- Earl Denny Found Mario
Never Forgot A Friend (Pt.1)
From Bob Dolfi <email@example.com
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
- 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
- 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