Martin recalls her father—“the King of Cool,” as hew was designated by Elvis Presley—with clear-eyed affection and understanding.
Martin, who could have been embittered by her sometimes rocky relations with her father, instead displays remarkable understanding of his complex temperament. An unemotional man, Dean disliked small talk and enjoyed golf because it was a game he could play without too much social interaction. He was disciplined and actually drank very little, though he gained a reputation as a drunk because he sometimes acted that way. Despite his success and wealth, Martin observes, he was “sometimes happiest when left alone.” She first describes Dean’s early career as a touring band singer, his marriage to her mother Betty, his association with Jerry Lewis, and his move to Hollywood. In 1949, when Martin was only a few months old, Dean left Betty for Jeanne, who became his second wife. For nine years, Martin and her three older siblings saw very little of their father. Life with their mother, at first a round of glamorous parties, grew grim as Betty’s drinking increased and the money evaporated; they moved into increasingly smaller homes, and elder sister Gina handled the childcare and housekeeping. In 1957, realizing that Betty could no longer care for her children, their Aunt Anne took them to Dean’s house. He got custody, and they would see very little of Betty in the years to come. Grateful for the stability and the opportunities stepmother Jeanne provided for them, Martin recalls the high points of those years: parties attended by Marilyn Monroe, meetings with Elvis and the Beatles, movie premieres. She deftly describes Dean’s Las Vegas acts, his hit songs (“Volare,” “That’s Amore,” etc.), and films like Ocean’s Eleven, a testament to his membership in the Rat Pack, and his close friendship with Frank Sinatra.
Warts and all, but noted with love.