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From the beautiful Ziegfeld room in Las Vegas Nevada, Dean Martin
welcomes some of the greatest celebrities from all over the world (all
of them American). As usual the Roastmaster is the only one not to
rehearse, and Sinatra helps him out with the auto cue. George Burns
gets the first turn roasting 'The Leader' and settles down to take a
little nap after-wards. See the honorable Ronald Reagan, then former
governor of California and ultimate nice guys Jimmy Stewart & Gene
Kelly trying to be funny and mean. This turns out to be impossible for
both of them, so Jimmy reads one of his poems while Gene ends up
showing old movie clips (that get so much applause you might think Gene
and Frankie were dancing there on stage). They might as well have tried
telling jokes, for none behind the dais dare to be caught with their
mouth closed, or even smiling: they have to be grinning or falling over
laughing all the time. Orson Welles especially looks like hes weeping.
Always uncomfortable playing themselves, Dom Deluise and Jonathan Winters pretend to be Sinatra's personal chef and ex-chauffeur. Milton Berle takes the opportunity to insult the man formerly known as 'The Lean Lark' as well as the three African American Roasties: Flip Wilson, LaWanda Page and Redd Foxx. Although they get their chance to retaliate, none of them seems to get more than a minute of air time. By comparison Peter Falk is on for over fifteen minutes, stealing the show after unexpectedly turning up in the audience as Lt. Columbo. After him, the equally unannounced Ruth Buzzi as Gladys Ormfby and Charlie Callas as a mob boss simply cannot compete. Strangely enough Buzzi (who managed to fire of some of the raunchiest jabs) keeps her Gladys outfit on for the rest of the evening, while Peter and Charlie change into a tux. Another nice surprise is when Ernie Borgnine reprises the part of Fatso from "From here to eternity".
TV stars Telly Savalas and Jack Klugman don't have much to add, but Orson Welles talks eloquently about "the world's first finger snapping pope" and speaks a bit of Italian. Red Buttons does not look very happy to follow him, but still manages to get some of the biggest laughs, with Klugman and Fatso jumping up from the table with mirth (of course they had been sitting there for over an hour by this time). Indeed, the show does seem to go on forever, with one tux taking it's turn on the dais after the other. Something like this could never be done nowadays, but back in the seventies a TV special with so many big name stars reaching back all the way to the forties really was something to stay home for. Still, the yap yap yapping just goes on and on and on and you know we ain't there yet as long as there are still people sitting there, blowing smoke till it's their turn.
Rich Little comes up from off stage, of maybe he was just sitting at the very end of the table, and proceeds to impersonate everybody who came before (except Swoonatra himself). A special surprise guest is Ol' blue Eyes' favourite body guard Gilly (a name that often slipped into his lyrics, like on his rendition of 'Mrs Robbinson'). Don Rickles is the final roaster (but makes sure to tell us he's just kidding), before Dean proclaims his Pallie Frank not just the man of the hour, but of the century. In return 'The Voice' spills the beans on Deano by saying his drunk act is just that. Frankie always had to have the last laugh. He was the first member of the Ratpack and the last to go. Speaking of the Pack: apparently Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop were out of favour in 1977, for neither of them got an invitation.
8 out of 10
Dean Martin was one of America's greatest legends in the entertainment industry. He is sorely missed even to this day. He honors or roasts his beloved friend and American icon, Frank Sinatra, in one of his many roasts. In my opinion, even the half-hour infomercial is far more entertaining than anything on television today. I miss people like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and so many others. There are more people who are gone than living with us like Don Rickles, Peter Falk, and Ruth Buzzi. Frank Sinatra's roast is pretty relaxed from what we know. We're glad to see celebrities cut loose and be themselves and poke fun at this man. Nobody will ever have the roasts that Dean ever put together in Las Vegas. Of course, people were smoking cigarettes (God forbid that you display any smoking on television anymore) and drinking liquor and being human anymore. Those days are gone forever and now you have a bit of history with these episodes. Even though they drank and smoke, they always appear to be having fun at themselves.
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Frank Sinatra (1978)
Dean Martin managed to get all sorts of great names to sit down and be roasted but when he finally got Frank Sinatra, all bets were off. Sinatra's tough reputation was well-known so would people really show up and throw jokes at him? Of course they would and what an incredible line-up that came to roast the legendary singer/actor. Ronald Reagan, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Don Rickles, George Burns, Dom DeLuise, Telly Savalas, Jonathan Winters, Red Buttons, LaWanda Page, Jack Klugman, Ernest Borgnine, Orson Welles, Milton Berle, Flip Wilson and special appearances by Peter Falk and Ruth Buzzi among others.
So, with such a legendary main target and some great roasters, did this episode work? In my opinion this here is one of the funniest things that ever played on television. It's nearly impossible to talk about a highlight because there are simply so many with each of the personalities bringing their "A" game and really delivering the laughs. There's really not a single roaster who stinks and in fact all of them are constantly getting huge laughs. Welles and Stewart really deliver the goods and of course Rickles is always able to get laughs. Berle also does a terrific job but so does Martin in his side remarks. Kelly gives a touching tribute to Sinatra but one of the most touching moments comes from Martin being serious and talking what kind of friend Sinatra is. Still, can anything prepare you for Martin and Sinatra getting beaten up by Buzzi? Episode: A+
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a great trip down memory lane to catch this entry in the Dean
Martin Celebrity Roast series. I would make it a point to see as many
of these as I could back in the day, and this was one I remember
catching back in 1977. It was so cool to see so many celebrities in one
place at one time having a good time and making us all laugh along with
them as they paid tribute to one of their own. Now I wasn't a big Frank
Sinatra fan, but you didn't have to be to enjoy this show. I just
watched it on a less than perfect DVD copy, but what the picture lacked
in quality was more than made up for with some side splitting humor and
a great sense of nostalgia for times gone by.
Dean Martin of course hosted as Master of Ceremonies as he always did, and I was always kind of curious why it was he who got to do the honors in headlining the bill. He was a natural of course, and had this spontaneous way about him that was evident even in his variety show of the mid-Sixties and early Seventies. When old Blue Eyes himself got to speak at the finale, he paid warm tribute to his friend Dino, but I couldn't quite believe him when he (Sinatra) stated that the drinking was part of Dino's gimmick; Martin looked like he was pretty well sloshed through most of the program.
The guest list getting to take a crack at Sinatra reads like a 'Who's Who of celebrity legends today with some minor exceptions. However the funniest tributes in my opinion, came from lesser known talents like Charlie Callas doing a mob boss interpretation, and Red Buttons who had the dais rolling with his exaggerated delivery. But the funniest, and I have to say, the only one I distinctly remember from over thirty years ago was Ruth Buzzi doing her Gladys Ormphby character from 'Rowan and Martin's laugh-In'. I recall doubling over when she started whaling on Martin as she did her routine, and wondered if she would be bold enough to take it to Sinatra in the same manner. Not to worry, when Sinatra responded to her 'hope chest' remark, she brought the house down with a throw down on the King that had to be one of the highlights of the evening.
And say, can you remember that brief span of time between Ronald Reagan's stint as governor of California and his eight year run as President? He never looked better than he did here, and watching the show today really had a way of making me reflect back on those times when all of his Hollywood buddies gave him the business about his political aspirations. I mean, just listen to Rickles - it was all just so eerily prophetic (in retrospect) to hear him go on about how Reagan just hungered to be President. Unlike Sinatra, for whom it would be a step down from being King.
Anyway, I just got hold of a whole pile of Celebrity Roasts, and I'm glad that Sinatra's was the one on top. I'm definitely looking forward to viewing the rest - they're the kind of entertainment that never grows old, as long as you have a good sense of humor and a warm spot in your heart for the legends who built show business.
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