And things do get dull, says Sandra Dee -- even in the big pink Spanish home smack on Toluca Lake, with a Rolls-Royce in the garage, three-year-old Dodd Darin in fine fettle, and Sandra's mother, plus various members of Bobby's family, sailing in and out of the house.
Maybe it's because Sandra never is alone and wants, once in a while, to go out on her own. Maybe it's because after four years of marriage everything seems to have become slotted into routine, the day-in-day-out sameness that eats away at every marriage. Maybe it's because Sandy, a go-go girl, has a built-in love of excitement and change. And maybe she gets these spells of wanting to be courted because she never did have a chance to enjoy the normal life of a teen-age girl -- the phone calls, the flowers, the adoring swains lining up for dates with her. In point of fact, before Sandy met Bobby Darin she never had a bona fide date, didn't know a boy she'd want to hear from or go out with, and her only evenings with an escort consisted of males lined up for her by the studio's publicity department.
So it happens that Miss Dee every once in a while wants to be just that, Miss Dee -- a girl loved and admired who can pretend she has no strings, and therefore has freedom of choice ...
The clinker of course is that, given freedom of choice, she chooses for her date none other than Robert Darin, husband and balladeer extraordinaire. But on those nights it isn't the same. It isn't the same old thing of sitting around the house watching television or arguing over a game of Monopoly. When Sandra and Bobby have a date, they go o-u-t.
And Bobby, that good soul, understands the motive and the desire and plays his role to the hilt. The first time they "dated," along about last fall, he had four dozen yellow roses sent to Sandy's dressing room at the studio during the afternoon. "They were all over the place," says Sandy. "At first I thought he was either planning to murder me, or that maybe I was deathly sick and hadn't realized it." But the flowers represented her cue, and she knew they'd be going out to paint the town that evening. Her mother, Mary Douvan, thought Sandy had lost her mind that day.
"Would you please go to the house," said Sandy, "and bring my black cocktail dress back to the studio?"
"Why?" said Mary, quite reasonably. "Well, you see, Bobby will be going home to dress." "So?" said Mary. "So I can't dress at home. We're having a date and Bobby's not supposed to know what I'm wearing. He'll pick me up here and I have to dress here." "What next!" said Mary.
The Darins date in high style, replete with the Rolls-Royce, and Bobby hops out and opens the door for all the world like Sandy hasn't been opening doors for herself all over the place for the past four years.
She doesn't know what he's going to wear either, but feels she doesn't have to comment, whereas Bobby had darned well better tell her how lovely she looks. Says Sandy, "It takes him 45 minutes to dress and it takes me three hours, and I figure this is my round."
They go, always, to dinner first. Afterward, the movies, maybe a nightclub. It makes an Eden sort of evening for Sandy, because she recaptures that singular power of a woman whose favors a man is expiring to receive. She chooses the restaurant.
Sandy also gets to choose the movie, a boon to her because on plain marriage nights they go to see Bobby's preference, almost always a foreign picture. "I like women's pictures," says Sandy. "Good old boy-meets-girl type, in English. But Bobby likes these foreign things and when I have to read subtitles, by the time I wade through the dialogue the next scene is on the screen and I never do know what happened in the movie. All I've done is read the script."
Let it be said that Bobby is not always the perfect squire. After all, he's been a husband for quite a spell now. When he took Sandy to San Francisco on a Darin Date, his little woman was thrilled to the teeth; it was the very first time they'd ever been on a trip together when Bobby didn't have a single business-type thing to do. And to Sandra, this was heaven. Except that they'd been in their hotel room an hour when Bobby said, "I think I'll take a nap." And while he snoozed Sandy dressed in her broadtail suit and went to the Top of the Mark for a cocktail -- with her hairdresser, Kay Reed. There she sat in all her elegance, with the panorama of America's most beautiful city spread out before her, and said to Kay, "I might as well have stayed home and had a cocktail in front of a studio backdrop of San Francisco."
Once Bobby woke up, of course, things got swinging.
Their special dates are arranged in the mornings before Bobby leaves for his office, but in the beginning, before he got into the swing of it, Sandra gave the situation a shove. She would phone his secretary and say, "Send me 18 yellow roses and have a card put in them reading 'I love you.'" And when Bobby came home that night Sandy would say, "Thank you for my flowers-they're lovely." Bobby was a bit shocked the first time this happened but he caught on quickly. Once, after they'd had an argument about something and Sandy hadn't yet recovered from her pout he said, "You're right. I haven't been courting you. I'll take you out tonight and we'll make it a big evening. When we get home I'll even drop you off at the front door, like we really aren't married."
That night he presented her with a handcarved necklace after which they enjoyed a perfect, and long evening. Driving up their street at 2 A.M. Bobby yawned and said, "Hey, honey, let's forget what I said about dropping you off at the door." And Sandy, very much Mrs. Darin, climbed out of the car within the confines of the garage.
Bobby plays the game, but one can't expect perfection all the time. "He comes home grumpy sometimes like any husband," says Sandy. "He blows in the front door, and I can always tell the mood. All I get from him on nights like that is a request to fix him some spaghetti, after which he promptly fails asleep. Inside the house, Bobby's the boss. I'm boss only outside it." And then she grins with second thoughts and says, "Such a boss. Sometimes I say 'Let's go out for dinner tonight' and he says 'No,' and that takes care of that."
True, the Darins argue as dramatically as they always did, but by now they understand that each in his own way enjoys these hoe-downs. Sandra rants and screams, relishing the drama of the situation, and Bobby only laughs at her -- which of course adds fuel to her fire. They have a great deal to argue about. Not only do they disagree on food, movies and restaurants -- Bobby likes the house full of people, "something like a four-alarm fire, with somebody forever wanting a sandwich," says Sandy. She prefers it to be quiet, which it never is.
Then there are the times Mr. Darin gets caught in a market and is carried away, carrying home such items as 24 cans of stuffed eggplant. And there was the day he saw an ad about canned nuts and came home later on with one hundred dollars worth. "You want nuts?" Sandy asked us. "We've got hazelnuts, lichees, pecans salted or unsalted, macadamias, you name it. As if we didn't have enough nuts around this house already."
More often than not, there is a cacophony of entertainment wailing througout their home. Simultaneously, in one room, there is a concert on radio, a TV show on the big projection screen, and Dick Van Dyke on the smaller television. Mr. Darin revels in it all -- Mrs. Darin prays for ear plugs.
According to Sandy, she and Bobby agree on two things only -- they've found they both like the Italian dish vermicelli, and they agree totally on Dodd's upbringing. At three, Dodd is a gleeful little guy who's already being taught, among other things, the value of money. (Considering his parents utter ignorance on the subject, this is nothing short of a miracle.) He is paid small sums for small chores which he struggles manfully to fulfill. Such as the time Sandy told him to water the flowers and he turned the hose directly on one particular blossom, killing it deader than a doornail. He attends a private school, where his special pal is John Clark Gable. He talked so much of John that Sandra was beginning to think the school held classes for only Dodd and John, when Dodd suddenly discovered girls. The babble concentrated forthwith on Jennifer and Naomi, and the other day Dodd was delivered home on the school bus and announced, "Today I met Cara, Mom."
"Cara, huh?" said Sandra absentmindedly. "Yeah, Cara. She's real pretty -- only she goes on Mrs. White's bus, darn it."
The Darins go out about three nights a week, but the Dates are special evenings, occurring only when Sandra shows signs of being depressed. And the special evenings are carried out with verve and elan, with few wrinkles even as far as Sandy, The Boss Outside, is concerned. One small one is that on the way home from a party, Bobby refuses to gossip. "I don't understand," says Sandy, "why men don't care. A guest could have fallen flat on his face at the party and Bobby wouldn't even notice it."
It isn't often that Sandy's bereft of conversation, but Bobby doesn't suffer one way or the other. "He's always preoccupied with his work, and doesn't hear half of what I say. The best times are when we're riding together in the car -- I chatter away about nothing and it at least looks as though he's listening."
There are nights at home when Sandy, by her own admission, "couldn't be raised up off the floor" -- but there are nights, too, when they dine by candlelight and Sandra dresses up "like Mata Hari. After all, sometimes a girl just feels like putting on a pretty gown."
If you, dear reader, are wedded to a man who doesn't seem to know you're around, you might take a tip and try a Darin-type date. It may all seem like a lot of silly trouble, but it does put the romance back into the chowder of marriage.
Sandra and Bobby Darin co-star in Universal Pictures' That Funny Feeling.
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