Deana Martin has always been grateful for having “the king of cool” in her life
Her father Dean Martin, the singer with smooth-as-silk vocals who rocked both Hollywood and Sin City, passed away on Dec. 25, 1995, at age 78 from acute respiratory failure.
Martin, who would go on to carry the family torch as a singer in her own right, previously released a touching memoir about life with the star titled “Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” She continues to tirelessly keep Dean’s legacy alive, as well as pursuing her own passion for song, by performing some of his beloved songs along with her own heartfelt melodies.
Fox News: When did you realize your father was different from other dads?
Deana Martin: When I started going to school, that's when I found out that maybe everybody wanted to meet my dad. In fact, [I remember] seeing one of his movies. We were out my sisters... at the movie theater. I'm looking up at the marquee and it says, "Dean Martin in 'Rio Bravo.'" And I thought, "Well, that's very cool." And the people who are around were going, "Oh, it's Dean Martin! Oh my gosh, that's great." To hear people say that and not know that I was his daughter, it was wonderful.
But when I went to Beverly Hills Catholic School, Desi Arnaz Jr. was in school with me, Ricardo Montalban's daughter Anita was in school with me. So Lucy Jr. We were all kind of in the same boat, so to speak. All of our parents seem to be very well-known and celebrities. It's pretty remarkable though to have your dad be Dean Martin because he was so cool — the king of cool.
Fox News: You must have countless, but what's one memory of your dad that has been vivid in your mind and makes you smile?
Martin: Oh, well just thinking about Christmas of course, that's vivid in my mind because it's Christmas time right now. We used to trim the tree and that was always very fun. But I'll tell you one of my favorite moments with my dad, which always comes to mind — actually, there's two — he smelled so great.
He wore a cologne that was called, "Woodhue" by Fabergé and he just smelled great. I still have a little bit in the bottle left after he passed away. But there was [also] this one time [when] I was 16 years old and it was my birthday. He said, "What do you want for your birthday?" I said, "I'd like a coat from Wilsons House of Suede." He said, "OK, go get it." I said, "No. I want you to come with me and pick it out with me."
And he did. So he stopped his golf game that day and he met me at Wilsons House of Suede and he sat there. When I got there and all of the sales ladies were running around him, "Oh My God, it's Dean Martin." And he sat there while I tried on every coat, with every style and everything. And he was so sweet to do it. And then after he said, "OK, you're good? Ready?" I said, "Well, what kind of buttons should I have?"
And he was so patient and sweet with me. He said, "Buttons? OK, well, maybe they should be covered buttons." He was very sweet. So I will always remember that moment in time that he was there with me. I still have the coat… it’s something that's very special to me.
Fox News: It’s been said your father gave you a normal upbringing.
Martin: He did… He was born in Steubenville, Ohio. My grandfather, they're Italian, they came over on the boat, September 11th in 1913. My grandfather was a barber, my grandmother was a seamstress and a cook… As my dad would say to me, "Treat people the way you want to be treated." And, and so that's what we did. We just treated people the way we want to be treated — treat people with respect.
And my dad could be with the queen of England or with the guy who drove the vegetable truck. He was as happy to be with either one and everybody loved him. And that's how he taught us to be, is just to respect everybody and just be down to earth... Just be kind.
Fox News: Did he give you any advice about singing?
Martin: I asked my father one day if I could take voice lessons. He said, "Why? Do you want to sound like everybody else in the choir?" And I thought, "That was odd." And he said, "First of all, get your own, find your own voice. See the way you want to sing. And then if you want to get better at it of course, then you can get a voice coach, but right now, just sing from your heart.”
And he always told me to be on time. "If you're going to get a job, you be there early, be on time. Hit your mark, know all of your lyrics and sing from your heart." And that was what he taught me and that was the way he was. He was just sweet and kind.
Fox News: What was your relationship like with the Rat Pack?
Martin: Oh, uncle Frank and uncle Sammy. It was fantastic. In the '60s when John F. Kennedy was running for president, the Rat Pack — Dean, Frank and Sammy — they changed their name to the Jack Pack and did fundraisers for JFK. And there was one day they were going to do a fundraiser in Beverly Hills at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and they had their suits delivered to our house, tuxedos.
There was a large one for my dad, medium-size one for uncle Frank and then one for Sammy Davis Jr. For uncle Sammy, and it was so cute, I had to try it on. It fit me perfectly. I danced around the house singing "Mr. Bojangles" or some song. That's when I thought right then, "Wouldn't it be amazing to be on stage with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.?" And that's why I say, dreams come true. So dream big because I finally was singing with all of them and it was just spectacular for me.
Fox News: And what about Jerry Lewis?
Martin: I grew up with Jerry Lewis. In fact, I was born here in New York. My dad and Jerry Lewis were in Beverly Hills or in Los Angeles playing Slapsie Maxie's when I was born. But I've known him all of my life and he was a dear, dear friend.
And just watching him on the telethon, the MDA telethon all the time... And one of my most special moments was being on the telethon with him. It was Martin and Lewis together again.
Fox News: Did your father and Jerry stay friends after their famous televised reunion?
Martin: They did. They kept in touch with each other. Jerry just loved my dad and my dad loved Jerry. I think Jerry would have liked to have been closer after that but my dad was ... if he wasn't working, he was playing golf.
Fox News: What are some fun facts that would surprise fans today about your dad?
Martin: He didn't drink that much. It's funny... after my shows... people come up and they say, "How on earth did your dad, how could he do that body of work when he was always drinking?" I say, "Because he wasn't. He was a really good actor though." And they say, "Yes, he was a very good actor.”
So that's one thing that still to this day some people don't know. And what else? He didn't like elevators... if he was in a hotel when doing a show, he could walk up the stairs. So that's probably something. But he loved playing golf and in fact, he said to me, "Deana, I work so that I can pay for you kids and play golf."
He exercised every day. And one thing he told me, "When you're out to dinner or if you're having bread, don't eat the inside of the bread, just eat the crust and you'll never get fat." I said, "OK." So these are a few little things that people wouldn't know about him.
Fox News: What were his final years like?
Martin: He was always very sweet. Now, my dad, he would go out to dinner every night and he had two restaurants. He would go to La Familia every night, but Sunday night he would go to The Hamburger Hamlet, it was up on Sunset. And he would always sit in this same table and he would sit in the same chair. And he didn't want people really to be with ... he didn't want to have a lot of people around him... wherever he went, everybody wanted to talk to him and everything.
So I would call him — my husband and I — would call him and say, "Dad, you want us to come have dinner with you tonight?" And he'd say, "Well, sure, just no chit-chat." He'd say, "I don't mind the chit it's the chat." Because he just wanted it to be quiet, but he was perfectly happy being alone at a restaurant, sitting in his table. People [would] come over and say, "Hi Dean." He'd say, "Hi." He liked that. He was ... let's see, he was secure with himself, happy with himself. So we would go over to see him all the time, but he ... after my brother Dean Paul passed away, it was so sad and it was just devastating for all of us and it was tough. It was tough for him.
Fox News: As a singer, do you ever wonder if people compare you to your dad?
Martin: It really never goes through my mind that I would be compared to him. Maybe it's because I'm a woman, he was a man, so maybe that kind of helped me a little bit.
I've always worked very, very hard. I've learned my craft. I've been doing it for a long, long time. And so I'm pretty secure in what I can do and I work my hardest and I think I've had a lot of success and I'm happy with that, and content with all of that. So I don't even think about being compared to him.