Bobby Darin

The Change in Bobby Darin



This article, written by Martin Cohen, appeared in the
September 1959 issue of TV Radio Mirror Magazine.



It was 9:00 P.M. Not so late if you're at home, but it's 9:00 P.M. in his office. The windows overlooking the Avenue of the Americas are dark, and the vacant chairs and silent typewriters lie in shadows. Bobby Darin sighs, rests his head on the desk. "I'm beat," he says. "I'm exhausted and I can't think. You ask me if I have changed much in the past year. You ask that. Oh, brother, everything has changed. Things have happened. Even I've changed. Little things, big things. Different causes and reasons. Some for the good and some for the bad. Right now, I'm more moody and temperamental than I've ever been. I test everyone around me as I've never done before. It's been this way since the death of my mother."

Bobby's eyelids blink sleepily, while one hand feels around the desk for his cigarettes. "I've fallen in love and that's for the good," he says. "For the first time in my life, I know I'm really in love with somebody. I never felt this way before. Now, when I do something, I feel that I'm doing it for two people, not just myself. Once before, I thought I was in love and it was a bomb, so I think I'm pretty lucky to get another opportunity to regain what I'd lost. Ever since that time, my life was a whole mish-mush of doing things only for me with no one else in mind. But now I've taken this thing and stirred it up real good and poured it out to a girl, and it's a happy, beautiful thing. In that respect, I'm happier and more contented than I was last fall. But now I have to work harder, for there are two people I'm pulling for."

The girl is a singer, a petite, cute blonde named Jo-Ann Campbell whom Bobby has known a year and a half. "We're not formally-engaged," Bobby says, "and we expect to wait at least a couple of years before we marry. We've learned a lot about each other and we've got a lot more to learn. Anyway, neither of us can afford to get married at the moment because of the status of our careers, but there's such a beautiful rapport that I know it has to work." He sits up and grins and, like a kid, suddenly squeals, "Never thought you'd hear me talk like this about a girl, huh?"

There has been no change in Bobby since he first smashed with "Splish Splash." He hasn't grown the necessary half-inch to bring him up to an even five-ten; at twenty-two, his hair remains brown and ungrayed. His brown eyes still have that special emotional charge. He is dressed sedately and there is no evidence of flash, of his huge success. During the past year, he continued to stand tall with teenagers but also surprised the public with an album of adult ballads. The album is distributed on the ATCO label and is titled Bobby Darin: That's All! Deejays who knew Bobby for his teen-age singles were startled -- this album, in the tradition of Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., has the authority, feel and emotional impact which are rare in young singers. Ed Sullivan has contracted Bobby to three guest appearances, one of which he'll make on September 6. George Burns signed Bobby as second man in the club act he took into Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. "It was the first time in many years that Mr. Burns went into a club," Bobby says, "and the idea that he would use me in the act with him -- well, it was too much. Just the greatest thing that ever happened to me." Bobby received rave reviews in trade papers and enthusiastic applause from adult audiences who had never heard of him. Today, Bobby is working both sides of the street, entertaining in different styles for teenagers and adults.

"I go into a radio station and a deejay interviews me and says, 'Bobby, now that you're working club dates and recording ballads, does that mean you will forsake the teenagers who made you?' I always give him a big no. That's the truth. Everyone wants to grow up and be an adult and so do I, and I want to have an adult audience, but I know that the teenagers of today will be adults tomorrow. So long as they like me, I'll continue to sing for them. Maybe when they get older and turn to Sinatra, as everyone seems to do eventually, then they'll like me, too. I've never been a snob about anything and I'm not about to start now. I'd be less than honest if I were to say that I didn't enjoy and find pride in my success with the teenage audience."

When Bobby is singing for teenagers, at record hops or in theaters, he is usually the only performer who wears a tie, white shirt and suit. "Phony pretensions have always made me sick," he says. "Now I'm not going to put on a sweater and sport shirt to give the fake impression that I'm just another sixteen-year-old. Frankly, I like the casual comfort of sweaters, but I wouldn't wear one to try to fool the public. I was never a sweater boy. Before I got into rock 'n' roll, I was working clubs. I gave them up for the teenage market. I wrote 'Splish Splash' myself and I still like it. But, the month before I wrote and recorded it, I had no more idea of doing such a thing than jumping off the roof."

"When I did it, I said, 'Now, Bobby Darin, boy idiot, you've got to forsake for a time beautiful principles that you've got in your skull. They aren't paying your rent and they aren't putting any food in your stomach.' So I did 'Splish Splash' and 'Early in the Morning' and 'Queen of the Hop' and 'Plain Jane' and 'Dream Lover.' To me, this is a sign of maturity -- when you can take something you think you wouldn't like and apply it to yourself and make a go of it. Now I'm alternating between teenage and adult records. I don't think I'll have to give up one for the other."

The fatigue Bobby showed at the outset of the interview has passed and now, as he talks, he snaps a book of matches between his fingers or picks up a pencil and doodles. "I think it's going to be a couple of years before I'm so satisfied with the progress of my career that I can marry -- and, frankly, there is no rush. She isn't nagging me at all. She's not that kind. A girl like that could be difficult and eventually, sometimes, you say to heck with all of the reasons for waiting -- let's get married and take our chances."

"Luckily," says Bobby, "it's not that kind of love, the jealous kind. We get along and respect each other and we're trying to make this waiting period count. We discuss our personality problems freely and we talk about the marital problems we hear about and read about in newspapers or magazines and try to figure out how we would handle ourselves in similar situations."

"One of the things we will have to contend with," he notes, "is the career's effect on the home. Now, she wants two children, maybe three. Sometimes I kid her about this by saying, 'Honey, we'Il have eight or nine.' I think Dean Martin has almost that many. Pat Boone has already got four. But she's got her heart set on two, so I tease. But I realize, as much as I tease her, that this is something we must both agree on. When it's time to have our first baby, we both must want it and the same thing applies for the second and, if we don't have a third child for ten years, it will be because we didn't want to have a third child for ten years."

"So we sit and talk about this and all the possible complications. If she becomes a big star -- and I think she will -- where will she find time for children? Or, for that matter, how much time can I allot to children? That's important to me. I know that, in the next seven or eight years, I will be working very hard and probably have little time at home."

You kind of chuckle and Bobby looks up and you explain that it's startling to hear him talking so seriously about marriage and children, when -- less than a year ago -- he thought of marriage as a subversive plot. He says, "Well, one of the big things that worried me at that time was the lengthy separations in this business. A married man can be out on the road for a long time at a stretch, and it's often seemed to me that it would take some effort to be faithful. I was trying to be realistic, and I would argue that it had nothing to do with the real love between husband and wife. So she said, 'Just for the sake of argument, if this is all right for a man, then it should be all right for a woman, too.' At first, I said, 'You're right. What's fair for a man, should be fair for a woman.' I said that real quick but then I began to think about it and I got sick thinking about it and, for the first time, I realized how the other person feels. I've always tried to be considerate but this is a much more involved thing."

"So I finally saw for myself that this was wrong. I have never believed in the double-standard, that a man has more privileges than a woman, but I wouldn't agree to a mutual cheating society, either. And I finally said to her, 'I love you enough that I will avoid getting into any situation where I could possibly be involved in cheating. Not out of obligation, but to prove that I love you.'"

Bobby was silent for a moment, staring at the design he'd doodled on the paper. "This is something else we talk about: I want the biggest house in the world and this goes back to my childhood, because I lived in a tenement. She wants a small house, a tiny cottage kind of thing. Well, these kinds of things work themselves out. So, instead of a twenty-room house, you settle for a ten-room house. I'd like to live in California. I can't stand the cold in the East. I'm used to it, but I still can't take it."

Bobby was in California this past spring when his mother died. He broke his club engagement and flew back to New York and to the home that he had bought for her and his sister's family across the river in Jersey. Bobby's voice is muffled as he remembers, "It's kind of delicate and a long story. Mother was sick for a long time. Matter of fact, from the time I was born. She wasn't supposed to have a baby and I guess I've always had a lot of guilt feelings about bringing on her initial sickness. But, as you grow older, a lot of other things take shape."

"I'll tell you," he says earnestly, "this is the first time I ever truly missed anyone. I miss her every day. I picture things about her. It might be only for five seconds. I can see where she'll be with me for the rest of my life. I know, if I do something good, I look up and wonder if she's watching. And, if I do something I'm not particularly proud of, I'll say, 'Gee, Mom, don't get mad at me.' It's just like a quick thought."

Bobby was the second of two children. His father died a couple of months before Bobby's birth, so all his knowledge of his father is based on hearsay. "Everything I am I owe to Mom. I drew from her intelligence and her heritage as an American. My interest in show business stems from her. You just can't say about me, 'He's like his father.' Growing up, I had no father to be like."

He goes on, "I'd like to be a saintly, forgiving person, as she was. And I think, inside, I am. The proof is in the loyal friends I have. I don't believe the world can do me wrong. I'm way above it and forgive the whole mess. I'm not setting myself up like God, but I believe the simple words, 'Forgive them for they know not what they do.' This was basically her code."

The house in New Jersey had long been a dream of Bobby's, for it had been his hope to give his mother a pleasant house in the country. She wasn't in it many months before she passed away. Bobby's sister and her husband and Bobby's nieces and nephew continue to live there. Bobby loves them dearly, but he says, "Now I know that, as much as my sister means to me, the house can offer me nothing. No house can ever offer me the same thing. There was so much love and warmth in Mother that you could feel it the moment you walked in the door. Any home she was in had that -- even that five-room railroad flat in the Bronx.

"And that was the key to my whole existence. She always said, 'Be close with your family, but give yourself to the rest of the world.' That, I suppose, is my basic goal, for Mother had nothing to cry about. Friends called her 'Polly' and they would come to her and ask for her advice and counsel because she was a very understanding and intelligent woman. Sometimes, I think they would almost resent her because she had nothing to cry about. You know what I'm saying. It's like a very weird thing, for I feel the same way. I have nothing to cry about, either."




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