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Dean & Me: (A Love Story)    by Jerry Lewis & James Kaplan order for
Dean & Me
by Jerry Lewis
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

July 24, 1956 was the day an entertainment team gave their last performance at the Copacabana in Manhattan. The audience applauded vigorously, knowing that the knell was sounding for an American icon - the comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Says Lewis in Dean & Me, 'I was losing my best friend and didn't know why'. They first met in mid-Manhattan, then a nightclub mecca. Jerry was ten years younger than Dean, and neither would have guessed that their coincidental 1945 meeting would lead them to become one of the greatest teams in entertainment history.

Beginning in 1946 at the Havana-Madrid, Martin sang on stage as Lewis began razzing him with unprecedented antics. He interrupted the crooner's performance, but Dean caught on and gave back as much as he got. The team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was born. Though there were other successful comedy teams on stage, radio, television, in nightclubs, casinos, and films - Burns and Allen, Abbott and Costello, Hope and Crosby - Martin and Lewis were different in that their performances were ad libbed. Up to the time they teamed up, Martin was making his way as a crooner, and Lewis did lip-synching to music recordings, while making faces of the persona he was portraying - it was also referred to as dumb act. They entered the film industry with their first screen test for producer Hal Wallis at Paramount studios. But film performances were stifled by scripts and uncomfortable, assigned roles until Lewis convinced the producer that, to get the best of Martin and Lewis, it was necessary to carry forward the X Factor that made them successful.

This memoir of the performers includes a panorama of the Mafia; crooner Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack; comedians including Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar, and Charlie Chaplin; fame, money, and women; and the pandemonium that followed a performance at London's Palladium. Among the team's accomplishments are films including My Friend Irma and The Caddy; their Sunday night television special, The Colgate Comedy Hour; and a national radio show. They did this while still performing at casinos and nightclubs into the early morning hours. Lewis writes that their success as a team was due to having fun together, on stage and off. After Martin and Lewis went their separate ways, they experienced successes and failures. Dean went on to recordings that made the top of the charts, and movies including The Sons of Katie Elder, Rio Bravo, and Some Came Running. Jerry worked as writer, producer, recording artist (Jerry Lewis Sings), and actor (The Delicate Delinquent), and is well known for hosting the Annual Labor Day Weekend Telethon for neuromuscular diseases.

There seems no single reason for the breakup of Martin and Lewis, just cumulative circumstances. After a twenty-year period of not speaking, it was Frank Sinatra who surprised Lewis by bringing Martin on stage during the 1976 Telethon. Lewis shares with readers his pain over the process of dissolving the team. He never lost his love and admiration for Martin, who died on December 25th, 1995 at the age of 78. Readers interested in biographies, the history of the entertainment world, the road to stardom, as well as fans of Dean Martin and/or Jerry Lewis, will be elated by Dean & Me. Jerry Lewis and co-author James Kaplan have penned an exceptional story of joy and sadness, mirth and madness, but mostly unforgettable, magical memories.

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