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Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio. He had a wide variety of jobs, including coal miner, drugstore clerk and boxer before he started to sing professionally. In the 500 Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1946, Martin teamed up with a talented newcomer, comic Jerry Lewis. Soon they became the highest paid nightclub act in the country. The pair made 16 films together, starting with My Friend Irma in 1949. But Dean and Jerry broke up their act in 1956, and it was front-page news. For many years Dean lived in Jerry's shadow, a form of bondage that Martin came to bitterly resent. Doubtful of his own abilities, and insecure as a solo performer, Dean thought he needed Lewis. And, it was assumed by many that Lewis had carried the team with his madcap antics and that Dean, at best a good straight man and fair singer, would quickly fade from stardom.
Instead, Dino went on to still greater triumphs as a recording artist, as a straight actor (The Young Ones, 1958; Some Came Running, 1958 and other films) on television and as a nightclub attraction. His most dazzling success was a live act for the gambling audiences in Las Vegas, where he was considered a box office attraction, comparable to Frank Sinatra alone. Dean's voice was a lush, husky baritone that had gone unnoticed only because he did not seem to take it any more seriously than anything else. But it was his dry and often eccentric sense of humor that established Dino's popularity.
Martin's recording career began as a by-product of his films with Jerry Lewis. The pair even recorded a few numbers together. In 1954, Dino scored his first No. 1 hit, "Sway." In 1962, he moved to Reprise Records from Capitol Records, the label for which he had recorded his smash hits. Reprise, a brand new record company, was owned by his friend Frank Sinatra. His 1964 recording "Everybody Loves Somebody" entered the Hot 100 in June of that year, and reached the top of the chart seven weeks later. In fact, Dino was the first act to push the Beatles from the top of the pop charts. In 1965, Dean started a weekly television series with "Everybody Loves Somebody" as its theme song. The series ran for nine tremendously successful years.
Meanwhile, Dino was busy making both serious and comedic films. As the character Matt Helm (The Silencers, 1966; Murderer's Row, 1966; The Ambushers, 1967; The Wrecking Crew, 1969), he spoofed James Bond. He also made many fine westerns, including 1959's Rio Bravo and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), both co-starring John Wayne. In Las Vegas, Dean and Frank Sinatra reigned supreme as the kings of cool. Together with Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, the two held court at The Sands Hotel, performing sold out shows night after night. The Rat Pack, as the group came to be known, became famous (and infamous) for their wild antics on and off stage. Dean, Frank and the rest were the ticket in early 1960's Vegas.
Dean continued to record, act in movies and star in television shows into the mid-1970's. By the late '70's, however, Dino began his retreat from the demands of films, recording and television and began to relax with his favorite passtime: golf. He recorded his last album, The Nashville Sessions, in 1983 and starred in his last film "Cannonball Run II" in 1984. He returned to the small screen in Joe Pesci's short-lived series Half Nelson in 1985. He made few television appearances after the show ended. He continued to play Vegas throughout the 1980's and went on the road for a brief time with his old friends Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. as part of the "Together Again Tour."
By the early 1990's, Dean had all but retired, making no big fuss over it. He lived as low a profile life as possible the last years of his life. Dino Paul Crocetti, aka Dean Martin, died at home early Christmas morning 1995. He was 78 years old. For six decades, Dean Martin entertained millions of adoring fans. He will continue to do so for countless more.