Dean Martin, Steubenville, Ohio: Star Trekking
Road Trips to Hollywood Across America
Small towns sometimes “do Hollywood” so well.
It is unlikely you will ever find a hometown tribute to, say, Humphrey Bogart. Yes, he is one of the biggest stars ever produced by Hollywood. But Bogart was born in New York City – one of the biggest metropolises ever produced by humanity. Too big, too bustling and with too many hometown heroes for even the likes of Bogie not to be lost in the shuffle.
But take a smaller town such as Denison, Iowa or Fairmont, Indiana and you’ll find their chests flooded with pride for their legendary sons and daughters. (Denison’s daughter is actress Donna Reed and one of the prides of Fairmont, Indiana would be an actor inexorably linked to Reed - via the much-cherished film It’s a Wonderful Life - James Stewart.)
Even though the municipal coffers of such places may not always be as bursting with funds as their chests are with pride, there are still a number of locales that stage festivals and/or maintain historic sites or museums in honor of the movie and television stars who were born there.
If you’re a classic movie and TV fan - or you are becoming one - and you find yourself tooling around the country this summer, these Hollywooders‘ hometowns could be fun to visit. You may be looking to plan future road trips, or you just enjoy hearing that theses homages exist. For any of the above reasons, check out this series of Star Trekking possibilities.
So, we embark to Steubenville, Ohio, the birthplace of a singer/actor I can only refer to as “a wonderful mug” - Dean Martin. I always thought Martin looked like a prizefighter and as it turns out…he was! According to his biographers, he started boxing in his early teens and spent his last few years in Steubenville taking on professional bouts before launching into a career as a recording artist, a comedic actor, an acclaimed dramatic actor, a Vegas performer and a TV star. One of those boxing matches resulted in the broken nose that, even after being straightened, became a defining part of his textured handsomeness.
Each June, Steubenville celebrates Martin with the Dean Martin Festival. The actor was born there on June 7, 1917 and died in Beverly Hills, CA on Christmas Day in 1995. A few months after his death, there was a vociferous public appeal to have a memorial service in the entertainer’s place of origin. Steubenville rallied and has organized an annual celebration event every year since.
[All the events mentioned in this article are from the June 2012 celebration. Check with the links below for the 2020 schedule.]
This year’s festival will culminate with Dean Martin Hometown Celebration Day, Saturday, June 16 and will feature tributes and entertainment during the end of the week leading up to the big day.
If you are of the karaoke persuasion, you surely won’t want to miss the celebration kick-off with the Dean Martin Karaoke Party, Thursday, June 14 at the Spot Bar starting at 7PM. This bar was a hangout for Martin and some of his pals where they claim he spent a lot of time shooting dice in the back room. And who could doubt that it’s true? Dean reputedly was hired to do a lot of little illegal stuff in his youth during prohibition - as well as finding legitimate occupation as a gas station attendant and steel mill worker – so why not backroom dice games? You can drop in to the Spot on South 4th Street that evening and possibly become a star for the night singing the lyrics to “Everybody Loves Somebody,” the mega-hit theme song of Martin’s TV variety show. Or maybe you’d prefer to croon the rather outrageous, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie,” lyric from his unforgettable “That’s Amore.”
If karaoke’s not enough for you, return to the Spot Friday night for the Dino Singing Contest. If you enter, and your talents and luck are good enough, you’ll have to hit the Spot again on Saturday night to perform as the contest winner (so be careful what you wish for!). If not, you’ll still be able to enjoy a line-up of professional performers paying tribute all weekend at the Spot including an accordion artist and a “back-by-popular-demand” Martin impersonator.
Martin was famously teamed with comedian Jerry Lewis in his early film career and was later an intrinsic part of Hollywood’s sassy association of actors known as “The Rat Pack.” Rumors abound about the members of this audacious group which included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and assorted off-beat others. The Steubenville High School will host a “Rat Pack Tribute” concert starting at 1:30PM on Celebration Day, Saturday, June 16.
The day begins with a memorial mass for Mr. Martin at a local cathedral. A charming, helpful, quirky and rather flustered volunteer at the Jefferson County Historical Museum and Library - who gave her name only as “Bridgette” - told me that the museum, which is normally open only by appointment, will throw wide its doors for an Open House Celebration from Noon to 5PM that day. The pride in her voice was evident as she spoke of other Jefferson County notables like actor Robert Urich and Jimmy the Greek - and of what will be the grand opening of the new Dean Martin Room, a gallery filled with Martin memorabilia. Good eats and more memorabilia will be on sale at the Hollywood Shopping Plaza.
“The City of Murals”is the moniker of this Ohio town because there are 25 historic outdoor murals in the downtown area. The Dean Martin Fan Center website says that if you are looking for the mural of Dino, just roll down your car window and ask anyone you see. They’ll be glad to tell you how to find it, if not take you there themselves. I believe it after talking with volunteer Bridgette. The Dean Martin mural is in the Hollywood Plaza, naturally – just ask anybody. Or, better yet, stop by the Visitors Center in Fort Steuben Park at 120 South Third Street in Steubenville.
Proceeds from admissions to events go to the Dean Martin Scholarship Fund for high school students pursuing music and the arts. The fund was created despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that Mr. Martin himself dropped out of Steubenville High in the 10th grade.
Steubenville is located along the Ohio River on the eastern side of the state near the Ohio/West Virginia border. For directions, transportation or more information, visit one of these websites:
Just for fun: The Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis movies were wildly popular and are a fond youth memory for many Americans. The duo made 16 movies before the team broke up in 1956. Can you name at least 3 of their films together?
ANSWER: For a list of all 16 flicks Click Here.