Deana Martin - Deana Martin

Deana Martin’s well-known family name may precede her, but her talent will make you remember her for the internationally acclaimed and legendary entertainer that she is. In other words, she’s not just Dean Martin’s daughter. She’s also an accomplished actress, top-10 recording artist, daily nationally syndicated radio personality and author. That’s not saying she doesn’t pay tribute to the music her father and his “Pallies” in the Rat Pack made famous. Her performances will take you on a musical journey to a time when Dean and “Uncle Frank” helped shape American music and popular culture.

Lucky for us, the daughter of the “King of Cool” will bring her “old school” Christmas show to Columbus’ historic Valley Dale Ballroom with Rick Brunetto and his orchestra on Dec. 11. C Magazine had the opportunity to chat with her in between shows to learn about her Ohio roots and what it means to share her and her father’s music with a new generation of fans.

Q&A » » » » » » 

Tell us a little about the Deana Martin Holiday Show that you are bringing to Columbus?
When you have a really great audience and everyone is singing with you, it’s just fabulous. We’re having a really good time. It’s tough work, but so much fun when it all comes together and is right. We started our holiday show the night before Thanksgiving and added in the Christmas cheer and songs from the new CD, White Christmas. It’s made it so much fun. People are ready to hear Christmas songs: “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow.” My arrangements are so great, and I have wonderful musicians you can’t beat. People are ready for the Christmas music.

How many days a year do you spend on the road?
Last year it was 180, which is a ridiculous amount. It’s good for me, but we’re hardly ever home. We get home with just enough time to “change horses” and get the laundry done and then off we go again. That’s what it’s all about.

You probably get home and enjoy the relaxation for a minute and then you’re ready to get back on the road.
We have such a beautiful home in Branson, Missouri that we bought a few years ago, and when we come back after being on the road, the place we want to go home to is our place in Branson, not our place in Beverly Hills. It’s just so quiet and the people are so sweet. It’s a pretty home on a golf course and we have everything that we need there. Of course, after a few days you want to pick up and go to a big city. It’s a perfect life. I have the perfect balance.

What’s your favorite holiday 
song to perform?
We really have a hot version of “Silver Bells.”  It’s really bluesy and jazzy and people don’t know what it is until I say, “Silver Bells.” Everything else is pretty traditional except “Jingle Bell Rock.” I always put my own little twist on the songs.
Do you have any special holiday traditions?
We have the normal holiday traditions. There are so many of us now though that it’s hard to get together. There are seven children and they have their children and now there are  great-grandchildren. Hopefully we will be home in Branson  on Christmas Day. 

The Valley Dale Ballroom shares quite a bit of history from the Big Band era. Do you ever feel the history of the places in which you perform your shows? 
I’ve never been there, but, I’ve read so much about it. It just looks gorgeous. I’m really looking forward to playing there, especially with all the people who have been there. The history of it is so exciting to me. My dad played there, my uncle Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, so I’m sure it will bring back a lot of memories for me. Tommy Dorseywas there. Guy Lombardo. It’s just a remarkable venue for me.
Your performances evoke a sense of nostalgia for fans of your father and the other Rat Pack members – what goes through your head when performing those songs?
I have to tell you that last night was such a perfect example. I was singing and everybody is singing along with me. When I started singing “That’s A’more” everybody started singing along and it was so much fun. I feel the presence of my dad, and Uncle Frank and Sammy Davis Jr. and I tell stories of my dad and how I remember going to the Sands Hotel and sitting in the audience. What it meant to me then and what it means to me now, seeing the reactions of the audience. Then after the show, I walk and shake their hands and they tell me their stories and memories of my dad and what he meant to them in their life. It’s so special for me. I learn new things about my dad every day. I know my dad started and was given his first full-time singing job in Columbus, Ohio by Ernie McKay and his band. It’s going to be super special for me when I come there.

I can imagine with a name like Deana Martin it has probably been hard to live up to other’s expectations, or has it?
It hasn’t been hard, because people love Dean Martin and they want to like me. Being the daughter of Dean Martin has been quite exceptional. I have some big shoes to fill, so I just try to be the very best I can be. Thank heavens I’m not the son, so I’m not being compared that way to Dean Martin. I pay tribute to him and sing duets with him, and people have been wonderful. It is hard work.

Were you ever steered away from performing by your father or others or is it something that just seemed like a natural step?
It was always the right thing. It was in my genes and I always wanted to do it. I was given the opportunity to have ballet lessons when I was young, tap lessons and acting coaches so I always knew exactly what I wanted to do. It’s like living a dream.

What is the best compliment you ever received from one of your father’s fans?
People coming out and saying they love the show and that my father would be proud. That’s probably the best thing that I could hear. They say “You are not only Dean Martin’s daughter; you are Deana Martin, a fabulous entertainer and performer in your own right.” It can’t get any better than that.

Do you find that your father’s music and the music of that era reach all ages?
It’s remarkable. The people who come to the show are all ages. The Rat Pack is cool and has always been cool. The young entertainers want to be like that. I know that in the past ten years, I’ve seen a large resurgence of the Rat Pack: the nice slim suits and people looking cool with their hats.

Your father’s hometown of Steubenville, Ohio, hosts a festival in his honor every year. Are you able to attend? What is your role?
We go every year to the Dean Martin festival and try to raise money for the scholarships. It is so important for that fabulous little town of Steubenville. They’ve lost so many jobs now and it’s something we love to do. My husband and I go every year and put on a show and it’s so nice to see people come from all over the world.. My husband and I went to Columbus and talked with the governor and we passed a bill, so it’s officially Dean Martin Day on June 7 of every year. We have a good connection with Columbus and Steubenville and my husband was born in Shelby, Ohio. 

Having grown up in the Hollywood world, what is it like to go back and see where your father grew up?
It was amazing because it’s such a small little town. It wasn’t a big switch. My family in Beverly Hills is good and down to earth. It wasn’t a crazy household that we lived in. My dad was home every night for dinner. He wasn’t like the rest of the Hollywood crowd. It was dinner every night together and that’s the way families should be.

What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to have a lot of albums out there for people to listen to all the time so they will always have it. Of course, I never want them to forget Dean Martin. I don’t think they ever will. Also, that I never disappointed my dad and that he would be proud of me. And, that people listen to my music and are as entertained as they were when they listened to my dad and walk away from my show with a wonderful feeling. I want to make new memories and bring back memories of better times. 

Spaghetti or Lasagna?

Red or White?
I love red, but I’ll drink more white because it doesn’t stain your teeth.

Vegas or NYC?

My heart belongs to _________?
Daddy. Of course it belongs to my husband and family, but it was just a cute thing to say.

You would never know that I ________?
Am a pilot.

These boots are made for _____?
Walking. I love Nancy Sinatra and the way she did that song. That’s so cute.