"I've found her, the girl for me." It was Bobby Darin's voice, gone soft and unfamiliarly tender. "She's a great girl--we hope to be married soon."
Bobby, of course, was referring to pretty, blonde Jo Ann Campbell.
"I have a special boyfriend." This was Jo Ann Campbell talking, shyly confiding, at another time, in another place. "But I also go out with Bobby Darin, Jimmy Clanton, Jerry Keller, Jerry Granahan . . ."
Does that sound like a big romance? These days, Bobby refers to Jo Ann in terms of the highest respect and admiration. As everyone who's been in love knows, this means the passionate fire has been somewhat cooled. Yet Jo Ann, for her part, has recently been quoted as saying that "Bobby's become evasive. I just can't reach him--in any way."
All very confusing! Maybe we can solve the puzzle by taking a closer look at the two young people concerned.
Bobby Darin is undoubtedly a complex and volatile young man. He admits he's a lonely young man. Since his adored mother died a year ago, he's been somewhat at loose ends. He used to love to run home to her, to the charming and cozy house he bought for her in a quiet section of New Jersey, and share with her the triumphs that she had wanted so much for him and he had worked so hard to attain. Now there's no one to run home to.
Sure, Bobby has devoted friends. He has that rare capacity the ability to make and keep friends through changing circumstances. The kids who knew the underprivileged boy in a not-so-nice section of the Bronx are still friends with the young celebrity. That situation speaks well for Bobby's loyalty.
But there are plenty of people around who say they don't see much modesty in Bobby Darin. They say he's getting too big for his britches; that success has gone to his head; that he's beginning to believe his own publicity. They say that, though he came up the hard way, he came up too fast for his own good. They say his eyesight is blurred by the speed of the sudden ascent and that he can't read the danger signs of the stratosphere he's heading for.
As a definite example, they tell of this incident: Bobby tried to use the magic of his name to get himself and date into a jam-packed night spot, only to hear the maitre d' say, "Bobby Darin? Never heard of you"---whereupon Bobby blew his stack! A more settled and secure star, Bobby's critics suggest, would have been merely amused (or at least smart enough to hide the hurt to his vanity).
Some of the older pros, who've been around and been through it all before, have been able to see both sides of Darin and offer him the help he apparently needs. For instance, the great George Burns, whose own very secure niche is unshakable, took time out to give Darin a friendly, fatherly warning.
It happened when they were appearing together at a club in Las Vegas. In that citadel of sophisticated, adult audiences, Darin's success was unprecedented for a rock 'n' roller. His delivery of great standard pops sent the die-hards into frenzies of applause and appreciation. Notes, flowers, and gifts were pouring into his dressing room. Instead of going to his heart, the acclaim obviously went to his head. Bobby got temperamental, and one of his targets was George Burns.
Now Burns is not the man to put up with that kind of jazz from anyone. Behind the deftly handled cigar and the smoothly delivered lines are years of the roughest kind of show biz, and George has always managed to come out on top of any fracas. He could have put Bobby in his place, and roughly. But George saw the real quality of character underneath the younger man's thoughtless words.
"Bobby," he said, "no top trouper acts that way." And George proceeded to talk, man to man and to the point. It hurt Bobby's ego, deflated it a bit; but Bobby Darin,young man in a hurry, saw that the shortest way to the top was to stay a good human being. He realized what a great service Burns had done him, and was grateful.
Under normal circumstances, Bobby Darin's a likable, intelligent, perceptive boy, capable of giving and inspiring affection. He's not the kind to knock about forever by himself, living the so-called carefree bachelor life in hotel rooms and motels as he hops from club date to TV show to theater appearance. As a matter of fact, he has a tremendous yearning for a home and security. It's not too well-known, but there was a time when he almost married Connie Francis. He didn't, just felt it wouldn't be fair to tie her down if he couldn't offer her a settled home life, in one place.
It was some years back, before Connie had hit her stride with "Who's Sorry Now?" They were both eager young teenagers, working and knocking about looking for a break. They were in love (as Bobby and JoAnn were to be) and had set a date, somewhat far in the future, when they would be each other's for life. But Bobby broke it off. He knew he had a long road ahead, and he would have to travel the early part alone.
Simply to be a popular singer is not Bobby's idea of success. From rock 'n' roll he's developed into a jazz singer, and it's been predicted by those who know that he'll one day be absolutely tops in jazz. Beyond that lie other goals. He is reading scripts for a movie he'll do at Paramount, the first under a fabulous deal he has with the studio: one picture a year for seven years. Bobby may or may not sing in all his pictures. Mostly he wants to do straight dramatic acting.
He's already demonstrated his ability there, on the "Hennesey" show, starring Jackie Cooper. By a quirk of fate, part of the story line there lay close to the heart of Bobby Darin's dilemma. He played an ambitious young musician who got drafted into the Navy and wanted out at any cost; his career and money meant so much to him. The draftee felt he'd had so many hardships in his life that he entitled to more than average consideration. But he finally saw the light when it was pointed out to him that other people had endured worse hardships and had still managed to live according to the rules.
Bobby's certainly had his share of hard knocks. He came from a breeding ground of delinquents; his friends weren't bad boys, but kids who simply expected life to be rough. Bobby was always the one who took dares from the older boys, and sometimes he was the one who was caught as the mischief-maker. As he has often said of his days in the old neighborhood, "My only goal in life was to get out of there."
In a sense, perhaps he's still running, trying to get even farther away, and maybe he's leaving love behind. Ambition coupled with relentless drive are bound to add up to success; in Bobby's case it's inescapable. But, at the furious pace he travels, it's a question whether love is eluding Bobby Darin--or he's eluding love.
Bobby's erstwhile loves speak well of him. Connie Francis says she'll never forget him. And Jo Ann has nothing but good to say of the boy everyone thought she was going to marry. Was it Bobby or Jo Ann who got or gave the brush-off? Or did they simply drift apart?
Either way, this fact is important: Jo Ann Campbell has been shaped by a backgrround completely different from Bobby's. She's an easygoing, soft-spoken girl from Jacksonville, Florida, who hasn't quite gotten used to the Northern pace, though she's been up there since she was thirteen. "It's real-relaxed down South," Jo Ann sighs, "but everything is real busy-busy up here." She remembers the fun she had in school, up to the eighth grade, back home. "I had a ball running around, going to football games. I sure hated to leave." Jo Ann went to New York to study dancing, and found her life suddenly rearranged.
High school for Jo Ann became Lodge Professional School, with other show-business kids. It consisted of three big rooms; students were grouped according to the subjects they were working on at a given time. "There were about 100 in my class," she recalls. "I really had no chance to make friends there. No fun--we were all just there to learn and get to graduate."
That was hardly Jo Ann's cup of tea; she just loves socializing wherever she goes. Once her career hit its stride, she found touring good in terms of company she travels with. She remembers last year's trip to Australia happily because she had such good companions: Bobby, George Hamilton IV, Chuck Barry. She remembers Hawaii kindly because she was in a troupe that included Duane Eddy and Neil Sedaka. One tour through the States was fun because Jerry Keller--"a real sweet guy" in Jo Ann's eyes--was along. But often she's booked to travel on club dates alone, and in her own words, "I hate it!"
So far, Jo Ann hasn't been terribly ambitious, and it may have been hard for her to understand Bobby. She has a career partly because her mother, who had never been in show business herself, wanted Jo Ann to be. Jo Ann was given dancing lessons when she was four, and the family moved to New York City to continue her professional education. Delighted to go along with the idea, she developed her dancing by appearing on TV shows as a single and then teaming up with a boy to appear in clubs and theaters. But she had always been a rock 'n' roll fan and the day she saw Alan Freed's show at the Brooklyn Paramount--this was in 1956--was the day that changed her direction. "I never got over it," Jo Ann says. "I knew right then that I wanted to be a singer and make records."
She's been making them, and doing well. Her first record, for the GONE label, "Wait a Minute," got favorable attention as did the subsequent "Beachcomber" and "I Ain't Got No Steady Date." She loved making the movie "Go, Johnny, Go" and is looking forward to more.
But Jo Ann admits wistfully that she hasn't yet had a record hit of smash proportions--nothing, let's say, of "Mack the Knife" calibre. She's hardly brooding over it, because Jo Ann's credo is summed up in three words: "I like living!" Hard as she may work, she'll always find time for the little things, the fun things, the affectionate things--like the time her Chihuahua had puppies, and the family sold one to a neighbor. Jo Ann missed the puppy so much that they pleaded for the return of Pedro and bought the neighbor another dog to replace him.
In Bobby Darin's life, the necessity for hits and more hits looms much larger than it ever could in Jo Ann's. As he himself says, "There's a lot I have to learn, a lot I have to do."
One of the things he may have to learn is to leave more room for the human element, for affection and warmth. Love is precious, and plenty of entertainers have found the way to get to the top and still retain love. It will be the greatest thing in the world, and the greatest attainment for Bobby Darin, if he can find the way to hold fast to his success---and to a girl he loves.
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