Ex-Wife of Dean Martin Dies at 89

Jeanne Martin, a model and Orange Bowl queen who became the wife of singer-actor Dean Martin during the height of his fame, died Wednesday following a battle with cancer. at the home in Beverly Hills, her family announced. She is 89 years old.

After marrying Dean Martin in 1949, the couple were among the most photographed couples in Hollywood. The wife of a large family, she bore Dean’s three children while raising four more from his previous marriage. Their breakup in 1969 caused Martin’s fans almost as much heartache as his professional breakup with partner Jerry Lewis in 1956.

“Dean’s viewers know he’s a good husband and father and the fun jokes are just part of the action,” Lee Hale wrote in the 2000 book. Behind the scenes at the Dean Martin Showserved as music director for the NBC show.

Dorothy Jean was born Biegger on March 27, 1927, in Coral Gables, Fla., she was with Jeanne as she began modeling in Miami. She was elected Orange Bowl queen in 1947. A year later, she went to the Beachcomber Club in Miami to see a New Year’s Eve performance starring Martin and Lewis.

Jeanne insists that she had never heard of any artists until that night. She told author Nick Tosches for a 1992 biography of Dean Martin that upon seeing him on stage, “We closed our eyes and I knew. We just fell madly in love.”

A week after Martin was approved for divorce from his first wife Betty McDonald, he and Jeanne, 22 years old Biegger married on September 1, 1949, in the Beverly Hills home of Herman Hover, the owner of a famous Hollywood nightclub By Ciro. Lewis is the best man.

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She was “the best thing (besides me) that ever happened to Dean,” Lewis wrote in his 2005 memoir. Dean & Me.

For 20 years, they were considered one of the happiest couples in Hollywood until on December 10, 1969, Jeanne announced that they were breaking up.

The divorce was not concluded until 1972. Dean Martin was married again, to Catherine Hawna hair salon receptionist, and legally adopted her daughter Sasha, but that partnership ended in 1976. Jeanne Martin never remarried.

The couple became acquainted again in 1987 when one of their sons, actor Dean Paul Martin, was killed at the age of 35 while flying a military jet. Jeanne and Dean remained on good terms until he died of respiratory failure on Christmas Day 1995.

The eldest daughter Claudia Martin died of breast cancer in 2001.

Their youngest son, musician Ricci Martin, passed away on August 3.

She is survived by her son Craig Martin; Daughters Gail Martin Downey, Deana Martin Griffeth and Gina Martin Romano; and 11 grandchildren. Funeral services will take place in private.

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