Ed Breen recently had a column in The Journal Gazette about nostalgia.
Wait – you're saying – it was about baseball and the movie “Field of Dreams.” But it was really about nostalgia, and it triggered nostalgic thoughts for me because I had just been listening to some songs by Dean Martin.
By way of background, I spent the summers during my high school years working as an office boy in my father's law office. It was located on North Dearborn Street in the heart of Chicago's Loop.
There was a beautiful theater nearby on State Street called The Chicago, and it regularly offered a matinee with a current movie, followed by a live performance on stage by popular performers of the day. (The Chicago is still there and operating.)
On occasion, I would have a free afternoon and went to The Chicago to see those shows.
One afternoon I went to The Chicago and saw a live performance by a new act that was getting some attention. It was Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. (I don't remember the movie that played before them. I think it was something with Van Johnson in it.)
Martin was the straight man, and Lewis was hilarious with his goofy expressions and pratfalls. There were also songs by Martin, with comic reactions from Lewis.
I thought Martin and Lewis were great, and told all my family and friends to try to catch the show if they could. Of course, the duo went on to stardom.
But they decided to go their separate ways in the mid-'50s. I confess that I thought that Jerry Lewis would continue to have a great career, but that Dean Martin would struggle. Was I wrong!
Lewis did well, of course, but Martin became a major celebrity, with one hit record after another, several movies, and his own TV show.
Some years later I ran into Dean Martin in the lobby of the Bamer Hotel in Mexico City. We were both waiting to meet someone, so I went over and introduced myself as one of his longtime fans. He was as pleasant and friendly in person as he was in his public persona, and was happy to talk while we waited.
I told him I had seen him years before at The Chicago when he and Jerry Lewis were just getting started, and he remarked that, well, that was a long time ago.
“Yes,” I said, “but those were good times.” He just smiled and kind of looked away.
I was not aware of it at the time, but he and Jerry Lewis had not parted on a happy note.
We continued talking for a few more minutes until our friends arrived, then went our separate ways. But I have always appreciated that meeting and always make a point to stop whatever I'm doing when one of his songs comes on the air. When you hear one, it's pretty much expected that you will sing along.
“That's Amore”; “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream on”; “Return to Me”; “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me”; “In the Chapel in the Moonlight”; “Ain't That a Kick in the Head”; “Arrivederci Roma”; “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane”; “Standing on the Corner”; “When You're Smiling.”
Ah, nostalgia – it's not what it used to be.
Howard Chapman is a Fort Wayne resident.