Dean Martin's Birthday Party
Amongst the annals of crowning understatement, "Dean Martin was not a people person" may be near the top. Jerry’s just written an entire book essentially lamenting the fact he never got a hug from Dean. The gallery of those who harbored unrequited love for Dean is an extensive one. Jerry did not dwell there alone. Along with the legions of women, there was Frank. His frustration with Dean’s aloof nature could unhinge poor Frank even at the advanced age of 73 --- when the infamous "spaghetti incident" brought the Rat Pack’s would-be reunion tour to an ignominious end. Seems Frank wanted Dean to join him after the evening show for a little pub-crawling, but Dean opted for his customary nightcap --- a teevee western. Frank’s pique was such that he snatched up Dean’s plate of pasta and dumped it on his head. Yes, that’s what I said --- emptied a plate of greasy, gooey Italian cuisine right on top of this seventy-one year-old man’s head. If that isn’t enough to make your skin crawl --- Yecch! Anyway, it was splitsville for Dean the very next day, and ever-ready Liza Minnelli picked up the slack to bring the tour to its triumphant finish line.
Ever notice how most people will say they prefer Dean over Jerry? I’ve heard it time and again. I’ve also heard people say they prefer Dean over Frank. What was the man’s secret? Just this, I suspect --- the guy didn’t do needy. Never. Not with anybody. And most of us think that’s cool. Because we don’t want to be needy either. A pox on Jerry and his unleashed emotion on those telethons! Damn that childish Frank and his spaghetti assault on this cool, unflappable man. Yes, I suspect we’d all like to be a little more like Dean. Not all the way, mind you, because by every account, his loner habits did not necessarily make for a happy life, particularly toward the end, but who wouldn’t want that calm exterior? They say that even with spaghetti matting in his hair, Dean just got up calmly, walked into the bathroom, and waited for a penitent Frank to leave his hotel suite. The only thing that seems to have really impacted on Dean was his son’s tragic death during a jet-training flight in 1987. That story is just too sad to recount here, but there is a good bio of Dean that tells of this and much more HERE.
This first shot of a pajama-clad Dean was taken between set-ups for MGM’s Ada, a pretty much forgotten 1961 meller he did with Susan Hayward (we’d still like to see a nice DVD of it, though). Note the open lid on his phonograph --- Capitol was Dean’s label at the time, and judging from that album jacket near his left foot, it looks as though he’s spinning his own hit-laden This Time I’m Swingin’ platter. As for these other two shots from Dean’s forty-third birthday celebration, just what is that present he’s just opened? --- the one Shirley MacClaine’s reacting to? I’ve looked at it for the last several minutes and I can’t figure it out. Probably a gag gift as they all seem most amused. That uniform Elvis wears is not Government Issue, by the way. He’s just dressed out for G.I. Blues, his first post-service musical for producer Hal Wallis, who’s standing next to Dean on the left. I guess it was inevitable that Dean’s birthday cake would have a golf course motif, just as it’s reasonable to assume that Elvis is not there at Dean’s invitation. All three of the players were working for Wallis at the time (1960). Dean and Shirley were in the midst of a particularly tepid comedy, All In A Night’s Work, and according to that bio, Elvis gave out with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" for the honored celebrant. By all accounts, Dean couldn’t abide Presley’s music, and only later grew more tolerant of the upstart singer. Rock artists were like poison oak to Rat Packers, but every now and then, they had to make nice for the sake of mutual employers (even Frank was obliged to throw a "Welcome Home" TV special for Elvis when he returned from his Army hitch). Once again, we must assume that the cake was barely, if at all, eaten over the course of that afternoon, and no doubt some of the crew guys working late were the ones left to finish it off.