Post by denise on Nov 20, 2019 13:15:11 GMT
As I have mentioned previously, I have been researching some little known and even wholly unknown facts about Patti Lewis, whom I greatly admire. To my knowledge, Patti is still with us. Either today or tomorrow is either her 98th or 99th birthday, depending on when you believe she was born. To clear up this and other mysteries, I started doing a little digging. As with my previous research, I will upload this in several installments. The books I mention as sources will be listed at the very end. Please do not re-post this information anywhere else.
What was my motivation to start this research?
In November 2017, Rick Saphire, a sometimes representative of JL, initiated a GoFundMe project to help finance Patti Lewis' care at her assisted living facility. (It seems that Jerry had been paying, either in full or in part, for Patti's care. These payments stopped after his death.) In a brief sketch of Patti's life, he mentioned a little known fact – that Patti had been married before she met Jerry Lewis in 1944. This was never mentioned in any biography of Jerry, not even in Patti's own book. People on the social networks who knew JL's biography better than I, had never heard of such a marriage. So I was curious if this was true and what could be found out if one just searched a bit.
I will not write a detailed biography here, that is not my intention. I will repeat what is already known about Patti Lewis only as needed. So if you want to fill in the gaps, please read her book (see the book list at the end), which is flawed, but for many things the only source. Also note that I have no source within the family, I know no one in the family, I never met or saw either Jerry or Patti. All the information below can be confirmed by reading the named literature and by online research.
Date and place of birth
The easy part first: she was born in the coal mining town of Cambria, Wyoming, where her father, Angelo Calonico, an Italian immigrant, was a coal miner. The town was dissolved and abandoned in 1928, as the coal reserves were depleted. It is now a ghost town. See Wikipedia for more on Cambria.
Contradictions about Patti's date of birth
Her exact date of birth seems uncertain (I've heard that Patti herself was not certain of the date), but according to an immigration entry card for a flight from London to LA in 1958, on which Patti was a passenger (along with Jerry), she was born on Nov. 20, 1921. (Source: Ancestry.com) So this is apparently the date of birth she used. That means she was 5 years and 8 months older than Jerry. That said, it seems the family believes she was born in 1920 and they must have some reason for believing that. (Note: her original birth first name was Pasqualina, meaning "Little Easter". To find out how she came to be known as Esther, please see Patti's book.)
To confuse things further: there is a birthday letter from Jerry to Patti dated Nov. 21, 1962, wishing her a happy birthday without mentioning her age. So was Nov. 21 her real birthday? See www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/letter-jerry-lewis-wife-patti-1962-1937380198
Note: using Worthpoint, one can find other such birthday letters from Jerry to Patti, all dated on a Nov. 21st. That leads me to wonder about the accuracy of the above mentioned immigration entry card.
There is contradictory data on the year. Either 1920 or 1921. Patti herself did not discuss this topic in her book.
For 1920 speaks the fact that Jerry, in his autobiography, says that Patti was 6 years older. I do not think he would deliberately make her older than she really was, and after 36 years of marriage, I think he knew the age difference quite well. The video documentary The Last American Clown (see YouTube), which is biographically quite accurate, also says Patti was 6 years older than Jerry.
The author of several Google articles in Italian evidently corresponded with Gary Lewis; he quotes Gary as saying his mother is 96 in a March 2017 article (meaning born in Nov. 1920). Another article in Dec. 2012 quotes her age as 92 (also meaning born in Nov. 1920). In his book, Raffaele Alloggia also quotes Patti's yob as 1920. In my May 2019 correspondence with Mr. Alloggia, he referred to his April 2019 correspondence with Gary Lewis, in which Gary stated his mother is 98, i.e. born in November 1920. So evidently the family thinks she was born in 1920. However, the Italian articles also quote 1919 as the year when Patti's mother emigrated from Italy to the US, and as we will see below, that is incorrect; it was a year later, the ship's manifest leaves no doubt.
In her book I Laffed Till I Cried, Patti stated that her mother was 16 when she was born, so that would mean that Patti was born in 1917, so we can totally disregard that information. Either her mother's memory was faulty or Patti rememberd the story incorrectly.
I do not trust Census data. I know from my own family genealogy that Census data is not always accurate. I of course looked it up, but the data is contradictory and therefore can be used for either argument. But to spare you from looking it up: the 1930 Census states that Patti is 9, the 1940 Census states 18. Keep in mind that the Census was taken in April in both years; the ages given are supposed to be at the last birthday.
For 1921, aside from the above mentioned immigration card, speaks the fact that Patti's mother arrived in the US from Italy on July 7, 1920 – the ship's passenger list is very clear. Of course this does not rule out that Maria Rotellini was already pregnant (by another man). Assuming she was not, then she could not have met her husband for the first time in the summer of 1920 (note: he was not on board the ship, he and Maria therefore did not enter the US together) and already give birth to Esther/Patti in November of the same year.
The author information (Library of Congress cataloging data) at the front of Patti's book states her yob as 1921. The publisher could only have gotten that data from Patti herself.
Going back to the immigration card mentioned above, I assume the dob on this card corresponded to the date in Patti's passport. In order to obtain a passport, an applicant must submit some proof of birth and age, like a birth certificate, and in this case I assume that document said 1921.
Esther/Patti's parents, Mary and Angelo Calonico, divorced; the final decree was handed down on Dec. 9, 1929. (Source: Divorce record, Michigan Dept. Of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Wayne County) The reverse side of the judgement names the two children, Esther and Joseph. Esther is listed as 8 years old in Dec. 1929, in which case she would have been born in Nov. 1921.
I believe the evidence for 1921 is much stronger, even though it may contradict what the family believes. To believe the 1920 date would mean that Patti's mother was pregnant when she arrived in the US. But in the end I am back where I started: Patti was born on either November 20 or 21, in either 1920 or 1921.
To be continued
Post by denise on Nov 21, 2019 9:21:37 GMT
Parents and Family
Esther/Patti's parents were Angelo Calonico, a coal miner, and Maria Rotellini. Angelo was born in March 1893 in Scanno, Italy and it appears he arrived in New York in July 1906 with destination Monarch, WY to join his father. (Source: Immigration and WWI draft records on Ancestry.com) Maria Rotellini was born on Feb. 28, 1901 in Paganica, Italy. (Source: Alloggia book, quoting records in Paganica. Social Security records on Ancestry.com say 1903.). According to several articles in Italian that I found using Google, and Raffaele Alloggia's book, her brother Franco was already a miner in Cambria and Angelo Calonico was his friend. Franco talked to Angelo about marrying his available sister, who was eager to leave her dismal life as a servant in Paganica, where it seems she was frequently beaten. So Maria married Angelo by proxy in Italy, according to these Italian sources, having only a photo of her betrothed. These sources state that being married enabled Maria to enter the US more easily (limited immigration after World War I?), also because she was a minor. (According to Mr. Alloggia, such marriages by proxy were common in those days; they were performed by the civil authorities and enabled the person involved to emigrate.) Although the articles claim that Maria entered the US in 1919, citing Gary Lewis as the source of this information, immigration records (the ship's manifest) on Ancestry show that she arrived in New York on the Italian ship Duca d'Aosta from Naples on July 7, 1920, age 19, single (what about the proxy wedding?), hometown of Paganica, Italy, with destination Cambria, WY to join her brother Franco. She was a mail-order bride; it was her ticket out of poverty and abuse. According to later divorce records, Angelo and Maria married for real on Jan. or June (illegible handwritten record) 19, 1921 in Wyoming. (Source: Michigan divorce records on Ancestry.com) Maria had several siblings, some of whom Patti visited in Paganica in the summer of 1953 with Jerry. (Patti and Jerry's second son, Ron, was named after Patti's uncle Aronne, who had a tragic life and death.)
As we know from Patti's book, the marriage did not last. Patti (aka Pasqualina aka Esther) wound up in Detroit with her mother and the mother's second husband, Mike Farino. They married in Detroit on Dec. 21, 1929, just days after Maria's divorce from Angelo was finalized. (Source: marriage license, Wayne County, Michigan, on Ancestry) Both were factory workers at the Chrysler auto plant in Detroit. (The divorce judge awarded custody of Patti's brother Joseph to their father, Angelo Calonico. So the siblings were forcibly separated. These separation experiences – first from her father, then from her mother, then again from her father, then from her brother - might have helped form Patti's later resolve to keep her family together at all costs.)
As told in Patti's book, her mother and Mike Farino had a daughter together, named Anna Mae, born just before Christmas 1932. So Patti learned at a young age how to care for a baby/toddler. For Christmas 1937, the family traveled to Barnesboro, Pennsylvania, Mike's hometown, to visit his family. Little Anna Mae became gravely ill, and died on the evening of Jan. 3, 1938 of septicimia and scarlet fever. She was buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, just east of Barnesboro. (Source: death certificate, Commonwealth of PA, on Ancestry.com). Patti was shattered at the death of her little half-sister, whom she loved very much.
To be continued
Post by denise on Nov 23, 2019 17:43:30 GMT
Education and Musicality
Esther, as Patti was known then, attended the prestigious Cass Technical High School in Detroit. Cass Tech accepted students by recommendation only; students were required to maintain a B average to remain in the school. All students took college preparatory courses. So Esther must have been a bright and talented student. Cass Tech had four „majors“, similar to a college, one of which was music. In fact, the music program at Cass Tech was so rigorous that it was compared to the famous Julliard School. Some students did not even graduate because they were hired right out of the classroom to play in professional bands and orchestras, e.g. by Stan Kenton and the Dorsey Brothers, who periodically visited the school. (Bobby Byrne was one such example, see below.) Music students at Cass Tech were required to learn several different instruments. Before high school, Esther had already learned the accordion, and she had a very good contralto singing voice. According to the book Horn Man, in the 1940's it was very common, even advantageous, for a female singer to also play the accordion. It made Esther an independent entertainer – she sang and was her own accompanist. At Cass Tech she also learned the bass fiddle, the xylophone, piano, trombone and drums (she especially loved the drums) and presumably had voice lessons. (Accordion was not taught at Cass Tech.) In her book she said she learned almost all the other instruments in a band. Cass Tech maintained several different bands (dance band, concert band, marching band and an orchestra), and Esther sang with the dance band. She is assumed to have graduated in 1939; no one from her family attended her graduation. Since her birthday was in November, she would have been 17 or 18 years old. So she was at a normal age for a high school graduate. Esther did not have the chance to continue her music education. One of her music teachers at Cass Tech found a college in Florida that was willing to accept Esther on scholarship, but her mother would not allow it. So after graduation Esther earned money by working in a music store in Detroit and with singing and playing in various bands, also in bands she herself formed.
According to Horn Man, Esther Calonico was a member of Eddie Gajec's all-girl bands in Detroit in the 1930's and 1940's that used different names, among them „Co-Eds Dance Orchestra“ and „Eddie Gay and His 10 Charming Co-Eds“. (Eddie Gajec, born in 1918, graduated from Cass Tech in 1939.) In 1940 they were called the „Strange Moods“; Esther was a band member (singing? instrument?). In 1941 „Estere Connelly“ was a vocalist when the band called itself „Eddie Gajec and His 10 Charming Co-Eds“. I believe Connelly was a stage name for Esther Calonico. (Is Estere just a typographical error by someone or Esther's attempt to disguise her real first name?)
According to the Pittsburgh Press, Feb. 22, 1942, local vocalist Jimmy DiPalma (stage name Jimmy Palmer. Does that last name ring a bell?) has been married ca. 3 weeks to Detroit „co-ed“ Esther Connelly, member of an all-girl orchestra.
The article mentions DiPalma as a vocalist in Bobby Byrne's orchestra. Bobby Byrne had been a student at Cass Tech HS in Detroit (but did not graduate because Jimmy Dorsey had hired him), where Esther Calonico graduated. Byrne was born in 1918; he was 2-3 years older than Esther. So while they were likely not in the same class at Cass Tech, it is very likely that they knew each other from school and the music scene in Detroit.
According to Horn Man, Esther Calonico met her future husband while jobbing in California with an all-girl band. The „future husband“ is named here as Jerry Lewis, but of course that is incorrect. JL and Esther did not meet until mid-August 1944 in Detroit. I believe the „future husband“ was actually Jimmy DiPalma. Was Jimmy DiPalma working there, too, with Bobby Byrne's band (or with Dick Stabile's)? Unfortunately I cannot find any newspaper clippings or other sources to verify that Jimmy DiPalma/Palmer was working in California around the end of 1941 or beginning of 1942. Nor can I find any sources that would verify the same for Esther Calonico/Esther Connelly.
Where (and exactly when) did Esther and Jimmy DiPalma marry? California? A quickie wedding, maybe in Nevada? (A quickie Las Vegas or Reno wedding was possible and popular back then!) It seems Arizona was also a popular destination for quick, uncomplicated weddings. No online record has been found.
When? The Pittsburgh Press indicates at the beginning of Feb. 1942. Even if one does not take that too literally, it would mean they married in the first weeks of 1942 or even in the last weeks of 1941. Esther would have been 20-21 years old. DiPalma would have been 28.
Who was Jimmy DiPalma?
To be continued
Post by denise on Nov 24, 2019 12:54:50 GMT
Who was Jimmy DiPalma?
James F. DiPalma was born in Oct. 1913 and raised in Canonsburg, PA. His father Pio was a barber. Multi-talented, Jimmy ran his own dance studio in Canonsburg as a teenager; his nickname was „Dancin' Shoes“. He became a singer and would sing as a guest with bands that played in Canonsburg, e.g. with Dick Stabile, with whom he later toured. He also sang with the Bobby Byrne and Les Brown bands. He took over leadership of Dick Stabile's band when Stabile joined the military during WWII. Primarily known as a singer, he also played the trumpet. His stage name was Jimmy Palmer. When WWII ended and Dick Stabile returned to lead his band again, DiPalma formed his own dance band. He was especially active in the Chicago area. After the separation from Esther Calonico / Patti Palmer he married at least twice more. He died in Florida in 1988, but was buried in Tennessee. Sources for this info: Google and Ancestry.com.
When and where was the marriage divorced or annulled?
Obviously before Oct. 1944, when Esther married JL. (Esther and Jerry supposedly eloped to Connecticut, although no online record has been found. Note: the CT marriage records are available online.)
This is purely my speculation: I think the marriage was annulled. That would help explain why Esther used her maiden name Calonico when she married JL in the Jewish ceremony in New York in April 1945 (NY State Marriage Records on Ancestry.com). If the marriage to DiPalma had been divorced, she more likely would have gone by the DiPalma surname. An annulment would also have eased Esther's conscience; she was too Catholic for a divorce, which she would later resist for years during her marriage to JL. (With Jerry, she originally filed for legal separation in 1980 and the press reported she had no intention to divorce.)
Jimmy DiPalma married at least twice more after the separation from Esther, the first time as soon as Dec. 1944 to an ice skater (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 21, 1945).
Since all this was swept under the rug after she married JL and he became famous, who knew about it?
Obviously Rick Saphire! Through his uncle (by marriage) Ernest Glucksman, he was well acquainted with the JL family in the 1950's and spoke of Patti's previous marriage in a short-lived GoFundMe project in Nov. 2017 to raise money to pay for Patti's expenses at her assisted living facility. (Saphire quickly removed the project, but I saw it with my own eyes and seriously considered contributing to it, but the project was taken down before I could.)
Jerry's parents? I have long thought that this was one of the many reasons Danny and Rae Lewis never warmed up to Patti. I think they knew, because they had many show biz connections – they were active performers - and I suspect the marriage of Esther/Patti to DiPalma was common knowledge in those circles. It was even mentioned in the press at the time that Jimmy Dorsey's singer, Patti Palmer, once married to Jimmy Palmer (DiPalma), had married comedian Jerry Lewis (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 9,1945; same paper, March 23,1945). But all that was hushed up once JL hit the big time with Dean. Danny and Rae may not have known at the time about Esther and Jimmy's marriage, but I think they found out at the latest once they heard from the grapevine that their boy, still a teen, was wooing this Italian Catholic singer, several years older, who had been previously married to Jimmy Palmer, who must have been well known in show biz circles.
As Jerry described in his autobiography, his parents were absolutely livid when he tried to tell them he had married Patti, and threw him out. (I have the feeling that they already knew and were angry that they had to hear it from other people first, but I'm sure that this was not the only reason for their anger.) Relatives informed him that his parents were prepared to never see him again. In her book A Hotel Kid, Jerry's friend Lonnie Brown Rowley tells how Jerry had written to her in October 1944, saying he had married Patti and was now perplexed on how to break it to his parents; he correctly assumed they would take it badly. Lonnie, now married herself, was too distant to help, so she recommended that Jerry ask her mother and step-father, Lillian and Charles Brown (Aunt Lil and Uncle Charlie to Jerry) for help. And it seems that they did intercede on Jerry's behalf with his parents, whatever form that took. Things were patched up when Patti agreed to a Jewish wedding and to run a Jewish household, although she never really, fully converted. But Patti wrote in her book how pleased Danny and Rae were when she and Jerry later briefly separated.
Dick Stabile? Possible, since Jimmy DiPalma often performed with Stabile's band and even took over the band leadership during the war (Stabile had joined the Coast Guard soon after Pearl Harbor and his wife, singer Grace Barrie, who had first taken over the band, got tired of the ceaseless travel, and so Jimmy became the bandleader .) There are newpaper accounts of how Stabile ate at Jimmy's parents' house when he was in Canonsburg, PA (DiPalma's hometown). So Stabile knew the DiPalma family, not just Jimmy. It would be logical to assume that Stabile knew his friend Jimmy had married.
Dean Martin? If his and Patti's paths had not already crossed from both their band days (although Patti said she first met Dean at Lindy's in NY, with Jerry), Dean may have found out from JL himself or from Dick Stabile, presuming Stabile knew. Or it may have been common insider knowledge in band circles. In the acrimonious months before Dean and Jerry split, it seems that they once came close to blows because Dean made a remark about Patti's virtue before she married Jerry. That indicates that Dean knew something about Patti that he could publicly embarrass Jerry with, if he chose to do so.
Patti's relatives? I'm sure her mother knew, but she was not about to rock the boat by talking to the press, since she lived with the Lewises in the years up to her death in April 1954.
Aside on Patti's mother
As mentioned above, Maria Rotellini Calonico Farino was born in Feb. 1901. She came to the US in early July 1920, trading a very hard life in a poor, small Italian town for a very hard life in the US that included two unhappy marriages, a child's death and hard work on an automobile assembly line. She was very abusive, both physically and emotionally, to Patti – see Patti's book for disturbing details; she herself had experienced abuse in her youth. Yet Patti and Jerry took her into their home in Los Angeles / Pacific Palisades in her last years. It seems Jerry got along very well with his mother-in-law, and Patti and her mother seem to have reached some reconciliation, which speaks for Patti's character. Mary, as she was known, died on April 1, 1954, apparently after major (heart?) surgery and months of declining health. She was buried in LA's Holy Cross Cemetery. (Source: Social Security record on Ancestry; LA Times, April 3, 1954; JL autobiography, Patti Lewis autobiography)
The End! I hope you enjoyed this and found my research credible and interesting. Comments, questions, constructive criticism and of course praise are very welcome. Below are the sources used, aside from what was mentioned in the text, and other informative books on Jerry, Patti and Dean Martin.
as named above
Alloggia, Raffaele. Patti Palmer & Jerry Lewis: Due Stelle a Paganica. L'Aquila: Infomedia Group S.r.l., 2004.
Funt, Marilyn. Are You Anybody? Conversations With Wives of Celebrities. New York: The Dial Press, 1979. Chapter on Patti Lewis.
Gehman, Richard. That Kid: The Story of Jerry Lewis. New York: Avon Books, 1964.
Hayde, Michael J. Side By Side. Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis on TV and Radio. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media, 2018.
Levy, Shawn. King of Comedy. The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996.
Lewis, Jerry and Herb Gluck. Jerry Lewis – In Person. New York: Atheneum, 1982.
Lewis, Patti and Sara Anne Coleman. I Laffed Till I Cried. Thirty-Six Years of Marriage to Jerry Lewis. Waco: WRS Publishing, 1993.
Palazzolo, Laurie A. Gomulka. Horn Man. The Polish-American Musician in Twentieth-Century Detroit. Detroit: The American-Polish Music Society, 2003.
Rowley, Lonnie Brown. A Hotel Kid. Copyright Lonnie Brown Rowley, 2017.
Tosches, Nick. Dino. Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams. New York: Dell Publishing, 1992.
The a.m. Google articles in Italian:
Patti Palmer ricoverata in clinica. Da Paganica a Hollywood realizzò il vero sogno americano.
La cantante sposata per oltre 50 anni con Jerry Lewis. Dec. 17, 2012.
Jerry Lewis, gli auguri di Paganica. L’attore compie 90 anni, nel 1944 sposò Patti Palmer che aveva origini abruzzesi. March 17, 2016
E' morto Jerry Lewis, il ''picchiatello'' del cinema. Legato all'Abruzzo con quella visita a Paganica. Aug. 21, 2017.
Langer, Carole, director. Jerry Lewis: The Last American Clown. Soapbox Productions, 1996. On YouTube.
Post by anarchistemma on Nov 26, 2019 14:25:22 GMT
all very interesting. funny how a previous marriage for patti would be considered scandalous for her, yet dean was obviously divorced, no problem. i didn’t realize dick stabile was known to patti and/or jerry that early. i had read martin and lewis met dick stabile at the slapsy maxie’s gig when they first played LA, and hired the band then. so that’s an interesting historical addition....and sheds further explanation on it being Jer’s decision to hire him, and stabile’s choice to stay with JL and not dean after the split.
thanks for your research.
Post by denise on Nov 29, 2019 19:16:19 GMT
@ anarchistemma: Whether Jerry and/or Patti had met Stabile before the Slapsy Maxie gig, I cannot say. But since Stabile was a friend of Patti's first husband (and knew the man's family as well) from way back, I suspect that Stabile knew his friend Jimmy DiPalma/Palmer had married and whom. Whether Stabile actually met Patti while she was married to DiPalma is another question.