Tuesday, August 5, 2008
My Uncle...Duke Mitchell, aka Dominico Miceli
Recently I got an e-mail and it said, "I just love to spaz out and watch "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla." It's my favorite spaz out movie. I have seen it drunk, I have seen it stoned, and I have had a natural high watching it. I rented it for my school in 16mm and ran it backwards. On DVD now, I freeze frame and I can spaz to just a freeze frame. I might make a face like Sammy and hold it. Or I freeze on Duke Mitchell and sing his entire song. It's the spaz film of the milennium. More than "Plan 9." Wherever your uncle is, I hope he is proud."
Well, of course, I'm sure he is. But there is more to it than that, there are also movies he was in without Sammy Petrillo his comedy co-star, and music he made, so here is a blog that will no doubt get bigger as more people contribute their memories.
Another e-mail I got said, "You must forgive. Learn to be forgiving. Your uncle died in 1981, and he did not abandon you, it was God's will. I have been consoling members of the Petrillo family about their losses and their heartaches, and I am only too willing to help you any time you need it, for I truly believe the greatness of God can be found not only through me, but through the lessons each one of us can read in e-mails and blog comments." And really, that is just so sweet, when someone has nothing better to do than think of others.
So let me start off with a few facts about the "Dean Martin look-alike." Yes, it's true, in a way, they are soulmates. Dean loved to sing and had a great sense of humor. So did Duke Mitchell. Dean came from the tough coal mine area of Ohio, and Duke (Dom Miceli) came from Pennsylvania which is noted for its coal mining. But let's remember, Dean Martin was born in 1917, On June 7th. Duke was nearly a decade younger, born in 1926, on May 9th!
Both were great romancers. Both eventually broke away from their "trained monkey" partners and had other careers. But there, the similarity ends. Duke Mitchell was his own man, and along with nightclub work, strove to be a serious movie actor and director, and from what I've been told, tended to distance himself from the man who played "straight" in the classic "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla."
He and his wife Jo were already on the road in the late 40's, and he got some work as a singer in Florida hotels, but as hot as Florida is, he was told, "Go West, Young Man," and arrived in sunny California in 1950. Ironically, he played a corner man for Jerry Lewis the boxer, in the movie "Sailor Beware." Such is fate. A few years later, and he would team up with the greatest Jerry Lewis imitator of all time!
Posted by DUKE'S NIECE at 10:02 AM