A crooner’s breezy memoir.
Damone looks back at his life and career, recalling his Depression-era Brooklyn boyhood and his vertiginous trajectory up the pop charts and into the inner circle of the Rat Pack—as well as the arms of some of Hollywood’s most glamorous sirens. Born Vito Farinola in 1928, Damone grew up in Bensonhurst, displaying from earliest childhood a precocious singing ability that led to appearances on local radio programs. He found work as an usher at New York’s legendary Paramount Theater, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Perry Como and Tommy Dorsey, who encouraged the young man in his ambitions. In 1947, the 19-year-old Damone justified his early promise by scoring the massive hit “I Only Have But One Heart.” In the ensuing years, he enjoyed success as a pop singer but never attained the superstar status of buddies Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Damone admits to a marked diffidence regarding celebrity and careerism, which is to the book’s benefit. Simultaneously an insider and an outsider, his perspective on his colleagues is refreshingly clear-eyed—though he clearly hero-worships Sinatra, an early supporter and lifelong pal. The author had an eventful private life, and he offers tales of vengeful mobsters, celebrity heartbreak and carousing in Las Vegas at the height of its glamour. The much-married Damone counts the beautiful Italian movie star Pier Angeli and the American singer/actress Diahann Carroll among his former brides, and he dated both Elizabeth Taylor and, on one memorably drunken occasion, Ava Gardner. Damone speaks eloquently about his passion for golf and his conversion to the Baha’i faith, but he is best on the subject of music. A consummate technician, Damone authoritatively analyzes breath control, lyrical interpretation and other aspects of the singer’s art.
Forthright, compelling look at a vanished, glittering era of show business.