A Rat Pack, King of Cool weekend is before you, Philly as a selection of notable Dean Martin nods, starting with the Bucks County Playhouse’s “The Rat Pack: One More Time.”
Anyone who knows me knows that not only is late Dean Martin one of my favorite unsung heroes (read the equally late great Nick Tosches’ “Dino”), but one of my favorite vocalists. Too often put aside in the shadow of his friend, Frank Sinatra, and the mythology of a goofball drinker, Martin had a breezy brand of jazz and soul that captured his everything phrase, whether it was the louche and easy “Just in Time,” or the rocking aggressive, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”
Unlike so many other artists in his position of fame and fortune and deep catalogs, we don’t get the same opportunity to hear from or about Dino. That might change if this weekend is any example. First, PBS/WHYY-TV have picked up on how Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, along with their respective families, had joined together for a musical Christmas celebration filmed in 1967, and not seen in its entirety since its original airing on December 21, of that year. Now, of Halloween, however, the 1967 holiday classics special featuring Frank and Dean singing a medley of their hits is on rotation at public television, locally and nationally. Look it up.
As of November 19, TCM is airing the brand-new documentary on Dean Martin, “The King of Cool,” featuring a ton of never before heard music and footage. Named for what Elvis Presley once told Dean Martin’s daughter, Deana (“They may call me the king of rock ‘n’ roll, but your dad is the king of cool”), director Tom Donahue and producer Ilan Arboleda craft a tale of mystery and musical branding around Martin – how he liked thing nice’ and easy, and how he revolutionized the country-pop crossover and kept his head above the fray (of Frank) rather than kowtow to the Chairman’s whims. Deana Martin – archivist, producer, singer and Martin’s daughter – the producer behind both programs is to be commended for making this all happen, and keeping her father’s flame alive.
Also helping to keep Dean Martin’s flame hot starts up this weekend at the Bucks County Playhouse’s The Rat Pack: One More Time. Running now through November 28 as part of its Visiting Artists Series, The Rat Pack celebrates the union of Dino, Frank and Sammy Davis Jr. during their “Kings of Las Vegas Swing” prime, from the late 1950s into the 1960s, and their on (and off) stage party. A handsomely done facsimile of the real thing, these three cats have the sound and vision of the Rat Pack down cold. Dig it.