The David Frost Show

March 9, 1972

Audio file

    David Frost: We've been looking forward to having you with us since the show began and it's the first time you've been with us and we're delighted. And happy anniversary, first of all congratulations on a great stint at the Copa, and second, tomorrow is happy anniversary ... isn't, it's your ...

    Bobby Darin: 16th, I think, yeah 16th year ...

    David Frost: Since you made your debut, March 10, 1956 ...

    Bobby Darin: Does it work out to be 16 years, David? I think so, yeah. I had never appeared professionally before an audience prior to that date and I had a marvelous debut, I think. It was on a show called the Stage Show and it was one half of the Jackie Gleason hour, in those days Jackie used to do a half hour of The Honeymooners filmed and the other half hour belonged to Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, rest their souls, and they brought out new talent and what have you, it was the same show Presley was introduced nationally on. I was squeezed in between one of four or five of The King's performances ... needless to say I was (laughter from the audience) .... totally obliviated and rightfully so.

    But what happened was ... that I forgotten all the lyrics. I covered Lonnie Donegon's record of "Rock Island Line." I was with Decca at the time. They said, "We have a record here and its gonna be a smash, we'll get a cover record." In those days, you did that.

    To make a long story short, which maybe too late ... I learned it on a Tuesday, recorded it on a Tuesday evening, and then did The Jackie Gleason Show on a Saturday evening and I was really wasn't sure of the lyrics ... and they weren't about to serve my myopic condition and so therefore they couldn't give me cue cards. So I devised my own which was on the palm of my hand.

    So, I sang, "Rock Island Line, it's a mighty fine road, Rock Island Line, it's the road to ride, Rock Island Line it's a mighty fine road ..." and so forth. At the end of the show everyone knew what I was doing, of course, except my sweet Mama who said, "You were wonderful, I never saw anyone use his hands like that there." (laughter from the audience)

    David Frost: Had you changed you name by then?

    Bobby Darin: Oh yes, it was Bobby Darin.

    David Frost: What was your name before?

    Bobby Darin: Walden Robert Cassotto. (laughter from audience) Oh yeah??? (laughs at the audience) Could you see that on a marquee? "And now tonight, one night only ... Walden Robert Cassotto!!" It would have to be one night only! They couldn't afford enough letters to have a second night! (laughter from the audience)

    David Frost: How did you decide on Darin?

    Bobby Darin: Well, I went to the letter D, don't ask me why ... I'm not a numerologist or letterlogist ... what's the word? In any event, the letter D has always attracted me, and I just went to the phone book and I just ran it down until I found one that was spelled slightly differently ... and I just changed a little bit, put a D-a-r-I-N and used it and I was JUST as unknown for years after that ... (lughter from the audience) ... the name had nothing to do with it.

Audio file

David Frost: In your show at the Copa ... you talk about Tim Hardin, the composer, you had a great hit together ... tell us about that.

Bobby Darin: Well, what actually happened was some fellas came to be with some songs. They were very fresh in the music publishing business and it was in 1966, and I was kinda looking for a hit. They brought me a song, which went a little like this (singing) "Do you believe in magic ... in a young girls heart?" and I said, "Fellas, that's a lovely song, it really is, but it'll never be a hit."

I know what it feels to be an idiot (laughter from audience) ... it was a smash, as you all know, a million and a half seller, maybe a two million seller.

A couple of three months went by and they were very solicitous, by the way. The first time they came into the office, they were all kinda dressed up to here, and they were trying to make an impression. So they had said to me "Mr. Darin, may we see you?" ... and once you call me Mister, you know, I go crackers, I like that. "OK, great," I said, "Yeah," and then they played me that song ... I turned it down.

Couple of months later, after having that success already, they walked back into my office and said, "Hey Bobby!" ... (laughter from audience) ... "We don't wanna bug you but we have a new song," ... they played me a song that went something like (singing) "Younger girl ... across my mind" and I said "Fellas, at my age I cannot be singing about no younger girl or they'll throw me in jail." That's not exactly the way I said it, because we're not in a nightclub, I can't tell you the way I exactly said it ... in any event that sold two and half million records, it was a big smash.

They came back to me a third time, this time they said, "Hey Baby, wanna get behind this number before you catch yourself in slumber ... we came back to your shack, Jack, this time in a cadillac ... so we hate to trouble you, because we know you can't make the payments on the VW, but if you do this song, before long it'll be a smash, bigger cash than you made with Splash," So I said, "Well, play it, don't say it, play it," ... so they put it on the machine and it went like this ... "Summer in the city and the back of my neck gets tired and gritty" ... and I turned that one down too (laughter from the audience) ... 3 million copies, number one for 28 weeks, it was an incredible record.

The next time they came into the office I was laying and waiting for 'em, I said, "I don't care what you got I'm gonna record it." ... and they whipped out the sheet music ... I thought it was, it wasn't, it was an eviction notice ... it was a piece of paper that said, "We have just bought this building with the royalties we made from you turnin' down our records!" (laughter from the audience) But, before they left altogether they did give me a very lovely Tim Hardin song and I wasn't about to let them get away with that.

( Frost asks Bobby to sing and he sings "If I Were a Carpenter")

    David Frost: (Applauding with audience) and THAT of course was a huge smash and sold millions of copies for YOU.

    Bobby Darin: Well, it was a nice sized record, yes it was very good sized. I'll tell ya, it was departure also for me in terms of a commercial record. I had sung other songs in that vein, but certainly none that broke through like that. Tim Hardin is a fine songwriter, I'd like to hear more of his material, I really would.


    David Frost: You've done lots of different things in your career, in addition to all the movies and so on. You've branched out more and more into comedy as one of THE favorite guests on the Flip Wilson Show. You and Flip work terrifically together. (applause from audience)

    Bobby Darin: Thank you.

    David Frost: Also at the Copa you comment very funnily about how you used to worry about things like your height ... your shoes.

    Bobby Darin: Oh yes, I guess that is the question of finally accepting certain obvious facts. For example, for years I felt on the stage, at least, that vertically my stature was insufficent ... I felt SHORT ... that's kind of a drag, I decided I was going to do something. I wasn't too thrilled about what I was doing horizontally, either. (laughter from the audience) But the fact is, I was going to do something about the height, I thought, so I went out and had these special shoes made.

    It's nothing new, I don't know if you know, John Wayne is 6'4 and wears 3-4 inch lifts in his shoes. I don't know who he wants to be bigger than, but he does and it an old, old custom, I certainly did not invent it. In my case, it was more neccesary than it was for Duke Wayne.

    I had these shoes made and 2 to 3 inch lifts inside and the heel was another 2 and half inches or so and I walked around that way, wherever I could without falling over, you know ...

    I did that for years on the stage and Steve Lawrence, who is a very good friend and a natural wit, great natural wit, he went around to all of New York and told everybody, "Oh did you hear about that terrible accident Darin had at the Copa?" and everybody said, "No, what happened ?" and he said, "He fell off his shoes." (laughter and applause from audience) ... I haven't spoken to him ... August 9th, it'll be 11 years.

    David Frost: Oh really? Another anniversary then!

    Bobby Darin: (Laughs)

    David Frost: Which of all your hits was the biggest one for you?

    Bobby Darin: Oh, the biggest was unquestionably Mack. (applause from audience) I really know how big it was, and this may seem slightly immodest, but I know how big it was, at the risk of being something unusual in being slightly immodest, I know how big it was, because of the number of requests I get by people who have no idea what the title of the song is.

    For example, in the middle of anywhere they'll say, (acting intoxicated) -- "Hey sing, 'Jack the Night,' 'Mack the Night' ... sing the 'Jack Night Song.'" -- (laughter from audience)

    So, I really know it was that big, it really impressed people a great deal, they absolutely ask for it inaccurately, which is great, as long as they're askin' for it, because I know what they mean.

    David Frost: Even when totally smashed. Would you sing the 'Jack Night Song?'

    Bobby Darin: Yes, I certainly will.

Bobby sings "Mack the Knife" to huge applause from Frost and the audience.


    David Frost: I gather you do more and more impressions as well in your act. When did you first get into impressions?

    Bobby Darin: (As Clark Gable) I don't think I've ever done impressions, I don't care for that kind of attitude, and I'm tired of you bringin' it up (laughter and applause from audience) ...

    (As Cary Grant) Once in a while you can fall into something that makes you feel good and you don't mind doing it, but if I had to do it for a living, I'd make exactly $4.80. (laughter and applause from the audience)

    David Frost: Can you do Cary Grant? (laughter from the audience)

    Bobby Darin: (As Cary Grant) No.

    David Frost: Can you do Flip?

    Bobby Darin: Well, I can if my chops are workin' ... its a question of ... (as Flip) "You don't even know me, honey!" (applause from audience)

    Bobby Darin: I have worked with a great many comedians as opposed to comics, although I have worked with comics as well, I make the distinction ...

    David Frost: What's the difference?

    Bobby Darin: A comedian's body is funny as well as his mind being funny, his whole personage is funny ... I think Flip Wilson is a brillant comedian. (applause from audience)

    There are many comics and comics CAN make you laugh with prepared material and once in a while a funny face. Flip is just a generically, marvelously funny human being. He worked with me in Vegas several years ago, I believe it was the first time he appeared in Las Vegas, in any event we became fast friends, immediately. He is probably the only performer I ever remember getting upstairs early for to listen to, because of his sense of timing, his sense of audience, feel ... that marvelous electricity to know WHEN and HOW to do things. I was constantly learning from him, I was always watching him, and we became, as I said we became fast friends.

    It's a strange kind of thing ... you do not know when that kind of relationship is going to turn around and the other party is going to do something for you. A year and a half ago, when I was a little bit of a difficult sale for television (for whatever reasons really that are not important now), but when Flipper got his own show, he said to the people who were involved with the booking of it, he said, "I want Bobby to do the show, I want him to do it NOT just once, I want him to do it as many times as he wants to do it." And it wound up we had 6 guest shots on Flip Wilson's show this first year and believe me, I could not help his ratings particularly at all. It was a true gesture of a real kind of geniune friendship. I love him very much. (applause from the audience)

    David Frost: And you have one other great friend ... George Burns.

    Bobby Darin: Yes, that's a longer relationship, and Mr. Burns is somebody I love. He's great and I love him. He's the most marvelous, how do I put it now, he's the most marvelous REAL kind of a human being. It's amazing, he comes out and flips cigar ashes on his shoes, and does funny stuff and makes up about 90 percent of what you hear. But his genuine self, his pure, real self is just simply a delight and there's just a kind of a warmth.

    He's a fella who told me, "You're not bad as an actor and you're funny at times, and you can handle yourself in different situations, that's all good, but don't ever burn your orchestrations." And I said, "What does that mean?"

    He said, "Never lose your arrangements, because the people like you to sing, then maybe you can go into other things."

    What he was referring to was in 1963 I had decided, being lucky enough to get a part like "Little Jim" in Captain Newman, and being nominated, at least for an Academy Award, I had decided I was going to give up singing and concentrate on acting you see, and a result of that was after the nomination, I didn't do another film for 2 to 3 years, and I don't blame it on anybody but myself. But what he was referring to was that's the way you came in and that's what you should keep on doing. So, I really have decided after many, many years of finally analyzing what he was talking about, to concentrate on just honing my craft, if you will, polishing the in-person performance capacities that I may have and then the (other) things will come, indeed if they are to come.

    David Frost: You do so many things ... how many musical intruments do you play?

    Bobby Darin: The word play, now, is up for grabs. I can play several in two tempos, the same songs. Again, if I had to earn my living doing any one of these individual things, I wouldn't do too well ... I put them all together and ... I still don't do too well. (smiling) But, I dazzle you with that footwork.

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