Dean and Me : (A Love Story)
They were the unlikeliest of pairs—a handsome crooner and a skinny monkey, an Italian from Steubenville, Ohio, and a Jew from Newark, N.J.. Before they teamed up, Dean Martin seemed destined for a mediocre career as a nightclub singer, and Jerry Lewis was dressing up as Carmen Miranda and miming records on stage. But the moment they got together, something clicked—something miraculous—and audiences saw it at once.
Before long, they were as big as Elvis or the Beatles would be after them, creating hysteria wherever they went and grabbing an unprecedented hold over every entertainment outlet of the era: radio, television, movies, stage shows, and nightclubs. Martin and Lewis were a national craze, an American institution. The millions flowed in, seemingly without end—and then, on July 24, 1956, ten years after it all started, it ended suddenly. After that traumatic day, the two wouldn't speak again for twenty years. And while both went on to forge triumphant individual careers—Martin as a movie and television star, recording artist, and nightclub luminary (and charter member of the Rat Pack); Lewis as the groundbreaking writer, producer, director, and star of a series of hugely successful movie comedies—their parting left a hole in the national psyche, as well as in each man's heart.
In Dean & Me, Lewis makes a convincing case for Martin as one of the great—and most underrated—comic talents of our era. But what comes across most powerfully in this definitive memoir is the depth of love Lewis felt for his partner, and which his partner felt for him: truly a love to last for all time.
More About Dean and Me by Jerry Lewis; Stephen Hoye
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Nov 2005
From the book
In the age of Truman, Eisenhower, and Joe McCarthy, we freed America. For ten years after World War II, Dean and I were not only the most successful show-business act in history--we were history.
You have to remember: Postwar America was a very buttoned-up nation. Radio shows were run by censors, Presidents wore hats, ladies wore girdles. We came straight out of the blue--nobody was expecting anything like Martin and Lewis. A sexy guy and a monkey is how some people saw us, but what we really were, in an age of Freudian self-realization, was the explosion of the show-business id.
Like Burns and Allen, Abbott and Costello, and Hope and Crosby, we were vaudevillians, stage performers who worked with an audience. But the difference between us and all the others is significant. They worked with a script. We exploded without one, the same way wiseguy kids do on a playground, or jazz musicians do when they're let loose. And the minute we started out in nightclubs, audiences went nuts for us. As Alan King told an interviewer a few years ago: "I have been in the business for fifty-five years, and I have never to this day seen an act get more laughs than Martin and Lewis. They didn't get laughs--it was pandemonium. People knocked over tables."
Like so many entertainment explosions, we happened almost by accident.
It was a crisp March day in midtown Manhattan, March of 1945. I had just turned nineteen, and I was going to live forever. I could feel the bounce in my legs, the air in my lungs. World War II was rapidly drawing to a close, and New York was alive with excitement. Broadway was full of city smells--bus and taxi exhaust; roast peanuts and dirty-water hot dogs; and, most thrilling of all, the perfumes of beautiful women. Midtown was swarming with gorgeous gals! Secretaries, career girls, society broads with little pooches--they all paraded past, tick-tock, tick-tock, setting my heart racing every ten paces. I was a very young newlywed, with a very pregnant wife back in Newark, but I had eyes, and I looked. And looked. And looked.
I was strolling south with my pal Sonny King, heading toward an appointment with an agent in Times Square. Sonny was an ex-prize-fighter from Brooklyn trying to make it as a singer, a knock-around guy, street-smart and quick with a joke--kind of like an early Tony Danza. He prided himself on his nice tenor voice and on knowing everybody who was anybody in show business. Not that his pride always matched up with reality. But that was Sonny, a bit of an operator. And me? I was a Jersey kid trying to make it as a comic. My act--are you ready for this?-- was as follows: I would get up on stage and make funny faces while I lip-synched along to phonograph records. The professional term for what I did was dumb act, a phrase I didn't want to think about too much. In those days, it felt a little too much like a bad review.
You know good-bad? Good was that I was young and full of beans and ready to take on the world. Bad was that I had no idea on earth how I was going to accomplish this feat. And bad was also that I was just eking out a living, pulling down $110 a week in a good week, and there weren't that many good weeks. On this princely sum I had to pay my manager, Abner J. Greshler, plus the rent on the Newark apartment, plus feed two, about to be three. Plus wardrobe, candy bars, milk shakes, and phonograph records for the act. Plus my hotel bill. While I was working in New York, I stayed in the city, to be close to my jobs--when I had them--and to stick to where the action was. I'd been rooming at the Belmont Plaza, on Lexington and...
"This is a wild, joyous book, but also a heartbreaking one. In some ways, friendships between men can be more fragile than those between women, something Lewis grasps intuitively. What kind of guy laughs when you upstage his crooning with a piece of raw meat on a fork? Whoever he is, you'd better hang onto him: he's probably the best friend you'll ever have." - Stephanie Zacharek, The New York Times
"A perceptive and entertaining showbiz memoir that should become a classic of its kind . . ." - Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair