Wow. What a great find. It's rare that a book brings me to tears, and this one got close.
To get the few negative things out of the way -- I tire of old school celebrities dropping the family-friendly persona and cutting loose with the f-bombs and other profanities. While this book isn't ripe with foul language, it certainly happened enough to give pause. I don't question that this is probably how Lewis really speaks when not on camera, but it doesn't make me anymore comfortable with the image it creates. Perhaps weightier than this, however, is the attitude with which Jerry excuses the infidelity that was rampant in his and Dean's marriages while they were on the road
. The facts that they were (1) male and (2) in showbiz are both reasons Jerry lists that help him shrug off their lack of self-control and respect for their wives/children, but to me are very weak justifications. This doesn't change my opinion that Martin & Lewis are two of the greatest things to ever happen to American entertainment, but it does bring me disappointment that they were either too dumb or too selfish to keep their personal & family lives in better check in this regard.
That being said, I really did thoroughly enjoy reading this book. If I hadn't been busy working a 104-hour week, I probably would have read all 330 pages in one, maybe two sittings. Jerry (with the strong help of Kaplan) lushly illustrates his complicated relationship with Dean and brings empathy to their breakup that causes heartbreak for the reader. They never stopped loving each other -- they only stopped loving the act.
I recently purchased the two volumes of Martin & Lewis movie collections on DVD (keeping my fingers crossed for a third that will complete their cinematic appearances together) and am thrilled to be able to watch them now with a historical context. Jerry mentions several specific films and some of the things that were going on behind the camera, as well as certain noteworthy moments to keep an eye out for. I also was unsure as to whether or not I wanted to start collecting Dean and Jerry's "Colgate Comedy Hour" TV installments, but I just might have to start doing that so I can get a better glimpse at more of their improv work, which, according to Jerry, is where they really shone (as opposed to having to work off a rehearsed script where spontaneity is removed).
On a final, personal note, I feel a greater connection with Dean Martin after having read this book. I had no idea that Dean Martin was an avid comic book reader and fan of many of the same superheroes I really enjoy. He also loved westerns, and "Rio Bravo" -- which is my all-time favorite of the genre -- was a HUGE movie for him to be a part of, a giant step in his getting his footing as a solo act after the relatively recent breakup with Lewis.
All of this great content, as well as inside looks at the relationships between the various members of the Rat Pack (most involving Dean) and noteworthy (& very heartwarming) post-breakup discussions between Martin & Lewis, made this a great book about two legends, an eternal friendship bound by true love, and an important part of showbiz history.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a heart.