Danny was my great love. The night we met, I was at a Club in Dallas where a Latin group, The Paranas, was playing. I would go there often and this night they invited me up on the stage to sing with them.
During one of the breaks an incredibly handsome man came to my table and asked if he could join me. I knew from that instant that sparks were going to fly…and boy did they! The chemistry was instant and I fell in love with him right then and there. He was a singer also and had an interesting background. He had almost made it big in Hollywood, and had performed as a weekly guest singer on the Arthur Godfrey Show.
Danny was 13 years older than me, and at the time of this show I was 7 years old and my family was moving to Brazil. I never did see the show, but I imagine that I would have had a big crush on him. From the pictures I’ve seen, he was “to die for!” He was an up and coming star, and was friends with Charlton Heston, Tony Bennett and many other stars of that era who were just starting out. Just as “his star” was rising in Hollywood, he became ill with walking pneumonia, and had to move away to a dry climate to recover. He lost his singing voice for several years along with his chance to become a big singing sensation.
His father had immigrated from Italy, and Danny had grown up in Chicago, where he had been a star basketball player in High School. His real name was Davy Matz. He didn’t go to college, instead went to Hollywood when his “voice” was discovered. His name was changed to Danny Martell. He had been described as a mix between Al Martino and Frank Sinatra. Once his chance at stardom had evaporated, he began selling encyclopedias door to door and eventually became one of the top Executives at Encyclopedia Britannica. He had been living and working in California and had recently moved to Dallas to become a Division Manager.
Back to the night club in Dallas. After the show, Danny walked me to my car, and strangely, his car was parked right next to mine. It was a black Cadillac Seville and inside was a German Sheppard named Coby. I have always been an animal lover, and knew that a guy who took his dog with him when he went out to a Club, would qualify as a very nice guy. The next night we had dinner together and our love affair began. I was still teaching at the university in Arlington, about 30 miles from Dallas, but at that time I was living in an apartment in Dallas. It was during the time that I was having to move constantly because of my ex-husband’s stalking. Danny lived in Highland Park, Dallas, in a home that he was renting. I told him about my situation and he became very protective of me and wanted me to stay with him so I would be safe. It was soon after this that Rich died, and Danny went with me to the strange funeral service on Halloween night.
With the burden of fear lifted from me, we had a wonderful time together, going to shows, out to romantic dinners, meeting with friends, travelling, it was a magic time. We would also sing together for our friends and in Clubs. One of our favorite songs was “If you go away.”
Each day I fell more in love with him and realized that I never wanted him to go away.
Danny had been married for about three years in California and had divorced before moving to Dallas. He had a son who was one year old who lived with his ex-wife in California. I soon found out that Danny was obsessed with getting custody of his baby son. He wanted him to come live with us. Danny travelled back and forth to California a lot to see his son and to deal with legal matters. He would be extremely depressed each time he returned from his trips and sometimes wouldn’t talk to me for a couple of days, and I would stay at my place. He was afraid that the mother of his child would get married again and he would lose him.
We had been planning to get married and had set the date. I had moved most of my belongings into his house, but still had kept my apartment. After one trip, Danny asked me if it would be OK if Jay came to live with us as soon as we got married. I had just started a new semester at school, and I thought that we should wait a few months until summer, so I wouldn’t be teaching and we could both adjust to having a one year old baby. This was the wrong answer, and the next day Danny called a moving company and had my things moved back to my apartment. Our marriage was off.
I’ll never forget sitting in my apartment surrounded by boxes, alone once again.
To avoid getting hurt over and over, I should have never taken him back when he called saying how much he missed me, a couple of weeks later.
We did get married, his son came to live with us, but it was not happily ever after. Danny would leave me and Jay alone, sometimes for a week or more, and we would never know where he was. Then he would appear, crying, promising he’d never leave us again.
Then one day he asked for a divorce. He said that his ex-wife had agreed to give him full custody of his son, if he divorced me and then he added: – “He needs me more than you do.” This was the last straw for me and I moved out. It was so hard, especially since Jay and I had grown really close and I loved him as if he were my own. He was a sweet and beautiful child, and I worried about his upbringing.
He was always aware when Danny was in one of his moods, and wasn’t talking to me. He’d say, “Poppa, say hello to Sondra.” Danny would call me Sondra when he was mad at me.
The rest of the story is very similar to my other relationships. Once I was gone, he wanted me back, and tried everything, including counseling. The counselor could see that my trust in him was gone, and that I wanted out of the marriage. He eventually did get custody of Jay, and they apparently had a great relationship, until Danny died in 2009. The son became a famous commentator and writer. He is seen on television all the time.
Several years ago, I ran into a woman who had worked with Danny at Encyclopedia Britannica. She said, -“So you were the one married to the famous gambler!” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She said that he was well known in Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Apparently all the trips that he was taking while we were married were to gamble. He was completely broke when we divorced, but I thought it was from all the legal bills involving custody of Jay.
I saw the tribute that Jay put up on You Tube when Danny died. All the pictures made me very sad for what could have been. He remained a very handsome man until the end. Everyone had believed that we were meant to be together and we looked like the perfect couple. I had loved him with all my heart and deep down I still do.
“If you go away as I know you must, they’ll be nothing left in this world to trust, just an empty chair full of empty space, like the empty look I see on your face…” if you go away…if you go away…”
I dedicate If you go away to my love, Danny.