HOLLYWOOD- Hollywood lives, for the most part, in an aura of self-delusion. Predictions abound that every movie will be "great" and every TV series a "hit".
Once in a while they're right. Last year, CBS brass who saw The Sonny and Cher Show before it went on the air as a summer replacement said it was bound to be smash and would be back on the air in January as a regular series.
This summer, it's NBC predicting that The Bobby Darin Amusement Company which is replacing Dean Martin for seven weeks, is going to return in mid-season. It's still too early to tell (the series premired last Thursday), but everyone connected with the show says he has a "feeling" about it. Except Bobby Darin, he refuses to think that far ahead.
" I know that everybody in the cast and crew is rooting for it to be a hit but I honestly don't spend time thinking about whether it will a success or not. I've never had a series before , but basically I'm not a competitive individual."
You don't believe it? You should because Bobby Darin looks you right in the eye when he's talking and shoots straight from the shoulder.
We were lunching at a rustic health food resturant called The Magic Apple in beautiful downtown Burbank, just minutes form NBC, where we'd spent some time watching Bobby rehearse his final show with guests Tommy and Dickie Smothers and Joannie Sommers. It was just about a year ago that we had visited Sonny and Cher rehearsing their last show of last summer, and again we were impressed by the same feeling of family and camaraderie among the cast and crew on Bobby's set. And Bobby confirmed it.
"We've been working practically non-stop with only a day off here and there for over a month now. It's been a real team effort, and there are no factions of any kind. It's been very hectic, but I've enjoyed it very much."
The Bobby Darin Amusement Company is being billed as a comedy show with music, and Bobby only sings three songs on each show, one of them a duet with a female vocalist. The rest of the show is a variety of production numbers and comedy sketches. ( There are several regulars on the show, and guest stars include Dusty Springfield, George Burns, Dionne Warwicke, Carl Reiner and coming up on Thursday are Debbie Reynolds and Charles Nelson Reilly.)
Television producers had approached Bobby in the past about doing a TV series. But he always said no until Saul Ilson and Ernest Chambers (who were responsible for the Carol Channing , Pearl Bailey, Bill Cosby, and Frank Sinatra specials ) came along.
"It's the first time that anyone spoke to me about doing a TV show utilizing all the different things I like to do."
" I would not be satisfied with a series featuring just songs and small talk with my guests," he explained. "Saul and Ernie hit all the right nerve centers in talking to me, and by the end of my meeting with them I was already committed. And they have given me even more freedom than they had promised. I've created seven different characters which I use and which the writing staff has brought to life. It has been a marvelous experience."
Bobby Darin has had some difficult moments in his life and he wasn't always as calm, cool and collected as he appears to be now. He signed to his first recording contract with Decca when he was only 19 (young for that time),and at 22 he wrote a tune Splish Splash recorded it and won a gold record for it. It was the first of four such records, the last being Mack the Knife which also bought him two Grammy awards.
He made his nightclub debut with George Burns at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas and immediately became the first young (22) entertainer to headline at top clubs and hotels around the country.
Then in 1960 he made his movie debut in "Pepe" and decided he would retire as a singer and concentrate on the screen. It was while he was making his second movie "Come September" in Rome that he met his wife-to-be, Sandra Dee. She was 18 and a Star. He was 24 and just starting out in the motion picture business , but they married and had a son, Dodd, who is now 10. They divorced 5 years ago.
Then came Bobby's involvement in politics and his campaigning for Bobby Kennedy , whose death was a shattering experience for him. He went to live for a while up in Big Sur, CA and wrote some moving songs which were recorded in two albums, very well recieved by music critics but not by Bobby's fans, who wanted the slick, commercial songs he was known for. They didn't like his protest songs and his new blue-denim image.
After a short period of self-examination he finally decided to compromise and return to the saloon circuit a couple of years ago, more mellow and less revolutionary. Once again he was a success. Then in early 1971, after having lived for years with a damaged heart, he went to the hospital for open heart surgery. By last fall he was back playing nightclubs to capacity crowds.
Bobby would like to play more dramatic roles (he recently appeared in episodes of Ironside, Cade's County and Night Gallery) but producers aren't exactly breaking his doors down to sign him.
"It's not enough to want to play these roles. You must be asked," He says. "At one point in my life I resented the fact that I wasn't asked, but I no longer do. I now realize it's not because of my ability. Most people just don't think of me as a dramatic actor."
Bobby lives a fairly quiet life with his wife, Andrea (they are not legally married but consider that they are) and when he needs to relax and get away from it all, he goes camping. In fact, the trunk of his car is always packed with a sleeping bag, camp stove and other gear.
"Sometimes I go with Andrea, but many times I go alone if only for one day. Life is basically full of obligations and responsibilities , and when I'm alone at the beach or in the mountains, I can shake them off for awhile. Not that I would want to shake them off forever, but it's nice to move from one lifestyle to another, from my world of work to one where there is a paucity of material things and where choices don't exist-- except whether to feed a particular nut to a squirrel or a bluejay."
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