in front of big bands such as Les Brown Jr.’s crew at the Mickey Gilley Theatre. She plays those songs on her two radio shows and provides an outlet for Dean Martin fans who have stories to share. She’s a grandma to two little boys—Jagger and Hunter, the children of her son, Mickey Guerin, and his wife, Paola—all of whom she talks about with warm affection. And on top of all that, she’s planning a movie about her dad. “We’re trying to figure out who the heck could play Dean Martin,” she says. She thinks Johnny Depp could study Dean’s movements and pull it off. “He’s such a good actor, and he’s got the hairline,” she says.
Deana is 59 and a petite little woman: fit, smart, sweet and energetic with a bursting performer’s voice and wide, bright eyes. She’s a compact bundle of talent, wrapped in nostalgia and tied with a ribbon of tribute to her dad’s impressive life. But growing up the daughter of the legendary Dean Martin—like the growing up the daughter of anybody—had its ups and its downs.
In 2004, nine years after her father died, Deana wrote Memories are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes. It chronicles her life with touching honesty and the most insider of insider stories. It’s the book she wants to use as the base for that movie, and it’s not a tale of Hollywood glamour told through rose-colored glasses. “I wanted people to see that families can go through these things and survive,” she says. “These things” are families split and reunited, the twice-dealt-with effects of divorce, death and loss, an absent father, a mother who left. What’s apparent is that despite everything, there was never a shortage of love or fun. Families persevere.
In her book, Deana talks about the nomadic lifestyle she and her older siblings had with their mother, Betty MacDonald, especially after Dean cut off Betty’s alimony after an article in the now-defunct Confidential magazine said in no uncertain terms that Betty’s lifestyle dangerous for her kids. Deana writes that the story was overly cruel and sensationalized, but it resulted in a serious lack of money for the family, and they wound up moving from house to house and school to school. The family played cards together no matter what their situation. Even today, Deana has a card room in her home, right around the corner from a space that’s dedicated to her father’s and her music. His gold and platinum albums line one wall. Deana’s album sits on another. Photos of Dean and Marilyn Monroe share space with snapshots of the family playing poolside when Deana was just a girl. She seems to have gathered all the best in these spaces: the best pastimes, the best memories, the best examples of talent and accomplishment in a life that was peppered with a sort of poignant pain.
Keeping Notorious Company
When she was a little girl, Deana didn’t know her father very well. Soon after her birth, he left her mother to marry Jeanne Biegger. “In the very beginning when I wasn’t living with my father, it was strange,” she says. “I knew I was Deana Martin. I knew there was Dean Martin. And our dad wasn’t at our house. I remember the kids were saying, ‘Well, if you’re Dean Martin’s daughter, why are you going to this school?’ Kids can be cruel, and they didn’t understand.”
During her years with Betty, Deana and her sister, who were friends with Liza Minnelli, put on a play in the yard for Liza’s mom, Judy Garland. Deana says she played a tree, and after the performance, Judy told her, “You were the best tree I ever saw.” For the aspiring actress Deana was, hearing those words was a proud moment.
When Betty would throw big parties any night of the week, Deana and her older siblings would be right there with the partiers amid company that would make the most world-weary swoon with star-struck awe. Her mom sometimes woke the kids up and loaded them into limos to shuttle off to the beach and catch spawning grunion fish under the moonlight. Deana says she cherishes these moments of spontaneous adventure with her mom before they went to live with Dean. She was 9 when she and her two older sisters were dropped off to stay for good at his home with Jeanne and their three children.
“When we moved into the house with Dad and started going to Beverly Hills Catholic School, there were a lot of celebrities’ children going there, and everybody was on equal footing: Ricardo Montalban’s daughter, Danny Thomas’s son, George Montgomery and Dinah Shore’s kids,” Deana says. “It was a level playing field. But we knew our parents were special. We really did because everyone was talking about it, and they were cool. Dad was the coolest guy ever. I remember meeting Elvis Presley at Paramount Studios. He came riding up on his bicycle. That’s how they would ride around at the studio. And Dad introduced me to him, and Elvis said to me, ‘You know they call me the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, but your dad’s the King of Cool.’”
Deana has a lot of treasured memories of interactions with celebrities who appeared throughout her life. She can drop names like bombs on a conversation. There were the people who came to her stepmother’s Christmas parties: Elton John and Gregory Peck. Boom! Boom! There was Rosemary Clooney, who sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with Deana one year. Boom! There were Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis. Boom! Boom! Boom! She even referred to Sinatra as “Uncle Frank.” He was her favorite, a man who would talk and listen, who was concerned and comforting. Deana says being surrounded by Hollywood stars never seemed odd to her; she had not known anything else, so how could it be unusual?
But at one point in Deana’s life, the Hollyood-bright circles in which she ran intercepted a darker one, and she encountered a more sinister sort of celebrity. Charles Manson and Deana met at a house party before he gained notoriety as the creepily charismatic leader of the murderous Manson Family. Back then, he was an aspiring musician, writing songs and courting a deal with Terry Melcher, an Apple Records producer whom Deana was dating. In her book, she writes that Manson played guitar at the party while she and a group of friends watched. She didn’t know Manson, but he recognized her. Giving her a silver ring off his own finger, he asked, “You’re Dean Martin’s daughter, aren’t you?” The story at its most chilling is best read from the pages of her book, but by the time the ordeal ended, Deana had learned that her brother, Dean Paul, was on the Manson Family’s hit list, and Deana might have been there as well. The police didn’t comment when she asked. She writes: “While Manson had given me the creeps, I’d never for one minute suspected that he could be guilty of such a heinous crime. It shook me to the core, to think that I could have been one of his targets.” The first of the Manson Family murders took place at the home where Deana had initially encountered Manson.
Deana For a Reason
In the couple’s basement studio, surrounded by big computer monitors and giant microphones, Deana and her husband, John, settle in under headphones. John puts on Deana’s recording of “Silver Bells.” He cranks up the volume to shout-over level. His tall, lanky frame stands in the middle of the studio bopping to the beat with his pointed forefingers tapping the air in front of his handsome, white-haired head while he listens to his wife singing through the speakers. “Is this the hottest Christmas song you’ve ever heard?” John asks, raising his voice to hit listening ears over the music. “I’m cool, John,” Deana yells back, with a laugh. “I’m the Princess of Cool.”
In 2006, Deana put out an album (produced by John) titled Memories are Made of This with bright, lively, jazzy covers of her dad’s music and that of other singers from his era. Five of the songs spent 40 weeks on iTunes top 10 lists. The album tour took her all over the world, including to perform in front of an audience of 12,000-plus on the royal polo field in Dubai. The album features “Time After Time,” a duet with Jerry Lewis that was performed on his MDA telethon. But Deana’s history with the fundraising comedian dates back decades, to when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were the exceedingly popular 1950s comedy duo, Martin and Lewis. While Dean would play the suave and cool crooner on stage, Jerry would be the bumbling waiter interrupting his shows. The club act blossomed into a 10-year partnership and 17 movies, but it all ended in a famously bad way, ending the duo’s friendship. Deana explains it diplomatically: They both got famous and wanted things to go their way.
Deana says she knew when she was writing her book that the story of her dad wouldn’t be complete without Jerry’s take on everything. He agreed to meet her at his yacht. She says: “I’m walking down onto the pier, and there are all the boats, and all of a sudden I hear, ‘Lady!’ I looked, and I really didn’t recognize him, but I knew it was Jerry because of the voice. He put his arms around me, and he put his hands on my face, and he said, ‘Oh, I see my partner.’ And he started to cry, and I started to cry. And we talked for hours and hours.” That day, the pair decided to sing a duet: Martin and Lewis together again, Deana says.
It was one encounter of hundreds that Deana sought out in trying to piece together her and her father’s lives. She says that the years of research were therapeutic; they helped her come to terms with the death of her father. The book has sold more than 100,000 copies. John brings up the movie plans, and (like Deana) he asks, “Who should play Dean?” He tosses out a vote of confidence for George Clooney.
“I know that this is what I was meant to do,” Deana says of her schedule packed with projects and tours. “I’m sure that’s why I was named Deana Martin.” Her name was lifelong foreshadowing of what she says she is called to do: Keep Dean Martin’s legacy alive.
He died very early on Christmas day in 1995. In his honor, the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were shut off; he’d performed there for more than 30 years. It was a gesture that’s not done for just anybody, and Dean Martin wasn’t just anybody. It wasn’t long after his death that Deana says she realized the extent of the impact he’d had on so many people. She began to hear stories from fans about chance encounters with him that put a stamp on their memories forever. She tells of one man whose child was asking for change to play games. A man’s hand filled with coins reached out, and the man told the child to take as much as she wanted. Later, the little girl asked her father if he knew that man, if he was a friend. The father responded, “That’s Dean Martin. He’s everyone’s friend.”
Today, Deana and John have a segment on their morning radio show where they ask fans to send in their favorite Rat Pack memories. The have a 1,000-page document filled with letters from fans who have stories to share about Dean Martin, something they both find gratifying. “He was real, down to earth,” Deana says. “He had a very special charm and charisma. Men wanted to be like him, and women wanted to be with him.” One thing Dean particularly liked to do, Deana says, was go to a Las Vegas blackjack table and covertly take the dealer’s place. When he was dealing, the women never busted, and back then the casinos let him do it because the guests got such a kick out of it. It brought in business. Deana and John have gotten a letter from a woman who played at one of those blackjack tables. She says she looked up, and there was Dean Martin. Fans have sent pictures of Dean and Deana that they had shot while the father-daughter pair passed by on the street when she was just a kid. It’s not strange to her. “A long time ago, I realized I was Dean Martin’s daughter, but he was everyone’s Dean Martin, and I had to share him,” Deana says.
“Dad always told me, ‘Wear turtlenecks and long sleeves,’” Deana says. It’s the age-old keep-it-to-the-imagination lesson handed down from doting dads to teenage girls who have reached the age when other, younger men begin doting as well. When Deana was a freshman in high school and about to go on a date with senior Michael Nader (who would later star in Dynasty), she asked her dad not to embarrass her. “The next night, Michael comes over,” Deana says. “We are having our Cokes, and Michael is very nervous because it’s Dean Martin, for heaven’s sake. And all of a sudden I look up, and there’s Dad standing on the stairs in the doorway in his pajamas. And he walks towards us down the stairs and over to Michael, and he says, ‘I’m Deana’s dad.’ So then Dad comes over and kisses me on the cheek. He walks down behind the bar, pours a beer. Then he says, ‘Well, good night, Deana,’ and he walks back up. And then we see that he had an entire roll of toilet paper stuck to him, and there’s a trail of toilet paper coming all the way down the stairs and around, and he never stopped. He just went back up to his room.”
Sometimes his humorous shows of fatherly authority were done on the sly. Deana says her father was charming, but he only liked the interaction in small doses. Shirley McLaine once put it this way, Deana says: “Dean is nice to everyone. He just doesn’t want nice to go on too long.” When he’d had enough socializing, she says, he’d duck off to bed. Once, when Deana was a teenager, she had a big birthday party at the family home. There was a band (Buffalo Springfield), there was a pool, and “everybody who was anybody was there,” she says. But when Dean Martin was ready to go to bed at about 11 p.m., he decided it was time for the party to quiet down, too. Deana says he called the Beverly Hills police department to report that those Martins were making too much noise. Before she knew it, the police showed up, and the party was over.
For all the reputation that the Rat Pack may have had for being men about town, Deana says her father was a homebody. He would come back from a day of golf and cozy up in front of the TV with his daily butter-and-Wonder-Bread sandwich. He’d join the whole family around the dinner table or to play Scrabble. He’d splash in the pool, where Deana says he could pull off a perfectly gorgeous swan dive. It was a fairly normal home life. But Deana talks about the times he spent on the road, when there wasn’t a dad at home. Her affection for him (and his for his kids) is obvious, but Deana will openly say that although Dean Martin was a very good man, he was not a very good father. “I would have liked more of his time,” she says. “He didn’t have time to be able to do that, but he was a great provider.” It’s something she is comfortable with, it seems, as if she understands the choice he made to have a life of fame and life of family. Balancing it all must have been a very precarious act.
Posted by dino martin peters at 2:24 PM