"I'm Bobby Darin. Sometimes I'm glad of it. Sometimes I'm not, because I'm my own worst enemy. Girls, for example. For a while it must have looked as if I was out to hurt any girl who came near me. It kept happening the same way. I'd meet a girl, and I wouldn't deliberately lead her on . . . not exactly. I'd just be nice and unconcerned, and I suppose the ones who liked me got fond of me. Then when they began to get serious, I'd hurt them. I'd lay it right on the line. I'd tell them I was going with them just for kicks, that that was the only kind of girl I liked to date ....he thought about the first. Taking a kid. Lying to him. Cheating on him. Sucking him in with your talk about marriage, your talk about death. Holding him in your arms one minute, throwing him out the next. Making him sick and bitter and self-pitying · · · making him take it all out on other girls. On her ....
"Like with Jo-Ann. I'm sorry it had to happen this way with her. I'm sorry I ever had to hurt her for one single minute.
"But what else can happen when a bitter, unhappy guy like me meets a good, sweet gal? "What else can come of this but hurt-- lots and lots of it .... "
Bobby and Jo-Ann Campbell first met one night three years ago (he was nineteen, she was just going on eighteen). With two dozen other young entertainers, they sat around a few tables in the rear of Hanson's Drugstore, just off Times Square in New York City, waiting for the bus that would take them to a record hop over in Brooklyn. Actually, Bobby sat at one table, gabbing away, surrounded by five or six wide-eyed girl vocalists and dancers; while Jo-Ann--new to New York, show business, this crowd--sat alone at her table, a few yards away. Like most of the others she had ordered a sandwich and something to drink, a chocolate milkshake in her case. But, this being her first close-to-bigtime record hop, she was too nervous to eat or drink much. And, besides, that fellow over there, that Bobby Darin, made her just a little more nervous, the way he was constantly looking over at her, even while he was gabbing away the way he was and being oohed and aahed over by those girls sitting with him.
Jo-Ann was glad, very glad, when the announcement was made, finally, that the bus for Brooklyn had pulled up outside the drugstore.
That fellow, that Bobby Darin
And she was surprised, once inside the bus, sitting in her seat next to the window, watching the others climb aboard, to see that fellow, that Bobby Darin, enter with his crowd of girls, break away from them suddenly, and come rushing over to grab the empty seat alongside her.
"I guess you know who I am," he said--his first words. Jo-Ann nodded. "How do you know?" Bobby asked. "That Splish-Splash you just recorded--" Jo-Ann started to say. "And wrote," Bobby put in. "And wrote," said Jo-Ann, "--well, it's been making quite a splash, hasn't it? And they've started writing stories about you in the papers and magazines, and putting in your picture · · · And that's how I know." "Uh-huh," Bobby said. Then he asked,"And who are you?" Jo-Ann told him. "Pretty ... blonde ... blue-eyed ... and with an accent like that yet," Bobby said. "Where you from, honey chile? South Cah'lina?" He laughed and Jo-Ann smiled. "No," she said, "Jacksonville, Florida. And I'm a singer, in case you never heard of me, which you no doubt never did. And I've cut two records, neither of which has sold very well, but my manager tells me not to worry about that, he being a very nice and understanding manager. And..." The bus began to move. "And?" Bobby asked. "And," Jo-Ann said, "I guess there's not much more to tell except that my daddy thought it might be good for any career I might have in store for me if he and my mother and I moved up here to New York. So that's what we did. And here we are, all settled in a little apartment over Flushing way, waiting to see what the future will bring . . . hoping it'll all have been worth it."
She turned to look out the window, at the theater marquees, the cars and cabs, the blur of people on the sidewalks.
"Glad you came?" Bobby asked, after a moment. "To big old wonderful New York town?" Jo-Ann looked back at him and nodded. "Well," Bobby said, sitting back in his seat, "lemme tell you something about this big old wonderful town, this big old wonderful business of show business . . . They can both turn out to stink if you don't watch that pretty step of yours." "How do you mean?" Jo-Ann asked. "The people," Bobby said. He spelled out the word. "Sniff-sniff-stink, if you don t watch your step. All kinds of creeps. But the leeches, first of all. They're the first ones you got to worry about." "Borrowers?" Jo-Ann asked. "Takers," Bobby said. "Takers--It's a whole bit, and I've been through it all. Take a place like that drugstore we just came from. It's a hangout for our crowd. A new one like you walks in and you're spotted. The leeches, they know how you feel. All young inside and nervous and wanting to please, to make friends, to be accepted, considered nice, A-1. So for this privilege they invite you over to their table and then, then they let you pick up their check. A cheeseburger here, a steak sandwich there, a Danish, a couple of cups of coffee--'You don't mind just this once,do you, pal?' they say, 'I'm just a little short right now.'"
"Is this what happens to you?" Jo-Ann asked. "Juggle those verbs around a little, honey, and you ve go it," Bobby said. "It's what used to happen to me . . . I used to be the champion check grabber wherever I was. As long as I shelled out, man, I was the most. They used to wait for me to come in, the whole damn bunch of them. And me, I wanted to be accepted so bad, I never said no. Not till one day when the message came to me and I said the hell with them and being nice and all that junk, and stopped." "Gee," Jo-Ann said.
"Then," said Bobby, looking up at the ceiling of the bus, remembering, "there's the backslappers. I guess they're like the leeches, basically, except with diplomas. They're the ones who get after you when the breaks start coming your way. They're the ones who want the favors. You've been meeting big people in the business? They want to get to meet them. You're their best bet, so they start slapping your back so hard that just to get them to stop and to end the embarrassment you say, 'Gee thanks, now what can I do for you?' And they tell you. Until you find yourself spending so much time working for them that you're lousing up on yourself."
"How'd you stop them?" Jo-Ann asked. "Same as with the others," Bobby said. "I woke up one day and told them all to go to hell, that I knew I was good, that I didn't need their compliments, and that they could all just go to--"I know," Jo-Ann said. "Yeah," said Bobby· He turned to face her again. He looked into her eyes. "Then there's the love crowd," he said. Jo-Ann began to blush. "Yes?" she said. "Watch for 'em, honey--watch--or they'll drag you down under," he said. "With me it was this dancer. She had to have me, had to love me . . . she said. I was seventeen, she was thirty-one. Man, was I impressed with myself. I was so impressed I couldn't see what a patsy I was being used for. This dame, she was a pathological liar, along with being a tramp. She didn't know how to tell the truth, so how could she know how to be true to anyone . . · ? I was hit over the head with danger signals. But did I take 'em?" He shook his head. "No," he said. "Instead, I talked about getting married with her. And I talked about committing suicide with her. And all this while I found out she was just using me for what I was worth to her, cheating on me---" He stopped, suddenly. "Now you tell me your problems," he said, still looking at her, hard, intently.
Jo-Ann smiled again. "They'd sound pretty third-class next to yours," she said. "No boyfriend problem?" Bobby asked. "Not really," Jo-Ann said. "There's this boy in Jacksonville. I liked him some. I thought I'd miss him when I had to leave... But I don't--not terribly, I mean." "Want a new boyfriend?" Bobby asked. Jo-Ann said nothing. "Don't get scared, sweetheart--I mean just for tonight," Bobby said. "To explain," he said, still getting no reaction from Jo-Ann, "tonight, after the show, you and me take this bus back to town. And then, when we get off, I take your hand and take you to this pizza joint on Forty-ninth Street where we grab a pizza and some cream sodas or something . . . Sound okay?"
Before Jo-Ann had a chance to answer, Bobby pointed out the window of the bus. "This here we're crossing now is the Brooklyn Bridge--and that back there, all those twinkling lights," he said, "that's Manhattan . . . New York. Few years from now I'm gonna own that town. Then, few years from now, when I ask a gal for a date it's gonna mean El Morocco and the '21' and the Stork Club and Copa and everyplace--" His eyes began to brighten. "--With waiters tripping over their fool feet to get to my table and hatcheck babes framing the dollar bills I give 'em and all the bigshots in town staring over at me and my date, some of 'em just looking, others waving, and nodding and--"
Again, he stopped and looked back at Jo-Ann. "But for tonight," he said, "after the show, pizza and eream soda at this joint on Forty-ninth Street. Sound okay?" He put his hand on hers. "Huh?" he asked. He smiled at the way Jo-Ann began to blush again, at the way she nodded slowly and said yes ....
One of these New York creeps
The show in Brooklyn ended at 11:10 that night. By 11:20 Jo-Ann had her stage make-up off, had changed and stood just inside the stage door waiting for Bobby.
It was some twenty minutes after that-- seconds after the bus, loaded with the others, had left--when Bobby did show. "Jo-Ann--" he started, out of breath. "Bus took off," Jo-Ann cut in, starting to laugh, "but there's always the subway." "Jo-Ann," Bobby said, shaking his head, not listening, "I can't make it. Not tonight." "You can't?" Jo-Ann asked, the laugh suddenly gone. "Look," Bobby said, bringing up his hands, holding them together, "this dame . . . I'd forgotten all about her. Two weeks ago she says to me, 'After the Brooklyn show, how about it--a night out, us two?' And me, I don't know what I was thinking, but I said, 'Yeah, sure ...." Jo-Ann waited for him to go on. He didn't."She's here?" she asked, then. "In my dressing room," Bobby said. "She showed up right after the show. She's a little on the loaded side. I tried talking to her. I thought maybe I could get her to call this off and we, we--" "Bobby," Jo-Ann said. She forced a great big smile. "Bobby, it's perfectly okay what's happened." "It is?" he asked. "Yes," Jo-Ann lied. "Listen," Bobby said, "this subway. Do you know how to get to it from here?" "Oh yes," Jo-Ann lied again.
"Better," Bobby said, "if you wait a few minutes, we'll be getting a taxi and we can drop you off. This dame--" He shrugged, and forced his own smile now. "--She never wants to ride in anything but taxis. And she always pays. So--" "No, thanks, Bobby," Jo-Ann said. "I can walk it."
They were both silent for a moment. "Jo-Ann," Bobby said, "these New York creeps I was telling you about before. I guess you think I'm one of 'em, but good-huh? . . . Lots of other people do, you know. So you're not alone in what you're thinking." "No . . . I don't think that," Jo-Ann said softly. "No, I'll bet," Bobby said. He laughed a hollow laugh. Then, "Well, no sense us standing here like this . . . So long, JoAnn . . . I'm sorry." "So long, Bobby," she said, turning quickly, and leaving.
"Another girl would have been sore as heck," a friend of Jo-Ann's has said. "But Jo, she'd fallen for him from those first few minutes together, in the bus. And nothing, not even being stood up that first night, was going to change the way she felt about young Mr. D."
A quiet love
"She carried her love for him about as quietly as is humanly possible. She'd never mention him to you . . . never. But, boy, when someone else mentioned his name, you should have seen the things that happened to her face--her eyes getting big, shiny; her color all flushed; all that. And if she ever happened to be carrying a copy of Variety and you asked to see it and noticed something clipped out, you could be sure the clipped-out article had something to do with young Mr. D. and that that clipping was tucked in the bottom of her pocketbook where she could take it out when she was alone and read it over and over again.
"I guess it was nine or ten months after that first night that they saw each other again. It was at a nightclub. Bobby was on his way up by now, and playing his first big club date in New York. Jo-Ann wanted to go see him something desperate, of course. She wouldn't ask a boy to take her, she's that shy. And none of us girls - could go with her for the simple reason of money. So she went alone, about a week after he'd opened - after she'd got up enough money for herself. And enough nerve ...."
Jo-Ann sat at the little table way in the rear of the nightclub and watched Bobby make his entrance. And she could tell, from the beginning, that something was wrong that night.
It seemed to start with the audience. It was a bad audience, unusually bad--talkative, a big-drinking crowd, a convention-type crowd where practically everyone seemed out to put on his own show. Then Bobby tried to handle this audience. And he didn't help. Midway through his first number he called out to the crowd to clap along with him.
"Help old Bobby keep the beat---yeahhhh?" he asked. And he began to clap. But most of the customers didn't cooperate.
Jo-Ann could see him begin to do a slow burn. She'd been reading quite a bit recently about his bad temper, about how he'd blown his top at one performance somewhere in Pennsylvania not too long ago and told his audience off, another time in Florida . . . a few other times, a few other places.
She hoped nothing like that would happen this night. "Shhhhhh," she found herself saying as Bobby began his second number and the audience continued talking it up. "Shhhhhh!" But nobody paid any attention to JoAnn. Nor to Bobby.
And, finally, Jo-Ann saw it happen, as midway through his third number, Bobby brought up his hands to stop the band, mumbled something, went into his finale, cut that short too and went rushing off the stage.
It's safe to guess today that if nothing had gone wrong with Bobby's show that particular night, Jo-Ann would very likely have finished her dinner, paid her check and taken the subway back to Flushing. And that would have been that. But, because something had gone wrong, because she knew that Bobby was undoubtedly hurt and sulking now, feeling as if he didn't have a friend in the world--because she wanted to show him that she was still his friend, for a few minutes at least--Jo-Ann got up from her table and made her way backstage and to Bobby's dressing room ....
"Lousy show," he was saying a few minutes after she'd entered and they'd said hello, "--but lousy, wasn't it?" Jo-Ann began to shake her head. "Sure it was," Bobby said. "And you know why? Because me and that audience out there were having a fight." He lit a cigarette he'd been holding. "Me," he said, "I was fighting with them before I even went out. I was in a mood. I felt low, I mean. And when I'm low, I'm low. And there's not much I can do about it . . . You know that feeling?" "Some," Jo-Ann said.
Bobby nodded. "And then that mob out there," he said. "A bunch of drunks. Boy, have you ever seen a bunch of drunks like that? Noisy? Rude? Rude to me? Well, I figured from the beginning that I'd have to show 'em. And I did, too. Cut the whole damn act short and showed 'em." Jo-Ann looked at him and said nothing. Bobby took a long drag from his cigarette. "You don't buy this kind of talk,do you?" he asked. "It's not that . . . exactly ...."Jo-Ann started to say. She looked down. "Well," said Bobby, "you sure don't look as though you'd pay a nickel for it."
To show the audience
Jo-Ann looked up again, quickly. "No, Bobby, you're right," she said, her voice suddenly firm, "I wouldn't pay a nickel for it. You talk . . . you talk as though you're so proud in a way that you went out there and showed that audience. You sound as though, just because you cut your act short, that you hurt them. Them. When the person you really hurt, the only person, is yourself." Bobby took another drag from his cigarette, a short one this time.
"The others," Jo-Ann said, "they're out there still, Bobby--eating, drinking, talking, having fun. They've probably forgotten all about you by now . . . Isn't that wonderful? Ten minutes after you've left the stage. They've probably forgotten all about you. Isn't that wonderful, that that's what you're so proud of?" She took a deep breath. "Bobby," she went on, "I don't know much about show business. I've been around, but not that much . . . But I do know this. That the only time an entertainer should be proud is when he's given his audience everything that's inside him, everything he's got--good audience or bad. When he's taken a bad audience and quieted them and made them better by just one thing--" "His talent?" Bobby cut in. "Yes," Jo-Ann said, "his talent." Bobby looked down at his cigarette. "Seems to me," he said, "I have heard that song before." "Well, learn the song then," Jo-Ann said, her voice doubly firm now. "Learn it!"
Bobby watched an ash fall from his cigarette to the floor. "Bobby," he heard Jo-Ann say then, her voice somewhat softer now, "you've got talent. More than anybody else I've ever seen or heard, you've got it. And someday, someday you'll be sitting on the top of the whole wide world--"
"How do you know that?" Bobby asked."For one thing, you told me," Jo-Ann said."Yeah?" Bobby asked, looking over at her. "And for another," Jo-Ann said, "--I just know it." "Yeah?" Bobby asked. "Yes," Jo-Ann said, "--I just know it. And I just happen to think that you're the most marvelous, the most--" She stopped. And rose.
"It's getting late," she said. "I think I'd better be going." "Hey," Bobby said, rising too, "I haven't even offered you a drink yet." "No thanks," Jo-Ann said. "I don't drink." "Stay for a cigarette?" "No--don't drink, don't smoke, and very boring in conversations sometimes · . . like tonight," Jo-Ann said. She picked up the purse she'd put down earlier. "Well--" she said, beginning to walk towards the door. "Somebody waiting for you there?" Bobby asked. Jo-Ann shook her head. "I'm alone," she said. "So can't you stay for a little while more?" She shook her head again. Bobby walked over towards the door now, too. "Tell me, Miss Florida," he said, putting his hand on hers. "You still living out in Flushing?" "Yes," Jo-Ann said, "still."
Hello and good-bye
"You know," Bobby went on, "I got a car now. And I was just thinking how it would be if I came out to pick you up some time and the two of us took a drive someplace . . . Can you give me your number so I can give you a call some time?" "No," Jo-Ann said. She removed her hand from his. "You're not going to call. I know that. You know that. And--" She smiled. "--And, anyway, I just came by to say hello, Bobby. "And now, good-bye, Bobby .... " "You could have knocked Jo-Ann over," says her friend, "but Bobby got her phone number somehow and called her the very next day. That afternoon, they went out driving in his new car. And soon their friendship, their relationship--whatever you want to call it--was well on its way.
"For that next year, whenever they were both in New York and not out on tours, they were almost always together. Bobby would take Jo out a lot--movies, restaurants, nightclubs. But most of the time he just enjoyed going over to her apartment and having dinner with her and her folks, watching TV, telling jokes, relaxing, talking. They both seemed very happy, and it was enough to make you take back anything you might have said about Bobby had you only known him casually and not as the friend of your friend.
"Bobby, by the way, became a very hot property during this year. Every month he seemed to grow more and more popular and famous. He was beginning to do lots of TV and swank club dates. He made his biggest hit record--Mack the Knile--during this time. In fact, it was because of Mack and its success that he got his biggest break up to that time, an appearance on the Perry Como show.
"And it was at this time, too, that the thing happened between him and Jo-Ann. The thing about the ring .... "
It was a Tuesday night, late. Rehearsals for the Como show had ended a little while before and Jo-Ann, who'd come to watch, had gone with Bobby to a small French restaurant not far from the studio. The place was only half-filled. Bobby and Jo-Ann sat at a window table, sipping their cafe espresso, waiting for their desserts. Finally, the waiter returned to their table. Winking at Jo-Ann, he said, "Creme caramel for mademoiselle . . . and for monsieur, the mousse--and this, mais what have we here?"
On that last word, he lifted a tiny package from the side of the dish and handed it to Bobby. "What is it?" Bobby asked. The waiter grinned. "You will have to discuss that with the mademoiselle," he said, as he bowed slightly, and left. "What's up, Jo?" Bobby asked. "What's in here, anyway?" "Just a little something," she said. "From you?" Bobby asked. "Uh-huh," Jo-Ann said, beaming. She watched Bobby as he placed the paper wrapping aside, as he stared for a moment at the box in front of him, as he opened it, then as he looked up again. "It's a ring," he said. "That's right," Jo-Ann said. Proudly, she added, "A genuine star sapphire ring."
"What's it supposed to mean.. · ?"
She waited for Bobby to take it out of the box now and put it on. Instead, he asked, "What's it for? What's it supposed to mean?" Jo-Ann found herself clearing her throat. "I don't know exactly, Bobby," she said "Lots of things, I guess. Good luck on the show tomorrow night. Thanks for all the nice times we've had together. I like you. I hope you like me.. .. Lots of things." Bobby shook his head. "I can't wear it," Bobby interrupted her. "You can't wear it?" Jo-Ann asked, the smile beginning to disappear from her face. "Why not?" "Because," Bobby said, "guys don't go taking rings like this from girls unless--" He picked up a half-filled glass of water and took a swallow. "Because" he said, "--because it would mean that there's something more serious between us than there actually is . . . Look, sweetheart, you and me, we've been seeing a lot of each other lately, sure. But I don't want you to go getting the idea that you're the only girl I see." "I didn't say I was," Jo-Ann said. "But you thought maybe that's the way it was, didn't you?" he asked. Without giving her a chance to answer, he went on, "Well, it's not that way, honey. I see you. I see other girls. I like them. I like you-none better, none worse. I like all girls. I'm peculiar. That's how I get my kicks, from knowing lots of girls-- some nice like you, some not so nice ...."
He picked up the glass of water again, swallowed again.
"Honey," he started, "you're probably the best girl in the world for me. Pals of mine who've met you once have told me that. But, honey--" "Don't," Jo-Ann said, suddenly, strangely. "Don't, Bobby. Don't call me honey anymore. Don't say anymore. Don't try to follow me as I walk out of here now. And don't try to give the ring back to me. It's yours, Bobby. I bought it for you, and it's yours. To throw out if you want, or to put in your bottom drawer and keep for old times' sake, or to throw in a fire and watch melt, or to do anything you want." She got up. Bobby started to. "Don't," she said. She looked at him. Then down at the ring, once more ....
Bobby had never been drunk before. But he was now. "Monsieur," said the waiter, approaching the table, "this is the very last cognac I can serve you. We must close in ten minutes. C'est la loi--the law." But Bobby didn't hear him. He picked up the glass. And he looked down into it, beyond the eerily-ambered fluid there. And he thought of two women. Damn you,
"Jo," he whispered. "Jo-Ann . . . Jo." The waiter came back to the table. "You called me, monsieur," he asked. "You wish your check now." Bobby shook his head. He reached for the little box on the table and opened it.
"Tomorrow," he said, "--I'm gonna call
The waiter smiled.
"I do not know the girl, except for
tonight," he said, "but I do know this--
that it will make her very happy."
"I hope so--finally," Bobby said.
And he saw that his hands, which had
begun to shake these past few hours,
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