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Mayhem, Unlimited—Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis

There’s been a new kind of invasion of Europe going on—by a convulsion of nature otherwise known as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The staid Britishers have found themselves sitting right on their much vaunted dignity. The French, in self-defense, thought of starting a new Maginot line.

However, before going over to turn Europe into a madhouse, this mayhem, unlimited, did give some serious thought to their disrupting effect on international relations. Jerry’s last words were, “We’re going over on the Queen Elizabeth and coming back on the Liberté, so nobody will be mad at us.” Dean’s parting pearl of wisdom was, “I’d like to fly over, but my arms will get tired.”

Wherever they go, whether they’re wowing the audience at London’s Palladium or trudging through Europe, Martin and Lewis take over with the greatest of ease. They do the same thing everywhere, even in America.

They go to a night club, and right away, what happens? Martin and Lewis’s presence in the room is like a fakir’s piccolo to a snake. They know they will be called on and not be able to resist making like the irrepressible clowns they are. AGVA (American Guild of Variety Artists) frowns on performers giving their talents for free. So last year, they paid $10,000 in fines to AGVA. Jerry sighs, “See? We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. People would say we’re stuck-up or stingy or something.”

It may seem incongruous, but this brace of buffoons regard their home life just the way the average Joe, who heads for an office every day, does. Only, being Martin and Lewis, there’s more of it! Once, when the Lewises had fourteen springer spaniels’ they didn’t think they had enough pets, so they acquired a boxer named Champ, a miniature poodle, Figaro by name, and a cat called Melvin. That’s when Jerry used to cackle, “No birds or gold fish!”

Jerry and Patti are both kid and animal crazy, and the Lewis menage now consists of their two small sons and three springer spaniels: the original and famous Mr. Chips, his lady, Prissy, and their puppy, Dignity.

It was really Patti who got Jerry started on the springer spaniel mania. It will be five years next Christmas season that the two of them were walking down New York’s Sixth Avenue in the after-midnight snow, following a Martin and Lewis performance at the Copacabana. It was two days before Christmas, and Patti started to cry in a sudden spell of homesickness for their baby, Garry, home in California. They stopped in front of a pet-shop window, and soon both were laughing at the antics of a tiny springer spaniel. The next day, Jerry went back to that Sixth Avenue pet shop and bought the puppy for Patti’s Christmas gift.

By now, Mr. Chips’ numerous, handsome progeny are widely scattered through various homes in Hollywood and environs, as gifts to friends. Chips himself, the daddy of them all, is a lofty and legendary character. No dog ever led a life like his. Among other things, Jerry gets lonesome for him while on tour, so Chips has been airmailed all over the U. S. A.

A typical Jerry Lewis production featuring Chips took place on Martin and Lewis’s last tour. Playing in Chicago, Jerry summoned Chips, who arrived like a potentate. TWA gave him a seat on the plane. He was met at the airport by a chauffered limousine and given a room at the Ambassador East—a corner room, overlooking Lake Michigan. On the huge davenport, Chips would sit by the windows and contemplate the lake by the hour. He has been introduced from the floor in clubs from New York to Miami; Chips has always taken it like a Maharajah, gracious and imperturbable.

There’s plenty of living going on at the Martin home, too, where there are three German shepherd dogs and five children. Four of the children are from Dean’s marriage to his former wife, Betty. Since they live right around the corner with their mother, they just take it for granted that they have two homes. Craig, who is thirteen and can aptly be described as the apple of his father’s eye, Claudia, Gale and Dena (feminine for Dino) are forever banging away in the basement or riding a bike through the house.

Now, Dean and Jeanne’s own little Dino, going on two, is slated to have a sister, any day. Dean, who says, “I’ve called the shots five times out of five,” is so sure it’s going to be a girl that they’ve already picked out her name: Jamie.

The expected baby did not influence the Martins’ reconciliation after their dramatic month’s separation earlier this year. Jeanne, who wisely knew that what decision they reached had to be between the two of them, said, “I didn’t want to tell Dean about the baby after we separated.” But, when the news was broken by the newspapers, she admitted, “It helped us make up our minds a little faster.”

There is solid proof that all is very well with the Dean Martins in that Dean, instead of staying in Europe with the rest of the troupe the full three months, because Jeanne’s doctor wouldn’t let her take the trip, made arrangements to be back sooner than the others, in mid-July, a full month before the baby was due.

Even during the separation, neither denied being deeply in love. The time apart was a time for stock taking to see if they couldn’t come to understand, and overcome, their differences. Dean says, “It’s just fine, now. She has learned something, and I have learned something; we have learned to work out our problems together.”

Dean is no man-about-town. He both wants and needs a home, and home is what he hurries back to. Dean is ready to relax when he comes in through the front door. But Jeanne, like many a young wife, needs recreation instead of relaxation at the end of the day. And their separation has given them both an evaluation of each other’s needs.

Jeanne is the lovely, cool Germanic blonde whose beauty has made her accustomed to adulation. Underneath Dean’s casual, debonair way is a flowing Italian warmth that requires appreciation and great responsiveness.

He has no memory for dates, but a great one for moments. Anyone can give a token birthday gift; Dean would rather give a token in memory of their first kiss. He may forget an anniversary, then come up with a fabulous gift to mark something special and intimate that has happened between the two of them.

Last Christmas, he could have ordered Jeanne the most expensive mink coat in town over the telephone, and let it go at that. Instead, his gift was one that said, “I have been thinking of you.” It was a precious and breath-taking antique pendant from Italy, like something out of a regal collection. It took months of planning, a jeweler resetting it with fabulous stones of Dean’s own choice.

Jerry, too, doesn’t need any special date to shell out gifts; only with him, he wants to share his own good fortune with everyone. One of Jerry’s greatest joys in living is to do things for others. Admire a pair of cuff links he’s wearing, and they’re as good as yours. He’ll take them off on the spot and hand them to you. With Jerry, there’s just one string attached to a gift. He has to see the pleased expression on your face when you get it. One more thing; if he has any idea you might want to reciprocate in kind, he’ll prostrate himself at your feet begging you not to.

Martin and Lewis like to give each other gifts, too; usually a mad inspiration of the moment. While making “The Caddy” they gifted each other with motor scooters. This is akin to giving a child a blowtorch to play with in a haystack. Jerry promptly had a smashup, which almost finished wrecking a trick knee he injured in childhood. It put him in a wheel chair for three weeks, which he didn’t find funny at all. A steel brace still goes over that leg when anything strenuous is in the offing.

Jerry’s accident happened just when Dean was to play in the Bing Crosby charity golf tournament at Pebble Beach—an event that meant about as much to Dean as the Coronation to Queen Elizabeth. It was, in fact, the first invitation, after four years of bids, that he had been able to accept. But he canceled his plans with the nonchalant comment, “Aw, it doesn’t make any difference.” It was Jerry who couldn’t stand it. So he ordered a silver trophy, inscribed: “To my partner: This is the trophy you would have won at Pebble Beach if it hadn’t been for me.”

Dean shoots golf in the middle seventies. But he’d give every quarter he owns to be a real professional and shoot with Snead in the sixties. Like sand in the desert, golf has a way of seeping into everything that concerns Dean.

With all their side-line interests and hobbies, it’s a deep, dark mystery how a Martin and Lewis movie ever gets finished, but somehow they all come in on schedule.

Even their famous home movies, demented as anything Martin and Lewis can perpetrate, have a method to their madness. With $66,000 invested in camera equipment, each movie takes a month to shoot and costs $3,000 to $4,000. The cast (Tony Curtis, Shelley Winters, Janet Leigh, Jeff Chandler, anyone else who may be handy!) works several evenings a week and on Sundays from eight in the morning until late the next morning.

Of course, those are the Sundays when the Martin and Lewis Aristocrats don’t have a ball game at Sawtelle Veterans’ Hospital. This is the team that started on a sand lot and includes Dale Robertson, Jeff Chandler, Tony Curtis, Peter Lawford, Danny Arnold and Mack Grey. “We get our name, Aristocrats,’ Dean explains carefully, “because we look like bums in our baseball suits.”

In making the home movie satires, one of Jerry’s eyes may roll dementedly—but the other is on an ultimate goal of directing. Whether it’s possible to keep him behind a camera remains to be seen, but Martin and Lewis’s own producing company, York Pictures, won’t have to take the chance. Hal Wallis, to whom they’re under contract, has told Jerry he can codirect any time he’s ready.

Dean heckles, “I am not gambling with my money. If Mr. Wallis wants to let him, all right.”

They themselves may be completely lacking in inhibitions, but a more orderly business (if that’s the word for it) was never run. Every radio script and recording of every show, 16mm prints of all their TV shows and movies plus the scripts (the TV ones are full of holes from their ad libs), every press clipping are kept. A vault is to be built in Jerry Lewis’s home to hold the record of the Martin and Lewis madness. Ask them a question: “Where were you on July 16, 1947?” and the record might show: “We were at the Steel Pier, Atlantic City, weather was clear and hot, grossed so much—and the ocean registered seventy degrees.”

It’s a solid business, carried on in a bughouse. The melee on a Martin and Lewis set spreads to all parts of the Paramount lot when the boys are working. Between takes on “Money From Home” you could find Jerry, the business tycoon of the team dressed in a jockey costume, in Bungalow 110, signing letters and disposing of last minute details before the European trip.

In the adjoining bungalow, Dean is rehearsing a song for their last TV show. The mail arrives with a card from Bing: “Still can’t find anyone who knows you.”

Bing Crosby, in Europe himself, was heckling them about their forthcoming trip. That continent’s discombobulation is only this country’s short respite. On September 26, the Martin and Lewis tidal wave hits the New York Paramount again, then back to Hollywood where life at times, is almost normal!




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