Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin

Now available in paperback.
Thank you to David Evanier for this new cover picture.

LAS VEGAS PIT BOSS -- Ed Walters' review of ROMAN CANDLE

Written by David Evanier this is a very well researched book about the short life of Darin. It is well written and very respectful of Bobby's life and career. David covers the links between Sinatra and Darin as well. He quotes almost a full page from one of my PBRs (Pit Boss Reviews) talking about Darin coming to the Sands and his interest in Frank. David feels I explained the admiration Bobby had for Frank very well. I recommend this book to you. I enjoyed it very much.

Review for David Evanier's Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin

Review for David Evanier's Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin

A Review from The Boston Globe (Thanks to Jimmy Scalia.)

Check HERE for the Roman Candle book signing 11/17/2004

Beyond the Flick by Fred L. Gardaphe
By David Evanier

The new Kevin Spacey film, Beyond the Sea, has returned Bobby Darin to the center of American culture. While the film, which doesn't claim to be an exact biography, is a beautiful vision of the performer's life. You need to get David Evanier's biography, Roman Candle, to see the well from which Spacey's version is drawn, especially if you're a stickler for the facts.

Born in 1936, Darin was dead by the time he was 37, having done more in less than two decades than most singers do in five. Evanier's biography makes clear that Darin, often referred to as a Sinatra wannabe, did things in life and music that Sinatra never could.

There's some controversy as to just how Italian Darin really was. Born Walden Robert Cassoto, his last name coming from his grandfather (described by Evanier as a small-time thug) Darin grew up with a weak heart in tough New York City neighborhoods. Armed with a rough demeanor and a genius IQ, he learned to play piano, drums and guitar.

Darin made it through the prestigious Bronx Science High School and began taking musician gigs. He formed a number of musical groups and started writing songs. One of his earliest compositions, "Splish Splash," gave him national attention and a recording contract. Not wanting to be known as a rock-n-roll artist, he began recording standards, especially songs out of the vaudeville era. He befriends old-timers like George Burns and Jimmy Durante, many of whom become father figures. He has a wild dating period with Connie Francis and later marries the All-American girl, Sandra Dee, after first dating her mother.

Always in Sinatra's shadow, Darin refused to move to Sinatra's own Reprise label when he was invited. Instead, Darin's agent took the opportunity to have Bobby switch to Capitol Records, Sinatra's old label, becuse Bobby was obsessed with doing things like and better than Frank. Darin once was misquoted as saying he wanted to be bigger than Sinatra, which caused a ripple through the business and led to a sitdown between the two.

Evanier does an excellent job of investigating the many secrets of the great performer's life. He vividly recreates the era of teen dances, nightclubs, like the Copacabana, television variety shows, and the heyday of the Las Vegas strip. We see Bobby as he struggles and succeeds with boldness and humility. Evanier smartly steps back and lets those who knew Bobby best tell their stories, giving us many angles by which to view the man and the star. Evanier can even be poetic, as in his description of the album Bobby did with Johnny Mercer: "Mercer and Darin wing it together, scatting, riffing, improvising, doing what's necessary, they're having a ball. They slide, they glide, they dance, they fly."

We learn how Bobby's life and his life choices were always influenced by an awareness that he would probably not live beyond the age of 30. Through commentary and criticism, Evanier takes chances that some biographer's might not, making this the book you want to read before seeing the film. At times some of the writing borders on outright cheering, but as Evanier points out, if you loved Bobby Darin, nothing could shake it. Kevin Spacey may have captured Bobby's spirit in his film, but Evanier does nothing short of capturing the man in all his fancy and with all his faults. Black and white photos and a selected guide to his recordings are included.

(Thanks as always to Hesh!)

From The New York Times, Sunday, March 6, 2005

Darin the 'Brain'
By David Evanier

At 12, Bobby was admitted to one of the most prestigious high shools in New York, a school for "brains" -- the Bronx High School of Science. Bobby and his best friend, John Bravo, had been advised to go there by guidance counselors at Clark Junior High. Bobby faired badly, although in the long run he would find a group of friends with whom he would bond for many years.

Bobby felt painfully apart and different at Bronx Science. An overwhelming majority of the students were Jewish and from upwardly mobile homes, financially far better off than his family, and intellectually and culturally several levels above them. "These were future professional people, lawyers, doctors, scientists," Bobby said later. "Suddenly I'm with people not pressured financially, people uninvolved with food, rent and clothing. I went overnight from the non-thinkers to the thinkers. It was shattering and abrupt."

Bobby's long-time publicist, Harriet Wasser, or Hesh as she is affectionately called, has a different take on his reasons for going to Bronx Science: "Bobby went there because the school system was falling apart, going out of control, and there was so much machismo. Bobby was not a six-foot bruiser. He was the kind of guy that could easily be bullied. I was told by his friends that Bobby went there to get away from that tough milieu."

Bobby was shaken by the surreal experience of going to a school where the highest value was put on intelligence and returning in the afternoon to a neighborhood where education didn't mean anything at all, infact, it was regarded as an effete pursuit.

(Thanks as always to Hesh!)

FROM THE DESK OF Harriet Wasser

I originally talked to David a number of years ago and at that time suggested that he write a book on Bobby. Time went by without me hearing from him. Then, soon after it was announced that Kevin Spacey would be doing the movie, he contacted me again. I jumped on the case immediately and put him in touch with Steve Blauner (Bobby's friend & former manager.) I then got the word out to Jimmy Scalia, Official Darin Archivist.

I acted as consultant to the author in the hopes I was able to bring Bobby's story to light in a way it never has been before.



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