9 Things You Didn’t Know About Rat Pack Star Dean Martin

THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW, Dean Martin, 1965-74
Everett Collection

Maybe you remember Dean Martin best as the amiable Martin and Lewis straight man to Jerry Lewis’ loose-cannon kook. Or as a charismatic actor who delivered the goods in both comic and dramatic roles. Or as the tuxedo-clad crooner who mesmerized fans both as a solo performer and a member of the legendary Rat Pack. The constant that fueled his enviable career: Martin’s debonair looks, easygoing charm and the distinct feeling that he considered himself the luckiest guy on earth. Born Dino Paul Crocetti into a proudly Catholic Italian family in Steubenville, Ohio, Martin didn’t speak English until he went to school. Dropping out in 10th grade, the streetwise kid boxed under the unlikely moniker “Kid Crochet” and toiled in a steel mill and an underground casino while working his way into show business. Thrice married and the doting father of eight, the “King of Cool” also starred in two hugely popular television shows, The Dean Martin Show (1965-74) and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1974-84). A heavy smoker since his teens, Martin was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1993 and died at home on Christmas Day in 1995. His epitaph is also his most popular song: “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.” And everybody loved Dean.

Closet Comic lover

Martin loved comic books, but was too embarrassed to buy them himself, so he got Lewis to do it.

Golf & Cocktails

Martin and Frank Sinatra frequently golfed together at Las Vegas’ Desert Inn Golf Club (now the Wynn Golf Club), but they always found themselves thirsty well before the 18th hole. To keep their famous linksmen happy, club staff stocked a golf cart with the trappings of any cocktail the gents might want — and thus was born the beverage cart.

Booziest Rat Pack Member?

Jan Murray (L) sits alongside Rat Pack members Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra as the group unwinds backstage at Carnegie Hall after entertaining at a benefit performance in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Martin was widely considered the Rat Pack’s booziest member, boasting a “DRUNKY” vanity plate on the back of his ultra-luxe Stutz Blackhawk cars, and usually clutching a “cocktail” when he performed. But those glasses were usually filled with apple juice, and he was often the first to leave the Pack on raucous nights out so he could spend time with his family and make early tee times to indulge his passion for golf. He even called the cops on parties at his home, pretending to be an irate neighbor.

Martin and Lewis

JUMPING JACKS, from left: Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, 1952.

Everett Collection

When Martin and Lewis first took the stage together at Atlantic City’s 500 Club, their shtick bombed so badly that the club’s owner threatened to terminate their contract if the second show wasn’t a hit. The pair decided to wing it, amuse themselves and hope the audience came along for the ride, combining ad-libbed slapstick, skits and Martin crooning as Lewis — dressed as a busboy — loudly wreaked havoc in the audience. The crowd ate it up, and a decade-long partnership that extended to television, radio and the movies was born.

Martin hated rehearsing

Approached with The Dean Martin Show in 1965, but hesitant to miss opportunities to perform live, Martin came back with what even he thought were preposterous demands — buckets of money, some ownership of the show, the option to not sing if he didn’t feel like it and only working on Sunday. Three successful years later, he signed what was then the biggest contract in the history of show business — a $34 million contract to do three more seasons of the show, again showing up only on taping day.

Was protective of his female costars.

When 20th Century Fox tried to replace Marilyn Monroe with Lee Remick in 1962’s Something’s Got to Give, Martin reminded the studio that his contract gave him casting approval and refused to film until Monroe was rehired. Monroe died before shooting could resume, but unused footage was eventually cobbled into a short film. And when Sharon Tate, Martin’s costar in The Wrecking Crew, the last of his popular Matt Helm film series, was murdered by followers of Charles Manson, he stopped playing the character.

Fear of tight spaces

You’d never find Martin staying in a penthouse suite. Badly claustrophobic and terrified of elevators (which he called coffins), Martin always requested a hotel room on the first floor.

Dean vs. The Beatles

In 1964, Martin recorded his hit rendition of “Everybody Loves Somebody,” during the peak of the British Invasion, telling his then 12-year-old son Dean Paul, who worshipped the Beatles, “I’m going to knock your pallies off the charts.” Martin did just that. “Everybody Loves Somebody” booted “A Hard Day’s Night” from the Billboard No. 1 slot that August.

Strange coincidence?

When Dean Paul, a fighter pilot with the California Air National Guard, went missing during a routine training mission, President Reagan — a longtime friend of the senior Martin — sent America’s most advanced spy plane to join the search. Eerily, Sinatra’s own mother died in a plane crash in the same mountainous area.

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