Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Because I was an adolescent in the late 1950s, Bobby Darin was a guy I sort of grew up with. Not that I ever met him. I watched him on American Bandstand when “Splish Splash” came out, and I remember that he and Buddy Holly both had hits with “Early in the Morning” (Darin was singing under the name of the “Rinky Dinks” for that one, but everybody knew it was him). I remember when “Mack the Knife”hit the air, and I realized that Darin could be Frank Sinatra if he wanted to, and I remember his folk phase with “If I Were a Carpenter” and “Long Line Rider.” Then he had a TV series. And then he was dead.

I knew all that, but I didn’t know much else. When I read that Kevin Spacey was making a movie based on Darin’s life, I was interested, and when I saw a copy of Dream Lovers by Dodd Darin, Bobby’s son, at Half Price Books for a couple of books I picked it up. It’s a fascinating

I’d heard that Darin was “brash,” but he was more than that. He was a terribly obnoxious egotist, but he was also a guy who had many loyal friends. And he was smooth with the chicks. Possibly my favorite story in the book involves is relationship with Connie Francis. I didn’t know he even had a relationship with her, but apparently two of them were very much in love, or Darin was as much in love with her as he could be with anybody. Here’s the story: “While he was seeing Connie, [Bobby] was having sexual relations with other women. Bobby told her that he had to have sex to keep his skin clear, and Connie not only believed him but has said that she was not threatened by these other girls.” Now that’s a convincing guy. Either that or Connie was remarkably naive.

While I knew about Darin’s career, I didn’t know much about Sandra Dee. I’d seen her in the movies (Gidget!), and I knew that she and Darin had married, but that was about all. She just dropped out of sight during the late 1960s and never showed up on my radar again. Little did I know what a mess her life has been. I guess that cutie-pie screen image fooled me. You’d think I’d know better. The book was published in 1994, and at that time she was still in the grip of alcoholism and anorexia. I don’t know how she’s doing now, but I’d like to think that she was recovering. She’s three years younger than I am, which is a scary thought for me. I don’t know exactly why, though.

Dream Lovers is a pretty melancholy book, all in all. I’m sure that writing it was therapy for Dodd Darin, and it’s not a happy story. Bobby Darin went became a big star, and then he went from the penthouse to the outhouse before staging a hugely successful comeback. But he died before the comeback was complete, apparently through his own carelessness, or something. He’d had a heart condition since a childhood bout with rheumatic fever, and he was having serious problems . So there’s no real explanation for this: “He went to the dentist to have his teeth cleaned. Heart patients are supposed to take antibiotics when having dental work done, as a preventive against bacteria invading the bloodstream. . . . For reasons known only to [Darin], he didn’t take the antibiotics.” And septicemia killed him not long afterward.

For a guy who’s Bobby Darin’s son, Dodd Darin at times has a shaky grasp of music history. He says at one point, “The Stones followed the Beatles, then came the Beach Boys . . . .” Having been around during those days, I know full well that the Beach Boys were selling hit records years before Beatles came along. Don’t let a little thing like that bother you if you’d like to know more about Bobby Darin, though. It’s a fascinating, if depressing, story.

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