"Fame Can Be Poison!"

This article, written by Carol Ardman, appeared in the
November 1964 issue of Movie World Magazine.

Meet Sandra Dee. She's a beautiful girl with soft brown eyes and blonde hair who lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her husband and young son. Meet a girl who is so famous that she hasn't been able to walk down a street without being virtually mobbed since her early teens.

"I've known what it is to be in the public eye since I was a model, and that was before I was even sixteen," she says, an edge of grimness in her voice. Sandy has learned since then that anyone who's in the spotlight can expect a rough time.

Since the time she began modelling, Sandy has been one of the columnist's hottest items. They have recorded her private life relentlessly, leaving her little privacy, and sometimes even adding events from their own imaginaations. And Sandy has taken the consequences.

When she was a teenager, ready to date and enjoy herself, Sandy was an example of the proverbial wall-flower. Her studio and her mother were conscious of the fact that she was well known, and they wanted to take every precaution to protect her from bad publicity. The result was that Sandy hardly ever went out. And even if her mother and her studio hadn't been so concerned, it's obvious that very few men would have had the courage to ask her for a date. After all, a girl in her position seemed out of reach for most ordinary young men, and those who were also in show business were too busy protecting their own interests.

Indirectly, Sandy's fame kept her an inexperienced child until (and even after) the time she married Bobby Darin. "When Bobby and I got married, everyone went all out for reporting it and speculating on it," she says now. And the divorce rumors began hardly three months after they were married. "People don't care to spread rumors about those who aren't well known. But give them someone they think is a celebrity, and they often like nothing better than whispering over the back fence about the person," says Sandy. She and Bobby tried to laugh it off then, and they still do, but they're willing to admit that the talk about them has caused some problems. "When you continually read in the papers that you're about to get a divorce, you begin to wonder yourself," she laughs. Sandy got so used to reading about her fights with Bobby that she found her nerves on edge and her temper really short.

"And then there's the tension of keeping up appearances," she continued. For Sandy, keeping up appearances means being dressed to the teeth and having a smile on her face whenever she's in public. No matter how tired she is, no matter if she's not feeling well or if she's worried about her baby, she feels it's her responsibility to appear perfectly groomed and divinely happy at all times. This, of course, would he a strain for any mortal. And it was even more difficult for Sandy when she and Bobby were trying to iron out the problems in their marriage.

Sandy's become used to being stared at, pointed to, and whispered about after years of practice, but sometimes it still throws her. She'd like to be able to go out for a hamburger with her husband dressed in slacks and with a simple scarf over her hair, but she knows it's impossible. And she knows that's only one of the prices she has to pay for her fame.

She's also aware that her fame could disappear at any time. "The public is unpredictable, you know. Today they love you, but tomorrow they might not," she sighs. The public, Sandy's bread and butter, can be fickle, and it can also be cruel. "Once you're on top, you've got to use most of your energy to stay there," she says. Unlike many other Hollywood stars, Sandy doesn't believe it's possible to relax and just enjoy her good fortune. She doesn't think having her name in lights is enough to assure her fame forever. She's been told on good authority that things just don't happen that way. Joan BlondeIl, a good friend, told Sandy years ago that she shouldn't count on staying on top without working very hard for it. Joan knew, because she was a perfect example of someone whose career had lagged. She warned Sandy not to ride too easily on her successes, but to appreciate them and do her very best to repeat them. And no one was happier later than Sandy when Joan's career began to pick up again, as it inevitably did, Joan being a real trouper.

And there's another danger that Sandy has tried to avoid. "When you're famous, it's too easy to believe all the wonderful things people say about you. It's so easy that keeping a perspective on yourself is enormously difficult," she says. Those who know Sandy will realize that her fame has been a source of great confusion for her. They know she can never quite believe the compliments she gets, but she's heard them so often, they're almost a part of her. Sandy wants to avoid being a person who is spoiled by her success. She wants to keep herself from losing the values she's struggled so hard to find. Above all, she wants to be a friendly, warm person--one who inspires good feeling in others. Sandy has tried desperately to keep from being pushy or demanding because she knows how it makes those around her feel. She's done everything she could not to become spoiled and selfish, and she can only hope she's succeeded reasonably well.

Fame can be a harsh, demanding master. Sandy works hard to stay on top, and she's had to sacrifice a great deal. Her work is satisfying, but it's also a twenty-four hour a day job. She must go on public appearance tours, she must get up at the crack of dawn, she must go away on location, she must spend a great deal of her time with her hair-dressers, her costumers, and her agents. She's found that the more successful she gets, the more of her time is demanded. Because she's only human, she's had to make compromises, and one of them has been more difficult than all the rest. Sandy has had to accept the fact that she simply can't be with her husband and her son as much as she'd like. She's had to try to get used to missing them because she has to spend so much time keeping up her career.

For a long time, Sandy couldn't bring herself to accept this aspect of her fame. She wanted to be able to be a wife and a mother for as many hours of the day as she pleased. She wanted to be able to cook for Bobby and keep up her own house. But one of the prices of her fame was that she couldn't be a full-time home-maker, she couldn't be a wife and mother and have a career too. Sandy learned the hard way that a person "can't have her cake and eat it, too." There have been times when she has resented being deprived of her marital privacy, and there have also been times when she's felt she's been deprived of having a marriage at all.

Sandy's fame has taught her to live the fast life--the life of a movie star. But there are many times when she's longed to be able to skip the parties and all the social responsibilities that go with being a star. Often, she's wanted nothing more than to be able to stay quietly at home and out of public view. But she knows in order to stay on top, she must stay in the public eye and she must meet producers, directors and other stars at the important Hollywood functions. She can't let the public forget about her, but neither can she let the people who pay her salary ignore her existence.

"One thing that bothered me when I was younger and still bothers me sometimes now," she says, "is that someone who is well-known can't always tell why people like them." What Sandy meant was that since her teens, she has been surrounded by people who would like to profit from her fame. Even now, she can't be sure that a person likes her for herself and not for her money, beauty or influence. Even now, she often wonders why people are nice to her--do they want something of her? Often they desire only the prestige of being associated with her. Every famous person meets up with many individuals who are nothing but parasites, but every famous person isn't lucky enough to be able to separate the parasites from those who are sincere. It's taken Sandy a long time to develop the judgment of human nature needed to tell the phonies from those who are sincerely interested in her.

Roddy McDowall, who was once a famous child star, used to try to warn her against the hangers-on. But now he feels she's matured enough to be able to tell who they are for herself. Roddy is fond of Sandy, but for a long time he was afraid her fame would ruin her. Though he always had confidence in her, she was a great source of worry. But since her marriage and separation, Roddy feels she's grown up a great deal and is finally able to handle her own life and her own problems. Roddy, of course, has gone on to a great new fame as an actor and photographer.

Sandy has been buffeted around by her fame since she was a young girl. She's had to try to cope with the lack of privacy, the demands on her personal life and the hangers-on. She hasn't always known what to do, but now she feels more confident of herself. She always tries to keep in mind something Maurice Chevalier, a man who has been familiar with fame for decades, told her: "Sandy, no matter how famous you became, no matter how many men throw themselves at your feet, no matter how much money and power you have, remember that you are a person. You're entitled to live your life the best way you know how. Your first responsibility is to yourself."

For years, these words have guided Sandy. They've helped her keep a clear head in situations where others have gone wrong, and they've provided her with a sensible, reasonable way to live. Fame can be poison, but only for those who don't know how to handle it, only for those who don't know that it's fleeting. Sandy knows how fortunate she is--she knows that even though she's famous, the one thing that matters the most is what kind of person she is. She knows that her husband and her baby are more important than fame, fortune or anything else.

For her, they're all that truly matter.


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