Sunny and sophisticated Sandra Dee, the precocious star of classics like Gidget, A summer place, other Imitation of life, what was the ideal teenager of the Eisenhower era. Bobby Darin was an electric singer, performer, and producer whose iconic songs included “Beyond the Sea” and “Mack the Knife.” Together, they seemed like the perfect young couple from America.
But his golden public figures masked dark reservoirs of private grief, as his son, Dodd Darin, writes in the loving but wildly honest Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee.
“Together, my parents embodied a dream of what one could be, have or marry,” writes Dodd. “Dream lovers it is about two peoples whose childhood was cruelly twisted by forces they could not control … It is the record of my search for the truth about my parents as people, to be able to accept them, separate from them and have my own life. like Dodd Darrin. “
The Sun King of the Bronx
When seventeen-year-old Nina Cassotto discovered she was pregnant out of wedlock in 1935, she decided to keep the baby. But he made a deal with his mother, a fizzy widowed ex-showgirl with a morphine addiction: Polly pretended to be the boy’s mother and Nina his older sister.
Robert Cassotto, born May 14, 1936, would not discover his true origin until he was 32. A sickly child from the beginning, writes Dodd, his family hovered over the cardboard box that served as his crib. As a child, his heart was severely damaged by four episodes of rheumatic fever, leading doctors to believe that he would not live beyond the age of 16. Often too sick to go to school, Polly would teach her son / grandson at home, gifting him with stories from his time in show business.
Called “the King” by his family, Darin became a charming selfish exhibitionist who waited for the world. “I remember being told all my life, ‘Bobby is sick. You have to be careful and you have to protect him, ”his sister Vee later told Dodd. “So that’s… what my family did. And it was a mistake. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have been protected … I’m saying that we should have turned him into a human being as well, and we didn’t. “
The porcelain doll
Alexandra Zuck was born in New Jersey on April 23, 1944, the daughter of Mary and John Zuck. Mary, just 19 years old when her only child was born, soon divorced John and became obsessed with his extraordinarily beautiful daughter. “Mary always dressed Sandy like a doll … a skirt with an Eisenhower jacket and a little hat,” a cousin told Dodd. The intelligent and good-natured little girl was a loner, quietly playing with her dolls in the huge, rambling house of her Russian grandparents.
But Mary was always there. According to Dee, she often kept her home away from school, lowering the blinds, claiming it was raining. “Of course it didn’t rain,” Dee told Dodd. “My mother just wanted me to keep her company. He loved to spend the day curling my hair. ”Mary also fed Dee until she was six, the actor said, leading Dee into a lifelong battle with anorexia.
Mary’s overprotective instincts would fail catastrophically when she began dating the posh New York commercial real estate entrepreneur Eugene Douvan. According to Dee, Douvan started abusing her when she was five and raping her when she was eight. As Dee told Dodd:
The newlyweds took me on the honeymoon, I slept among them. That became our routine. Eugene always said that he would marry Mary and me. It sounded good because they included me, but then I saw that she married with two children. One of them was me and I became their pet girl.
The abuse would continue for years. Dee remembered her mother forcing her to say goodbye to her stepfather before school, and then walking out 40 minutes later, wrinkled and traumatized, asking Mary, seemingly unconscious, to buckle her up. As Dee told her son:
Thirty years after Gene’s death, I told my mother what had finally happened. She was ranting … about how holy Gene was, and I finally couldn’t bear it. I said, “He was not a saint. He had sex with me. “She said,” You’re crazy and you’re drunk. Go to bed. “I went to bed and the next day I said,” Now I’m sober. And it happened. “She didn’t say anything. She had nothing to go back to.
By 1959, the versatile Robert Cassotto had become Bobby Darin, a teenage idol with hits like “Mack the Knife” and “Splish Splash.” Darin was obsessed with getting ahead, the oxygen he had to take in between shows no doubt reminded him that he was on borrowed time.