Today would have been Dean Martins 99th Birthday. Sadly he aint with us anymore, but this weekend we will spin a rarity from Deano on the Cocktail Nation radio show.
He personified tall, dark and handsome. He was the “King of Cool.” His baritone made women swoon. And his effortless charm made men want to mimic him.
He was the wingman to “Ol’ Blue Eyes” and MVP of the Rat Pack.
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were more than compadres, they were brothers who found each other at a time when Hollywood was seeping with glitz and glamor and clamored for larger than life personalities to entertain.
Ask anyone who saw the two Rat Packers perform together. They had a natural chemistry that came from a deep place. They fed off each other and spun gold every time. Dean with a perpetual twinkle in his eyes and Frank with a mischievous grin.
Dean adored his friends and had fun running around with the Rat Pack, but when it came to partying, he was often the first to bail out — opting for some family time, sleep and an early morning game of golf over raucous ragers.
The “king of cool” was very much a family man. He had four children with first wife Elizabeth “Betty” McDonald — Craig, Claudia, Gail and Deana. Following their divorce, he acquired sole custody of all four, creating a blended family with his second wife Jeanne, with whom he had another three children — Dean Paul “Dino,” Ricci and Gina.
According to Deana Martin, Dean’s life changed drastically when his son “Dino” died.
“I know he was very close to all his children. And when (Dino) died. That changed him. Because family was everything to him. Dean was never ever the same. That was when he aged. Because when he’d go on stage, he was so debonair, so handsome, so solid, and after (Dino) died, he became a little hunched over and his zest for life changed at that point,”
Known during his early teenage years as “Dino,” he was the ambitious, multi-talented son who sang, acted, played professional tennis and also flew jet fighters for the California Air National Guard.
On the afternoon of March 21, 1987, Dean Paul Martin Jr., 35, a Captain in the Air National Guard, flew his F-4C Phantom fighter aircraft out of March Air Force Base on a routine training mission over desert bombing grounds. Also aboard was weapons system officer Capt. Ramon Ortiz, 39.
Their aircraft flew in the middle of a formation of three Phantoms, assigned to the 163rd Tactical Fighter Group. Ten minutes into the flight, Martin’s aircraft disappeared from radar screens in a mountainous area, shrouded by clouds.
The plane vanished from radar after the formation had been told to turn left to avoid 11,500-foot Mt. San Gorgonio, Southern California’s highest peak.
For four days, search helicopters and planes scoured the rugged mountainside, but found no sign of the missing plane. In her book, “Memories are Made of This,” Martin’s daughter, Deana Martin states, “Ronald Reagan, now the President of the United States and a family friend, rang to offer his assistance. He even sent up the military’s top spy plane to look for Dean Paul’s jet.”Dean held out hope his son would be found alive.
Deana Martin, also recalls in her book, the conversation between Sinatra and her dad the day her brother’s plane disappeared.
“If there’s anything I can do, pal,” Sinatra said, his voice shaking. “Anything at all.”