The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts – that ran on NBC from 1974 to 1984, and are now available on DVD – remain, to my mind, some of the funniest hours of television, ever. So, when I found-out that Deana Martin, daughter of the Rat Pack legend (and a star of stage, screen, and song, in her own right; not to mention best-selling author), was coming to town to host a roast of actor Joe Mantegna, I knew I had to know more.
Fortunately for me, Martin was willing to accompany me on a trip down memory lane, and talk about her fascinating life; as she prepared to come back to Las Vegas, a city in which her father’s name is spoken with a reverence shown few others.
ShulmanSays: On your album, Destination Moon (2013, Big Fish Records), you recorded a duet of Cole Porter's “True Love” with your father, who had originally sung it in 1960. What was that like?
Deana Martin: I just got chills when you just asked me about it. It was unbelievable. Of course, I always loved the way he sang it, and then my husband (my handsome husband, John Griffeth) came to me, and said, "You know what I found? I've found Nelson Riddle’s original handwritten arrangement of the Cole Porter tune “True Love” that your dad recorded." And I said, "You're kidding."
So, I'm looking at it, and I said, "Well, we should re-record this; and we should do it as a duet." Because I had worked with Al Schmitt* - the engineer at Capital [Records] who’d put together Natalie Cole and Nat King Cole's duet of “Unforgettable,” and all of those things.
SS: Of course.
DM: We took the arrangement, and put down a whole new track (with fabulous musicians, so it was just beautiful). Meanwhile, I’m there at Capital Records, in Studio A (where my dad had recorded it); and I'm sitting there holding the same chart he’d held when he was recording the song. And I just couldn't believe it. So, I had on the headphones, and I hear his voice and those beautiful strings, and I couldn't get through it. Took me about four times to get through it, really…
SS: I was going to say, the combination of joy and tears must’ve just been—
DM: Oh yeah. Oh, it was. And then finally, I hear Al over the loudspeaker; and he says, "I think we've got it."
So I went in (and he had mixed it so beautifully), and I was there, and I-- and it was overwhelming for me. I mean, I started to cry because our voices sounded so perfect, together; and it was like we were doing it together, right then.
It was just blended so perfectly and it was just a joy. So, for me, when I do it in my show, when I sing “True Love,” (I have a beautiful video that John put together)… Well, it's spectacular. I can't look at it, really. Otherwise, I'll just fall apart because it's just so beautiful. And it's such a beautiful song.
SS: It really is. And speaking of your father, we're a couple of months away from Dean Martin Day!
DM: Yes, we are. (I can't believe you know that!)
SS: I understand that he was a very proud Ohioan.
DM: Oh, yes; he was. He was all about “Steubenville, Ohio” and "Go Bucks!" And he loved to say that he was from Ohio. And from Steubenville, Ohio (which is amazing).
SS: Especially for the people of Steubenville, I’d imagine…
DM: Yes it is. We just came back from The Masters, so we were in Augusta. And we were getting something to eat, and this man says, "Are you Deana Martin?" So, I say I am, and he says "I'm from Steubenville." And I was like, "You're kidding!" It was cute. Dad was always proud to say he was from Steubenville, Ohio.
SS: When you were little what would your father do to put a smile on your face?
DM: All he had to do was walk in the room. He was always making us laugh: He was just fun. We would have dinner together, and he would pick up the salt-and-pepper shakers, and put them up, like binoculars, and say, ''And they're coming around the track folks. They're coming around the track.'' Or, we would ask, ''Could you pass the bread?” And he'd throw us the bread. I mean, he was funny, and everybody wanted to come over to our house—
SS: Can you blame them?
DM: No! Because it was the fun place to be, and we were good kids, and everybody had good manners; and it was a very, very nice place to live. But, he made it so much fun. He had an amazing way, about him. And he was just cool.
Continued in Part 2…
The Deana Martin Celebrity Roast honoring Man-of-the-Hour Joe Mantegna
The Showroom | South Point Hotel, Casino, and Spa
Click HERE for info and tickets
Get into it!
[Editor’s Note: Over the course of his career as one of the industry’s most sought-after recording engineers, Al Schmitt has worked with everyone from Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, and Paul McCartney to Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, and Miles Davis; winning 22 Grammys, to date.]