Although Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin were actually only married once, they did separate for a short time in 1963.
Interviewing Sandra Dee is somewhat like being closeted in a cement mixer filled with feathers.
Afterward, a writer wends his way homeward chortling to himself in a manner that could very well get him hauled off to the loony bin. In a way, he is ready for an asylum because his laughter is half amusement and half desperation. The amusement stems from Sandra's unfailing humor, a gaiety lighthearted as an April morning. As for the desperation, this stems from the confusion now rampant in the writer's mind. Sandra Dee is a creamy smooth-looking girl whose conversation does not match her looks. Quite the contrary, her conversation skips and darts and zips around like a waterbug on a summer millpond. And so the writer's problem is how to pull this all together into a creamy-smooth story.
Being stuck with this problem, we refuse to face it. The only thing to do is give you the mad and wonderful bits and pieces culled from a jumping hour with Sandra Dee. During that hour, by the way, we learned how Sandy's "second marriage" to Bobby Darin is really working! We might begin with a bona tide quote from Sandy. We hadn't had time to even say hello before she pitched into the pre-occupation of the moment. "I'm so happy," she said. "I've really got it, and it's marvelous. Maybe we can go fishing in it."
"What?" we asked, quite naturally.
"The boat. It's 12 feet long. I just know Bobby's going to love it. I told the man to wrap and deliver it, and he looked at me kind of funny and said, 'Lady, I've never wrapped a boat before.'"
You see what we mean, gentle reader?
So . . . . .
Sandy bought the boat as a gift for Bobby. It was intended as a surprise to go with their new house, a Spanish affair located in a part of the San Fernando Valley called Toluca Lake because of its man-made lake which is lovingly maintained by home owners whose property touches its shores. The Darin property touches a considerable part of its shore, including as it does a lot and a half. On the half, Sandra thinks it would be nice to build a structure to house Bobby's den and projection room, a place where he can work with arrangers et al.
The house was purchased because of the Darin's dissatisfaction with their old house in Beverly Hills. This was because two-year- old Dodd didn't have enough outside play area and the house didn't have enough windows. Or something. At any rate, the Toluca Lake house is, according to Sandy, "warm and spacious, and when you pull the drapes open it's like you're suddenly in Paradise—that lake and all those trees and everything."
A carpenter at the studio came up to Sandra the other day and asked for her autograph on a slip of paper. "Sure," said Sandy, "but why don't you go over to the publicity department and get a picture of me and I'll sign that for you." "Gee thanks," said the carpenter, and before long he was back again with a picture and Sandy signed it. "Say," said the carpenter, a man who obviously doesn't keep abreast of the times, "do you ever hear from Bobby Darin any more?"
She sure does. Last weekend they were giving an impromptu party and Sandy realized more hamburger buns were needed. Would Bobby please go out and get about a dozen? He came back later with eight huge and bulging bags. There was some caviar and some olives and some antipasto and some pickles with onions and a few dozen steaks and several loaves of sour dough bread, several gallons of ice cream, and a hundred or so hamburger buns, "Where am I going to put all this stuff we don't need?" demanded Sandy.
Said Bobby, who has never forgotten the feeling of hunger, "I guess I don't shop right."
Last fall when they stayed at the Drake Hotel in New York and were getting ready for a fishing trip, they got a trailer and hooked it to the car and parked it in front of the hotel. Sandy kept whirling through the revolving doors with her arms full of cups and saucers and blankets and things to be stored in the trailer. New Yorkers don't often see a camping trailer parked on Park Avenue, let alone a movie star running back and forth with a bunch of pots and pans, so quite a merry crowd collected, including an amused cop on horseback.
Sandy is teething. At the age of 21 she has a bicuspid coming in (finally) underneath its corresponding baby tooth. Or was coming in underneath the baby tooth, because when it began peeking though the gum, the baby tooth had to be removed to make way for the one that should have appeared some 15 years ago. This required a bit of dental surgery, and when Sandy woke up she had a plate on the roof of her mouth, holding a false tooth. Or a sort of half of a false tooth, just under the spot where the retarded tooth is appearing. To fill in, just for looks, you understand, because Sandy was then making a picture — I'd Rather Be Rich for Universal.
"Ssssay," said Sandy, "what'ssss in my mouth?" Her eyes opened wide at the whistles emanating from her lips. "For heavensssssake! You'll have to fixsss that!"
"It will be all right," said the dentist, a man unaware of the problems of The Actor and His Speaking Voice, "You won't even notice it after a while."
"You don't undersssstand," said the sibilant Sandra. "I'm making a picture." "You will be just fine," soothed the dentist.
So she went to another dentist, who hammered at the plate until it cracked in several places and the whistles went away.
"A fine thing," humphs Sandy now. "Five years without a cavity, and now I have to start teething! My son and I are having a bicuspid race."
Several years ago when Universal Studio (Sandy's home lot) was in the throes of a very complicated business deal with MCA and its Revue television productions, and things were being merged and purged and wheeled and dealed, Sandy stopped one day at a lunchtable in the commissary where were gathered the Very Top Men in the industry, whose brows were furrowed over their soup. "Say," offered Sandy breezily, "You guys sure have a lot to worry about, don't you?" The Very Top Men froze in astonishment as Sandy was quickly whisked away by a horrified companion.
According to Sandy, husband Bobby had better snap to, and find out about those paintings. Seems last year he bought six very expensive paintings from an artist in New York, and the paintings have never been delivered. The receipt seems to be sort of missing, and they can't remember the painter's name or address, and if Bobby doesn't quick do something they're going to be out a lot of money.
And according to Sandy, her husband is "very funny about money." He economizes on crazy things and then goes out and buys an antique chair made out of 14-karat gold, or "enough antipasto to start a restaurant. I think he has a 'thing' about food on account of being hungry when he was a kid. But he'll buy anything. You could sell him a dead weed—just tell him it's good for putting under microscopes and he'll buy it. Take the furniture. I said have Sloane's make it--they make it to fit the house and it doesn't cost any more. But oh no, Bobby said the name of a fancy furniture maker from somewhere and they made it all for us. Except they made it too big and so we had to send it to Sloane's to cut it down, and pay Sloane's, too."
Did we think there were any fish in Toluca Lake? The boat ought to be real fine for the lake. The Darins could row it or paddle it or something, because Toluca doesn't allow motors on the lake. Maybe she'd get a gondolier's hat to give Bobby--along with the boat.
At the Regency Hotel in New York, there was a maid who took to Sandy like a duck to water. She waited on Sandy hand and foot and took care of her clothes, and when the Darins were ready to leave, the maid began to cry. It got so bad that Sandy felt guilty about leaving.
(We can add that Sandy often affects people like that. Along with the delicious looks goes a heart made of the same stuff as that antique chair.)
It seems that Bobby's hands periodically become painfully chapped and Sandy is sure it's because of nerves. Because it only happens in the period when Bobby has cut a record and is waiting for it to be released. The reaction to the record can be fine or bad, but the day it's released, Bobby's hands get better. It doesn't happen with club dates or movies—just records. "I think," says Sandy, "it goes back to the old days when he was just starting to make records and went through all that anxiety with each one. And ye gods, I just had a thought! Now he has a whole record company of his own! There will be a record to worry about all the time, and now maybe his hands will never heal!"
For Christmas, Sandy bought Dodd a toy horse, maybe two feet high and stuffed with batteries, that runs all around the place if you wind it up or push a button or something. When Sandy was looking at it in the toy store one week before Christmas, the mob of shoppers was so great that the salespeople were ready to fall on their swords. "Please," said Sandy for the seventh time, "could you show me how this horse works?" The distracted saleswoman gazed at her blankly for a moment, then snatched up a small boy from the bottom of the crowd, set him in the saddle, pushed a button, and the kid went galloping all over the store, his outraged mother flying behind him.
About this Spanish house in Toluca Lake. The Darins did what they said they'd never do again. To wit: they bought a house on the spur of the moment, and without first selling their old house. They could have sold the old one—a man offered them a large chunk in cash for it, but he wanted to move in within a week. But it was just before Christmas and so Sandra told him no, she simply couldn't move out on such short notice. That was on a Saturday. On Sunday, at the bottom of a pile of old mail that had accumulated while they had been in New York, Bobby found a brochure featuring a lovely Spanish home on Toluca Lake. "Kinda good looking, hmmm?" he said to his wife.
"Ummmm," she said.
On Monday Bobby went to look at the house. On Tuesday Sandy walked through it on her lunch hour, and Wednesday they went together, prepared to buy. Before they rang the bell Sandy nudged her husband. "Now don't jump into anything, like we did last time. When you buy a house you're supposed to negotiate." So they went in and Bobby flapped his arms at his sides and proclaimed to the owner, "I love it! What's the price?"
Afterward, when Sandy suggested that maybe there might have been a little bit of negotiation, Bobby disagreed. "For that house? The man deserves the price he's asking." Sandy said nothing further because, after all, she was the one who had said no to the prospective buyer of the old house and now here they were, before Christmas, owning two houses. "We just sort of forget that," she says. "We're going along just fine now marriagewise. I'm sure he'd like to push my face into a wall every time he thinks of it, but we just don't talk about it."
Two-year-old Dodd is a great imitator. "He sees those hair commercials with the baby and the mother on TV, so now he's forever smoothing my hair and kissing me. Once I saw him standing in the light of a window with a great big shiner, but it turned out that he'd tried to put on my mascara and didn't have a black eye after all, Dodd loves emery boards--he ate one once. I'm not going to brag about him if I can help it but I tell you the truth--for the last five months he has been spotting Cadillacs and Lincolns, I drive a Lincoln and Bobby has a Cadillac, so whenever Dodd sees a Cadillac he points to it and says 'Dada,' and when he sees a Lincoln he points to it and says 'Mama.' I wouldn't recognize a Lincoln until I could see it from every angle under a magnifying glass. But this boy—if he sees only the rear end of one sticking out of a garage as we flash by, he recognizes it. Once he saw four Cadillacs in a circular driveway and got hysterical saying Dada over and over."
Sandy is unable to tell a joke. She invariably gets the punch line in the wrong place, leaves out salient points. At parties, Bobby says to her, "Tell your new joke"— and everyone present settles back ready to laugh at Sandy, not with her. "It's such a struggle. And if there's a really awful word in a joke I won't say it. So I grab through my mind for sort of a middling word—not too bad and not too Puritan, if you know what I mean—and always come up with some word that doesn't have a remote connection with what I'm trying to say."
During the relentless hot spell in California last October--according to Sandy--it was so hot that the Darin patio furniture "got pimples on it."
"I've decided I'm a nut. I get into moods way up here and then way down there. Is this a phase? I wish I'd lose this up-and-down business. And another thing—I can go forever without sleep. Every once in a while I start having such fun I don't want to go to bed because I'm afraid I'll miss something. Once I went four days and nights, and when I finally went to bed I slept 36 hours. I remember Bobby was asleep beside me when I woke up, and I didn't even know what day it was. All I could think of was he was still asleep. It didn't occur to the that the poor man had worked a whole day while I slept, and had only crawled into bed a couple of hours ago."
For one whole week Sandy was without either a nurse or a maid. "There was nothing in the house but me. I had to do everything, and I thought I wouldn't live through the week. The house, the baby, the washing and ironing. I'd always bathed and fed the baby —and I can cook—all that sort of thing I love to do. And the baby was less of a problem when I was keeping house because I couldn't stop to pay attention to his whims. It wasn't too bad after six in the evening, but oh those mornings! I didn't even have time to get dressed. Mother would come over and I'd hand her an ashtray and tell her not to use any of the others. And I'd wash off my coffee spoon and use it to feed Dodd his lunch ... anything to save dishes. All those bottles and all those clothes. And changing sheets! What's a nurse's corner, anyway?"
In I'd Rather Be Rich, Sandy wears the wildest clothes yet dreamed up--even for Hollywood. Included in the countless costume changes are (1) a lizard coat lined with chinchilla, (2) a pair of diamond shoes, made by Cartier, (3) a full length leopard coat lined in seal, (4) a leather car coat and matching slacks lined in fox, and (5) a full length gown of light-weight white wool, studded with diamonds. Below the knee, the material is solid with diamonds. (That is, "from the floor up to where the slit begins," explains Sandra. "The gown is slit because in the picture I bowl in it.") In the days of fittings before shooting began. Sandy spent hour after hour in these clothes and was never seen in proximity to a script. Said her producer Ross Hunter, "I think she's doing the picture just to wear the clothes." And in the diamond dress. Sandy was pleased with the effect. "It made me realize I'm not Tammy any more. I'm really sort of feminine after all!"
She proved that judgment rather conclusively at the end of our interview. When asked again about that boat, a purchase which it seemed to us had been made rather lightly. We mean, when a person buys a boat they usually know a little bit about aft and starboard and beam and all that. So when we asked her, "Is the boat a sailboat or rowboat?"
"I don't know," said Sandy. "But it's a real nice boat. It's fiberglass, and that seems a nice material for a boat, and so I bought it."
We think that last remark seems nice material for the end of a story.
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