Some children of famous parents try to run from their legacies. Singer-actor Deana Martin isn’t one of them. In her case, the parent is Dean Martin, the late legendary member of the Rat Pack whose success spanned movies, TV, recordings and nightclubs.
His daughter has chosen to embrace her father’s work, via “Deana Sings Dino,” a musical tribute that she will perform 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 31, at Caesars Atlantic City. The event is a benefit for the Schultz-Hill Foundation, a private nonprofit group that funds arts and education efforts in Atlantic County.
The show, with backing from an 18-piece orchestra, will feature such Dean Martin standards as “Volare,” “Memories Are Made of This” and “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” His daughter will also share stories of her dad and his famous pals: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole.
For Deana Martin, who has recorded two successful jazz albums, amid multiple TV appearances and stage and big screen roles, the highlight is her finale, “Everybody Loves Somebody.” She ends the song with a toast to her father, who died in 1995 at age 78.
“I have never met anybody in my life that didn’t love Dean Martin,” she says. “He was so easy in his life, it was so natural for him.”
Deana Martin talks about what her dad — and Sinatra — taught her, the status of a long-rumored bio-pic and why the Rat Pack still intrigues after all these years.
Q: In your book, “Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes” (Crown Archetype), you write about your dad’s first performances at Atlantic City’s 500 Club with Jerry Lewis in the 1940s. Do you have any good stories from the era?
A: What a funny scene that was –– Jerry would run into the water and pretend like he was drowning. Dad would pull him out and pretend that he was giving him mouth-to-mouth. I also went to Atlantic City with my brother, Dino (Dean Paul Martin), when he was a teen idol. I saw the horse jumping off the high dive. It’s quite an amazing place.
Q: What’s the key to re-interpreting your dad’s music?
A: I’m trying to bring wonderful memories to the people who are hearing it. I have my own arrangements, but we follow the style of my dad. I have that natural (sound) he had in his voice –– sometimes it just comes through.
Q: You made your TV debut in the 1960s on on your dad’s variety show. Did he give you any advice?
A: I asked him if I should take singing lessons. He said, “No, unless you want to sing like everybody else in the choir.” It came so naturally to him –– he had that beautiful natural voice. Frank Sinatra gave me the best information I ever received. I was going to sing a song with Uncle Frank on “The Dean Martin Show.” I said, “How do you do it?” He said, “It’s all about the air, and I can tell even before it comes out if I’m on pitch.” I said, “Does my dad do that?” He said, “Your dad has no idea what’s he’s doing.” Frank Sinatra worked for every note he hit. My dad didn’t warm up –– he could just walk out and do it.
Q: What’s the status of the movie version of your memoir –– are you still considering Johnny Depp to play your dad?
A: In Hollywood, they move glacially. It’s difficult to get everything together. It’s still in the works, but I want it to be just right. Bonnie Hunt is going to be writing the screenplay. Jennifer Love Hewitt wants to play me. Joe Mantegna is going to be directing and co-producing with us. When I mentioned I would love for Johnny Depp to play Dean Martin, he tweeted it. We will see –– in life everything has its own time.
Q: So much has been written about the Rat Pack. Why do you think the members held such appeal, both individually and as a group?
A: When I look at Dean, Frank and Sammy, they were the best at what they did –– they were at the top of their game. They looked great, they could sing, dance and act. They loved each other, and had incredible respect for each other. You wanted to be around them –– it was magic when you would see them as individuals, but when you would see them together, the way they would look at each other, they were having a great time on stage. I never saw them be jealous of each other –– they each wanted the others to shine.