There’s no two ways about it: Dean Martin was the king of cool, who was able to cast a charismatic chill over audiences and fans for decades.
Now, after 100 years, it’s time to look back at the life of Dino Paul Corcetti, an Ohio boy who came up to become — and remains — one of the world’s biggest stars.
The house the little Italian boy was born in is long gone. It’s now just a field of weeds and garbage, another empty lot in a city of abandoned homes.
As is the grade school he attended, and middle school, too. The church where he was baptized and joined Scouts with other sons of Italian immigrants has been decommissioned. It sits locked and empty on South 7th Street.
The bakery where he would buy hot rolls and Italian bread, and crash after late nights on the town, is only open part time, a lone survivor on a strip of abandoned buildings. The speakeasies where he dealt cards and gambled on a nascent singing career are boarded up and derelict, too.
The mob club where he tried his luck onstage outside of Cleveland is now just fodder for history books. As is the glamorous Hollenden Hotel on East Sixth Street and Superior Avenue, and its swanky Vogue Room, where his meteoric rise to fame began for $50 a week in 1940.
And yet, 100 years after little Dino Crocetti came into the world on June 7, 1917, in the wood frame house on that street of Abruzzese immigrants drawn to the mills and mines of Steubenville, the Italian boy’s legacy lives on – in bright lights and memories.
During his iconic career Dino racked up scores of gold records and hit singles, partnered with Jerry Lewis and starred in more than 50 films — including The Young Lions with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in 1958, Some Came Running with Frank Sinatra in 1959, and Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo with John Wayne that same year. He also hosted The Dean Martin Show, from 1965 to 1974, which attracted an unprecedented 40 million viewers per week.
His success in radio, film and TV was palpable, but his appealing charm, good looks and genuine approach to show business are what drew as many women as men to his orbit.
From the Los Angeles Times’ Dean Martin obituary:
“I call it a wonderful job, working in pictures,” Martin once told The Times. “And if any actor tells you it’s tough, tell ’em they’re full of beans. . . . To become half a success in what you do, you have to enjoy it or else you become a griper. The good Lord gave me a talent and I’ll use it until I run dry.”
Although he once told an interviewer that if he had life to live again he’d do it as a golf pro, Martin particularly delighted in working nightclubs, where he had started.
“I like people. I love what I am doing and I think people can tell that,” he said. “You know more men want to see me than girls. You know why? I never sing to the girl. I figure that some guy is paying the bill and here I am singing to his girl, then he’s going to get threatened. I don’t flirt with the girls like Wayne Newton does. I sing over their heads.”
Following Martin’s death on December 25th, 1995, Sinatra — Martin’s best friend and leader of the legendary “Rat Pack” — offered these words:
“Dean was my brother–not through blood but through choice. Our friendship has traveled down many roads over the years and there will always be a special place in my heart and soul for Dean. He has been like the air I breathe–always there, always close by.”
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