It seemed like a dream… they, the Greg Garrison Productions office, producers of The Dean Martin Show, were paying “me’”… paying me to do what I love: singing and dancing - AND doing it alongside the legendary Dean Martin as one of the Dean Martin Golddiggers!
I experienced singing to over one million people amid standing ovations from the sold out performances in the 1,400 person capacity “Celebrity Room” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. We were the opening act for many of the legendary entertainers of the century, signed autographs, and were involved in numerous photo sessions and countless newspaper interviews.
Rehearsals were held at the NBC studio with the Carol Burnett show rehearsing in the studio on our left and the Tonight show across the hall. We were surrounded by stars from day one. I was lucky enough to perform in Monte Carlo, Montreal during the Olympics, Las Vegas, and Acapulco to name a few. There were many concerts as well as numerous charity functions. Also, we had repeated performances as guest stars on the Mike Douglas Show plus, of course, the many Dean Martin TV Specials. All of this with 7 other women who are still my dearest friends.
TV cameras were whirling with a 7,000 person capacity crowd at the Westchester Premiere theatre (Sinatra had so many bodyguards that believe me, we were “well” protected). The old Mae West quip, “Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” took on a whole new meaning.
Entertainers usually have huge hearts and the Golddiggers were no exception. So we were involved in many charity concerts. At the Oscars February 2009, it was so exciting to see Jerry Lewis receive the Humanitarian Lifetime achievement Award for his incredible work with Muscular Dystrophy. We had donated our talents on many of his Muscular Dystrophy TV telethons over the years. Paul Anka also invited us to perform on his TV telethon for Cerebral Palsy. That was where I had the most embarrassing moment in “all” of my life! All I can say is, “Thank goodness the TV show was taped and not LIVE”.
I knew at the time that I was in a “Masters” Class for performing! My years of association with Dean Martin led me to travel, watch, learn, listen, and perform with the top TV and stage legends of the century! There was Bob Hope, Mike Douglas, Red Skeleton, Milton Berle, Donald O’Connor, Wayne Newton, the Drifters, Stanley M. Handelman, Jackie Vernon, Jonathan Winters, Dom Del Luis, just to name a few.
I was born into a musical southern family, on my dad’s side, entwined with the healing/nursing influence from my mom’s side. My father went on to write the country hit song 'Sawmill,' sung by Mel Tillis. I’ve grown up with an interest in both areas, so I have been singing and teaching health seminars (The BodyTalk System) for more than 3 decades. Also, I lived in Japan as a child and inherited a curiosity for observing new cultures. Thus, later in my life, my family, (2 children and husband) has lived in Hawaii, Greece and the Caribbean.
How does someone enter showbiz, become a Golddigger, and start at the top singing with a 33 piece orchestra and a mega star?
In my case, it was from Queenland, to Deanland. In Florida, I had been a music/broadcasting major at the University of Miami, singing with the college performance group, the Singing Hurricanes. My mother entered me in the first of 14 beauty contests and, lo and behold, I became the Orange Bowl Queen! Victoria Principal of Dallas TV show fame (and now CEO of her own billion dollar company Principal Secrets), was one of my princesses.
My parents wanted a girl with a head on her shoulders. Trying to make them happy, I worked in real estate, owned a boutique, and co-founded what later became a multi- million dollar copy machine company. I modeled here and there and was chosen for many of the TV commercials that came down to Miami. However, in those days, Miami was a small town, not the cosmopolitan star- studded entertainment center it is presently (South Beach and Gloria Estevan weren’t there yet). I was being drawn to the energy of the entertainment world.
SHOW BIZ STORY
So, on a whim, with nothing but naiveté and positive thoughts, at age 27, I drove straight across the U.S. with Los Angeles as my goal. I told the one and only friend I had in California that I wanted to sing with a known group, be on TV, travel to exotic places and work with the best. She pulled out a 2 month old Variety magazine that included an advertisement that duplicated my wish list. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I called the Greg Garrison Production office’s number listed in the ad. The secretary was out sick, and Greg Garrison himself answered the phone! He invited me to come in. (A private audition.) So, I took my girlfriend for safety and support.
I was sneezing a lot, suffering from a bad cold, and the glamorous hat I wore to impress the producer was actually falling and covering half of my face with every sneeze. Like this, he met me. He asked, “Do you know what the Golddiggers are?” I replied,” Yes, I’ve heard they are a vivacious group of gals that put on a really entertaining show.” “NO," he bellowed, leaning forward and pointing his finger at me, “they are 6 heavy duty LEAD singers!” At that point I said, “Well I’m not… but my girlfriend who is waiting out in the hall is.” So I went out and got her. She gave her charts to the pianist, started to sing and Greg was still looking at me with his mouth a little open.
”YOU, I want to hear you”, he said. So, needless to say, there is much more to the story but I got the job. I always had the sneaky suspicion that I got the job because of my offering my interview to my friend. The fact is NO ONE in Hollywood gives away their private audition and I guess he found it refreshing; at least that is what he told me years later.
There was no way to foresee back in my beauty contest days in Miami and singing Dean Martin’s hit song, “Everybody Loves Somebody” ( it beat the Beatles out of the #1 slot), that I would be working, singing and sharing the stage with this legendary Grammy Life Time Achievement Award winner for years to come.
Greg Garrison was a clever producer for Dean. They had their agreement for over twenty years on a “handshake”. Golddiggers were hand picked to complement and enhance Dean.
We entertained Dean as well as the audience. We all have many stories about before going on stage, his habits, routines, superstitions, likes and dislikes. I thought we were a wonderful fun group of sophisticated ladies… but let the quotes say it for me.
Courier Post, Cherry Hill, N.J. "Six gorgeous girls, five beautiful costumes, an hour of song and dance. What they do in an hours worth of stage time is well worth the price of admission. They're the Golddiggers of TV fame, and if it ever can be said that the tube doesn't do a group justice, this must be the case! They left to a well-deserved standing ovation."
(Vegas Visitor Magazine) "Golddiggers, a talented group of lovely entertainers whose frequent appearances on network television specials have earned them an enthusiastic following. The Golddigger portion of the show is non-stop entertainment, singing, dancing and comedy with a vast variety of material and solo numbers to display the girl's individual talents."
Toronto Sun by Blaik Kirby. "The Golddigger’s discipline is good, their act incurably lively and it's staging first rate. Designed with only one purpose: to build!.
The Golddiggers walked the red carpet in February 2009 and were a part of the immense honor bestowed upon Dean. His family was presented Dean’s Grammy Life Time Achievement Award.
We have used our mega-opportunity and knowledge and 30 years of friendship to further various careers that include: Producers of music, concert and TV shows, entertaining, conducting health seminars, teaching, hosting/commentating TV and Radio shows, songwriting, architectural design, directing and more. Each of the girls exudes a “one woman show” level of talent.
To name a few of the credits that made/make up my group of the Dean Martin Golddiggers: Solo artist at the Radio City Music Hall, Command Performance for the Royal family of Monaco, Opening act for David Copperfield, star of” Touch of ShowBiz”, a 3 hour one woman show that raised $85,000 for Hospice Care, featured acting roles on various TV hit shows, and on and on… I’ve lived a great life and yet still give immense credit to Dean Martin, Greg Garrison, and Lee Hale for welcoming me into that magic “golden era”.
The legacy lives on with Maria Lauren’s production of” Showstoppers.” It’s a musical reunion show that pays tribute to the memory of Dean Martin, various showstoppers and “our” golden days. Fans love it and the reviews are wonderful. The girls that have joined her for these shows include: Linda Eichberg, Peggy Gohl, Marie Halton, Linda Regan, Patti Gribow, Joyce Garro, Susan Buckner, Deborah Pratt, and myself. Even Lee Hale has got up on stage and sang his song, 'Prostate Blues.'
Dean and us---TV Specials--Christmas Specials
I was actually introduced to Dean by Greg, his producer. Greg said, “Dean, this is Robyn and she was an Orange Bowl Queen. Remember what happened the last time you met an Orange Bowl Queen? You married her!!!
I had the pleasure to work with Dean on several of his TV specials: The Red Hot Scandals of l926 and the Christmas in California TV specials.
On any TV shows I’ve done with him, one had to learn his part quickly as it was up to the Golddiggers to get him to his mark. Dean didn’t like to rehearse and his stand in, Lee Hale, (the musical director of the show and now author of Backstage with the Dean Martin Show) would be “Dean”. The real Dean would watch Lee/Dean once, then go out and do whatever was being asked of him. Thus, there was always the look of interest and laughter in his eyes. He was like an adorable big kid being led into a room full of presents and surprises… because he was.
Dean showed such low key unassuming caring and kindness for us over the years. He quietly took care of any medical bills, medications, or doctors visits while we were working with him. It made us want to honor his name even more. I remember dancing on a severely sprained ankle. In the daytime it could bear no weight at all without excruciating pain, but, every night while onstage, no one in the audience would have had any idea.” The show must go on”, became my personal mantra…
The epitome of that statement was when Dean’s son Dino died tragically in an airplane crash. We were supposed to open in Las Vegas on the ensuing Thursday night. On that Monday we heard the news and naturally the show was cancelled. On Wednesday, we heard back that, yes, Dean wanted to do the show. So we opened on the Thursday. The outpouring of love from the audience was heart rendering.
During the Rat Pack tour, I was standing talking with Dean during the rehearsal. Frank (Sinatra) walked over and started kidding around - half seriously - that he wanted the Golddiggers for his own. Dean paused, then said, “You can look at them, and listen to them, but, look at the marquee… it says Dean Martin and The Golddiggers and that’s how it’s going to stay." And… it did!
I now live in Greece with my unique guy, husband David. We live in a 150 year old stone house and grow much of our own food, breathe fresh air and have minimized our carbon footprints. Our daughter lives in London, and our son in North Carolina is having his second child. We have spent the last 23 years together living in Hawaii, Grand Cayman and now Greece.
I am an International BodyTalk seminar Instructor sharing techniques of an amazing “self healing” alternative health care modality for children, families and health care professionals. www.ibaglobalhealing.com Plus, I will be having a Greek Health Retreat next September. Watch out for the new website coming soon. I look forward to flying back 1-2 times a year to the U.S. to see my son, granddaughter, family and friends.
Two years ago, I released a 2nd edition of Skye’s Lullabies, (Dreamland, Lullabies to soothe the soul), a positive uplifting lullaby album dedicated to my granddaughter when she turned five years old. It was originally written, sung and produced by me for my son when he was five years old (full circle now).
Then, Mothering Magazine and Peter Pan Industry touted it as a real treasure and helpmate to young parents everywhere. After twenty years it is going strong and being distributed as a great baby shower and Mother’s day gift by: cdbaby.com/cd/skyeslullabies.
I have also produced an album of beautiful classical Spanish guitar music.
I still keep my singing alive with a one woman show, Touch of Showbiz, which raises monies for Hospice Care. So life is good and I know how lucky I am.
I’ve been told that my life has been so exciting that I should write a book. I know many of the other gals have been told the same. Much of our lives were formed and enhanced by the experiences we shared “on the road” with the legends. We were the only ones with Dean the last 20 years of his glorious career. It actually “would” take a book to do justice to the amazing “Golden days” we shared as the Dean Martin Golddiggers. So who knows…
SEE ALSO: marialauren.com
You can also read more about the gals on Patti Gribow’s
copyright 2009 Robyn Whatley
Short History of the Golddiggers
Short History of the Golddiggers
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