Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams


Far more than Elvis or Sinatra, both of whom idolized him, Dean Martin stands as the great mystery of superstardom. Flesh and fantasy, he is both a man of whom the world knows little and an image that has come to embody the holy trinity of America: flash, trash, and cash. The facts of his life are the stuff of myth. Born seventy-five years ago in Steubenville, Ohio, Dino Crocetti, an immigrant's son, came up the hard way. He pumped gas, worked in a steel mill, boxed, and dealt craps at a local mob joint before ...
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Far more than Elvis or Sinatra, both of whom idolized him, Dean Martin stands as the great mystery of superstardom. Flesh and fantasy, he is both a man of whom the world knows little and an image that has come to embody the holy trinity of America: flash, trash, and cash. The facts of his life are the stuff of myth. Born seventy-five years ago in Steubenville, Ohio, Dino Crocetti, an immigrant's son, came up the hard way. He pumped gas, worked in a steel mill, boxed, and dealt craps at a local mob joint before finally turning to singing. After two name changes and a nose job, he began an unparalleled rise to the heights of fame, wealth, and power, becoming the most popular all-around entertainer of his time. While his notoriety and fortune grew astoundingly, he withdrew more and more into the silence of seclusion, a darkness on the other side of fame. Yet even in his self-imposed exile, the legend, and enigma, of Dean Martin took on a force of their own. In Dino, Nick Tosches takes us on a mesmerizing, irreverent odyssey through American mob culture, through the hidden, the forbidden, and the dreamed-of places, telling the story of a rise against all odds; the glory of that rise and its dark side, too: the story of a man driven into his own shadow by fame and inner demons. Tosches spent years interviewing the characters and exploring the hell and paradise of an America that few besides Martin have known. From the gambling dens of corrupt steel towns to the glorious nightclub whirl and neon netherworlds of New York and Chicago, from the casinos of Las Vegas to the dream factories of Hollywood, Dino brings to life the sublime and sleazy vision at the heart of this century's soul. Here are vivid portraits of Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Monroe, and a host of infamous others, from Frank Costello to Mickey Cohen to Sam Giancana. Wild, illuminating, and strangely poetic, Dino is the epic tale of both one man's fate and that of the new world his fore

From his humble beginnings to the Hollywood he called home, Dean Martin led a life legendary for its skyrocketing rise to success and shadowy connections to the mob. Now award-winning Nick Tosches reveals the man behind the image in a wild and shocking tale of sex and ambition, peopled with the likes of Elvis, Marilyn, and the Kennedys. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An immigrant barber's son, high-school dropout Dino Crocetti--aka Dean Martin--left a job in an Ohio steel mill to achieve what no one before him had pulled off: simultaneous fame as a star of stage, movies, TV and records. But if this brilliant, freewheeling, acid biography is correct, it was all a racket to Martin, depicted here as an emotional loner driven to possess the world, a rogue who changed wives like suits and duped fans with the image of a faithful family man while he endlessly took lovers, drank, gambled and popped pills. Tosches, biographer of Jerry Lee Lewis ( Hellfire ), seemingly leaves no stone unturned as he examines Martin's behind-the-scenes bickering with partner Jerry Lewis, his underworld connections, his cavorting with Sinatra and JFK's Rat Pack, his many affairs and his increasing emotional withdrawal. Although this is a deeply unflattering portrait of Martin, now 74, it will nevertheless be a feast for fans because of its detailed coverage of the star's multiple careers. Photos. Author tour. (July)
Library Journal
Tosches, best known for his biography of Jerry Lee Lewis ( Hellfire , LJ 1/15/82), worked in a similar vein to produce this biography of Dean Martin. Tosches's extensive research is obvious, and his book has been aided immeasurably by extensive interviews with Martin's longtime wife, Jeanne, and with his former partner, Jerry Lewis. Martin himself was not interviewed. It's all here: Martin's career in nightclubs, movies, and television as well as his friendships with various mafiosi. The book stays afloat despite the weightiness of too many Italian and Yiddish words, too many gratuitous expletives, and just plain too many words bearing too much metaphorical weight for the subject.-- John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
Kirkus Reviews
Flamboyantly overwritten, saddest celebrity bio of the past decade. Dino Crocetti—Steubenville, Ohio, son of Italian immigrants, and an easygoing, untrained singer with lip-lazy diction—became Dean Martin early in his work with local bands, made it big in Manhattan as a solo act, and went over the top when teamed with a monkey named Jerry Lewis. The keynote of Martin's delivery, explains Tosches (Cut Numbers, 1988, etc.), was a relaxedness directed toward males but that had the ladies following him to bed like groupie mayflies—while he attracted Mafia heavy-hitters as well. Martin's pal Frank Sinatra held him in awe and envied his ease with the Mafia cafe-owners, but Dino couldn't care less about power, or much of anything. He kept Sinatra, as well as his own wives and children—everyone in fact—at arm's length emotionally, and, Tosches indicates, never in his life let one person into his most secret heart. He seemed largely devoted to golf. Gradually, Martin, at first a moderate drinker, developed a drunk act that became too real and at last took him over. After many years as the top draw on TV, he wound up hosting his celebrity roasts, a kind of gathering of the dead assembled from thousands of small splices of film. Martin is still alive, but a shadow in a breeze, withdrawn into watching westerns on TV. Tosches tells his story in a Niagara of grossness that at once strives for literary excellence while often falling into garble: "The very songs that Sinatra and Dean sang...inspired lavish squandering among the countless men who would be them. It was the Jew-roll around the prick that rendered them ithyphallic godkins, simulacra of the great ones, in theirown eyes and in the eyes of the tease-haired lobster-slurping bimbo sapiens they sought to impress." One-hundred-proof prose at its most scorching, and it will melt cash registers. (Thirty b&w photographs—not seen.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385334297
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Pages: 654
  • Sales rank: 178,234
  • Product dimensions: 8.04 (w) x 5.28 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Tosches
Nick Tosches
A journalist who has also written three novels, Nick Tosches is an acclaimed biographer whose unconventional books -- Dino and The Devil and Sonny Liston among them -- illuminate some of America's more controversial, overshadowed talents.


A highly praised author who seems to base his choice of subjects not so much on eminence as conflicted greatness, Nick Tosches is the best example of a good rock journalist who set out to transcend his genre and succeeded. Having begun in music mags Creem and Fusion in the 1970s, the author’s career took a large turn upward with the publication of Hellfire, his biography of rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis. It didn’t hurt that Rolling Stone anointed it “the best rock n’ roll biography ever written.”

A few years later, Tosches departed from the rock milieu but maintained his attraction to subjects of undeniable power and questionable – if not downright criminal – character. He chronicled the life and times of Sicilian financier Michele Sindona in the now out of print Power on Earth, then scored another biographical home run with his authoritative Dino, about Rat Pack entertainer Dean Martin.

None of these subjects was begging to be written about; nor was the boxer Tosches compellingly depicted in The Devil and Sonny Liston, the blackface minstrel introduced in Where Dead Voices Gather, or the focus of The Last Opium Den. This is where the author’s talent nests: First in his ability to unearth topics that represent history’s alleyways; and second in the courageous, authentic prose he uses to describe them, including liberal doses of ten-dollar-words and allusions to his own role in the story.

Tosches doesn’t get caught up so much in an individual; he works to create an aura. “The lives in [my biographies] are as much about the forces at work beneath, beyond, and around,” he said in a 1999 interview with Salon. “The Liston book, to a great extent, is about those forces more than it's about Sonny himself. I mean, Sonny's life is there in full, but there are other characters and other forces directly relating to various underworlds.” Tosches will take you to his subject eventually; but he might show you through a few detours first. For example, his search in The Last Opium Den begins, “You see, I needed to go to hell I was, you might say, homesick. But first, by way of explanation, the onion.”

Tosches’ fiction work has existed under the shadow of his biographies, something the author wants to change with the ambitious, portentously promoted 2002 release In the Hand of Dante. His first novel about a Mafia scheme to fix the New York lottery, Cut Numbers, was generally well received but largely forgotten; Trinities, “a battle for evil,” was a New York Times Notable Book of 1994 but is now out of print in the States. In the Hand of Dante is a self-referential, layered story that twists the discovery of a 14th-century manuscript into a modern-day thriller also containing Alighieri himself as a character. Whether In the Hand of Dante will be, as its publisher predicts, “the most ragingly debated novel of the decade,” like the rest of Tosches’ work, it has drawn respect and attention.

Good To Know

In the 1970s, Tosches was a hunter of poisonous snakes for the Miami Serpentarium. He was also a paste-up artist for the Lovable Underwear Company.

Tosches has written a screenplay, Spud Crazy; planned adaptations of Dino (by Martin Scorsese) and The Devil and Sonny Liston (with Ving Rhames in the lead) have been reported but disappeared. Tosches told Salon in 1999, "The people in Hollywood that clean out the urinals know more about the movie status of my books than I do." In 2002, FOXNews.com reported that veteran producer Robert Evans planned to make a film based on Tosches’s Vanity Fair article “The Devil and Sidney Korshak,” about “connected” Chicago lawyer. Tosches was slated to write the screenplay.

Tosches, who was not big on higher education, was “schooled in his father’s bar,” according to his publisher’s bio. He spent his teenage years as a porter at Tosches family’s Jersey City joint.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      High school

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2004

    As powerful as a great greek tragedy!

    I loved this book! I know it sounds trite, but I literally could not put it down! I was even reading it at home and work from start to finish. The material in Tosches' book was riveting, and his writing style was so entertaining I found myself re-reading it again and again, like an old movie. Undoubtedly the best Hollywood biography I have ever read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2002

    I Recommend Adding This To Your Collection Of Biographies!

    This book has everything you ever wanted to know about Dean Martin, however, Dino is portrayed darkly. This book gives the impression Mr. Martin didn't care about anything or anyone and I felt depressed after reading it. But I also think this book gives the most accurate reason for the Martin-Lewis breakup. The research that the author Nick Tosches did is very impressive. I recommend adding it to your collection.

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