Debonair, seductive crooner; laconic actor; Vegas/Hollywood Rat Pack immortal, this poster boy for the High Life emerged from a humble boyhood in Steubenville, Ohio (b. Dino Paul Crocetti, June 7, 1917; d. Dec. 25, 1995, Beverly Hills). He paid dues working in steel mills and earned pocket change as a gambler and a prize fighter, before taking to the stage as a likelier route to fame, fortune, and keeping his facial features attached. (After leaving the ring, his nose was surgically rearranged, a job financed by comedian Lou Costello.) Martin garnered a following in nightclubs offering a smooth persona influenced by Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and boyhood idols the Mills Brothers.

In the late 1940s, he achieved stardom by teaming with a brash, long-jawed comic named Jerry Lewis, with whom he conquered casinos, radio, films, and TV. Branching out, Dino launched a recording career, with a string of hits including "That's Amore" and "Volare." A youngster named Elvis idolized Martin and copied much of his stylistic flair.

When Martin and Lewis loudly de-coupled in 1956, stargazers predicted Jerry's career would ascend and Dean's would sputter. As if. Martin emerged as an entertainment legend, his stature affirmed as a member of Sinatra's notorious Rat Pack. His movie career blossomed (especially the fun-loving "Matt Helm" spy series). In the 1960s he hosted a weekly TV variety show, and his records continued to dominate the charts (he was the first American singer to knock The Beatles from the #1 US slot—much to the dismay of his children—in 1964 with "Everybody Loves Somebody").

Because of his nonchalant Italian charm, playboy mystique, and unapologetic penchant for the bottle, Dino was a macho role model in the pre-PC world. He continues to inspire sophisticated hipsters who rebel against the neutered modern male.

     — Irwin Chusid