Earl Denny Found Mario
Never Forgot A Friend (Pt.1)

From Bob Dolfi <lanza@flash.net
Lanza Legend - Summer 1999

Many of you reading this will remember dancing in the afternoon at the Cathay Tea Garden to the tune of Earl Denny's Orchestra. Earl is almost a by-word in Philadelphia music circles; he's been around a long time and has played and conducted in all the good hotels here. Presently, and for the last nine years, he's been entertaining the customers at Palumbo's Café at 9th and Catherine Sts.
Earl conducted Mario Lanza in his first public appearance at the Fleischer Auditorium; and taught him 'solfeggio,' the reading of music, when he was a student in high school.
A lifelong friend of the Lanzas, Denny is a slight built, quiet, unassuming gentleman, with a natural inherent sweetness immediately apparent at first meeting.
In manner, outlook, and general deportment he is the exact antithesis to the vigorous exploding vitality that was Mario Lanza. It was probably because of these very qualities...the feeling of restfulness...that he unconsciously transmits that Mario loved him.
When Denny visited the Lanzas at their home in Bel Air, California, Mario threw his arms around him. "It's people like you I need around me!" he said with great emotion. Mario was an emotional, bombastic, warm human being.
In all probability, the words Mario used to greet his friend voiced some inner crying need to hold on to something, or someone, who loved him for himself, or in spite of himself; a confused, inarticulate yearning for complete understanding, the kind that only an old and trusted friend can give.
Denny conducted the string ensemble which accompanied Mario's first rendition of the Ave Maria of the church of the Santa Maria Magdalena Di Pazzi, the oldest Italian church in the United States, one Christmas when Mario was only 19 years old.
"An event I shall never forget," Earl recalls with quiet earnestness. "People literally went down on their knees afterwards. They kissed Mario's hands and some, perhaps the most touched of all, were speechless, with tears in their eyes. It was a magnificent, moving spectacle which no one present that Christmas day will ever forget. It chilled the blood with awe and wonder and warmed the heart with love."
(Photo Caption) Orchestra Leader Earl Denny checks musical score out with Mario Lanza during one of many times the two were together. Denny taught singer 'solfeggio.'
Denny recalls another memorable incident while he was visiting in Bel Air. Mario exuberantly delighted to see his old friend, wanted to play for him all the Italian songs he had ever recorded. They were in the study and Denny remembers that he was so moved and touched in that hour that he could hardly bear it.
For Mario had promised him that the very first time he recorded a Neapolitan song it would be under Denny's direction. Mario kept his word.
Earl Denny Found Mario Never Forgot A Friend
Part Two
Lanza Legend, Fall 1999
A commentary from Damon:
This particular story is just another reason why we fans should not always pay attention to all the negativity that has been written and said about Mario. Maybe this is only one story, but regardless, it shows a side of my father that has not been explored in depth. I guess it doesn't sell books or papers. Mario never forgot who his friends were as attested to by Ed Mazzarino, who was the owner of the same name restaurant where my father went so often. There was a good and decent side to Mario and we aim to make it public. Mario had his weaknesses as we all do but not to the extent and exaggerations that we are subjected to.
My father said it right when he said to his friend Ed Mazzarino, about so called friends around him: "What can I do? I need them." Another cry for help?)
In leaving off in our last edition, we were making mention of Mario maybe reaching out for help, which makes us ask this question: where were his so-called friends? Most everyone has claimed to be Mario's friend but where were they when Mario needed them? Now, let us continue...
But since time and fate have a way of arranging events to suite their own purposes, Mario was in Italy when the song was recorded. Both Mario and Denny were terribly disappointed that they could not realize this one dream together.
In remembering Mario, Denny feels there were deep rooted emotional qualities in the young singer which were probably partly responsible for his strong resistance to regimentation as it applied to his personal life and to his singing.
Mario derived his greatest joy from singing "to the people - all the people" - rather than to a swanky audience which might have paid fat prices to hear him sing. In this respect, then, he was a non-conformist. And this was the area which created for him the most exasperating troubles with his associates in the movie industry.
One incident which points this up occurred during a conference before the making of the picture, "The Great Caruso."
Mario, sitting in on the conference, insisted that the only man to conduct the Caruso score was Dr. Peter Herman Adler, conductor for NBC Opera. Dr. Adler had conducted for Mario at Convention Hall in Atlantic City before Mario went to Hollywood. Also, Mario insisted that he wanted in the picture as many of the existing greats of opera as it would be possible to assemble.
The Great Caruso, Mario's idol for so many years, deserved only the best, and the best was none to good for Mario. But it was Caruso that Mario wanted to honor, not really Mario lanza, because deep down inside Mario Lanza was still plain Freddie Cocozza from a South Philadelphia Italian family.
Basically, he had great humility. So Mario got his way, and Dr. Adler came to California, lived in the Lanza home the entire time the picture was in the making. And the opera greats were in the picture, too, and "The Great Caruso" made millions for its producers.
Earl recalls that Mario had a flair for telling humorous stories and for describing laugh -provoking situations, for real comedy, and they had great times together while he visited them in California.
Today, Earl Denny wears one of the famous wrist watches which have become almost a Lanza trademark, the symbol and token of Mario's deep affection. Each watch was personally inscribed to fit the wearer and Denny's reads: "To Earl Denny. You have been a life-long friend. Therefore, I am a richer man. Always, Mario."
Earl Denny, today, has only the fondest memories of the young lad who wanted, not just to 'be a singer' the way others have wanted to be writers or doctors or lawyers, but who quite simply wanted only to sing, n his own way, in his own time.
Editor's note:
One can not help but wonder how all the vicious rumors about Mario ever got started in the first place. Here we have a well-known figure who attested to Mario's demeanor as "The people's singer." Yes, Mario was a non-conformist and probably had a strong resistance to being regimented, but from all accounts that we are uncovering to date, Mario was at times, 'right.'
Ed Mazzarino, a close friend of Mario's, who we 'uncovered' tells us >of Mario's demeanor being almost as Earl Denny tells us. Earl and Ed >never met. Ed Mazzarino also mentioned 'Mario reaching out.' Richard >Tucker's wife Sara, made mention about Mario 'not being happy, that >something was missing.' (see volume-1 issue-4) Mario WAS reaching out, >but there was no one to help - how sad. >