Dean Martin was part of the group of American entertainers known as the Rat Pack, alongside showbiz giants like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. They were the hippest group in the fifties. But did you know why Dean Martin declined JFK’s invitation for his inauguration as president?
In John F. Kennedy’s inauguration as president of the US in 1961, Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. wasn’t allowed to attend because he was black. Dean Martin refused to attend because of this.
Who was Dean Martin?
Dino Paul Crocetti was born on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio. He was the youngest son of an immigrant Italian barber. Martin attended the Grant Elementary School in Steubenville, Ohio but decided that school was not for him, dropping out of Steubenville High School and pursuing a career in singing.
Martin started singing in a local spaghetti restaurant and earning money on the side as an amateur welterweight fighter. He then began singing in local Ohio nightclubs with the Ernie McKay band. When the band started touring in 1938, Martin changed his name to Dino Martini. Two years later, he took the title Dean Martin.
He continued his career in singing despite not having any formal education in singing, acting, or dancing. Martin didn’t even know how to read musical notes. Despite this, the legendary singer landed his first record deal with MCA Records in 1943.
A few years later, Martin met another entertainer, Jerry Lewis. They instantly formed a unique bond and performed together for the next ten years. After ten years, the duo called it, and Martin subsequently became part of the Rat Pack alongside Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. (Source: Newsner)
The group grew popular, and they headlined in shows in the Las Vegas strip. In no time, they became a household name and regular performers at the Sands Hotel and Casino. By the sixties, the surviving members of the pack were cast in several movies like Ocean’s 11, Sergeants Three, Four For Texas, and Robin and the Seven Hoods. (Source: Fantastic Facts)
When their popularity started to decline due to the invasion of British bands, Martin hosted a television variety show, The Dean Martin Show, for eight years. It was followed by The Dean Martin Comedy Hour in 1973. He remained in show business until the Rat Pack’s reunion concert tour in 1988, where he fell ill and had to be replaced by Liza Minnelli. Martin died in December 1995 due to acute respiratory failure. (Source: Biography)
Standing Up for Sammy Davis, Jr.
On January 20, 1961, Martin was scheduled to attend the inauguration of the 35th president of the US, John F. Kennedy. But upon knowing that his good friend and fellow pack member, Sammy Davis Jr., and his white wife, May Britt, were not invited. Martin decided not to attend the event.
It was later found out that Kennedy asked Davis and Britt not to attend because the incoming president was afraid of the backlash of the people of the Southern states that an interracial couple would attend the inauguration.
Martin, who treated his fellow pack members as family, stood up for Davis. He said he wouldn’t be part of the event if Davis wouldn’t be in it. In an interview with Martin’s daughter Deana Martin, she mentioned that Martin thought it was the right thing to do. (Source: Newsner)