A son remembers Dean Martin
February 21, 2012
Ricci Martin, son of the late crooner Dean Martin, remembers his father being larger than life.
"He was tall, tan and I remember him swinging his driver in our house and the head of the club just brushed the shag carpet and would come within half-an-inch of the ceiling," Martin said during an interview with The Park Record. "He also had these big hands and when we would play jacks together on the floor and he could do twelve-sies without any problem."
Yes, jacks, said Martin, who lives in Woodland, because he also remembers his dad as a good father.
"He was always home, when he wasn’t out on location doing a motion picture," he said. "He would be up before we would be down before school, and after he played 18 to 36 holes of golf to keep in shape, he would be back home about five o’clock and go freshen up, and then the entire family would have dinner at six o’clock. Then we’d all go into the living room for some TV. We would sit with him and snuggle with him on the couch after dinner."
Those memories are one of the reasons why Martin authored the book "That’s Amore: A Son Remembers Dean Martin" in 2000. They are also the motivation for the show that honors his father.
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present Ricci Martin’s "His Son Remembers" on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25, at 8 p.m.
The idea for the performance came in a round-about way, Martin said.
"Back in the 1960s, my older brother, Dean Paul, had a band called Dino, Desi and Billy, with Desi Arnaz Jr. and Billy Hinsche and they had a couple of hits," Martin said. "Billy’s wife was the sister of Carl Wilson from the Beach Boys. After they got divorced, Carl married my sister Gina. After Carl passed away of cancer in 1998, we produced a tribute show at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Desi, Billy and I performed together and decided to do some more shows with Beach Boys stuff."
After a few shows, Desi, who now lives in Nevada, didn’t want to go on tour, so Martin decided to build a show around his dad’s music.
"We decided to put some photos together to project during some of the songs. So, piece-by-piece, we story-boarded the show and after rehearsing in Woodland for a couple of weeks, we premiered it at this little dive in Las Vegas called the Bistro Theatre in the Rivera Hotel," he said. "We played for two months, between the fake Neil Diamond and fake Elvis.
Gathering photos and news clippings for the backdrop projections wasn’t a problem for Martin.
"I was the photographer for Dad’s TV variety show and I had a lot of stills we could use," he said. "Also, I had all the stuff I scanned from mom’s coffee table books and albums that I used for my book."
After landing a spot with Resorts International, which owns the Las Vegas Hilton, the Atlantic City Hilton, and other major hotels, the show took off on its own, because of the way its presented, Martin said.
"A lot of people like it because it’s a fun way for them to relive their memories and hear Dad’s songs in an unique environment," he said.
Martin tells stories about his father’s career and family.
"I talk about he and Jerry Lewis’ split up, and I talk about my brother Dean Paul, and I also go out into the audience for a question-and-answer segment," Martin said. "I wanted to make that part fun and not scary, so I have the house lights come up a bit. Once the questions start, it becomes a hoot, because a lot of the questions that people ask are fun and outrageous, and that keeps us on our toes."
Martin wanted to make the show light-hearted because that’s how his dad was.
"He rarely got through an entire song without doing something funny, because he never wanted people to take him too seriously," Martin explained. "I kind of do the same thing. Right away people know they are going to have a fun evening."
Furthermore, Martin takes time to do a meet-and-greet with the audience after the show.
"Those sometimes run longer than the performance itself, because people like to tell me their own stories about Dad," he said. "I’ve cried with people. I’ve laughed with people and through it all, I learn new things about him.
"The one thing I’ve seen throughout the years we’ve been doing this, is how dad affected people during their times of trouble when they lost their parents or someone else they loved," Martin said. "I’ve learned how important his music became to them during those times, and how his variety show touched them. I mean, (‘The Dean Martin Show’) was aired every Thursday for an hour, so it was a big deal when he came into millions of people’s living rooms."
The hardest part of pulling the show together was choosing which songs to sing.
"We chose the obvious songs ‘Volaré,’ ‘That’s Amore,’ ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ but there were more than 600 recordings he made and I didn’t want it to be too typical of Dad’s hit songs, so we do some country tunes, ‘Little Ole Wine Drinker Me,’ which people love, and ‘Houston,’" Martin said. "We also do ‘On an Evening in Roma’ and a version of ‘My Rifle, My Pony and Me,’ from the movie ‘Rio Bravo.’ We, of course, also do ‘Memories Are Made of This.’"
"Memories Are Made of This" is one of Martin’s favorite songs, because it reminds him of his family.
"Dad was married three times," Martin said. "He was married to his first wife Betty (McDonald) and they had three kids Craig, Claudia, Gail and Dina. It was a short marriage and then he married my mom Jeanne (Biegger) and had Dean Paul, myself and Gina, and then he married a gal named Cathy (Hawn), who already had a daughter, Sasha, whom he adopted.
"All the kids, except for Sasha, because she joined the family after we had pretty much grown up, all lived together and I considered them all my brothers and sisters, because my mom adopted them all," he said. "So, the song is important for me, but I love all his songs."
As for his father’s films, Martin is keen about "Bandolero."
"Everybody loved ‘Rio Bravo,’ but I prefer ‘Bandolero,’ the movie he did afterwards with Raquel Welch no wonder I loved it," he said with a laugh. "He did such an incredible job as Dee Bishop, and made it look so easy and so natural.
"Making motion pictures and singing were technical jobs, but he never really got credit for being as great as he was, because he was good at making people think that there was nothing to what he did," he said.
That air struck a note with Martin when he was growing up.
"He was a great role model, and being Italian, we were always hugging and, although he was a star, he always had his feet on the ground," Martin said. "He never acted like he was a big deal, like how sometimes Uncle Frank (Sinatra) was. With Dad it didn’t matter if you were the shoe-shine guy or a top studio executive, he treated you with respect, and that always stuck with me."
Ricci Martin, son of the legendary Dean Martin will perform with his band, The Pack, in a special concert featuring Dean Martin’s greatest hits and Ricci’s personal memories at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $45 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.