Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra (circa early 1960s)
Q. Do you feel Italian, Dino, or don’t you?
Martin: “I’ll tell you how much I feel Italian. Three years ago, on my birthday, Frank [Sinatra] and I were at the Polo Lounge over there. We were with six other people, minding our own business, and we were a little loud. When we were goin’ out the door, there are a couple of guys, and one of ‘em says, “There goes the two loud Dagos.” Well, Frank got there one split second ahead of me, and he hit one guy, I hit the other,and we picked ‘em up and threw ‘em against the wall. The cops came. We said we didn’t know who did it and walked out. But we did, yeah.
And I did, another time. When my father talked broken English, a couple of people said something. I picked ‘em right up and said, “You aren’t going to say something about a guy who can’t talk English well because he’s been a barber all his life on thirty dollars a week.” When that happens, I just hit ‘em and throw ‘em out, wherever I am. In the past, I’ve been rejected by a lot of prominent people who say, “Well, he’s Italian.”
But I would always punch the guy right on the mouth for this. Even when I was working onstage, and somebody would say “Dago” or “greaseball”, I would jump right on the table - which is why I couldn’t get a lot of jobs: they’d say, “He’s a hotheaded Italian.”
The only one who can call me Dago is Frank. I call him Dago, too. With anybody else, there’s a fight, ‘cause I never call anybody Chinaman or Jew, so why should they say that to me?”
-1967, L’Europeo magazine (reprinted in The Limelighters)