I’ve been re-reading ‘Dino; Living High In The Dirty Business Of Dreams’, Nick Tosches’ majestic biography of Dean Martin. Calling it a bio of Dean, however, is reductive in the extreme; the book is a journey through the dark and relentless birth and progression of the American entertainment industry and its complex and inescapable ties to the ugliest corners of American criminality. If you haven’t read it you must! If you don’t know Nick’s work I urge you to read his Wikipedia entry. Journalist, biographer, novelist, poet, multi-linguist, Nick was an autodidact, with no formal education beyond a couple of years of High School. There was simply nobody else like him.
I was friends with Nick on and off from the mid 1990s until he moved to (or perhaps simply began spending more time in) Paris in the 2000’s. By then I was in L.A., a city he loathed and then–as happens when one isn’t looking–he was dead. That was in 2019. I revered his writing and cherished his friendship. We lunched often at a restaurant on lower 6th Avenue in the West Village called Bar Pitti. To be asked to lunch by Nick was to ceremonially break bread with a master craftsman who, in his quiet and dead-pan manner, both imparted wisdom and shared and savored the dark vaudeville that he saw life as. He appeared in two of my movies–‘Two Family House’ (in which he plays a drunk hotel desk clerk) and ‘Tis Autumn; The Search For Jackie Paris’, where he does a reading of a passage from Norman Bogner’s sex-packed 60s hit novel ‘The Madonna Complex’. The above interview gives a hint of what it was to sit around with him, talk music and entertainment and poetry and the greats of those fields, as well as the bullshit artists who Nick appreciated as much as the artists. There must be more on-camera Nick but I’m coming up short on YouTube. Perhaps he wanted it that way. His words were his passion and he kept his life very private. To have been invited into it is one of the most important–and extraordinarily cool–things that has ever happened to me.