Friday, January 20, 2012

More Bobby

The other day, Forgotten Hits Reader Frank B. (a proud Bobby Darin fan) asked about Bobby's marriage-go-round with (and after) Sandra Dee. 

As promised, here are some edited excerpts from our Forgotten Hits Bobby Darin Series from a few years back.  (No, it's still not posted on the website yet ... but this is better than nothing, right?!?!?)

>>>A friend of mine told me he that he was watching TCM. Between movies they were talking about Bobby Darin. After Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee got divorced, they said that Sandra Dee never re-married. Bobby Darin did get married again. I don't remember that. Can you tell me if it's true?  (Frank B.)

Here's the scoop ... as reported in our month-long Bobby Darin Series a while back: 

At the end of the Summer of 1960, Bobby Darin was signed to appear in a key supporting role in the motion picture "Come September", behind Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida in the lead roles, along with America's Sweetheart, dream-girl-next-door Sandra Dee as his love interest.  Bobby had NO idea just how much this role would change his life!  Darin even wrote the title song for the film.

By 1960, 16 year old Sandra Dee had already made seven motion pictures, including the classics "Gidget" and "A Summer Place".  She was a bonafide movie star and, on the very first day Bobby was introduced to her, he asked her to marry him.  Her reply was, "Not today."  Bobby never stopped trying and over the three months they spent together making "Come September", he asked her again several more times ... eventually winning her over.

Shortly after the picture wrapped, Bobby and Sandy were married ... in old pal Don Kirshner's apartment at three in the morning on December 1, 1960, to avoid the hounding press.  One year later, they had a son, who they named Dodd, which was Bobby's nickname while growing up.

(Ironically, despite not having a father figure at home while he was growing up, Bobby's first words were "Da Da", which, in light of these extremely strange circumstances, was quite awkward.  Rather than deal with this situation, his family turned this expression into the word "Dodd", which then became Bobby's nickname ... by which he was referred to by family members for his entire childhood.  Years later, when Bobby had a son of his own, he named him Dodd Darin.)

Although Bobby wanted a pure and innocent girl for his totally devoted wife, he was hardly a monk ... always believing that he only had a short time to live, he was determined to have as much fun sexually as he could in the time he had left.  No matter how strong his feelings may have been for Connie Francis, Joann Campbell or Sandra Dee, (all of whom he professed his undying love to, proposing to each one), Bobby continued to have sex with other women.  One well-circulated story is that at the age of 18, he was taken under the wing of a dancer, an older woman, who asked him to play bongos in her act and travel with her to South America.  They never went to South America, but for the best part of two years, Darin lived with this woman as her "boy-toy."  Every time he tried to leave, she threatened to commit suicide and, in fact, on two occasions Bobby saved her life from such an attempt.  After two years of craziness, he finally left and, years later, the woman DID succeed in killing herself.  After the relationship ended, Bobby publicly said, "Before I met her, I was just like any kid in the Bronx.  Afterward, I was the most disillusioned human being in the world ... but I was no kid."

Sandra Dee was EXACTLY what Bobby was looking for ... a sweet, innocent, pure, beautiful girl (who just happened to be a movie star!)  Bobby had previously proposed to both Connie Fracis and Joann Campbell, who also fit this description, but neither one of these two other girls were willing to put their careers on hold and remain in the shadow of Bobby's spotlight.

Over the years, Sandra Dee has admitted to having been sexually abused as a young girl by her step-father and becoming both anorexic and an alcoholic.  The pressure of always looking thin for her modeling (and later, movie) career forced her to eat nothing more than a salad for most meals.  In fact, Sandra can attribute her first taste of alcohol to sitting at the head table at one of Bobby's concert performances.  (Bobby insisted that she be there at EVERY show ... sitting right up front where the audience could see his beautiful, loyal, "trophy" wife.)  After putting her own career on hold to appease her husband, she was quickly up to several drinks a night ... medicine to endure Bobby's night-after-night repetitive stage act no doubt.  She quit for about a year when she found out she was pregnant ... but then started back in full force again once the baby was born.

When Sandra Dee was just 15 years old, her stepfather told "American Weekly" magazine that he married Sandra's mother " ... just to get to Sandy."  In fact, truer words may never have been spoken.  Dee says her stepfather began sexually molesting and abusing her as early as the age of five when she used to sleep between her parents in bed.  Amazingly, she never told her mother (but always suspected that she must have known ... to her dying day, Dee's mother said she had no idea and even insinuated that Sandy may have made the whole thing up.)  The truth was, she loved her stepfather and was pleased at how happy he made her mother.  She used to say "When WE married daddy ... " something truly ironic in hindsight.

Perhaps just as ironically, there has been speculation for years that the way Bobby Darin finally got Sandra Dee to go out with him while filming in Italy was to first win over Sandy's mother.  There has even been some speculation that they were intimate ... something that even Sandra Dee 
acknowledges COULD be a possibility.

During the courtship process, Bobby began sending Sandy 18 YELLOW ROSES every day.  (This would, coincidentally, become the name of one of his biggest hit records in 1963.)  Bobby's composition certainly had a country feel to it and it would have felt every bit at home if sung by Marty Robbins or Roy Orbison ... but it was a Top Ten Bobby Darin hit all the way!  It followed his #3 Country-Flavored Hit "You're The Reason I'm Living" (certainly a nod to Ray Charles and his country hits like "I Cant' Stop Loving You") up the charts. 

Sandra Dee was next scheduled to star in the teen movie "Tammy Tell Me True" when she realized that she was pregnant.  In fact, with virtually NO film experience under his belt, Bobby went in to renegotiate Sandy's film contract (and successfully did so, I might add!)  The fact that Sandra Dee was also the nation's Number One Box Office Female at the time probably didn't hurt either!!!  (Darin just couldn't understand how he could earn $25,000+ per week performing in nightclubs yet Sandy only earned $50,000 a YEAR as a contract player.)

Bobby and Sandra's marriage began to show problems right at the start.  Once the honeymoon was over, the honeymoon was over so-to-speak.  Bobby immediately went back to work and was soon touring the country again.  Sandy still wanted "18 Yellow Roses" to arrive every day.  He wanted her at all of his appearances ... not only to cheer him on but also to be able to show her off.  He also wanted Sandy to entertain many of the celebrities in the audience who showed up each night to catch his performances.  Soon, the animosity began to spill over.  Often, backstage right before Bobby was scheduled to go on, Sandra would make a snide comment about his toupee being on crooked ... just enough to alter his focus prior to his big opening number.

Over the years, they would have several periods of separation, but would always seem to get back together again.  Their doomed marriage was often the cover story on many of the movie tabloids of the day.  Nearly as often, the Darins would file lawsuits against these publications in an effort to maintain some level of privacy in their personal lives.

Bobby needed to command all the attention and needed "down" time after his performances ... he would have his closest friends with him backstage and Sandra was never able to accept this part of their life.  SHE wanted to be the center of Bobby's attention and often made comments about his "hanger-on" friends.  Once (and only once), Bobby was so upset he slapped Sandra hard and sent her flying across the room, telling her to NEVER insult his friends again.  By 1964, Bobby and Sandra had split up so often that, when it came time to send out invitations for one of their big Hollywood parties, several of the invited celebrity guests called first to see whether or not they were actually together that weekend or not!!!

When Sandra started making movies again, Bobby became jealous of her successful movie career ... he wanted to be a big movie star, too, and many feel he only pursued music as the springboard to making movies.  After three years of marriage, Sandra was still only 19 years old!  When the opportunity came to costar with Warren Beatty in the film "That Funny Feeling", Bobby became jealous and told her that "Once you grow up, you won't need me anymore."  (The movie rags at the time were full of stories about the "secret" love affair between Sandra Dee and Warren Beatty.  Dee denies that anything ever happened.)  Beatty ultimately backed out of the film ... and Sandy recommended to the studio execs that Bobby take over the lead role.  Darin was torn between taking a role his wife got for him ... and being the lead actor in a major motion picture.  His ego quickly got the better of him and soon he and his wife were costarring together in the film.  Sandy had hoped that working together would strengthen their marriage ... instead, shortly thereafter, Bobby announced that he didn't "want to be married anymore," packed his belongings, and left.

In fact, it seemed that every time Sandy was about to start work on another movie, Bobby felt it was time to leave.  Whether it was a case of feeling threatened by her movie career ... or jealousy ... no one can say for sure ... but by 1966 it was over for good.

On March 7, 1967, Bobby and Sandra were officially divorced.  Bobby's declaration that "I don't want to be married anymore" was the crux of the case ... no further explanation ever came up.  Surprisingly, over the next several years, Bobby and Sandy would still be together many times ... Bobby even stayed at the house on several extended occasions, and proclaimed to the press that they were happier now than when they were married.  But Sandra Dee was not happy ... the only man she ever loved was gone. 

Jump ahead six years and, after being released from yet another hospital stay, Bobby asked Andrea Yaeger, , a woman he had been seeing for some time, to marry him.  She reluctantly agreed ... Bobby hadn't been himself a lot of the time lately ... he would concoct ridiculously elaborate scenarios in his head about being betrayed by the people closest to him and had very erratic behavior patterns and anger spells ... in fact, by October, just three and a half  months after their wedding, Bobby was already filing divorce papers.

The day after the papers were filed, October 3, 1973, Bobby was admitted back into Cedars of Lebanon for congestive heart failure.  This time, his heart would have to be stopped and restarted ... once again, he survived.  Bobby was thin and gray ... he was down to about 120 pounds and looked haggard.  He could barely speak.  He was having massive personality and mood swings and on October 23rd, he went to his lawyer to change his will, leaving his entire estate to his son Dodd.  It was worded in such a way that Dodd would only receive the interest and income earned from the estate until he turned 65, not the principal ... he didn't want to just hand it all over on a silver platter ... Bobby wanted Dodd to learn to set his own goals and achieve them.  (Years later, Dodd would write "Dream Lovers:  The Magnificent Shattered Lives Of Bobby Darin And Sandra Dee", a biography of both his famous parents ... and an excellent read and source of information for this Forgotten Hits special piece on Bobby Darin.)  The following day, October 24th, Bobby's divorce was granted.   

EPILOG:  In November of 1973, Bobby went to New York to say goodbye to some of his oldest and dearest friends.  On December 10th, he was back in the hospital with congestive heart failure again.  Bobby knew that this was going to be his final trip.  On the 12th, his sister Vee was called and told to get out to Los Angeles right away.  (Fittingly, when she came to visit, she brought Bobby coloring books ... a childhood passion from his sickly past.)  They spent several days together, talking about all the things they had been through ... yet, even on his deathbed, the identity of Bobby's real father was never revealed.  

The 16th was Dodd's birthday.  He called to wish his son a happy birthday but could barely speak ... he was nearly delirious, crying on the phone with the realization that he would not see his son again ... he'd never see him grow up ... and that he was going to die.  Dodd wrote his father a note ... a goodbye note from a loving son ... that Vee delivered to her brother.  Bobby had left a trunk sealed at Sandy's house years before ... with strict instructions that it was not to be opened until after his death.  Inside were several precious family mementos ... photos ... papers ... even a lock of Dodd's baby hair ... all the things that really meant something to Bobby during his life.

Two days later, he slipped into a coma.  On December 18, 1973, his heart stopped beating.  Through electroshock treatment, they were able to revive him,  yet he remained in a coma.  Bobby had previously refused to allow the doctors to perform a catherization of the heart but now, hovering near death and unconscious, Vee gave her permission for the procedure to be done. 

The catherization showed that one of the valves in Bobby's heart was malfunctioning and needed to be replaced.  It was doubtful that Bobby was strong enough to survive such an operation.  It was agreed that if Bobby made it through the night, they would open him up the following day and see what they could do.  Bobby did survive the night and exploratory surgery the next morning showed that the left side of his heart was infected.  However, too much of his heart had already been cut away during the first operation to allow any more to be done now.  Bobby was hooked up to a heart and lung machine while the doctors worked feverishly to remove the infection and replace the malfunctioning valve.  Amazingly, Bobby's heart began beating on its own.  Shortly after midnight, he regained consciousness for a brief time and became hysterical.  His heart stopped again, causing his kidneys to fail and brain damage occur.  He was quickly hooked up to a heart massager ... it was the only thing keeping Bobby alive.  However, it was decided that Bobby was just too weak to make it ... he was, for all purposes, already dead.  Making what she later described as the "hardest and easiest decision of my life," his sister Vee then instructed doctors to pull the plug.  Bobby was pronounced dead in the early morning of December 20, 1973.  Bobby's revised will left very explicit instructions that there was to be no viewing and no burial ... per his wishes, his body was left to medical research.  

Sandra Dee never remarried and says Bobby Darin is the only man she's ever truly loved.  

In 1990, he was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Bobby used to talk of dying on stage ... that this would be his ultimate triumph ... to die before a packed house.  His closest friends and relatives never really believed (or wanted to believe) just how sick he really was ... he'd go up on stage and give the performance of a lifetime and then collapse backstage ... and then do it all over again the next night and the night after that.  Bobby Darin truly was one-of-a-kind of our generation, bridging the gaps between rock and roll, folk hero and all around entertainer ... and his music will live on forever.