It's The Norm 7-23-2010

The first time I met Deana Martin was at a “Toys for Tots” benefit boxing event, at the old (now destroyed) Moulin Rouge nightclub on Sunset Blvd., in Hollywood. At the time, this writer was employed as director of public relations and promotions by the former Heavyweight Champion of the World, Joe Louis. Deana must have been about 12 years old. Of course, she was accompanied by her famous father, Dean Martin. Frank Sinatra had rounded up a bunch of his buddies to come out and support the Christmas benefit. I remember Jayne Mansfield was there, as were the gang from the “Perry Mason” television show. It was one of the most successful “Toys for Tots” promotions, that year, for the U.S. Marines.

So, when I talked to Ms. Martin over the phone the other day, it was like old times, and we had a lot of catching up to do. I had met her a few times after that first meeting, when the Chairman of the Board (Sinatra) would call a gathering of the (Clan or Rat Pack) at the Sands Hotel in the ‘60s. I was fortunate enough to be allowed back stage following their performances. As was usually the case, Deana was accompanied by her adopted mother, Jeanne.

“I used to love sitting in the audience and watching my father perform,” Ms. Martin said. “I knew he was an entertainer, because I had watched him on television, but when I saw him in person the first time, it was something very special. I was around nine or 10 then. He was so magnificent.”

The gangly girl from the ‘60s has turned into a beautiful 5”2 ½ svelte entertainer, who can belt out a song as good as anyone. It’s in the genes!

Deana Martin will be performing in the Suncoast showroom in Summerlin this Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25, with the show, “Deana Sings Deano—a Tribute to Dad,” set to kick off at 7:30. Conductor to the Stars, Vince Falcone, will have Joe Lano on guitar; Mike Mechem, drums; Bob Sachs, bass; and Dale Rampton, percussion, backing the 62-year young singer. Martin will be singing some of the songs made famous by her father, plus special selections form the “Great American Song Book.” You’ll hear songs like “Memories Are Made of This,” “That’s Amore,” “Everybody Loves Somebody,” as well as “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head,” Sway,” “Mack the Knife,” and “That Old Black Magic.”

Deana is one of Dean’s seven children.  She is the only one who has made a career of walking out on a stage and singing. Dean’s first wife, Betty, who passed away in 1989, was the beloved mother of Stephen, Claudia, Barbara and Deana in that order. Jeanne, Dean’s second wife, was the mother of Dean Paul, Ricci and Gina. Claudia died in 2001 from cancer and Dean Paul was killed when his National Guard jet crashed into a mountain outside of Palm Springs in 1987. In a weird turn of events, Frank Sinatra’s mother, Natalie “Dolly” Sinatra, died when the private jet she was aboard  crashed into the very same mountain, exactly 10 years earlier.

Deana confirmed, what I’ve known for a long time, that her father never drank liquor on stage. “It was always tea,” she explained. “As a matter of fact, dad was a very casual drinker when he was home. He might have a glass of wine with dinner and perhaps a cocktail later…but that was about it!”

when she was 17, Ms. Martin traveled to England to study drama at the Dartington College of Arts in the United Kingdom, amassing an impressive array of theatrical credits. In 1966, after returning to the states, she made her television debut on “The Dean Martin Show.” Frank Sinatra was the special guest star for that particular show.

Deana Martin is constantly on the go, performing in more than 200 concerts a year. In 2004 she penned the best selling book: “Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughters Eyes.” The book is currently in the process of being made into a movie, with the screenplay being written by actor/writer, Bonnie Hunt.  Actor Joe Montegna is set to direct.

“It should be a great movie,” she said. “I personally can’t wait to see it start production.”

A wee bit of trivia: Dean Martin died on Christmas Day, 1995. His mother, Angela, died on Christmas Day, 1967.

Deana is married to John Griffeth and they have a son, Mickey (40) who works in the legal department at Warner Bros Studios. John and Deana fly to most of their engagements in their Cessna 310, named “Volare.” John has been a pilot for more than 40 years, with his wife getting her pilots license in 2004. They have two homes, one in Beverly Hills, Calif., and the second home in Branson, Ms.

“We love Branson so much. It’s our real escape home. I can go anywhere, and there’s no paparazzi following you around. Everyone is so calm and laid back. It’s just so peaceful.”

So, now, I hope you have learned a little bit more about a tremendous lady who has lived and had it all—lots of love, plenty of laughs, tragedy and unbelievable experiences, and still has her two feet firmly planted on good old terra firma.

Oh, yeah, I wanted to remind you that First Thursday will be August 5, at the Corner Galley in Boulder City. Artist Lee Moses will be on hand at 6:30 to discuss his unique art works in metal. Drop by, and while you are there, ask to see this writers sculptures.

Well, gang, that’s about it for this week. I’m outa here!