Sandy's fallen in love ... and look what's

happened to the big bad wolf, Bobby

This article, written by Milt Johnson, appeared in the
February, 1961 issue of Photoplay Magazine.

It was 9 A.M. New York time; 6:00 o'clock in Hollywood. The telephone rang in our office. "A Sara Hamilton calling," the operator told us, "long-distance from the Coast." Then we heard Sara's excited voice. "Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin are planning to elope!" she announced. None of us could believe it. "I had dinner last night with friends from Rome. It's true," she insisted. "We've got to act fast. Check the incoming planes this morning from Rome. You'll find Sandy and her mother on one of them. The plan is for Bobby and a friend to meet the plane. His friend will keep Mrs. Douvan busy while Bobby slips away with Sandy. What happens in the two hours after that might just change Sandy's whole life."

A call was put through to Idlewild Airport. "Are there any flights from Rome this morning?" There were several flights due in. Sandra Dee's name was not on any of the passenger lists. We called a photographer and told him to get over to the airport and watch every plane that came in from Rome. In the meantime, a correspondent in Rome cabled us. Sandra had boarded the plane the night before. She was already in New York. We tried to call Bobby. We knew he was in town, but he wasn't at any of the usual places. Was he in hiding . . . or had he already left for the airport? We telephoned Rome and began to put the pieces together. This was the real exclusive story . . .

It was 10:20 A.M. in Rome and a bellhop carried a long white box through the Hotel Excelsior hallways. Every three days it was the same, like clockwork. A dozen long-stemmed yellow roses. The card was signed "Bobby." He knocked and handed the box to the girl who opened the door. Every time he brought the roses, she acted as if it were something new, as if it were still the first time. Her brown eyes opened wide, and she had the ribbon off the box even before the door was closed. Bobby Darin might be tight with his money, like a lot of people said. He might not be the kind to keep sending a dozen roses to a girl. But a girl named Sandra Dee seemed to change all that. She has, it seems, changed a lot of things.

Bobby Darin had arrived in Italy the same way he arrived anyplace—like the fourth of July. When the cast and crew of Come September moved south to Portofino for location, every girl near that famous beach noticed the explosion. It didn't matter that they didn't know much English and he didn't know much Italian. They didn't have to understand what he was saying. It was the way he said it—fast, brash, supremely confident. When it was time for dinner that first day, he took his pick of the beauties. The next day, he walked in with another glamour doll on his arm. The evening after that, he was dancing cheek to cheek with still a third. And that's the way it went.

Until one day Sandra Dee wandered onto the beach. She wore a one-piece bathing suit, kind of conventional, and most of her was covered by a long-sleeved beach dress she'd zipped up to her throat. To boot, she was with her mother. A beach boy brought two mats for them and they sat down to enjoy the sun.

In the middle of a sentence, Bobby Darin stopped talking. He took one look, and he was done for. Maybe he didn't realize it right away, as he left the beautiful dark-haired girl pouting alone and walked over to ask Sandra and her mother if he could join them. But by the time they were all back in Rome, it was obvious.

It happened in Rome

It was in Rome that what had happened really hit him.

They didn't start out by having dates— not exactly. They'd simply get together after work or on a day off. "We're going to see the Vatican today," he'd tell her. He didn't ask where she wanted to go, if she wanted to do something different, she'd speak up and tell him. Usually, she went along with him, though, and said nothing. She seemed to like his bossing her. He went along with her when she shopped for a new dress. When she stepped out of the fitting room, in a clinging black creation with a deep V neck, it was an eye-opener.

But he shook his head. "I like the one you were wearing better." "Me too," she agreed. So she bought no dress that day.

One day, when they had the whole day off, they decided to take the scooter to the ruins at Ostia Antica.

"Look," Sandy shouted, pointing to a mosaic floor glinting in the sun. Her voice echoed back over the ruins. "Look." They went over for a closer view, and he got on his knees to trace the pattern in the tiles. "How old do you think it is," she asked, whispering now.

He checked the guidebook. "They say about two thousand years."

She knelt down beside him. "Golly, it makes you feel kind of spooky, doesn't it? Two thousand years . . ." she looked down at herself. "I'm eighteen, though I don't feel any older than when I was seventeen."

He laughed. "I'm twenty-four, but most of the time I feel a lot older than that. Sometimes I think I was born old."

So different . . .

Their lives had been so different. She'd always had most everything she wanted; he'd had to fight hard for whatever he got. Maybe that's what she liked about him; it had made him strong. But she didn't tell him that. Instead, she said, "I've spent most of my life with grown- ups." And then she confessed, "I've always liked older men."

"Great," he answered back. "I've always liked older women."

They found a cool, grassy spot near a broken wall and sat down. "I feel so different lately," he said after a while. "I don't know what it is exactly. Maybe it's that I've had a taste of security. I know I can't slacken, but I don't have to run around like a chicken with its head cut off anymore either." He searched her face, wondering if she'd understand that. "I don't feel that old racing crazy drive. I know I don't have to fight the world. Instead, the opponent is me."

She nodded. "I have to fight me, too," she said. "Like my temper. I still lose it, but not so much anymore."

He slipped his arms around her waist and they sat quietly. They were almost afraid to move for fear they'd break the silence as they watched the hills around the Ostia begin to turn purple and the sun go down. Reluctantly, they headed back for Rome. Both absorbed in thoughts of marriage. They couldn't elope—could they?

"You know something," he told Mrs. Douvan the next day, "I'm going to marry your daughter. And that's that." Mary Douvan laughed but there was an odd catch in her throat. "You're bound to lose your daughter someday," Bobby said, "and you may as well get used to the idea of losing her to me." Mrs. Douvan knew that Bobby wasn't what most people thought. In fact she told us later, when we called to congratulate her, "Bobby has much more talent than he's usually given credit for." And it's true. Bobby is mature and when he sets his mind on something, he means business. This was no on-the-run love affair. What about an elopement?

"What we have together," Sandy said, "what we feel for each other is a private thing. I'm not going to be the one to talk about it, exposing personal feelings for the whole world to see."

It was the first time Sandy had fallen in love, and she wanted to hug the secret all to herself.

Sandy was flying in from Rome with her mother. Bobby was waiting to whisk her away! And what was to happen during the next two hours was to change Sandra Dee's whole life.

Bobby did meet Sandy, but no one knew it. And that's how the plan at the airport got started. It seemed to be working. Our photographer called to say Sandy and Bobby had got by him. For the next two hours, nobody knew where they were.

The studio had no comment, but they said, "If anything happens, you'll be the first to know." Mrs. Douvan had no comment either, but she said she'd have news for us later. She remembered Bobby's words, "You may as well get used to the idea of losing her to me." Nobody wanted to tell how close they were to eloping.

Two hours later, Sandy turned up at her hotel in New York. For the next few days, she went into hiding. While Bobby made a quick business trip to the Coast, she was too scared to see anyone or say anything. But when we called Mrs. Douvan, she told us the engagement was official and that she approved. The studio called to tell us that everyone was happy about the news. And we sent Sandy a wire, "May your happiness last for as long as forever." Sandy promised she'd wait to be married until after she finished her next picture.

Everybody relaxed. Bobby might have talked Sandy into a fast engagement, but nobody believed that he'd rush her into a quick "I do" too. "We know Sandy too well," we said, "she'd never do that."

A couple of days later, when Bobby got back to the East, nobody guessed what was on his mind. He went calmly to New Jersey to have Thanksgiving dinner with Sandy and her mother and their relatives in Bayonne. And then suddenly, after that, everything exploded.

On November 30th, Sandy and Bobby showed up in the town clerk's office in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey—near Bobby's home in Lake Hiawatha—and applied for a marriage license. Bobby's sister and her husband were the witnesses; Sandy's mother was not there. After they'd filled out the forms, they sped away in a limousine.

The next day, December 1st, everything was buzzing again. A close friend of Bobby's called and told us the wedding was on for Friday. Forty people had been invited at Bobby's house.

Even Bobby's friend didn't know that, at the very moment he was calling us. Sandy and Bobby were already Mr. and Mrs. At the last moment, they had changed their plans. At 1 A.M. Bobby persuaded Magistrate Samuel Lohman to waive the seventy-two hour waiting period. At 4 A.M., Magistrate Lohman married them at the Elizabeth, New Jersey, home of Bobby's friend Don Kirshner.

It was a quiet ceremony. Bobby's sister and her family were there; so were his friends Don Kirshner, Dick Lord and Dick Behrke. Sandy's mother was not there. She was in her hotel room, refusing to accept any calls. There was no relative and no friend at Sandy's side when she married.

There was a small wedding breakfast after the ceremony and then Sandy and Bobby took a plane to Hollywood, where Bobby had already rented a house for them. There'd be only time for a short honeymoon before Sandy had to start work on her next picture and Bobby returned East for a night-club opening in Camden.

And after that? Nobody knows. When we got the tip that those two hours after Sandy got off the plane from Rome could change her life, it was true. All we can do now is to wish Sandy and Bobby happiness as Mr. and Mrs. Darin.

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