The Untold Truth Of Dean Martin

Dean Martin was known as the "King of Cool" and was a member of the legendary Rat Pack, alongside Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop, to name a few. Regarded as one of the most iconic crooners of his generation, Martin is synonymous for his hits "Everybody Loves Somebody" and "That's Amore." Interestingly enough, the modest Ohio native never considered himself much of a talent behind the microphone. ​​"I'm no singer," Martin declared to Oriana Fallaci in 1967 (via Deseret News). "I can carry a tune, and I have an easy style. But we crooners get by because we're fairly painless."

Sure enough, that easygoing style was one that Martin was able to translate onto the silver screen, starring in over 50 flicks, including "The Young Lions" with Marlon Brando and 1959's "Some Came Running" alongside his good pal, Sinatra. Never one to take his A-list accomplishments for granted, the entertainer once told the Los Angeles Times, "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."

It turns out Martin did just that, acting and singing until he fell sick while on tour in 1988, choosing to live his final years in the comfort of his own home, per Deseret News. He lived a colorful life and yet, was famously private. This is the untold truth of Dean Martin.

Dean Martin didn't learn English until he was five

Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of Italian immigrant parents, Angela and her barber husband, Guy Crocetti. According to AllMusic, Martin actually only spoke Italian until he turned five, and as a result, was bullied in school. Whether or not that affected him mentally remains unknown, but the future crooner ultimately dropped out of school at the age of 16, once joking, "I had a bicycle and I never missed a meal. But I was just too smart for those teachers in school" (via "Hollywood Songsters: Garland to O'Connor").

After quitting his education, Guy tried pushing his son to attend barber school, but Martin had other plans. Working a variety of different jobs, the budding entertainer tried his hand as a gas jockey, a drugstore clerk, milkman, and at one point, he was even a boxer. Per "Hollywood Songsters," Martin went by Kid Crochet in the rink and was a welterweight fighter, boasting "three knockouts to his credit."

When one boxing match left him "floored," Martin found work as a blackjack dealer at a speakeasy, where he began entertaining his coworkers by singing. According to "Hollywood Songsters," it was Ernie McKay who offered him a position in a band after hearing his voice, ultimately causing Martin to leave his job and finally commence his rise to the A-list.

He began his career as a performer at age 17

Dean Martin embarked on his entertainment career at the young age of 17, per Biography. Singing in Ohio's nightclubs with the Ernie McKay band, he got hired by Cleveland's Sammy Watkins, with whom he began touring in 1938, dubbing himself "Dino Martini" (via The New York Times). He finally settled on his now-famous moniker a couple of years later.

A name change wasn't all that Martin did, however — he manufactured a lot of his A-list persona, too. In fact, due to his past as a boxer, the crooner had rhinoplasty done to his broken nose, which was paid for by Lou Costello, as revealed by the Independent. As for his club performances, it turns out that Martin's shtick of singing songs while simultaneously drinking "from a whisky glass" was taken from Phil Harris in the late 1950s — a man who built his career "on a hard-drinking, womanizing image."

And although Martin was carefully crafting his image, he still wasn't overly outgoing. According to Deseret News, the singer told Oriana Fallaci in 1967 that whenever he had a social gathering, he'd remain quiet for the most part, as he "didn't know how to speak good English." He shared, "Everybody thought I was bigheaded and stuck up, and I wasn't ... I don't know what to say to people."

Dean Martin finally reached the A-list after an encounter with Jerry Lewis

Dean Martin truly hit the big leagues after teaming up with Jerry Lewis in 1946. As revealed by Biography, the comedy duo met at a nightclub function and began incorporating one another in their respective on-stage acts. The following year, the pair started releasing movies together, and by 1950, they were gracing small screens across the country with their "Colgate Comedy Hour." Between 1949 and 1956, Martin and Lewis released a whopping 16 films together and, according to People, "skyrocketed to fame at a rate the world had never seen before."

"When Jerry and Dean started, it was like an explosion," singer Steve Lawrence recalled to People. Yet, as successful as they were, tensions were brewing behind the camera, with Martin feeling that Lewis controlled their work too much. "They were Jerry Lewis movies," the singer once mused (via Mirror). "I played an idiot in every one." As Martin began to pursue work without his comedic partner, they performed their final show in July 1956 and went their separate ways, severing all ties.

Martin and Lewis' mutual friend, Frank Sinatra, attempted to facilitate an on-screen reconciliation in 1976, which People dubbed as "uncomfortable," and it was only after Martin's eldest son, Dean Paul Martin Jr., tragically died in 1987 that the two decided to make amends, with Lewis attending the funeral.

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were friends for over 40 years

After splitting up the Martin and Lewis comedy duo, Dean Martin went back to working on his solo singing career, eventually making his way to Las Vegas. According to Biography, Martin began performing with the legendary Rat Pack, a "Hollywood clique" consisting of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. Representing a glitzy life of wealth, women, and liquor, the Rat Pack expanded from performing in Vegas to acting together on the silver screen.

Out of all members of the Rat Pack, it seems that what Sinatra and Martin had was special. "To watch them on stage together was brilliant because you could see the love in their eyes, the respect for each other," Martin's daughter, Deana, once mused (via Desert Sun). It turns out, these two pals remained friends for over an incredible 40 years, performing on stage, making movies, and even blending their families together in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.

A year after Martin's son died in 1987, his relationship with Sinatra hit a snag. Struggling to cope with his loss, Martin abandoned his longtime friend on tour. "That's when the falling out started," comic Tom Dreesen who opened for Sinatra, told Desert Sun, adding that they "became friends again before he died." After Martin's death, Sinatra perfectly summed up the duos bond, saying, "Dean has been like the air I breathe, always there, always close by. He was my brother not by blood, but by choice."

Dean Martin wasn't nearly as wild as his Rat Pack peers

After joining the Rat Pack in the late '50s, Dean Martin settled into a life of glitz and glam of Hollywood's elite (via Biography). The early rendition of the Rat Pack included Humphrey Bogart and his wife, Lauren Bacall. According to "Rat Pack Confidential," Bacall once summarized the group's main interests perfectly: "You had to stay up late and drink and laugh a lot and not care what anybody said about you or thought about you." So, how did Martin fit in?

According to Biography, Martin was viewed as the biggest party animal. "He's got a tan because he found a bar with a skylight," Sinatra was known to quip about his friend. Interestingly enough, the image Martin gave out to the public couldn't have been more off-base. As revealed by Desert Sun, he was actually usually the first member of the Pack to head home when it came to late, boozy nights. As comic Tom Dreesen, who opened for Sinatra, told the outlet, if Ol' Blue Eyes demanded that everybody from the Rat Pack go party "until dawn," the whole group would go — except for Martin. "It would piss Frank [off], but [Martin] did what he wanted to do," Dreesen recalled, adding that he believes it ultimately made Sinatra carry a deep respect for his friend.

Nevertheless, Dean Martin's time with the Rat Pack solidified his status as the "King of Cool" — a moniker that stuck for the rest of his career.

Dean Martin hired psychics to look for his missing son

Although he was a member of the party-heavy Rat Pack, Dean Martin was, at his core, a family man. According to Desert Sun, the singer had a loving blended family: four children with Elizabeth McDonald, his first wife, and three more children with his second wife, Jeanne. And while Martin was known to hit the town with Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra, they also made a point to have joint family outings, too. "The Sinatras were a big part of our lives," Martin's daughter, Deana, recalled in her book, "Memories Are Made of This," adding, "and the kids from the two families were great pals."

But domestic bliss didn't last forever, and something in the star changed after the death of his son, Dean Paul "Dino" in 1987. According to Desert Sun, Dino, a Captain in the Air National Guard, flew out on a training mission, only to disappear in the mountains. A hunt ensued for days, with President Ronald Reagan even sending a military plane to hunt for Martin's son. The A-lister was distraught and ultimately hired two psychics to help him search, including one named Char.

According to Deana's memoir, Char flew in a private helicopter and pinpointed the region she thought gave "the strongest signals" — and found the crashed jet, with no survivors. "He couldn't handle it," recalled Martin's friend Jerry Vale to People. "After [Dino's death] it seemed he was just walking through life."

Was Dean Martin a heavy drinker?

The "King of Cool," a.k.a. Dean Martin had a sort of swagger about him that was unmistakable. "I just remember thinking, God, I wish he was my friend," recalled his longtime collaborator, Jerry Lewis, to BU Today of the first time he met Martin. And like other members of the ever-cool (and seemingly-always-partying) Rat Pack, the singer was known to always have a whiskey glass in hand on stage, with Sammy Davis Jr. known to quip, "If this don't straighten my hair, nothing will" (via Desert Sun).

As it turns out, Martin's ever-present drink was filled with a different golden-hued liquid: Martinelli brand apple juice. According to the Desert Sun, Martin's "drunk, slurred speech" was merely for show. In fact, the crooner's backup singer and dancer, Patti Gribow, told the outlet that his persona was all an act — something that Lewis also attested to while chatting to BU Today.

In 1961, Martin revealed to The Saturday Evening Post that he drinks "About one-tenth as much as [he pretends] to," noting that his days of guzzling alcohol are something that he gave up "some time ago." Heartbreakingly enough, it's the death of his son, Dino, in 1987 that changed all that. "Dean let himself go," noted Lewis to BU Today, adding that it was after the tragedy that the former Rat Pack member became an alcoholic.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Dean Martin never once rehearsed for his highly successful show

Have you ever watched "The Dean Martin Show" and marveled at how casual it was? Well, it turns out that the taping of Dean Martin's now-iconic show was pretty laid-back, too.

According to Biography, in 1964, Martin released his incredibly popular hit song, "Everybody Loves Somebody," even beating out the Beatles "to become the No. 1 hit in America for one week." A year later, NBC approached him with an offer to star in his own variety show. Per Nostalgia Central, Martin stipulated that he only "wanted to work on [Sundays]," that he could "own the package 100% after the first showing of the series," and that he didn't have to sing if he wasn't feeling up for it. His request to only work on Sundays meant that he'd never actually rehearse for his soon-to-be highly successful show, and he actually had a "stand-in" run through rehearsals with all of the backup dancers. According to Desert Sun, unless there was a football game on television, Martin would sometimes (at the very least) watch the rehearsal through "his dressing room monitor."

As revealed by the Los Angeles Times, "The Dean Martin Show" saw a whopping 40 million viewers tune in from 1965 to 1974. "Wanna know why this show's a hit?" the entertainer once asked, per the Los Angeles Times. "The reason is that it's me up there on that screen. It ain't nothin' phony; that's really me."

Elvis was inspired by Dean Martin

Often considered the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley had a complicated relationship with big-band crooners that came before him. Frank Sinatra, for example, famously disliked rock n' roll. According to "Last Train to Memphis," Ol' Blue Eyes once declared in a newspaper that rock was "phony and false," adding that it was sung by "cretinous goons." In fact, it was only after the pair finally performed together in 1960 that Sinatra finally gave Elvis the credit he deserved (via U Discover Music).

Considering that Dean Martin was essentially best friends with his Rat Pack member, it may come as a surprise that Elvis was still inspired by the "King of Cool." As revealed by Penn State York, Martin was one of Elvis' "singing idols" of the early '50s, and he even recorded Martin's hit, "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine," in 1954. In fact, Elvis once sang Martin's "Everybody Loves Somebody" during a concert with his idol in the audience — a moment that Penn State York dubs as one he likely wouldn't "forget until his death."

According to Elvis Australia, Martin's daughter, Deana, once recalled a moment where she met Elvis. The rock icon allegedly leaned in and declared, "They call me the King of Rock and Roll, but your dad is the King of Cool."

Dean Martin loved comic books, and even starred in one

Dean Martin lived to the age of 78, and remarkably enough, during his lifetime, he only managed to read one book: Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty." According to "Best Sellers: From the U.S. Government Printing Office," the entertainer was once quoted as saying, "If you have luck, you don't have to be smart."

Although Martin wasn't exactly book smart, that doesn't mean he didn't read anything. As The Guardian noted, "his idea of serious reading" was simply comic books — and he loved them, even reading the colorful stories well into his adulthood. As his collaborator, Jerry Lewis recalled, one of the few times that the "King of Cool" was ever "star-struck," was when he met Bob Kane — the creator of "Batman" (via Bonhams).

Interestingly enough, Martin's love for comic books resulted in having the chance to star in his own. Per DC Fandom, Martin and Lewis were the subjects of "Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis" — a series of 40 comic books that ran from 1952 to 1957.

Dean Martin died from acute respiratory failure at the age of 78

Dean Martin died on Christmas Day, 1995, of acute respiratory failure. The performer's health was deteriorating for a few years before then; in September 1993, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. A mere two years later, he decided to retire from his professional career (via Hartford Courant).

Although he was beloved by countless friends and fans, Martin spent his final years quietly and out of the public eye. According to his manager, Mort Viner, the singer loved going to restaurants​​ yet wasn't keen on spending time "with a lot of people or [attending] parties" (via Deseret News). And while many pinpoint his son's death in 1987 as a reason for his reclusive tendencies, Martin maintained he was always the silent type. "Well, see, I'm shy," the comedian told Oriana Fallaci in 1967, per Deseret News. "if I walk into a party, I sort of go in a corner, 'cause I don't know what to say to people."

When Martin's death was announced, the lights of the Las Vegas strip were turned off in honor of the iconic Rat Pack member. Of course, his longtime friend, Frank Sinatra, issued a heartfelt statement to the public, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, read in part, "There will always be a special place in my heart and soul for Dean."