"I said to myself I had to be a star at 21 or I'd blow my brains out. Well, I'm a year late but I guess that's all right."
An Italian-American boy from the Bronx with the unlikely name of Walden Robert Csssotto had finally made it. He is presently the hottest young rhythm singer in the business in the same billing league with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. His future looks as rosy and heady as pink champagne.
Cassotto's professional name is Bobby Darin and last week was the most exciting and successful of his young life. He was a headliner for the first time at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, his ATCO disk "Mack the Knife" was the biggest selling pop record in the US and his gross income for the year will exceed 250,000.
Until late last summer when his bouncy swinging version of Mack the Knife caught on, Darin was just another one of those vacuous young idols of the rock 'n' roll set. One day he would be riding high with hits as "Splish Splash," "Dream Lover," and "Queen of the Hop," the next day he would be forgotten. "Mack the Knife" made the difference. For one thing, the Brecht-Weill classic is a solid song. For another, it brought Darin an adult audience, an advantage he was quick to appreciate.
"There hasn't been an organized teenage movement for a singer since Eddie Fisher caught on," Darin shrewdly noted. "It's tough these days -- the kids are fickle. They do more flipping over the songs then they do over anyone singer." Bobby also felt that he came on a little too old for the teen-agers. "I didn't fit," he observed. "Some people would say it's premature for me to be booked into the Sands. But I know I can handle it and the Chez Paree and the Copa afterward. I've always had a drive to do everything the best."
The young man broke into show business first as a songwriter, then as a singer, starting in third rate nightclubs. After experimenting with rock 'n' roll, he then turned to standards like "Mack the Knife" and "Some Of These Days." "I'm not just a singer," he analyzed. "I really try to sell my personality. For me it's got to be a salesmanship job, not just a good voice. Singing isn't enough. Spontaneity and personality are the things."
For all his breezy self confidence, it was a nervous Darin who faced a cool uncrowded Copa Room at the Sands last week. "This is the proving ground," he muttered as he went on for his first solo turn. When he went off stage 35 minutes later, he admitted, "I was a little shook. This was the roughest place so far and only the Copacabana could be rougher. I was halfway to the dressing room after the show -- I thought I'd bombed. Then I heard the applause. When I came back I thought that applause was just great -- your whole chemistry changes."
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