Bobby Darin & Jo Ann Campbell:
"We're Getting Married!"
This article, written by Bobby Darin, appeared in the September 1960 issue of Modern Screen Magazine
I'm Bobby Darin, bachelor. But not for long. Because there's gonna be a Mrs. B.D. soon. And I'd like to tell you a little about her--my own darling Jo.
She's the prettiest thing you ever saw; brother, she is pretty. With that blondish hair of hers, like silk, like angels' hair must be, and those eyes, big and blue, blue as the prettiest blue you can imagine, and that little girl giggle of hers when she's happy and that little-girl hurt-look about her when something's gone wrong--and with that figure of hers, which isn't little-girl at all, not at all.
Can she cook?
There's got to be a hitch somewhere, so I might as well tell you honest right now--no, she can't, not yet. I mean, she's great with things like TV-dinners, if you know what I mean. But with some of my favorites, like manicotti and chicken a la king (homemade, not that canned jazz) and beef stroganoff and five-minute soft-boiled eggs (very hard to make just right), the answer remains no, she can't cook yet. But I notice she's been hanging around with my sister, Nina, quite a bit recently, in the kitchen, asking questions and watching Nina make with the pots and pans, and though neither of them will admit it, I have a hunch there are some lessons going on and that there's gonna be a surprise in store for me some day soon.
When Jo and I get married.
That first day after our honeymoon, maybe.
Around eventide, as the poets say.
Me, sitting in the living room, perusing my Downbeat, indulging in the pipe-and-slippers bit.
Suddenly sniffing in deep and smelling something delicious-smelling wafting through the room.
Calling out, "Honey, I thought we were
going to eat out tonight."
And her calling back, "Shhhhh, or my
seven-layer cake will fall ...."
It's funny, me sitting here now, talking about my girl, looking forward to the day when she's my wife.
I didn't think way back, a couple of years ago, that I ever would get married.
"Not till I have a million bucks and don't have to say sir to anyone"--that's what I'd tell gals I came across who hinted at the subject. (Hinted? There was one who'd start scratching her fourth-finger left-hand every time I saw her!)
"Not me," I'd say, "--not till I have my million."
Well, here I am, still a long way from having, that kind of cash, good as things are going.
But I've changed my tune about the wedding march.
Because it just so happens that I'm in love.
With a doll.
And marrying her, being with her, for the rest of my life, is right now the only important thing in my whole life ...."
Was it love at first sight between me
and Jo?--some people have asked. No, it wasn't.
Matter of fact, it would have taken a genius to figure anything was ever to come of that first meeting of ours.
That was two-and-a-half years ago, in New York, at Hanson's, a Times Square drugstore I used to hang around in all the time with all the other struggling young singers and actors in town.
Well, this night I was sitting at a table with one group, when another group came over and joined us.
I knew all of them except one of the girls, the one who ended up sitting next to me.
She was quiet, I remember--mainly because I was on big that night, doing most of the talking and yakking, and so she didn't have much of a chance to say anything anyway.
But during one pause, I remember, she did say, "By the way, my name is Jo-Ann Campbell."
"That's nice," I said. And then I said, "Mine's King."
"Last name or first?" she asked.
"Nickname," I said. "It's what people call me, because I'm like a natural leader."
I laughed, and she said, "You know--but you sound just a little bit conceited to me."
"Why shouldn't I be?" I answered back.
"I'm a man of talent--and taste."
"Boy!" she said.
And brrrrrrrrr, but there was a chill, chill breeze in Hanson's that night.
We saw each other a few times after that those next few months. Backstage at places like the Brooklyn Paramount, where we were both booked as singers on the same rock 'n' roll shows. And a couple of other theaters, in Jersey and Pennsylvania, and places like that.
We saw each other, I say.
But we never talked.
And then early one evening I ran into another singer I know, girl named Jeanie Allen. She asked me if I could come up to her place for a little while to look over some vocal arrangements she'd just had made for her act, since I was a hotshot part-time songwriter and arranger too.
"Besides," Jeanie said, "I want you to meet my new roommate. She's the sweetest thing!"
"Yeah?--Who cares?" I thought to myself, since in case I haven't said it yet I'll say it now: I was strictly off girls at this particular time. I'd had them all after Gloria. Gloria was a dancer, thirty-one when I met her. And I was a kid, eighteen, who didn't know a shingle from Cheyenne. And for some reason I fell in love with her. And she said she loved me, too, and that she had great plans for helping me with my career. But that woman was more mixed-up than I was. Because one day I found out the type of woman she really was. And I was so mad, disgusted at everything that some days I wouldn't even bother to get out of bed. That's how bad it was for me at this particular time.
And so when Jeanie talked about her roommate, I thought to myself, "Who cares?"
And getting to the apartment and seeing the roommate a few minutes later, the only reason I took a long look at her was because she turned out to be that little Miss Jo-Ann Campbell of Hanson's drugstore fame.
Brrrrrrrr, but things were suddenly cold again.
We both said hello to one another, finally (out of politeness to Jeanie) and then Jeanie and I got to work on the arrangements, Jo-Ann retiring to her own room for the hour or so I was there.
I was just about to leave, in fact, when Jeanie extended the invitation that was, in time, to change my whole life.
"Why don't you stay to dinner?" she asked.
Before I could get the ahem out of my mouth and say look this is the story and so I don't think it would be advisable under the circumstances, Jeanie called out to Jo-Ann and said, "Sweetie, you and Bobby go to the grocer's, while I fix the salad, and pick up some ice cream, all right?"
Jo-Ann came out of her room, looked at me for a second, shrugged and said--reluctantly, I thought "Oh, all right."
Our walk to the grocer's was like a cross between the original Ben-Hur and 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. Very silent. Very very silent.
And it would have been that way on the walk back, too, if suddenly I hadn't had this feeling that it was time to break the ice a little. (Mysteriously, for some reason, this girl was starting to intrigue me.)
So I found myself taking her hand, very quick-like.
And so she pulled her hand back, even quicker-like.
Hmmmmmm, I thought then, pretty unforgiving little gal we had here.
Well, I thought then, next step was to embarrass her--you know; make her just a little bit sorry that she made a fool out of me, the guy who'd given up dames for good now and had started making such a fool of himself.
"What in the world are you doing?" she asked, as she stopped and watched me throw myself down on the sidewalk suddenly and press my ear against the pavement.
"Quiet, gal," I said. "I hear hoofbeats. I
think the posse's on its way! "Embarrass her?
Heck. It was as if this was the funniest bit she'd ever seen or heard. And she started to laugh, man, but laugh. "Oh," she said, hysterical-wise, "you look so funny down there--"
And from that moment on and for the next couple of hours--the rest of our walk home, dinner, and so on she was in one of those moods where everything I said struck her as funnier and funnier.
She laughed, in fact, until she cried, really cried, I mean, genuine sad-type tears. And that's when I learned the other side of her, my Jo-Ann--the soft and sweet and sentimental and little-girl side.
It was about midnight that same night. Jeanie and Jo-Ann had done the dishes while I watched some TV, and then Jeanie had excused herself and gone to bed.
Jo-Ann and I were sitting in the parlor of the apartment alone, just the two of us.
Little by little the talk had gotten kind of serious and Jo-Ann had begun to tell me a little bit about herself. How she was from Jacksonville, Florida. How she lived there with her parents and grandparents. In a little white house with a garden and a four-man swing in the back--"kind of lovely and old-fashioned," like she said. All this not far from the water, the beach, where they all went week-ends, yearround, for swimming and picnics.
"I came up here," she said, "to New York--because somewhere inside me, ever since I was a little child, there's been a bug in me that's said to me, 'You've got to become a singer, you've got to become a singer.' So, when I was eighteen, I decided it was time for me to up and leave.
"It gets a little lonely for me," she said, "up here, far away--but," she said, "when you've got a dream, you've got to give up certain things to try to touch that dream."
She talked about her dream a little, closing her eyes as she did.
And then she opened them and stopped what she was saying and she said to me, "Now you, Bobby . . . I've talked enough
. . Now you tell me all about yourself." I began-- "Well," I said, "I was born in The Bronx, the sickest baby on record there--and there've been lots of babies born there in The Bronx. In fact," I said, "I was so sickly that neighbors used to stop my mother on the street and say, 'Whaddya wanna wheel that thing around for? It's gonna die.'"
That's when Jo-Ann began to cry.
When I saw these tears, big as anything, come to her eyes.
"What's the matter," I said, "--I didn't even start the sad, sad story of my life."
"Those terrible people," she said, ignoring my cute remark, "saying a thing like that about a poor little baby... about you."
And she bawled now. Really bawled. And I sat there waiting, not knowing what to do, till she stopped.
When she did, I took her hand.
This time she didn't pull it back.
I started talking again. I told about my childhood--what I remembered of it--The Bronx, the not-so-good part of it where we lived; my mom, widowed a few months before I was born, doing her best to take care of me and Nina; the relief checks we'd get when my mom couldn't work, and how we'd wait for them and then, when they came, how we'd be so ashamed to go to the store or the bank and cash them; how it was all a pretty grim childhood except that inside me, like there'd been inside her, was a bug with the same message as hers: "You've got to be a singer someday, you've got to be a singer someday." The only difference being that my bug had a cousin who lived with him and who used to tack onto the message: "You've got to be the best and biggest of all the singers someday!"
I talked about my dreams then. How I wanted to make the big-time someday, become "famous." How I wanted to start doing it all fast, fast, with no time to waste because (one) I've always been an impatient-type guy, and (two) because my mom was sick with her heart now and because before she went, God forbid, if it was God's will that she did go, I meant, I wanted to get her the one thing she'd always dreamed of, a house in the country, a place away from The Bronx, with fresh air and trees and a sky that didn't look like a ceiling hanging over a lot of red-brick walls, but a sky-that she could enjoy for a little while, anyway. I talked and I talked that night.
And when I was finished I could see it was dawn coming up already outside the window of the apartment.
So I said, "I've gotta go now." But I didn't move.
Because I knew that before I went I wanted to kiss this girl I'd been talking to, this girl whose hand I'd been holding these past few hours, like I'd never ever wanted to kiss any girl before. For some reason, I was nervous about it. So I started with the jivey talk.
"My life you've heard," I said. "Now about my personality," I said, "--mostly I'm for doing what you feel like, when you feel like." "Is that so?" Jo asked, in that little-girl way of hers. "Yep," I went on, "I'm for what each person feels for the other. Sudden impulses . . . Like sudden kisses.
"I mean," I said, "if you want to kiss a girl and it's mutual, then you should do it. If you're going to swing, swing, I Say." "Bobby," Jo said, very softly, I'll never forget how softly, "Bobby--I'm as nervous as you are. The talk's not going to help. If you'd like to kiss me, please do, Bobby."
And I did.
And that's how it all started, our friendship, our romance, our love for each other (though, deep down, I fought the idea that it was "love" at the time) .... We went out lots together those first six months, though actually "went out" is the wrong expression since, with work hard to come by, I didn't have money for that. Instead, we'd spend most of our time at Jo's and Jeanie's apartment, eating those TV-dinners I talked about before, watching TV, listening to records, singing ourselves; or else we'd visit friends, or my mom, or Jo's mom and dad and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hatcher, who'd moved North by this time and to Long Island, which is very accessible to New York.
Then, at about the time the first six months or so passed, somebody suggested to me one day that I write a song. I'd already written about ten dozen, seven of which were recorded and became immediate flops. But this friend of mine suggested I try something in the rock 'n' roll style. As he said, "Everybody else is doing it and making good."
So one day I wrote Splish-Splash, in exactly twelve minutes.It got recorded. Within ten days it had sold nearly 100,000 records. And I was on my way.
To put it mildly, I was in seventh heaven. A little too high up there, looking back. And it was Jo who helped bring me down to earth.
I remember this one night we were sitting in a Chinese restaurant over on West Forty-Ninth Street, I mean actually having dinner out. And I started to laugh about this and say something like, "It's about time, hey, honey, the two of us living, like real people?"
And I remember how Jo said to me, "This is only the beginning, Bobby. Don't get spoiled or satisfied by only one record.
One rock 'n' roll hit--that makes you like a thousand other fellows instead of like a million others. Now you've got to show them that you can really sing, too .... "
And I remember another time, not long after I started to show them, and started getting club bookings here and there, how
something was wrong with me--I wasn't really getting through to my audiences; I guess I was afraid and made myself into
a pretty brash and unpleasant character--and I remember how Jo sat with me one night right after a show and said to me,
"Bobby, I don't know much about show business. But this much I do know. The real performers, they don't fight the audience. They enjoy it. Which is what you've got to do, Bobby. Enjoy it ...."
I remember these things Jo said to me, at a time they needed saying. And, remembering, it's strange, ironic, to think that this is just about the time we started drifting apart. Or, I should say, the time I started drifting away from Jo. What happened? It's hard to explain.
I just wouldn't see her so much anymore. I was dedicating myself to a whole new world now, and the strain of this dedication was knocking me out--the hard work, the newness of it, the constant late hours, the learning to sleep by day and live by night, the excitement, the having to hang around a lot with all sorts of people, some of them who wished you well, others who didn't give a damn, you'd find out, but just hung on for the free ride-a new life, all of it devoted to the Big Crowd, and that gave me little time for those few people who really cared. People like Jo-Ann.
We had a discussion about this one night; nearly a fight.
Jo was blue because I hadn't shown up a few times when I'd promised to. "I was born in a small town, Bobby," she said. "Maybe it's different up here in great big New York. But where I come from we're used to a fellow calling to break a date if he has to, even calling a girl once in a while between dates just to talk. Girls like to be treated that way, Bobby."
I answered all this with a lot of stuff that sounded very good and reasonable to my own ears at the time. "The kind of thing you're talking about," I said, "is forced--and anything forced is ill." It all boiled down, what I was saying, to take me, Jo-Ann, or leave me. "Take me?" I said, when I was finished. "Yes," she said. "Good," I said, "because this is just the way it's got to be." But nothing was ever really right between us, for a long time after that.
I was still going through my period of making the grade, of confusion. And my mom died suddenly during this period, and her passing made me more miserable than she would ever have wanted me to be, this wonderful mother who'd done so much for me ....
Anyway, as far as Jo was concerned, I'd see her a lot for a while and then, sometimes for three or four weeks running, I wouldn't see her at all. Finally, one night, it really seemed over between us. I phoned her after one of these long stretches and told her that a friend of mine and his wife had invited me to dinner at their house and asked me to bring a date if I wanted to. "Would you like to come?" I asked. Jo-Ann said she would.
During dinner that night I got to feeling depressed about something. I couldn't eat. I figured there was no sense staying at the table. I don't know if it occurred to me that this would make it a little hard on Jo, sitting alone at a table with people she barely knew. All I know is that I was depressed. And that I got up and went into the living room and put on some records. A little while later, Jo-Ann came over to me.
She put her hand on the top of my head. "Good-bye, Bobby," she said. "Where you going?" I asked her. "Home," she said. "I've apologized to our hosts." "How you going home?" I asked.
"I phoned a cab," she said. "Why you going home?" I asked, starting to get a little miffed about it, mad. "Because," Jo-Ann said, not mad-sounding, not un-mad; I guess "resigned" is the only word--"because," she said, "I don't want to be hurt anymore, Bobby. And because I don't want to tie you down to a girl who's always going to be hurt, even for the few hours she's together with you. "Don't you see?" she said then. "Don't you see what I mean, Bobby?" I said, "No. I'm tired and my eyes are blurred. I don't see anything." And I turned away.
And as I did I tried to say to myself, "Who cares if you come or go, Miss Campbell? Who needs you?"
But even though I was saying the words to myself, they seemed to get stuck in my throat.
I didn't know what to do about Jo. So I did nothing, and just let her go .... Mack the Knike came to me shortly after this. And the world came to me, too now, in dollars and in applause, in gold records and so many booking offers I had to turn half of them down, in screen tests and interviews and picture-taking sessions with high-class photographers and in autographs and screaming kids--the works.
It was great, and I put my arms around it like a lover who'd taken a girl named Career as his mistress, holding hard, never letting go. Because it happened so fast, it gave me little time to think. And this, I thought, was good for me. I was constantly surrounded by people now. I was never alone. There wasn't a face that wouldn't show for me at the snap of a finger, to talk it up with me, to keep things hopping, to tell me, remind me, how fine I was, how great I was doing, how I had the world on a string, how I had everything.
And then one night, in California, between shows at a club there, I was sitting alone in my dressing room. As it happened, I was feeling particularly alone that night. I could have called for somebody. But I didn't know just who I really wanted to see. I sat facing the door. "If anyone could walk through that door right now," I thought, "who would you want to see, more than anyone else?" The picture of her came to me in a flash. The golden hair. The big blue eyes. The little girl look. Everything about her that I thought I'd forgotten by now, but hadn't. I began to have this conversation with myself.
"Call her? See her? But she's in New York," Part A of me said to Part B. "So what, you schnook," said Part B, "--you call her and maybe she comes here tomorrow." "Comes? She probably won't even talk to me." "How you gonna know, unless you try?" "Just like that?" "Just like that." "And what do I say?" "You tell her the facts. That you've been a dope, a schnook, and that you miss her and you love her." "Love her? Me in love?" "Afraid to admit it? Afraid to say it?" "I don't know . . . I don't know." "Well, get up and pick up that phone and try . . . Give it just a little try at least?"
I did just that. I phoned Jo-Ann, told her I missed her, asked her to please come out to see me and mumbled, as best I could, something about how much I loved her.
We spent those next few days doing up Southern California just the way it should be done--taking drives along the coast, swimming, having dinner at places like La Scala and Chasen's, even going out to Disneyland for a day. It was after Disneyland, in fact, driving back, just the two of us, when I asked the big question. Being me, and being nervous about it, I asked it in my usual nervous fashion.
"Jo," I said, "mostly I'm for doing what you feel like, when you feel like . . . You know that about me . . . I'm impulsive," I said. "Is that so?" Jo asked. "Yep," I went on. "I'm for what each person feels for the others. Sudden impulses. Like sudden kisses . . . And sudden proposals.
"I mean," I said, "if you want to marry a girl and it's mutual, then you should do it. If you're going to swing, swing, I say."
"Bobby," Jo said, very softly, I'll never forget how softly, "Bobby--I'm as nervous as you are. The extra talk's not going to help. If you'd like to ask me to marry you, please do, Bobby." And I did.
And when Jo said yes, I pulled over, off the road, skidded the car to a stop, took my girl in my arms, looked into those eyes of hers, for a long long time, and-- And that's the way our love story ends I mean begins ....
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