Robert S. Ensler Presents
A Tribute To Bobby Darin
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it be 30 years since Bobby Darin’s untimely passing?
Robert Cassotto was born
believed in Bobby’s innate talent,
in the mid to late 1960s his career was quiet.
I knew Strip Hotel owners and
entertainment directors. In 1970 and 1971, I got him miracle
bookings as the main-room headliner at the Landmark
twice at the Desert
In top form, he
packed houses, with rousing standing ovations and rave reviews. Bobby asked me
to be his manager, but while I considered the offer his health declined. Those
1967-68 Bobby suffered three crushing personal blows.
and actress Sandra Dee divorced after seven years. They had a lovely son Dodd, the
light of his life. Bobby adored and
campaigned for Senator Robert F Kennedy. After RFK’s assassination, millions
resumed their lives, but Bobby suffered prolonged clinical depression. Back in
1936, the stigma of unmarried pregnancy had overwhelmed his family. For 31 years
they kept a dark mega-secret from
Bobby. In 1967 they revealed a
life-altering bombshell that devastated him.
He learned his “sister” Nina
was really his mother, and his “mother”
Polly was really his grandmother! After
these traumatic revelations he said,
whole life has been a lie.”
was hell, an emotional earthquake,
an explosion of his core beliefs. He
spent a year trailer-living in the Big-Sur
forest, wondering, writing, never recovering from a lifelong deception
he could never understand. His fabled self-confidence, his ego, turned to
doubt, introspection. When sharing pain with me, he had a glassy-eyed look of
disbelief, not sure he could ever trust again. While searching in vain for
answers, his self-esteem, personality, values, and musical direction underwent
major changes. The divorce and shocking family crisis shredded his past, but
even worse he perceived RFK’s assassination as ripping up his future and
rheumatic fever damaged Bobby
during the Depression, his family was one of millions on welfare, in dire
hardship. But unlike other kids, at age 13 Bobby overheard the doctor telling
his family he would not live past 16. He knew someday he’d need high-risk
open-heart surgery, but delayed it for years hoping for medical advancements.
This cruel sword over his head sparked Bobby’s frantic work ethic and tireless
ambition, his quest to be “the best
ever.” Bobby attacked life and career, knowing he had so little time.
were so poor my cradle was a cardboard box,”
told me. Bobby grew up in a run-down
pain, shortness of breath
in 1971. He agreed to long-dreaded open-heart surgery. I got chills when he said
I’m toast, my chance for survival is 10%.”
sold or gave away possessions. I refused his gifts, assuring him, and myself,
all would be fine. During stage shows he created clever
false-endings, dashing to the side for a quick oxygen
fix, without the audience knowing. He
wanted adulation, respect, love, but not sympathy.
Clark rejected Mack the Knife,
“Threepenny Opera,” urging Bobby not to record that dark tune. Bobby’s
other advisors unanimously agreed, arguing that his loyal Splish
Splash and Dream
Lover fans would resent the sordid Broadway song. But in ‘59 Bobby had
rare courage and followed his own instincts. He liked Mack’s
offbeat jazzy tempo and sharp, violent lyrics. At 23 he refused to ‘play
it safe.’ That single decision changed his life. Mack
the Knife rose to
Number One nationally for
an amazing nine consecutive weeks,
and was in the Top Ten for 22 weeks!
of the Year,
and two Grammy Awards.
radio play, guest-starred on network TV shows, packed swank nightclubs, posh
resorts. Bobby was the youngest-ever headliner at the prized Sands
Darin topped Sinatra,”
critics would say, which always sparked lively debate. In the ‘50s and ‘60s
Bobby prowled Broadway’s famous
told me Al
“for his golden throat and perfect
whom he tried so hard to emulate and surpass, “for
his stage presence, humor and finger-snapping independence.” Elvis,
“for his courage to defy rules and project taboo sex appeal.” The
“for original sound, songwriting genius.”
Perry Como, Dean Martin
“for their relaxed approach.” Judy
(they sang a TV duet in ‘63) “whose
pain came through in her songs.” He took a little from each hero, creating
a package of multiple stage personas,
the delicious recipe, the unrivaled niche
he molded into the remarkable, unique Bobby Darin.
gave “Danke Schoen” to Wayne
gift from his heart. In 1963 it became
was in 13 films, composed two full movie scores, five title songs.
music publisher and record
producer, he knew the ropes inside-out. He appeared on popular TV shows, Steve
Allen, Bob Hope, Ed Sullivan,
with luminaries Dean Martin, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, Peggy Lee, Paul Anka, Tom
Jones, Phil Silvers, Lisa Minnelli, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, Nancy Wilson,
Andy Williams, Patti Page, Alan King and others. His mentor George
said Bobby’s talent topped legendary Broadway impresario George
so Bobby starred in Kraft Music Hall’s ‘Give
My Regards to Broadway,’ becoming America’s Yankee
Doodle Dandy, Little Johnny Jones.
1963 Bobby sang at my brother’s nightclub,
for a hypnotic 1963 performance in Captain
Newman, MD. He played a decorated WW II aviator and psychiatric patient who
thinks he’s a coward for not saving his friend from the burning plane. Bobby
won the coveted Golden
Foreign Press Association,
acting awards. This brash teen
started with a
sang to my daughter Robyn:
Yellow Roses, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,
You’re The Reason I’m Living, For
Once in My Life, Baby Face. During 1970-73, from infancy on, he often held
her. He called her “My Dyn-A-Mite!”
and brought, what else, 18 yellow roses. All her life, I’ve told Robyn stories
of Bobby’s warm visits.
became part of my family.
“desert throat” struck, we flew
in my relative Marty Lawrence, a world-renowned NY
Metropolitan Opera singing coach.
When Bobby stayed at my home we confided, shared stories. I was his safe
haven from managers, lawyers, producers, media. I never met Sandra Dee, but
did meet girlfriend Andrea Yeager. Later, for a brief time, they were married.
She was a beautiful legal secretary, regal like Jackie Kennedy.
so much pain in his life,
seemed we were the family he craved. He knew my devoted parents, Jack and Bea
Tell, and their Las
Dad told stories from his editorial days on The
New York Times, and as publisher of Mark Twain’s
loved the Las Vegas Free Press.
supported our brave troops but strongly opposed the war in
notorious Howard Hughes proxy battle
determine control of an empire. Bobby and I were in court when Federal
Judge Roger Foley
entered my paper into evidence,
saying, from the bench, “The
fought for minorities, a woman’s right to choose, the
rhythm of a pulsing press serenaded the
Bobby and I watched the paper printed. He said, ‘Jay,
like your dad, you have printer’s
ink in your veins.’ He loved our puncturing
stuffed shirts, cutting frauds down
to size, backing underdogs in election upsets. Feared Las
Vegas Sun columnist
ran for City Commissioner. He was a 20-1 ‘cinch’
against an unknown opponent, until we ran 15,000 extra papers for ten weeks. We
revealed his shady past, underhanded methods, and stopped him cold. We ran
stories on medical care, legal aid, and the
Bill of Rights.
were first to support
was smart, articulate, handsome, caring. I took him to Gov.
Court Justice John Mowbray,
long-time Tell family friends, to explore his political viability. They thought
he could possibly be elected mayor, senator or governor. Bobby was first a
friend, who enriched my life, and later my partner. We received Federal approval
for a public stock offering, a registered SEC prospectus for a daily newspaper.
Bobby’s birth name, Walden Robert Cassotto, was proudly included in the
prospectus, AKA Bobby Darin.
was an exciting entertainer with a sparkling personality.
knew it, but Bobby was also an authentic genius, a Mensa
with an IQ of 137, in the top 2%. He
was a 22-year
with a polished stage presence, a gift for comedy sketches, and natural timing
for actual or rehearsed ‘ad-libs.’
He did great impressions of James Cagney, Clark Gable, Jerry Lewis, Tony
Bennett, Ray Charles, Rex Harrison, Walter Brennan, Jimmy Stewart, Robert
Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant. He had magnetism,
choreographed and danced with gusto, and played musical instruments well,
including piano, guitar, vibes, harmonica and drums.
sang to each of us, a very personal
allure was honesty, direct
from his soul. He was animated, flippant yet friendly, sassy yet soft,
rebellious yet relaxed. He had 10-piece bands, plus back-up singers. He often
performed in a tux, was a perfectionist who told musicians ‘If
you screw up they blame me, not you.’
was his goal.
Sharp, self-confident outside, down deep he was unpretentious, sincere,
seriously misunderstood. Lifelong pain affected his music, but never lessened
his commitment to do his best, every
‘70-71 Vegas shows re-started his career, Mack
negotiated his highest ever salary, $40,000-a-week. Thrilled to help my friend,
he offered 10%, but I refused. Those three Landmark,
Desert Inn sellout engagements ended
his quiet period, and he again
achieved national fame. Rushed by ambulance to his first open-heart operation
and plastic heart valves, he recovered, to continue his soaring comeback; only
to succumb in Dec, 1973, after a second surgery. He worked so hard, as if each
show was his last. One time, tragically, it was.
1972-73 he starred in two NBC-TV primetime variety shows,
most important TV ever. After his
Groucho Marx impression is so good, even Harpo shouted praise,”
said, after Bobby brought down the house. Groucho’s brother Harpo was famous
for never speaking. Bobby’s April, 1973 NBC national TV show was done “concert
style.” His solo guest star for the entire hour was the beloved Peggy
and this show turned out to be Bobby’s TV finale. Then, a Las
run became Bobby’s last live performances. No one, least of all me, believed
his time was really running out. Isn’t denial grand? But a few months later,
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
inducted Bobby in 1990. Son Dodd Mitchell, then 29, accepted. In 1999, his
accomplishments as a composer were embraced by
Hall of Fame.
He may not have been “the best ever”
by age 25, as he once hoped, but lately there’s an amazing surge of interest
in the multi-talented Bobby Darin. His many dimensions, wide variety of skills,
earn him a special class apart, almost like Jolson,
final utterance was his childhood phone number.
his deathbed, was he reaching back to the Bronx
High School of Science or
made people happy, even in death; his
body going to UCLA
Medical Research Center, so
there is no gravesite. His melodious,
matchless music mosaic is his
only true monument,
memorial. His fiery, flamboyant flair, his ageless, ongoing tempestuous
talent, has clearly stood the test of time. His crafty charisma and suave
singing style will continue to give pleasure to millions yet unborn. [Note:
This tribute has been published on many websites, and is traveling the globe via
address books. I’ve received numerous appreciative, glowing emails from
Bobby's loyal fans, of all ages, around the world. I never expected such an
outpouring of affection, and love for Bobby. To publish this tribute, to honor
Bobby’s unparalleled life, please email email@example.com
been suggested I write Bobby’s definitive biography.
tribute was written solely as a ‘labor
of love,’ from the heart. Others now see it as an outline for a book or
screenplay, with never-before-published details of his remarkable life. At the
time, writing his full biography never entered my mind, but I’m considering
it. If done, one chapter would be new worlds Bobby might have conquered, in
theater, advancing the arts, as TV host, film director, producer,
philanthropist, media owner. He genuinely cared about humanity, wanting to make
the world a little better.
‘Horatio Alger’ rags-to-riches
one of exceptional drive, burning ambition, rare courage, moving human drama,
intense personal tragedy. It spans an epic period from the late ‘30s to the
early ‘70s. Bobby’s entire life was filled with the cruel knowledge he was ‘running
out of time.’ He was so alive, so full of energy. Had he lived, the
gifted, dynamic entertainer would surely be a superstar.
music improves with age like fine wine.
get sentimental about him, like reminiscing about a friend, which he still is,
to hundreds of millions of fans worldwide.
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Ensler Entertainment & "Robert S. Ensler Presents" are NOT affiliated with The Bobby Darin Estate.