Dino Paul Crocetti was born 7 June 1917 and died 25 December 1995, his life intersecting with mine for around 21 years, much of it until now only distantly aware of this Italian kid who made a mark on the world of music along with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and other members of the ‘rat pack’.
Suddenly, 100 years after he was born in Steubenville, Ohio, I discovered this musical genius and marvel that people could speak breathlessly of the talents of Lady Gaga and RiRi. Many modern musicians and singers have talent but are completely missing the charm of Dean Martin.
I know a few things about Dean Martin: he had charm, he could really sing, he was an Italian-American, wonderfully and completely embracing both cultures, and he loved the ladies, eventually marrying three of them at different times.
He couldn’t speak English until the age of 5 when he first attended school and was mercilessly mocked for that fact. Personally, I think Italian is rightly called a romantic language and being an Italian-American, Dino rightly sang ‘That’s Amore’, ‘Mambo Italiano’, ‘On an evening in Roma’ and ‘Volare’. And in the middle of all this talk of paisano’s and goombah’s, his repertoire includes a song, ‘Under the bridges of Paris’.
Paris is usually thought of in terms of romance, intimacy, bistros and couples enjoying wine in the summer, boats on the Seine. Who knows how many men and women have romanced and been romanced under the bridges of Paris on the Seine?
What Paris is perhaps not generally known for are catacombs. There may be romance under the bridges of Paris, but there are tombs and tunnels under the streets of Paris. The tunnels were created by mining for stone with which to build and in turn, after cemeteries became full, bones were packed in crypts along subterranean passageways. The city of Rome also has a network of catacombs used for the same purpose.
I can see a picture in my mind’s eye from an Indiana Jones movie, of Jones raiding a catacomb beneath Venice to find a clue to the location of the Holy Grail.
It’s intriguing what lies beneath the streets of cities. There’s as much history below ground as there is above it, because catacombs don’t just house bones, but paintings and information related to those who lived and died hundreds of years ago.
A world below ground reminds me that there is more to anything than can be observed on the surface; this is true for social movements and people.
Catacombs, like regular cemeteries above ground provide an insight into a previous generation and their eccentricities, including jokes, humorous stories and even a recipe:
Humor is great, and singing talent is very pleasant, but the best legacy any of us can leave behind is to point the way to Him.