News Column

Enfield Nurtures Bond With Dean Martin's Daughter

August 6, 2014

By Michael Walsh, The Hartford Courant



Aug. 06--Before her annual performance at the Enfield Mount Carmel Society Italian Festival, Deana Martin stopped at the Enfield Senior Center to talk about her connection to Enfield, her career and her famous father, the singer Dean Martin.

Her appearance July 31 was a reminder of the relationship the Town of Enfield has forged with Martin and her husband, John Griffeth, over the past five years.

The initial contact with Deana Martin's was made largely to Police Chief Carl Sferraza's persistence and some well-made Italian food.

Sferraza's initial request to have Martin perform at the town's annual Italian festival were turned aside because Martin and Griffeth just couldn't fit it into their schedule at the time. But when Sferraza met Martin after her performance at the Foxwoods Casino, things changed.

"He came by and he introduced himself," Griffeth said to a crowd of hundreds at the Enfield Senior Center. "The next thing I see, he's handing her a big container of pasta fagioli."

Pasta fagioli, a meatless Italian dish, is famously one of Dean Martin's favorite foods and is included in the lyrics of his signature song "That's Amore." Deana Martin said she used to make it for her father the way her grandmother would.

"As he's leaving," Griffeth continued, "he comes around and says, 'John, it was very nice to meet you. By the way, she said yes.'"

That encounter is what began an unlikely relationship between a performer who performs in Las Vegas and big cities and the Town of Enfield.

"We said yes and this is the fifth year," Deana Martin said. "The first time we came here... the whole family made us feel so welcome. It was so great."

Griffeth, who does his wife's tour booking, said he likes to cultivate good relationships.

"We believe in developing long-term relationships," Griffeth said. "We want to work with people we enjoy being with and communities that come out and support. [Sferraza] said, 'This is the place.' It has been wonderful for us to come back every year."

Throughout the hour-long talk that Deana Martin gave at the senior center, she entertained the crowd with humorous and insightful anecdotes about her family, her father's career and her debut on "The Dean Martin Show" in 1966.

"He worked so hard," Martin said about her father. "He was always going through his music. I'm proud to be named after my father."

On the topic of "The Dean Martin Show," the television series that ran for nearly 10 years, Deana Martin talked about how it was her big break and how special it was to perform with her father.

"He wanted to keep everything spontaneous. That's the way he was," Martin said. "He always made me feel so great. I have so many memories."

The conversation that afternoon covered his famous partners, too, including Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra, and Deana Martin played clips from performances. At the end of the conversation, Sferraza, who hosted the appearance, offered his appreciation to Deana Martin and her husband.

"People don't want to believe that people can be celebrities and treat people the way these folks treat me," Sferraza said.

Martin said she is already looking forward to next year's Italian festival and that she might even bring a big band along to celebrate its 90th anniversary.

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(c)2014 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com

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Source: Hartford Courant (CT)


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