To truly understand the phenomenon of Dean Martin, one needs to be familiar with the meaning of the Italian slang term menefreghista. This is a word that loosely translates as “one who doesn’t give a fuck.” This is ultimately the essence of the Martin world view, as revealed in Nick Tosches’ poetic biography of the man who began his life as the son of an Ohio barber. As a youth, Dino Crochetti did a little boxing, a bit of card dealing, and a lot of fucking around. He decided to try the singing racket, and for a while was known as “Dino Martini,” singing mostly standards in a voice which owed a lot to Bing Crosby. Eventually, he developed a looser style, vocalizing and behaving in a manner which indicated that he could take or leave whatever he was singing about. He seemed to be saying, “This singing crap is for the birds, but if you folks dig it, well, then I’ll keep doin’ it for you all, and if you don’t enjoy it, then fuck you ‘cause soon I’ll be playing ‘hide the sausichia’ with some broad anyway.” The crowd seemed to appreciate this philosophy, and he was gaining some success when placed on the same bill as one Jerry Lewis at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. The rest is, as they say, history.
Tosches’ book looks behind that obvious history and traces the growth of the recording industry in the U.S. showing Martin’s importance as a vital component of the burgeoning late-20th-century American distraction machine, otherwise known as “entertainment.” It’s all here: the organ grinder, the monkey, the Rat Pack, the gals, the wives, the booze, the pills, the movies, the T.V. show, even the early ‘80s music video. There is not much about Dean’s life after the mid-’80s, possibly because not much went on and, unfortunately, the book was published before Dino finally cashed in his chips on Christmas Day, 1995. Folks who fancy themselves citizens of “Cocktail Nation” will want to read this book to catch up on what empty assholes the founding fathers were. Then again, who gives a fuck.
Paperback: 652 pages