Before you meet Bobby Darin, before you can say, "How do you do, Mr. Da...," before you even ask the first question that he'll refuse to answer, comes a hurried phone call from his publicity office. In hushed, agonized tones, a voice gasps, "Listen, no questions about his wife, Sandra Dee. Don't even mention the subject."
"Yeah, but how's about if I just ask. .."I began.
"No, honestly," moaned the quavering voice. "It's strict orders from the Coast. He positively won't discuss his marriage or his baby or his personal life. Please don't cross us, otherwise he'll think we put you up to it."
So, one midnight a masked press representative met me near a graveyard and under a full moon I swore a blood oath, and that was that. This was a full 10 days before the date to interview Sir Bobby, and The Reign of Terror had already begun.
To me, the only one who didn't seem party to the arrogant, cocky, belligerent Darin "image" was Darin, himself. When he rocketed through New York recently to plug his picture, If A Man Answers, we broke bread, and he was as pleasant, charming and gracious as a high school principal on Graduation Day. But a promise was a promise. No questions about his marriage, his baby, or his personal life.
So what did Bobby discuss our whole time together? His marriage, his baby and his personal life.
"I'm basically a loner," he began, "So's Sandy. Outside of Sandy's mom, both our families live on the East Coast so we don't have many relatives around. And we prefer being by ourselves. It's done strictly by our own hand. We enjoy reading or watching TV. Our desire to be alone is because, pure and simple, we enjoy each other's company . . not because we're anti-social. We have a wonderful . . . a wonderful . . . rapport . . . yeah, that's a good word . . . a wonderful rapport with each other.
"We're not party-throwers or party-goers. When we do socialize, it's having maybe four or five people over and that's only rarely. We have few close friends and they're our business associates. See, Sandy's been a star five years. Her home life is intertwined with her studio life. Her dear friends are her make-up man, her hair-dresser. Mine are my conductor, my manager. It's such a small circle that we've given out our telephone number only four times: my manager has it, Sandy's studio, her mom and my family,"
Since this fellow (who admits people figure he's "a Hermann Goering") was coming off like he'd win the Pussycat Of The Year Award, I asked so how come, under penalty of death, no questions about his marriage, his baby, or his personal life?
"Because basically I'm an entity. A whole being. So is my wife. I'm an entity called Bobby Darin. In reality, my name's Cassotto. So's Sandy's. When I switch from the Darin side of my career life to the Cassotto side of my home life, the public has no more right to us.
"They're entitled to our best performance, to our autographs if they want them, to stick cameras down our tonsils when we're in public and we'll smile all night. That's part of show business. But when we get home, look out, Mac!"
Bobby twirled his big gold wedding band and,never at a loss for words,let me have a few thousand of them. "My wife's among the 10 top box-office stars in the country. Nobody around can come near her. I think she's the most brilliant comedienne since Carole Lombard. So how will taking pictures of her son, or asking her husband his favorite recipe, or other things like that, make Sandy a better actress? Or make John Q. Public start seeing us if John Q, has decided to stop seeing us?"
Bobby grinned. He does it easily. "Listen," he admitted, "There were misunderstandings in the beginning with Sandy and her studio because of my feelings, and I've realized my wife receives a salary from Universal-International and has certain contractual obligations to live the publicity life of a star. That's their prerogative. They're paying her. But it stops when I come home."
And is there any serious friction between her professional friends and his?
"Thank God there's no serious clash," answered Bobby gently. "Sure, I dislike some of Sandy's people and she dislikes some of mine. That's natural even for people in any other profession, isn't it? So, when I'm busy, she sees those that I can't take and vice versa. When you love each other you can work out even aggravating situations.
"In our two years of marriage we've only been separated 15 days," explained Darin, munching the crisp bacon with his fingers. "There's no doubt this actor-husband-wife relationship is bad. That's why we have to work so hard to protect this beautiful home life that we have. You show me any two show people who are married and occasionally work together and I'll show you two nervous wrecks. But if your love is strong, and ours is,you can work anything out. Nothing's more important than my wife and me. Our marriage. Our relationship. Our son. And that's why we've painstakingly worked out a schedule.
"Touring for this new picture Sandy and I made together,If A Man Answers, has me so busy I haven't slept six hours in two days, but if I'm working a club I sleep 10-12 hours a night with no appointments before 2 p.m. Sandra's timetable usually varies, too, The baby's schedule always stays the same."
Asked if he takes time out to work at being a father, he hit the ceiling,or at least went as far as his 5'10" would carry him. "Honey, we don't have to work at being parents. I don't dangle expensive presents in front of the baby and coo, 'Look what Daddy bought you while he was away.' That's because I'm never away. Where I go, he goes. Our child may end up being a jaded traveller,but that's all! And should I leave town, his mother's there. The first month we didn't even have a nurse. My wife tended him all by herself. He's never without one of his parents at any time."
And would he want Dodd Mitchell to follow in Daddy's footsteps?
Behind his thick cigarette smokescreen, Bobby's semi-obscured eyes narrowed. "Look, honey," he began. "Our son is an entity (there was that word again), and the earlier he knows it the better off he'll be. Naturally, at some point he's going to turn to me or his mother and say he wants to be a vet. Or a mechanic. Or something else. Well, good luck to him. His mother and I are here purely as guiding posts. Listen, Sandy and I certainly have had many talks about this.
"We decided that we'll neither encourage nor discourage him to do anything. He's not a transplantation of us. If he comes home with a D or a C on his report card, I ain't gonna say, 'Why you idiot, when I was in school I had all A's!' I've only got a right to holler if my kid is playing ball instead of doing his homework, not if he's doing his best.
"We don't mean that if he decides to quit school,which I did,and wants to loaf around,which I did not,we'd say, 'Oh, just do what you want, Sonnyboy, it's okay with us.' That's a lot of nonsense! But if he wants to quit at 14 and go to work for a living, then he can quit like that!" And Bobby snapped bacony fingers.
"Our son will have to work for whatever he wants. A baby's character is moulded by environment. All my values come from the 26 years I've been able to look, listen and evaluate. He'll have less evaluation because he'll have it easier than we did. He'll be a child of financial comforts. However, I'll have a will drawn up with the specification that he'll have to work for his inheritance, because children who come into money the easy way don't always build character." In his 26 years, Darin himself has built plenty of character.
The night club-record-movie star,who also sings, dances, acts, writes music and plays piano, vibes, drums and guitar,whom I expected to spring like a tiger at any moment, just kept purring along like Tabby. "This so-called 'belligerent' image of me," he continued, "was created unintentionally because I always say definite things. Strong things. And just because my statements are positive, they get blown up in the stories about me. In the beginning I went along with this because I realized it grabbed me a lot of publicity."
Having devoured his lunch, he continued with his Hour Of Truth, "She's a pretty good talker, my wife. She's very strong, too. And she's a very bright girl. Can't you just see her asking 'belligerent' me if she can do such and such, or should she say such and such? Wow! That adjective they've labelled me with is damned asinine.
"Now, as we progress, I read how marriage has mellowed me and 'The New Bobby Darin' junk. Sure I'm happy. Sure you feel better when you're in love, but saying my performance has improved because that 'chip on the shoulder' is gone is pure jazz! Then, once a week, some column cracks that we're breaking up. In the last batch of 18 clippings, 12 said we were splitting."
Besides the blockade on discussing his wife publicly, Bobby's also put his manicured thumbs down on interviews with her. One reason is that he's not keen on photographers jockeying his wife into intimate poses with him,nor does he cotton to hail-fellow-well-types pinching her cheek. He doesn't dig being mauled or playfully thwacked on the back. She doesn't like anyone to touch her, either. Because they love one another dearly, each gets sensitive for the other. Each gets protective toward the other. And, occasionally, after such experiences the adrenalin runs free. In order to keep friction down to a minimum, the result was separate personal appearance tours for If A Man Answers.
To cure Bobby's adrenal glands when he's not working, the Darins have a swimming pool and a basketball set-up on the grounds of their nine-room house, which they're decorating themselves. The garage houses a workshop where Bobby can repair what he deliberately busted just so's he'll have an excuse to work with his hands.
When he really wants to drown out Sandy or Dodd or the other household noises, he zips himself into his den, punches up the tape machine real loud ("I find my own noise inspirational") and does his best work.
Although Sandy and spouse are not exactly extravagant, they're not exactly what you'd call over-thrifty, either. Bobby takes "a pittance a week for pocket money," puts aside a proper balance for the family expenses and lays away enough for not only a slight drizzle but in case we should have 40 days and nights of rain. Since the day he earned his first dollar, a good portion of his earnings is put back into his pet investment: the career of Bobby Darin.
They do not live on a budget since Bobby lived on one for 22 years and has no intention of doing it again unless he has to. Just before the well-mannered, gentlemanly paper tiger clambered into his king-sized limousine, he said softly, "Y'know, the other night some actress on the Tonight Show made the statement that she wouldn't marry an actor even if she loved him. Well, maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I don't get that whole thing. I thought love was the most important part of a marriage. So did Sandy.
"There's a wonderful phrase that two people can be one. Well, that's all right on paper. But two people are never really one. They have to be made into one. And love is the only force that can do it.
"Reporters are always asking us if we think we'll be able to always work out this career and marriage bit. I'm sick of answering these questions. The only people who really have to know that Sandy and I are happy are Sandy and I. And we know it. We love each other dearly and that's all that's important."
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