We owe a lot to Greg Garrison, our producer and director, who was considered a genius in the era of ‘live' television. Best known for directing TV's Your Show of Shows, Greg also directed the famed Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debates. Then in 1965, Greg took the helm as Dean Martin's Director and Producer, constantly landing Dean's TV Show ratings in the top ten week-after-week. Greg was a wonderful Director, but the one person who was closest to our hearts was our musical director, Lee Hale. Lee not only wrote our songs, he worked tirelessly with us day after day turning us into a group of seasoned performers. His gentle, patient, positive attitude helped give us the confidence we needed to perform in front of the camera or on a nightclub stage although we always felt we needed another week of rehearsal!
Below is an excerpt from Lee's book Backstage with the Dean Martin Show, published by Taylor Publishing Co. in 2000, explaining how the concept for the Golddiggers Summer Series was born.
Greg's production company wasn't going on vacation the spring of 1968. After Dean's last show of the season he gave everybody a couple of weeks to catch their breath. Then we were back in business for another "Dean Martin Presents...", a catch-all phrase that guaranteed Dean's hold on Thursday night at 10.
"This time we need a theme," Greg announced.
We kicked around several of those and suddenly stated in unison, "that's it!" What a brilliant idea we thought. We'd do a television show based on the 1930's, but presented as thought TV existed then. We'd use only the songs, the celebrities, the fads and foibles of that decade.
"We need a title," Greg kept telling us.
I remembered the Warner Brothers musicals of the early Thirties and I called out, "The Gold Diggers!" It seemed to say Thirties more than anything else to me. The rest of the staff blurted out another round of "that's it!" Whenever the typists used that title, however, they seemed to want to run the words together, "The Golddiggers." It was meant to be.
Without Lee Hale, there probably wouldn't be The Golddiggers. Lee has always been there for us along the way, and he's still with us today as our mentor, confidant and part of our family. We love you Lee!
The Golddiggers made their debut on June 20, 1968 as hosts of the Dean Martin Summer Show. "Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers" also starred Frank Sinatra Jr. and Joey Heatherton, along with comedians Paul Lynde, Stanley Myron Handleman, Stu Gilliam, Skilles and Henderson, The Times Square Two and Barbara Heller.
The Golddiggers series garnered the highest ratings of any show during the summer 1968, so when Dean's Variety Show returned that fall, the Golddiggers were invited several times as his guests. As the group also hit the nightclub circuit, some of the girls who appeared on the television shows decided that traveling on the road wasn't what they wanted. Replacements were found, and before the year's end, The Golddiggers were asked to accompany Bob Hope for the first of three trips to entertain our fighting troops in Vietnam.
In 1969, The Golddiggers hosted the Dean Martin Summer Show again. This time the regulars were Dean's daughter Gail Martin, Lou Rawls, and Paul Lynde. Rounding out the cast were Stanley Myron Handleman, Tommy Tune with appearances by Albert Brooks, Darlene Carr and singer Danny Lockin. Again, many more appearances on Dean's show followed, as well as guest starring on an assortment of other variety and talk shows, followed by their second trip to Vietnam.
1970 ushered in a new decade with a new look. Gone were the days of the past, replaced by mini-skirts, long hair and the English wave. The Dean Martin Summer Show was now known as "The Golddiggers in London". Shot on location, the regulars this season included Charles Nelson Reilly, Tommy Tune and introduced a little-known comedian to American television audiences by the name of Marty Feldman.