Bobby Darin's been called the most conceited guy in show business. Is he really? C'mon along with us to a humble little cottage on Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey, and be the first to meet the real BD !
The assignment: To find out what Bobby Darin, the controversial, much written about singer, is really like. The place: Bobby's home, in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey, thirty-five miles from New York City, where he lives with sister Mrs. Nina Maffia, her husband, Charlie; their three children--Vivi, sixteen; Vana, twelve; and Gary, four. The time: A Saturday morning, a few weeks ago....
"He's asleep--in there," Bobby's sister said, as she tiptoed through the living room into the kitchen, pointing to a door along the way."But don't get him wrong. He's not doing this because he doesn't want to talk to you, or to make a bigshot effect. A phony my brother is not-- no matter what some other people say about him. It's just that his plane was six hours late and he got in a little while ago, and the way he looked--he needed to get to bed for a while. But he'll be up soon."
"And you know what he'll do?" asked a girl, seated at the kitchen table, looking through a batch of letters, obviously fan mail that arrived that morning. "He'll come out here all groggy-eyed, with nothing on but his shorts, scratching his legs. And then he'll see you and he'll say "Ooooops, why didn't you tell me somebody was here?"
"This," said Nina Maffia , pointing to the girl, "is my daughter Vivi."
"Hi," Vivi said. "I'm going to be an actress and famous someday I hope."
"And this," said Nina, indicating a girl seated next to Vivi, "is my other daughter, Vana."
"She" said Vivi, "just wants to grow up and marry somebody famous--like Frankie Avalon."
"Shhhh!" Vana said, poking her sister, giggling, turning bright red.
Vana, Vee Vee and Bobby, Easter 1949
"And this little one, "Nina said, completing the introductons , pointing to a boy who had been following us, "is my son Gary. He's four. And you look at him and you see his uncle Bobby when he was his age. Thin. Big brown shining eyes. "She covered Gary's ears, momentarily. "Very cute and very smart," she said, winking. Then bringing down her hands, she walked to the stove to check some coffee that was brewing. And she said, "In fact, I think Gary here is the next generation's Bobby Darin. He's always singing, just like his uncle when he was his age."
Nina said, "How about you giving us a song now?"
Without any hesitation, Gary said "Sure."
"Just like Bobby--see?" Nina said. "I remember somebody'd come to the house and they'd say, 'You going to give us a song?" and Bobby'd say 'Sure, watch me. I'm Bobby!' ...All right Gary."
The little boy took a deep breath and began to sing:
"Oh the shark dear Has such teeth dear And he shows them poi-ly wife!--"
Gary & Bobby
"Bobby started singing even younger," Nina said then, "when he was two and a half I remember,he came over to me one day and said 'Nina,I sing for you,okay?' "Okay', I said I thought I was going to hear something like Mary had A Little Lamb. So what does he do? He begins to sing McNamaras's Band. Honest to God, the whole thing, about twelve verses. Just from hearing it on the radio. And then he follows it with song called Turkish delight --word for word. And then he picks up the harmonica, one of those dollar-and-a-half Woody Herman things we had laying around the house, and he starts to play The Saber Dance by Khachaturian!!! Well, I figured then, that day, that we had a real-honest to goodness musician on our hands!"
Bobby & family Bobby Cassotto
"Mom", Vivi said, interrupting, holding up one of the letters she'd been looking through. "Here's one from a girl in Texas who says Uncle Bobby is a grouchy snob, that he is very moody--and conceited--and that nobody likes him for this."
"I don't like her, this girl in Texas,"said Vana.
"She says", Vivi continued, "that she read this and wants to know if and why Uncle Bobby is like this.'Please answer' she says...Should I, Mom?"
"I'd like to answer", Nina said, pouring the coffee now. "I'd like to answer all the people who say these things about my brother."
She took a deep breath, brought the coffee cups to the table and sat. Facing us, she said, "You know, when he was ten months old we could see that he was going to be the moody type. Ten months! -and there he'd be with a face this long half the time. And you could cootchy-coo him all you wanted and you could stand on your head, do anything and it wouldn't matter, He was in a mood. And boy, there was no changing it."
"Even as he grew up", she went on, remembering, "he was moody lots of the time,he had rheumatic fever something terrible and for years he was in the most awful pain....Thank God that ended. I don't know he stood it. He'd have to lay in bed all the time, not moving, because to move caused him pain.And you couldn't touch him, he ached so much all over. And when he'd have to go to the bathroom,Charlie, my husband would have to pick him up and begin to carry him and the way he would scream--"
Bobby & Charlie, Easter Sunday 1943
She paused and shook her head. "Anyway", she said,"we thought then that his sickness was most of the reason for Bobby's moodiness...But even when he got better after a few years, the moods remained. And you know, the fascinating thing is how where with other people, when they're like that, moody, you feel like saying "Aw get lost!!"-well with Bobby, its always like a magnetic thing, the way people flock around him all the time when he's moody, and the way they get all affected by these moods ..its like a comedy sometimes."
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