Hello, Sweet Dreamers! I know you are all interested in Victoria and her Jazz singing career, but what about the ladies and gentlemen who inspired her to sing those awesome songs? A friend of mine, Elliot Thorpe, is here today to tell us about one of the Jazz greats Victoria strives to emulate, Dean Martin. Enjoy! ~Emz
Dean Martin and the Meaning of Cool
by Elliot Thorpe
At some point, most likely the 1960s, the word ‘cool’ entered public consciousness as description for something ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
When, then, did ‘cool’ become synonymous with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and a whole host of others? Clearly, they were charming, laid back and smooth, a hit with all demographics – so it seems that the meaning of ‘cool’ was tailor-made for them!
Ironically, it was never a term used to describe them in the 1970s and only really came into regular use towards the end of the 1990s.
When Dean and his contemporaries were regularly performing, they were stars pulling in the crowds. But was it ‘cool’ to go see them live? ‘Cool’ never entered the equation: they were perceived as celebrities, entertainers and a guaranteed good night out in Vegas.
Times move on. Tastes change and the public perception of a ‘celebrity’ in has altered drastically these last few years. Our digital set-top boxes and satellite dishes are crammed full of reality shows. Unknown members of the public are being shot to celebrity status because of something embarrassing they have done on front of millions of viewers. Worse still, those with just an ounce of fame, and little self-respect sometimes, go and live in a camera-crammed house to become the victim of their own plunging popularity.
But the clamour for public recognition is worryingly alluring. Not so long ago, I attended a convention in Birmingham, UK to promote a ‘Doctor Who’ story that I had scripted. The day before, no one knew me. The day after, I had signed so many autographs I had wrist ache. And I’m not famous. Not in the slightest. But my ‘public’ couldn’t get enough of me. They thought it was ‘cool’ to meet me because I was now linked, and always will be, to a ‘cool’ show. And it was a very surreal and fantastic experience. I had a cool time, you might say!
Dean Martin personally asked my dad to set up his first ever fan club for him in 1960. Cool! Dean Martin used to communicate all the time with my dad. Cool! Dean Martin sent my older sister a doll that he was holding once on a cover of one of his discs. Cool! Dean Martin once sent my dad a very limited edition Sinatra box set that Frank had personally signed it, too, at Dean’s request. Cool! Dean Martin specifically asked to meet my dad face-to-face whenever he came to London. Cool!
I apologise for sounding like I’m in a teen-movie but, when you think about it, all this was pretty cool, eh?
But at the time, we were simply honoured that Dino took such a vested interest in us so I don’t mean to sound big-headed. ‘Cool’ never came into it. It was my dad’s past-time, running the fan club. The additional stuff that came with it, the dolls, the discs, the regular contact, were added bonuses – and gave us a unique insight into Dino himself. Yet my dad never really got to know him, no one ever did, but he got to understand him. And that, both for Dean and my dad, was the most important thing of all in their relationship. They understood each other and knew how each could best benefit each other.
Let’s not beat around the bush, here: Dino knew my dad because my dad helped promote his career. If my dad had remained just a fan back in the 50s and 60s, Dino would have not given him the time of day.
And that’s no disrespect to Dino.
The man was a true celebrity. He held audiences with presidents. He ‘phoned Apollo mission crews while they were orbiting the Earth. He was best mates with Frank Sinatra. But he couldn’t meet his fans, just couldn’t face them. As he told my dad once, “…that’s why you’re here. You do it. You meet them for me and tell them how grateful I am.”
Dino was incredibly shy. And we felt that he perhaps saw our family as opportunities of quiet and down-to-earth normality in an otherwise topsy-turvy life of touring, performing, recording, partying and having hundreds of shallow friendships. He probably took advantage of that normality. My dad was open with him, honest with him. And it was reciprocated.
He was a huge star who had time for us: time he made and found himself, not through his manager or agency. And that’s why my dad has been and continues to be so dedicated to him and the promotion of his career over the last 47 years.
So, if you ask me if Dino was and is ‘cool’, then the answer would be…well, the answer would be: yes – for those reasons, more than anything.
Almost as cool as my dad.
Elliot Thorpe is a writer and jazz aficionado. To read more of his work, go to: http://elliot-thorpe.blogspot.co.uk/