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As interviewed by Patricia Zimmer

Introduction
Before the interview, I would like to say a few words about Hesh.

She is an honest, caring individual who brings out the best and strongest within people. These responses only scratch the surface of her wealth of knowledge of the music industry and her insights into Bobby Darin. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity when it arises to seek out this resource. In many ways, we can benefit from the recollections and impressions of this truly remarkable woman.

-- Patricia Zimmer (PZ)


Interview

PZ: Did Bobby ever discuss his health with you?

HW: He didn't dwell on it. We talked about the time element, how long he
had, what was going to happen if in fact he did get very sick, was I still
going to be there. So to that extent we did, but it wasn't something that
was constant.


PZ: When did you first meet Bobby and what was he doing at the time?

HW: Bobby was struggling. He'd had a couple of minor hits on Atco and was
between records. I met him when a friend of mine, who was a writer, said
"There's a young guy I know who's a great singer." And I actually went to
Hansen's Drugstore; he was there with Jo-Ann Campbell and I was introduced.
I'd say within a week to ten days both of our lives had changed.


PZ: When did you start working for him?

HW: I never really started working for him. It was just something that was
understood--that this was going to happen. It evolved into a situation where
we just cemented.


PZ: What was Bobby like in the recording studio?

HW: He loved to produce, so any time he was in the recording studio, there
was an opportunity to go to the board and do his thing. He didn't just get
out there and sing his song, he was involved in the whole process. He knew
what he wanted. Whatever had to be done, he made sure that it was going to
happen. He was very much a participant in the overall session.


PZ: Bobby had an office in New York as well as in California. Can you tell us
why it was important to him to have an office on each coast?

HW: His career started here in New York. At the time he became involved in
publishing, there was this big move to California. Most of the main people
he was involved with were in New York and he wasn't about to give up his New
York roots. The decision was: we can go bicoastal.


PZ: He spent some time in England. Did he enjoy traveling?

HW: Now that you ask me that, we never really discussed it: being on the
road. It was almost a given. You become a performer and one of the things
you have to do is go out on the road and promote your records. And if you
don't want to do that, you don't become a recording artist.


PZ: You've seen Bobby perform onstage. Where, and can you describe that
experience?

HW: I never really saw him perform for a long time after I met him. But I
just knew he had a certain quality that was going to send him over the top.
Once he hit, when he was at the Copa, I went every night. When I saw him on
stage, it was like saying, "I told you so." That was my reaction. I could
feel it in my blood. I could feel the excitement, the audience enthusiasm.
Just checking out the people, hearing all the comments and hearing people
who were basically saying, "We never expected this," or there were those who
did expect it and said that this didn't surprise them, they knew he was
going to be a star.

PZ: What was it about performing that gave him so much pleasure?

HW: Remembering what his grandmother had told him: communication. The smile,
the wink, the move; he was very sexual. He knew it. He put a magical spell
on his audience.

PZ: What was it that made him so charismatic?

HW: I think a lot of it was the way he moved, the way he stood, the
communication. He had a natural charisma. I refer to it as the X factor. It
was not just in his smile. Bobby knew exactly this was part of selling
himself to the audience. Even though he was a very impromptu kind of a
performer, it wasn't as accidental as a lot of people may have thought.


PZ: Bobby was very driven. Do you think that was a challenge for people who
knew him and worked with him?

HW: Yeah, it was a challenge. He knew what he wanted to do and actually made
his own personal effort. He had no money, he didn't have the mob. He went
with just pure guts. He went out, reached out and looked for opportunities.
People saw themselves as a part of his life. He was always the center,
whether they completely accepted it or resented it. Not everybody is willing
to look at themselves in a lesser role than the person that they
particularly admire. So I would think it was very difficult for some of them
to be a part of his life.


PZ: Do you think at times people misunderstood or misinterpreted some of the
decisions he made, what he was trying to accomplish professionally?

HW: He was trying to accomplish what a lot of other young people would try
to accomplish if they wanted to be stars. Some of them probably thought he
was nuts, it's never going to happen. And then there were probably those who
thought he was going to be the biggest thing that ever walked.


PZ: Aside from performing, what else gave him pleasure?

HW: His time was mainly taken up with show business. He loved to fish. He
loved chess, especially at the end of his life. He was a great practical
joker. He liked baseball, although he couldn't participate much in any kind
of sport.


PZ: Was he difficult to work with?

HW: He was very opinionated, he had a lot to say and wanted to do things his
way. And yet he also wanted to be liked. He wasn't so difficult that anybody
was going to throw him out of the office.


PZ: The late 1960s were a troubling time for Bobby. Did he ever speak with
you about his time in Big Sur?

HW: No, he was pretty isolated. He really didn't make contact with people
during that time.


PZ: Did he ever express to you his interest in politics or running for
office?

HW: No, I think Bobby was too much of a realist to ever consider running for
any kind of political office. It was too much of a strain. By the time
people were talking about him considering politics, he was already getting
very sick.


PZ: What did you admire most about Bobby?

HW: Tenacity. with all of the negative situations that would come up in his
life, he was able to fend off those things that were going to completely
destroy him and build on the positive. He was a good person, very loyal.


PZ: What was your least favorite quality about him?

HW: His lack of patience with anybody he thought had potential, but didn't
live up to it. He wanted to be with people who were productive.


PZ: What do you think Bobby's reaction would be to all of the interest and
resurgence in his popularity?

HW: He would probably figure it out very technically, looking at himself in
a completely dispassionate manner. He would crack up (laughing) if he knew
what was going on with the internet.


PZ: I understand the author, David Evanier, is writing a book about Bobby.
As you are involved in this project, does it create a problem for you with
regard to the other book being written about Bobby?

HW: David was the first one to come to me, telling me he'd like me to be a
consultant on his book. I was very excited. I don't think it would be fair
to then sit down with another author and tell him my story as it relates to
Bobby. The publication of two books, both planned for the time of the
movie's release, would create competition between the two. I wish the other
author the best and would like to be included in some way, but I don't have
a choice in this matter.

PZ: Can you tell us what is happening with Stan Edwards' Bobby Darin Tribute
at Dillon's?

HW: The Stan Edwards tribute has closed, which is sad, because I really
think Stan captured Bobby's spirit in his overall presentation. Ten years
ago we did the show and got some wonderful reaction. However, I think we
were hurt by the fact that there was an off-Broadway show done at St.
Peter's Church several months ago. The St. Peter's show had a very difficult
run based on the fact that the critics didn't feel Chaz Esposito was able to
capture Bobby Darin's personna in its truest sense. It was Bobby's
interpretation and overall presentation of the songs that really were the
essence of Bobby Darin. In this instance, I think people really wanted to
see Bobby Darin more than only hear his music. When the movie comes out, I
think that situation could change and I might bring Stan's show back.


PZ: Based on your knowledge and involvement in the entertanment industry,
how much of a contribution did Bobby provide while he was alive? And what
can entertainers today learn from his experiences?

HW: His artistry and commitment. He felt if he could change the way certain
things were happening, then he wanted to be a part of that. There's no
telling when you're going to meet up with that person who's going to change
your life. You can't do it by yourself.


PZ: What do you miss most about him?

HW: His presence. There are certain people when they're in your presence,
you just feel them all around you, and that's what I miss.


PZ: Any last thoughts, Hesh?

HW: I am thrilled to be a part of the Darinfan List. It has been a
revelation for me; the realization that 40-50 years later that I would still
be sitting here talking about somebody who could put a spell over me.
I'm having a ball!

For more information on Harriet Wasser, visit the New York Sheet Music Society's writeup of her: http://www.nysms.org/wasser.htm

 

 

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