July 25, 2005

Monday Morning Musings on Martin

First, if you haven't already, be sure to check out Greg's massive list of links - it's like a hipper, cooler, more fun version of Boing Boing. We'll still be here when you get back.

You're back? Cool.

Last night, while watching a made for tv movie, I realized that people could be split into two types: dog vs. cat people....Star Trek Vs. Star Wars people...and Martin vs Lewis people. And I am a Dean Martin person.

No offense or insult intended to Mr. Hembeck and Mr. Pfeiffer - Jerry Lewis, for all his ego, is a comedic craftsman. In fact, when Lewis and Martin reunited for the 1976 Muscular Dystrophy telethon, my eight-year-old mind couldn't handle it. I remember asking my mother, "Wait a minute - they worked together?" It was hard for me to understand (until seeing their work) how the team existed - the same laid-back guy whom I remember from my really early childhood with this goofball? (Hopefully, this book will explain it all - the tv movie took a more cliched look, in my humble opinion)

Probably the same way he threatened to steal (in my mind) Ocean's Eleven from Frank Sinatra. (I caught it on the local PBS station this past weekend). Sure, Clooney's good, but he's no Sinatra. And no one could replace Martin - Sinatra may have been the mastermind, but Martin seemed to help ground the movie, keep it moving, and act as Richards' to Sinatra's Jagger. (Or is it Mike to Sinatra's Dorian? I'm not sure)

And Martin - I have to admit, Dean Martin reminds me of my grandfather: the same tastes in music, the same boozy charm, even the same swarthy looks. Although, to be honest, my grandfather never did Vegas, nor did he work with Jerry Lewis.

Martin's genius was in his insouciant cool, his laid-back charm - although he never competed with Lewis, he knew how to ratchet it up. If Sinatra was the yin of the Rat Pack, Martin was the yang. Martin's singing didn't have Sinatra's passionate, lived-it-all quality; but his music has a certain mystique - even in an all-out tune like "Ain't That A Kick in the Head", there's still a sense of mystery, of wanting to hear more, and Martin's charm was that he kept you coming back for more.

If you believe the Nick Tosches' biography (the best one on the market), Martin's play-it-close-the-vest nature ended up costing him personally, with him living in virtual seclusion until his death in 1995. (Of course, even though he wasn't a "serious" actor, some of Martin's roles...hoo, boy). But now, in a world of "reality" television where every single nuance of a celebrity's life is public fodder, there's something almost noble about Martin, whose unwillingness to "let it all hang out" seems a welcoming throwback to an earlier age.

And if that ain't amore, I don't know what is.

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