Advertisement

Dean Martin Laid to Rest as Stars Avoid Media

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The limos, Cadillacs and Mercedes began arriving shortly after 6 p.m., and mortuary attendants escorted the celebrities to the chapel’s side entrance, safely out of view of the paparazzi, news crews and reporters.

In the darkness Thursday, the arriving guests had come to say their goodbyes to Dean Martin, the immigrant Italian barber’s son who grew up to become a boxer, a bootlegger, a blackjack dealer--and a movie star.

He was a charter member of Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack"--Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. were others--whose adventures on screen and off became the stuff of Hollywood legend.

The Rat Pack eventually gave way to the “Brat Pack,” a new generation of Hollywood stars who redefined stardom in their precocious image. At least one member of that new generation--Charlie Sheen--was spotted by a tabloid photographer entering the services.

Advertisement

But no one could be sure in the darkness who exactly was there.

Martin’s services were private, but that could not keep away the press who descended upon the Pierce Bros. Westwood Village Memorial Park & Mortuary. The paparazzi gathered behind a fence abutting the cemetery, stood on stepladders and attempted to identify and photograph anyone who vaguely resembled a celebrity.

Every arrival galvanized the paparazzi.

“Was that Sinatra who just walked in?” one shouted.

Advertisement

“I think I saw Shelly Winters!” yelled another.

“I haven’t seen anybody in five minutes,” another complained. “A few celebs, and the rest are chopped liver.”

The man the mourners came to pay their respects to was born Dino Paul Crocetti; Martin adopted his stage name when he launched his singing career. After meeting Jerry Lewis in 1946, they formed a comedy team that left the nation in stitches for a decade. Martin played straight man to Lewis’ manic, bumbling nerd.

They teamed up in 16 movies, played to standing-room audiences in top nightclubs and became familiar guests on television variety shows before they broke up in 1956.

Advertisement

Martin later said he could no longer deal with what he called Lewis’ egocentric demands. Upon learning of his old partner’s death at 78 on Christmas Day, Lewis was said to be “completely shattered and grief-stricken.”

Martin survived the breakup and went on to a stunningly successful career as a singer, actor and nightclub star. He crafted an image as a devil-may-care heavy drinker, but visitors backstage knew that the glass he carried in his act was merely a prop filled with apple juice.

The cemetery, where he was to be interred in a crypt not far from that of Marilyn Monroe, is tucked away behind office towers along Wilshire Boulevard near Glendon Avenue. It opened in 1904 and is the burial site for other luminaries such as Natalie Wood and Truman Capote.

About 50 yards from Monroe’s grave, in a small alcove called “The Sanctuary of Peace,” an unpolished white marble stone marks the crypts of Guy and Angela Crocetti, Martin’s parents. Their son’s crypt sits nearby.

Advertisement

By 8 p.m. the services were over. The limos left as anonymously as they had arrived, leaving unanswered yet another photographer’s question:

“Was that Jerry Lewis?”


Advertisement
Advertisement