Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti; June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995) was an American singer, actor, comedian, and producer. One of the most popular and enduring American entertainers of the mid-20th century, Martin was nicknamed the "King of Cool" for his seemingly effortless charisma and self-assurance.
He and Jerry Lewis formed the immensely popular comedy duo Martin and Lewis, with Martin serving as the straight man to Lewis' slapstick hijinks. Martin went on to become a star of concert stages, nightclubs, audio recordings, motion pictures, and television, and was also a member of the "Rat Pack". Martin was the host of the television variety programs The Dean Martin Show and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. His relaxed, warbling, crooning voice earned him dozens of hit singles, including his signature songs "Memories Are Made of This", "That's Amore", "Everybody Loves Somebody", "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You", "Sway", "Volare", and "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?"
Martin was born on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio, to an Italian father, Gaetano Alfonso Crocetti (1894–1967), and an Italian-American mother, Angela Crocetti (née Barra; 1899–1966). They were married in 1914. His father, who was a barber, was originally from Montesilvano, in Abruzzo, and his maternal grandparents' origins are believed to be also from Abruzzo, although they are not clearly known. Martin had an older brother named William Alfonso Crocetti (1916–1968). Martin's first language was Abruzzese, a dialect of Neapolitan, and he did not speak English until he started school at the age of five. He attended Grant Elementary School in Steubenville, where he was bullied for his broken English. He later took up the drums as a hobby as a teenager. Martin then dropped out of Steubenville High School in the 10th grade because he thought he was smarter than his teachers. He bootlegged liquor, served as a speakeasy croupier, was a blackjack dealer, worked in a steel mill, and boxed as a welterweight.
As Martin's solo career grew, he and Frank Sinatra became friends. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Martin and Sinatra, along with friends Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and Sammy Davis, Jr. formed the Rat Pack, so-called after an earlier group of social friends, the Holmby Hills Rat Pack centered on Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, of which Sinatra had been a member (The Martin-Sinatra-Davis-Lawford-Bishop group referred to themselves as "The Summit" or "The Clan" and never as "The Rat Pack", although this has remained their identity in popular imagination). The men made films together, formed part of the Hollywood social scene, and were politically influential (through Lawford's marriage to Patricia Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy).
The Rat Pack was legendary for its Las Vegas Strip performances. For example, the marquee at the Sands Hotel might read DEAN MARTIN—MAYBE FRANK—MAYBE SAMMY. Their appearances were valuable because the city would flood with wealthy gamblers. Their act (always in tuxedo) consisted of each singing individual numbers, duets and trios, along with seemingly improvised slapstick and chatter. In the socially charged 1960s, their jokes revolved around adult themes, such as Sinatra's womanizing and Martin's drinking, as well as Davis's race and religion. Sinatra and Martin supported the civil rights movement and refused to perform in clubs that would not allow African-American or Jewish performers. Posthumously, the Rat Pack has experienced a popular revival, inspiring the George Clooney/Brad Pitt "Ocean's Trilogy."
Martin returned to films briefly with appearances in the star-laden, critically panned but commercially successful The Cannonball Run and its sequel Cannonball Run II. He also had a minor hit single with "Since I Met You Baby" and made his first music video, which appeared on MTV. The video was created by Martin's youngest son, Ricci. On March 21, 1987, Martin's son, actor Dean Paul Martin (formerly Dino of the 1960s "teeny-bopper" rock group Dino, Desi & Billy), died when his F-4 Phantom II jet fighter crashed while flying with the California Air National Guard. Martin's grief over his son's death left him depressed and demoralized. Later, a tour with Davis and Sinatra in 1988, undertaken in part to help Martin recover, sputtered.
Martin, who responded best to a club audience, felt lost in the huge stadiums they were performing in at Sinatra's insistence, and he was not interested in drinking until dawn after performances. His final Vegas shows were at Bally's Hotel in 1990. There he had his final reunion with Lewis on his 72nd birthday. Martin's last two TV appearances involved tributes to his former Rat Pack members. On December 8, 1989, he joined stars in Sammy Davis Jr's 60th anniversary celebration, which aired a few weeks before Davis died from throat cancer. In December 1990, he congratulated Sinatra on his 75th birthday special.
Martin, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in September 1993, and was told that he would require surgery to prolong his life, but he rejected it. He retired from public life in early 1995 and died of acute respiratory failure resulting from emphysema at his Beverly Hills home on Christmas Day, 1995 at the age of 78. The lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor. Martin's body was interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. The crypt features the epitaph "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime", the title of his signature song.
In 1996, Ohio Route 7 through Steubenville was rededicated as Dean Martin Boulevard. Road signs bearing an Al Hirschfeld caricature of Martin's likeness designate the stretch with a historical marker bearing a small picture and brief biography in the Gazebo Park at Route 7 and North Fourth Street. An annual Dean Martin Festival celebration is held in Steubenville. Impersonators, friends and family, and entertainers, many of Italian ancestry, appear. In 2005, Clark County, Nevada, renamed a portion of Industrial Road as Dean Martin Drive. A similarly named street was dedicated in 2008 in Rancho Mirage, California. Martin's family was presented a gold record in 2004 for Dino: The Essential Dean Martin, his fastest-selling album, which also hit the iTunes Top 10, and in 2006 it was certified "Platinum".
For the week ending December 23, 2006, the Dean Martin and Martina McBride duet of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" reached No. 7 on the R&R AC chart. It also went to No. 36 on the R&R Country chart – the last time Martin had a song this high in the charts was in 1965, with the song "I Will," which reached No. 10 on the Pop chart. An album of duets, Forever Cool, was released by Capitol/EMI in 2007. It features Martin's voice with Kevin Spacey, Shelby Lynne, Joss Stone, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Robbie Williams, McBride and others. His footprints were immortalized at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1964. Martin has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one at 6519 Hollywood Boulevard for movies; the second at 1617 Vine for recordings; and a third at 6651 Hollywood Boulevard for television. In February 2009, Martin was honored with a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Four of his surviving children, Gail, Deana, Ricci and Gina accepted it on his behalf. In 2010, Martin received a posthumous star on the Italian Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Martin was married three times. His first wife was Elizabeth Anne "Betty" McDonald, (July 14, 1922 – July 11, 1989) of Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. Martin and McDonald married in 1941 and had four children: Craig Martin (born 1942), Claudia Martin (March 16, 1944 – February 16, 2001), Gail Martin (born 1945); and Deana Martin (born 1948). Martin and McDonald divorced in 1949 and Dean gained custody of their children. Betty lived out her life in relative obscurity in San Francisco, California.
Martin's second wife was Dorothy Jean "Jeanne" Biegger (March 27, 1927 – August 24, 2016), a former Orange Bowl queen from Coral Gables, Florida. Their marriage lasted 24 years (1949–1973) and produced three children: Dean Paul Martin (November 17, 1951 – March 21, 1987), Ricci Martin (September 20, 1953 – August 3, 2016) and Gina Martin (born 1956).
Martin's third marriage, to Catherine Hawn, lasted three years before Martin initiated divorce proceedings. They had no biological children of their own but Martin adopted Hawn's daughter, Sasha.
Martin's uncle was Leonard Barr, who appeared in several of his shows. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he lived at 363 Copa De Oro Road in Bel Air, Los Angeles, before selling it to Tom Jones for $500,000 in June 1976.
Martin's son-in-law was the Beach Boys' Carl Wilson, who married Martin's daughter Gina. Figure skater Dorothy Hamill and actress Olivia Hussey were his daughters-in-law during their marriages to Martin's son, Dean Paul Martin.