Bobby Darin is genuinely sorry he didn't receive the Sour Apple Award, the award given to the Hollywood personalities who are considered least cooperative with the press. If he'd gotten it he would of felt that the press was finally getting the idea. He doesn't care whether they like it or not--cooperation will be on his terms.
Why this this defiance of a medium that is reputedly able to make or break a star?
First of all, this stand is actually taken against one area of the press, FAN MAGAZINES: those magazines which have evolved solely on the basis of giving the fans information about their favorite entertainers.
The problem lies splashed across the front covers of these fan magazines, and Bobby Darin does not treat that problem lightly. He has spoken out on this issue locally and when the opportunity arose to express his views in print he prepared himself thoroughly. Part of that preparation included sending his secretary out to purchase, at random, eight or nine fan magazines.
When the interview began he picked up the stack and flipped through, chose one and began by saying that he hoped he was wrong; that perhaps things had changed. Then he looked at a few of the cover lines: "Annette: I'll Be a Virgin When I Marry," "How J.F.K. Taught Jackie the Courage to Go On," "What Really Happens When Liz Is Alone with Dick."
"Out of line! All of it is out of line? Nothing has changed."
"So many people get their impressions of Hollywood from the headlines on the covers of magazines on the stands. They don't even read the articles. In fact the article may completely refute what the cover line says, but the man, woman or child who only saw that cover will go on thinking that the line was the true essence of the article.
"And it's not just the lines. Some magazine will take two different pictures, crop them, and use them to give the impression that a situation exists that may never really have occurred at all. How can you try to explain this to some kid in the Midwest who thinks a crop is purely for harvesting?"
All of this seems to be done with malice aforethought on the part of the magazine. Their intentions are strictly sensationalism and this is the kind of thing that Bobby refuses to allow himself to be dragged into.
"I feel that these magazines infringe upon the characters of the people in this business and by doing this they are defeating the very purpose of the business. The old cliches become more true all the time. Those worn-out sayings about biting the hand that feeds you and looking a gift horse in the mouth.
"The magazine shouldn't smear and mar an industry which has enough trouble of its own at times . . . without which industry the magazines wouldn't be in business in the first place. Their sole existence rests upon the very industry they deglamorize. The people they abuse are the very people they should protect and glorify."
On an occasion previous to this interview Bobby mentioned the old fan magazines, how they used to be fun and entertaining. They may have exaggerated a bit, but their intentions were favorable. They worked to build up the image of the glamorous movie star, to take him out of the ordinary but not to make him seem abnormal. After Confidential left its imprint, the Hollywood magazines started to follow the scandal sheet approach but they are even more dishonest than Confidential, because they purport to be something they are not.
"At the rate most of these magazines are going, the nudie magazines have a more honest approach; at least they're directed at an adult audience, and they don't try to sell themselves as anything other than what they are. With the fan magazines, the simple line 'this is hearsay' or 'this is what we hear' would at least remove some of the stigma. And, since most of the magazines come out on the stands about two or three months after the articles are written, that should be indicated too. What is true in January may be wholly untrue by March.
"I think that the editors of these magazines should sit down in conference and say: 'We have an obligation to the people we write about and to the people who read what we print. What can we do to fulfill that obligation?'"
"I know that many publishers have more than one magazine on the stands. Why can't they put out their regular fan magazines with complete honesty and then publish one more, call it 'Scandal' and fill it with the unfounded stories they hear around town and label it as such?" This may not be the solution but at least it would be a step in the right direction. It may be impractical, but it is something to think about."
Bobby Darin knows that he is essentially a young people's commodity and as such he feels an extra sense of responsibility. He thinks that other performers who play essentially to young audiences feel the same way. "I know we're not perfect. That's all the more reason to make certain of what is printed about us."
This feeling of responsibility toward young people is heightened when Bobby goes on tour across the country. One part of his public relations program includes High School Press Conferences. There might be anywhere from 150 to 300 students at these conferences. Very often they ask more pointed questions than the working press. This brings to mind another of those cliches . . . out of the mouth of babes.
Their first question is usually: "Why is the Hollywood divorce rate so high?" Bobby's answer is the same one that Hollywoodians have been trying to get across for years. He tells them that the Hollywood divorce rate is not necessarily any different than the divorce rate in Cleveland, Ohio, or wherever he happens to be. It's just that local divorces don't get into the headlines, they don't rate front page space the way Hollywood divorces or separations do.
How can any entertainer expect to explain away in one quick, mass interview the questions that must pop up in inquisitive young minds when they read: "What It's Like to Love a Woman Like Liz"—nothing more than a collection of alleged quotes picked out of the stories that have been appearing since Cleopatra and the whole Burton-Taylor saga began. But the line intimates that Mr. B. and E.T. love to sit around telling fan magazine writers the innermost details of their love life.
One article suggests it's going to tell ALL about the hidden life of a star when what it really says is that this star insists upon keeping her private life private.
Another, about "The Night Liz Couldn't Find Burton," turns out to be a story about what a man's man he is. He wasn't out with Sue or Ava or Deborah as is intimated. He was out having a drink and indulging in the old-fashioned pastime of man-to-man conversation . . . getting away from the girls for awhile.
One that naturally struck closest to home was: "Sandra Dee's Pregnant! The Word That Made Her Weep." This cover line intimates that Sandra would be very unhappy if she was expectant. Yet when Bobby turned to the story it was quite different than what he or any reader would naturally anticipate. The inside title, somewhat altered, now suggests that she wept because she was not pregnant.
This kind of cat-and-mouse attitude toward his private life is what angers Mr. Darin.
"Want pictures on the set of a movie? Shoot! Want pictures while I'm on stage at a night club? Shoot! But you haven't seen pictures inside my home and you haven't seen pictures of my son . . . and you won't. That's private."
"Part of the problem is that people here in Hollywood think that because they know a story or a gossip item is false or slightly shaded, it is thereby harmless."
"Our collective knowledge here doesn't alter the impression left on youngsters who are avid idolizers of the movie stars. Whatever is reportedly done in Hollywood leaves an indelible imprint upon the minds of those kids. If they read that Debbie Darling is really quite a racy kid, an they know that she is rich, beautiful and well-liked, how can they help but think that this is the way to go? Unfortunately, they are getting a picture completely out of proportion. They are given the impression that there's some sordidity about this town and its inhabitants that doesn't exist anywhere else on earth."
Darin is a strong believer in parental responsibility. In the area of censorship he would like to think that liberal-minded parents could see movies and then decide, on the basis of their own good judgment, whether or not this is a movie they will allow their children to see, and then enforce that decision. But he understands their dilemma.
"I can't blame parents for having qualms about Hollywood products. How can the prospective audiences make a decision about a film if the forerunning advertisement and the public's knowledge of the people involved is all based on false statements and facts out of context as presented by the fan magazines?"
Darin's realization of his own responsibility, not only as a parent himself, but as an entertainer that other parents must say yea or nay to, is indicated by this little verbal illustration he drew between big business bosses and entertainers. "General Motors is a huge business. Everyone is aware of its existence and is influenced by its product. Yet no youngster starts off answering the forever-recurring question, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' by saying 'President of General Motors.' They all have a dream, no matter how fleeting, of one day being a movie star."
"Because children do want to be movie stars, or at least like movie stars, great caution should be exercised by parents, by publications, by writers and most of all by the source of that imagery, the celebrity himself, to make certain that the image is clear, that the picture is honest."
Its been about three years now since Bobby Darin began his crackdown on what is printed about him. The way he sees it is, the press probably felt something like this about his attitude — the first year it was "Who does he think he is?" The second year it was "Looks like he might be serious." And now they are beginning to accept that seriousness. They're getting the idea . . . Bobby Darin will cooperate his way.
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