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Deana Martin: Amore is in the Air

Deana Martin
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For the record, Deana Martin admits that while she has made albums before, it is something out-of-the-box at her latest recording session that is creating a unique thrill for her.

Not only is she recording her latest CD at Capitol Records, the same company that her late father, the legendary Dean Martin, recorded for, but she is also using the same microphone that her father used to record with.

“The studio had it in a box marked ‘Dean Martin’ and it had been kept in their vault,” Martin, who will be performing at the South Point this coming weekend, July 20 and 21, enthuses. “They brought it out for me. Just to be at Capitol Records where my dad recorded, with all those great photos and records on the wall, is a thrill.”

The new album, which is being produced by Al Schmidt and arranged by Charlie Cavallo, is due to be completed this week. Along with such classics as “I Love Being Here with You,” “Beyond the Sea,” About a Quarter to Nine,” “ Frim Fram Sauce” and others, there are also about five new original songs that were written by friends of Deana’s. She will be performing some of the songs from the new CD at the South Point this weekend.

Martin’s fast-paced show consists of great music home movies, videos, stories about her famous father and his renowned friends and his legendary “surprise door” from which surprise celebrity guests enter. It offers an intimate look into the life of one of our most beloved entertainment icons. And while, for Martin, there is nothing better than standing on stage and singing with great musicians behind her, she is also very aware that when it comes to her famous parent, where audiences are concerned, memories are made of this.

“Everybody loved Dean Martin,” she says. “He touched so many people. I think audiences come to my show wanting to love me, also. So there’s a lot of pressure on me to be wonderful and have them walk out feeling like they did when they left his show. My father had such a wonderful way about him. You could see the smile on his face when you heard him sing. He had a wonderful sense of humor and never took himself seriously. He went with the flow. He left the world a much better place.

“He’s with me all the time,” Martin continues. “I truly feel him with me. I feel him on stage – I almost become him when I’m performing.”

The middle child of seven, Martin remembers growing up in a house where friends like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Cahn and others always came to visit. Her godfather was Jimmy McHugh, who wrote “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Inspired by Dean and all these other great legends, show business just became a part of her, as did her appreciation of the Great American Songbook.

“When they all came over, it would be a party,” Martin smiles. “Sammy would sit at the piano and everyone would sing parodies. I began singing professionally at around 16 or 17 but I was doing rock ‘n’ roll and country. Because of my age, I had to go to court to sign my first recording contract, which was with Columbia Records. My first hit was a country song on Reprise Records called ‘Girl of the Month Club.’ After that, I went to college to study drama and dance and I did plays. Then, about 10 years ago, I revisited the Great American Songbook. I wrote a book called Memories Are Made of This, which was a look at Dean Martin through his daughter’s eyes.  It was then that people started asking me to do concerts and sing this music.”

“This past Father’s Day, I did Tina Sinatra’s radio show, ‘Siriusly Sinatra’ on Sirius Radio, along with Natalie Cole, Monica Mancini, and Daisy Torme. We sat around and talked about our dads and played our favorite songs. I did a duet with my dad on the song ‘True Love.’ My husband, John, had found the original arrangement by Nelson Riddle.”

Music aside, what her father taught her the most, however, was something Martin says has stayed with her forever. That is to treat people the way she wants to be treated.

“That’s what my father did,” Martin acknowledges. “He had a connection with people. After my show, I go out and meet people, talk to them, hug them and share their memories of my father.”

Occasionally, however, Martin finds herself being taken aback by how her father is viewed. While Dean Martin is perhaps one of the most impersonated personalities of all time by celebrity impressionists, Martin admits that the image some depict of him in a drunken state is very offensive to her.

“In reality, my father didn’t drink much,” she reveals. “It was just his gimmick. But these people are putting the wrong impression of him out into the world and it isn’t right. People will come up to me and ask me how my dad did everything he did with his being drunk all the tome. And it is very shocking and hurtful to me. I don’t mind impressionists doing him as long as that person is being respectful to him.

“My father was very sweet, kind, funny and tender,” she adds. “He hugged and kissed us a lot. I can remember the smell of his cologne, Wood Hue by Faberge. When he .hugged me, I could smell it.  When he passed away on Christmas Day 1995, I got a bottle from his bathroom. I still have a little left.”

Although it is the past that is currently prominent in her performing life, Martin, who says she is learning everyday, is very much looking forward to the future. 

“I’d love to have a hit record; I’d love to go to Broadway; I’d love to turn my book into a Broadway musical,” she enthuses. “I love singing and entertaining people. I do write songs but I haven’t recorded them yet. But I’m working a lot and it’s wonderful .I’m singing with symphonies, big bands, at performing arts centers and with my quintet. What fun I’m having!”

Now, that’s amore!

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