COLUMN 111, NOVEMBER 1, 2004
(Copyright © 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)
ANNOUNCING A NEW BOOK, VOLUME THREE
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST proudly announces publication of BOBBY DARIN WAS A FRIEND OF MINE, VOLUME THREE OF THE BEST OF THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST.
:Following we give you Chapter One of BOBBY DARIN WAS A FRIEND OF MINE, VOLUME THREE OF THE BEST OF THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST:
East Harlem, an Italian
ghetto, 1936. The kid is born May 14, a Taurus. From the beginning, he's sickly.
As soon as he's conscious of his life, he's also conscious his life's going to
be short. He's going to die of a broken heart, whatever that means. To the kid,
never in history has a baby come out of a womb into such a dark shadow. The
shadow is cast by the eight ball.
In the first place, the
kid's got congenital problems. His father is Big Curly, once tight with Frank
Costello. His mother is Polly, an ex-chorus girl strung out on morphine. To the
kid, she's the descendant of an aristocratic English family resettled in America
via the Mayflower. He grows up thinking that she went into show business because
she was a lady with balls for her day, but still a lady, certainly too good for
the kid's hoodlum father, a hit man with the mafia, who was probably on
assignment in Chicago when he met Polly there. The kid grows up thinking that
his father, Big Curly, was a stagedoor-johnnie, who courted Polly with bouquets
when she walked into the alley from the theater. Still, Big Curly was the kid's
father. He had to have some good qualities. That's why Polly fell in love with
him. They had to run away to get married. Polly could never let her family meet
him. The kid grows up thinking Big Curly was a capo in East
As if his congenital
problems aren't enough, the kid suffers a rheumatic fever attack. The kid is
living on the top floor of a four-story tenement slum walkup with Polly and his
sister, Nina. She is 17 years older than the kid. They are on home relief. Then
Nina marries Charlie, the only boy friend she's ever had. Charlie works at a
hardware store, but he's learning how to be a refrigerator repairman. Meanwhile,
the kid suffers another rheumatic fever attack. Rheumatic fever licks the joints
and bites the heart. The kid lies in bed screaming in pain at the slightest
motion. Only Charlie knows how to carry him to the bathroom so it doesn't hurt.
When the kid suffers still another rheumatic fever attack, he is confined to
complete bed rest in a sanitarium at Lake Saranac for a year.
There, the kid starts
making plans for his short life. Whatever life he has to live, he's going to
live to the fullest. The doctors tell Polly and Nina that the kid will never
live to be 15.
When the kid turns 15, he
is in Bronx High School of Science, the hardest high school to get into in the
City of New York. "Here I was a dummy," the kid says. "Now I'm
with geniuses." The kid's becoming a fast-talker. He's getting cocky and
brash. What's he got to lose? He's starting to show talent. He can make music
with just about any instrument he picks up. He thinks he's flashy on the drums.
He joins a band. The band gets a job in the Catskills. That summer, while his
family's at the beach in Staten Island, the kid comes home for a day to find
Charlie in bed with another woman. To make sure the kid won't squeal, Charlie
lets the kid have a roll in the sack with the woman. "I think you took his
cherry," Charlie tells her. He's sure of it. But he also warns the kid that
sex may be too strenuous for him. "What a way to die!" the kid says.
Already the kid is living
on the edge. He knows he's always going to live on the edge. He's lived past 15,
but now he knows he's going to die before he's 30. He finishes high school,
starts college, begins living in an apartment with a friend, becomes interested
in acting and falls in love with an exotic dancer nearly twice his age. She
manipulates him. She makes him quit college to become her bongo player. He
drifts away from his family, his friends. He's only 17. She gets him to help
perform an abortion on herself. She tells him it's his seed being flushed down
the toilet. Actually, it could be the Seventh Fleet's. The kid doesn't know any
better. He believes her when she tells him he's her one and only. When she
leaves him flat and goes to Canada, the kid is destroyed. Now he's only 18. He
resolves he's going to make her sorry. He's going to become a star. Until now,
he's considered himself a clown. Everything's a joke. He knows he can make
people laugh. But now he gets serious. He's been writing jingles since he was a
baby. But now he starts writing songs. He starts singing. Later, in Canada, the
exotic dancer commits suicide wearing a nun's habit, her hands crossed on her
chest, candles burning on the night tables, a cross and rosary in her hand. Then
Polly, who has grown old and sickly, dies too. The kid feels he has no woman to
prove anything to any more.
The kid is writing songs,
singing, hanging out at Hanson's, the show business drug store at 53rd and
Broadway. He falls in love with a singer from Jersey, a budding star. The kid
and the girl have the same manager. He gets them on TV. But the girl's father
learns about his daughter's romance. The father thinks the kid is a creep. The
father gets mad. His daughter is doing the Ed Sullivan Show with the kid and the
father comes with a gun to shoot the kid on live TV, the Ed Sullivan Show. Only
the manager is able to stop the father. Meanwhile, the kid is having hit
records. He's becoming a nightclub star. The fans are starting to tear his
clothes off. He's booked into Vegas. He's booked into the Copa. Life
magazine comes to interview him. He doesn't want to tell the lady writer that he
knows he's going to die before he's 30. What he means is he wants to make it
real big real soon. "I want to be a living legend by the time I'm 25,"
he tells her. That's the headline that gets printed in Life: "I
Want To Be A Living Legend By The Time I'm 25." The kid comes off
cocky, brash. He's getting an image. Everybody gets interested in his arrogance.
The Life article causes a sensation. The press starts chasing him for
interviews. God knows what the kid'll say next.
In New York, a gossip
columnist tips off Frank Costello that the kid is actually Big Curly's son.
Frank C. is rumored to be the actual owner of the Copa. By coincidence, at that
very moment, Frank C. is looking over the Copa figures. He has the kid's name
underlined to make sure the kid is booked back. When the gossip columnist tells
him, Frank C. is surprised. He never knew that Big Curly had a son. When the kid
comes back to the Copa, Frank C. sends a delegation. They sit upstairs with the
kid in a curved booth in the Copa lounge. "Where were ya when I needed
ya?" the kid tells the gangsters. "Go fuck yourselves! " When
Frank C. learns the kid's reaction, he isn't angry. He likes the kid's balls.
The truth is that he liked Big Curly, too, but Big Curly turned into a junkie.
Big Curly used to deal junk just to get enough to shoot for himself. Once Frank
C. tried to save Big Curly by shanghaiing him aboard one of Frank C.'s
rum-running boats to cold turkey. But Big Curly ended up a junkie. He went to
Sing Sing for stripping cars with a small-time street gang. Frank C. remembers
he sent a piano to Polly afterwards. Was the kid a baby then? Frank C. doesn't
want the kid to know any of this. "Is it going to make any difference if
one more person thinks I'm a prick?" Frank C. says. "So what? What
does one more person matter?”
After being prevented by
the manager from shooting the kid live on the Ed Sullivan Show, the father of
the budding girl star tells the manager that either the kid goes or his daughter
goes. The manager can't manage both. The kid goes. The kid goes through maybe a
half-dozen more managers. None of them works out. Then the kid meets Steve, a
young agent. Steve believes in the kid. The kid believes in Steve. They argue,
they fight. They become partners. Steve makes the business decisions, the kid
makes the artistic ones. Steve becomes the manager who steers the kid to
stardom. Steve is big. He scares people when he screams and boilers. He makes
the kid feel secure. They become so close, Steve tells people he'd take a bullet
for the kid. Steve is sitting with the kid in the Copa lounge when the kid tells
Frank C.'s gangsters to go fuck themselves. Later, when another gangster sends a
couple of hit men to work the kid over, Steve intervenes. Actually orders come
from above to quiet that beef. The orders come from Frank C. to let the kid
alone. Still another time, in Syracuse, a local hood doesn't like the kid's
cockiness. The kid makes a remark from the stage. Afterwards, the local hood
tries to bust into the kid's dressing room. Steve throws the local hood down the
By this time, the kid is
earning enough money to hire a valet and road manager. The kid's brother-in-law,
Charlie, is working for the New York City Department of Sanitation as a
garbage-truck driver while moonlighting as a refrigerator repairman. The kid
hires Charlie as his valet and road manager. The job takes them on the road for
months. For months, Charlie is away from his wife, Nina. By now they have three
kids of their own, Vee Vee, Vana and Gary. The kid knows that Charlie is a cunt
hound, just like the kid. Not only is Charlie loyal, but he's good at picking up
chicks. The kid has also become very kinky. He may have been born with
congenital problems, but he also was born with a big cock. He likes walking in
on Charlie when Charlie is making it with some chick he picked up on the road.
He likes Charlie walking in on him when he has a chick. The kid likes orgies.
The kid is getting a big ego, just like his image. He screams at Charlie a lot.
But Charlie stays loyal. That time in Syracuse when the local hood tries to bust
into the kid's dressing room, the local hood also has two friends with him.
While Steve is throwing the local hood down the stairs, Charlie is taking care
of the two friends.
Steve moves to Hollywood.
So does the kid. He gets movie offers, takes one, goes to Italy to star in a
picture. The kid is cast opposite the ingénue, a 17-year-old blonde who's
become a star on her own but who's overprotected by her stage mother. The blonde
is heavily chaperoned. Her contract with the studio says she must be with her
mother and a hairdresser at all times. The kid falls in love with the blonde.
After the movie is shot, they return to New York and elope. All his doomed life,
the kid has been making it with older women. Now he marries a girl just 18 who's
still cherry. His friends have to watch their language. They can't say words
like ‘shit’ in front of her. The kid is suddenly involved in a lot of stupid
problems. Plus he discovers the studio has been ripping his wife off. He's
already got too many battles to fight. He doesn't want to get involved in his
wife's career. But after all, she's his wife. He can't sit around with his thumb
up his ass while he's watching her get gypped. The complications between them
get complex. Then she gives birth to a son. The kid can't help being a corny
father. He knows he's going to die soon. They're living in a big house in the
Hollywood Hills. He's making movies, records. He's on TV, playing Vegas and
doing nightclub, concert tours. At first his wife tries to go with him
everywhere. But she's a big star, too. On the road, he starts blowing his voice
during engagements. He gets polyps in the throat. He and his wife start
quarreling. In the beginning he's faithful to her, but he's always known he's a
cunt hound and he's getting kinkier. Besides, he's going to die young. He's
still living on the edge.
He decides he needs an
insurance policy for his wife and son, some kind of oil well that will always
give them an income. Certainly there's no insurance company that's going to sell
him the kind of life insurance he wants, not with his heart. He gets nominated
for an Academy Award for a supporting performance. He doesn't win. Suddenly
Steve quits. Steve wants to try something else. The kid starts concentrating his
energy into a publishing company. He collects songwriters, singers,
songpluggers, promotion men. He builds the publishing company up to a worth of
more than a million. By now the kid is not on the road so much any more. He
retires Charlie on a salary. He doesn't need Charlie. Charlie is too intimate
with him. Meanwhile, Charlie and Nina are having terrible fights. The kid is
having fights with his wife too. More and more he feels what he's been
struggling against all his life, the weakness, the wooziness, the fatigue, the
shortness of breath. He'd long ago learned how to pace himself, how to withdraw,
how to retire, how to drop out of whatever's going on, like an invisible man,
without causing notice when he feels this sickness. He remembers the
excruciating childhood pain in his joints. Only his will has carried him this
far. How much further will he be able to will himself? By now he can no longer
hold his marriage together. He starts having flings. With other stars. With Ann
Margaret. With Jean Simmons. He's
always falling into impossible love. He always wants women he can't have. Other
men's women. He likes to get caught. Then Diane Hartford, millionaire Huntington
Hartford's wife. Their romance becomes front-page banner headlines all over the
world for days running. The kid and Diane chase each other all over the world.
He charters planes. She gets pregnant. Is the baby his? She'll never tell.
Suddenly things aren't
going too well with the kid's career. Without Steve, the kid is making bad
business deals, investments that fizzle out. He's getting older. He's been
wearing a hairpiece since his early 20s and he's getting balder. He's always had
a tendency toward pudginess. He's not selling records any more, not
consistently. He has a few more hits, but they're spread out. His impact is
diminishing. Other things are happening in music. The Beatles. Bob Dylan.
Somehow the kid resents Dylan. This Dylan is doing everything the kid once
wished he could do except the system never let the kid do it. The kid had never
been strong enough to fight the system and win the way Dylan is doing. Finally,
Nina and Charlie break up. Charlie gets a job as a limousine driver. The kid
hires him every time he comes to New York. Charlie marries another woman. He has
two children by this wife. The kid is not seeing Nina so often any more. Already
the kid's heart has been broken too often. How long can his heart last?
The kid sells his
million-dollar publishing company to a conglomerate in exchange for stock in the
conglomerate. The conglomerate goes bust. A million dollar's worth of stock and
he can't get a nickel for it. Or just about. The kid starts borrowing. He's
always known he's going to die before he's 30 and now he's past 30. He can't
even write songs any more. His songwriting contract is owned by a syndicate of
music business sharks who bought it for peanuts from the conglomerate after the
conglomerate got it with the publishing company. If the kid writes a hit, the
syndicate will get most of the money. The kid's ace in the hole is Vegas. He's
heavy there. He attracts the gamblers. The money he can earn in Vegas will keep
him going. Meanwhile, his friendships keep him on TV. He's wounded, sick and
faltering, but he keeps that to himself. Now the only thing he has to live for
is his son. He can't get a movie part, not one that he wants. He decides to
write his own movie. He sinks all his borrowed money into it. The script is
terrible, the movie worse. One of the kid's problems has always been that his
ego gets in the way of his senses. He doesn't even write a role in the movie for
himself. He just wants to be the writer, the director, the producer. On the set
he supervises everything, the lighting, the makeup, the wardrobe, the sets. When
the movie's finished, he can't even sell it to a drive-in. The film is put in
He tries a reconciliation
with his wife. They do it for their son. Also they like each other. They always
have. At home they carry on as if they've got written scripts. It's a sitcom.
But the reconciliation doesn't last. They split again. The sickness is slowly,
subtly getting to the kid, so subtly he doesn't realize the half of it. His ego
fights vainly. It's 1968. Bobby Kennedy is running for President. Bobby turns
the kid on. The kid joins the campaign. He decides it's time for him to go into
politics. The kid has always been a closet radical, anyway. When Kennedy's
assassinated, the kid is destroyed again. The kid flies to Washington to meet
the funeral train. He's in a trance. He stays at the gravesite after the other
mourners leave. He sees the gravediggers decide to let the next shift fill in
the grave. The coffin is left exposed. The kid stays there all night, sleeps at
the gravesite. He has a vision. He feels all his anxieties leaving him. At the
gravesite, in the early dawn light, his anxieties leave his body. They roll up
into a ball and then, like a helium balloon, the ball starts floating upward. At
the gravesite, he watches his anxieties float away in a ball in the sky until
the ball is just a tiny speck. He goes home and starts getting rid of all his
possessions, even his gold records. He gives everything away or sells it for
piss. His house, too. He goes to live in a commune, then a trailer at Big Sur.
He visits the Carmel library every day. He starts writing the kind of protest
songs he always wanted to write. At heart, he still wants to go into politics.
He wants something to fill the vacuum that Bobby Kennedy left. He daydreams
about one day becoming vice president.
Maybe he really wants to be
president, but he can't tell that to anyone. They'll think he's crazy. From now
on, when he performs in a nightclub it's not going to be in a tux any more. He's
sick and tired of show business pretense. He really admires Dylan for what he's
done, for what he's said. From now on, when the kid performs in a nightclub it's
going to be in denims, the workingman's material. When the time comes, he goes
to a tailor and has the tailor make him denim tuxedos. But in the nightclubs,
the kid's most loyal fans, the schtarkers, the heavies, the hitters, they don't
want to see the kid in denims. They don't want to hear him singing protest
songs. The kid starts bombing out in the nightclubs. Even in Vegas, the kid's a
flop in denims. He can feel himself getting sicker. Rheumatic fever attacks the
tissue of the heart valves. It causes holes that get filled up with calcium
deposits. The calcium makes the valves too rigid. The valve opening becomes
smaller. Eventually, the valve will either clog or not close at all. The kid
doesn't know which is happening to him. But he learns something important from
his experience with the denims. He learns that people hear what they see.
God knows what makes Nina
tell him. She doesn't know herself. There are all kinds of good reasons. That
she needs money? That he’s been paying so little attention to her? Does she
need a reason? She's been living with the secret for so long. She's always
wanted him to know. Everything was so screwed up to begin with. How did it get
so screwed up? Is it for the kid's good that she tells him? Is it for her own?
Somehow she rationalizes that if he's really going to go into politics, he might
be smeared. That plus she knows he's going to die. He knows he's going to die
too. He might as well know everything. She tells him she's really his mother.
She tells him she got knocked up when she was 16. She tells him there was no
such thing as abortion in those days. Not for the daughter of a morphine addict
on home relief. Not for the daughter of a felon in Sing Sing. She tells him that
she and Polly decided the only thing to do was to move out of the neighborhood,
have the baby, move back and tell everyone Polly's the mother. A common
occurrence in those days. She tells him that Vee Vee and Vana are his sisters,
not his nieces. Gary is his brother, not his nephew. The kid asks Charlie if
it's true. Charlie says yes. Charlie says he raised the kid like the kid was his
son, not his brother-in-law. As far as Charlie knows, he was the only boy friend
Nina ever had. But you can never tell with a woman. You can only tell that the
baby came from her. You can never tell who the father was. You can only take the
woman's word for it. The kid also learns the truth about Big Curly. Once again
the kid is destroyed. How many times has his heart been broken already? How much
more can it take?
The kid's whole life has
been a lie. There's nothing he can believe in. Nothing's sacred any more. Every
reason he ever had for doing anything was based on bullshit. Nothing in his life
was ever real. Why was he born anyway? Why was he given this fate? What mission
was he supposed to accomplish? Who could ever tell him anything any more? What
could he ever believe in? He starts going to shrinks. He asks these questions.
No one will ever be able to answer any of them to the kid's satisfaction. He
keeps the secret to himself. Too many people know already. What's the difference
if it's true or not? Nothing means anything any more. There doesn't have to be a
reason for anything any more. Then, in a Long Beach lawyer's office, the kid
meets a chick. Every chick is a piece of ass to the kid, but this chick turns
out to be special. Her name is Andrea. Everybody calls her Andy. He starts
living with her. He gets a tugboat in Washington State. They're going to live
aboard it. For a while, they camp on a yacht docked in a marina. Then he rents
Paul Newman's house in Coldwater Canyon. The kid resents being a father to
Andy's two children when he misses his own son so much. He makes one of her kids
sleep in the servants’ quarters.
The kid is seeing more
doctors more often now. He's almost 35. Is his will failing him? His heart is.
He's got one chance to live. Open-heart surgery. He's quiet and subdued. He
plays a final engagement in Vegas. He's sick and he's pale. On the final night
of the Vegas date, a station wagon fitted as an ambulance is waiting at the
stage entrance of the Desert Inn to drive him to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in
L.A. The kid has always wanted to die onstage. If he's going to die, what better
way? The kid has a sense of drama. He doesn't know if he's going to survive this
operation. Before going onstage, he makes telephone calls. He says goodbye to
everyone. He also talks to his son. He tells his son everything he can think of
that he wants his son to know. Then, feeling half dead, he goes out and plays
the show of his life. Fans storm his dressing room to congratulate him, but he's
already in the station wagon on his way to the hospital for open-heart surgery.
The doctors tell him he has a 50-50 chance of coming off the operating table
There's a moment during the
operation when the doctors think he's dead. His heart stops. But the kid
survives. He recuperates slowly, painfully. He's living with Andy quietly, all
but forgotten, on a little farm in Benedict Canyon. The kid feels he couldn't
have survived without her. She's his chief nurse. They're closer than ever.
Amazing. He feels reborn. He lived to be 15. He lived to be 30. Now he's going
to live to be 35. Thank God for modern science. Or is it his ego, his will
that's keeping him alive? Just as he feels there's been a force trying to
destroy him, he also feels there's been a greater force keeping him alive. Why
is he so important to these forces? Why has he become such a battleground for
them? Why is he so important to the gods that they have to wage such a war over
him? What is he supposed to do, what is he supposed to accomplish to vindicate
the force keeping him alive? What is his mission? Is he supposed to be a saint?
Even with his ego, the kid shrinks from the thought. He thinks about the visions
he's had. He can't believe in anything any more. After a year, he feels strong
enough to go back to work.
The kid plans his comeback
carefully. He's no saint. He's no politician. He's no Bob Dylan. He's a cabaret
singer, a nightclub entertainer. That's what he is, just like he was at the
beginning. He's going to wear a tux again. He contacts old friends. They rally
to him. He books a little tour. He's a sensation in Vegas. He books himself back
into the Copa, where they swore they'd never hire him again after the denims. In
New York for the Copa engagement, he contacts a newspaper buddy who's now a
columnist. The columnist writes a series of columns telling the kid's whole
story, from the beginning right through to the open-heart surgery. But the fact
that Nina's really the kid's mother is still a secret. The columns turn on New
York. The kid goes on the Johnny Carson Show. He's like a national hero. He's a
star again. He gets a summer replacement TV show. The option is picked up, the
show is extended. Now the kid's into a weekly routine that's murderous. The
pressure sits on him like the pyramids. He's also playing live dates. He gets
Steve to come back and manage him again. The kid can't believe it. He actually
manages to feel happy. For the kid, playing to an audience is like making love.
He gets off playing to an audience. He literally gets off. He wears no
underpants onstage. He doesn't like the outline underpants make in skintight
tuxes. Instead he wears a condom so his pants won't stain when he gets off.
As happy as the kid is, the
pressure starts getting to him. Although the operation was a success, this kind
of pressure pushes him to the limit. The kid is still living on the edge. His
heartbeat starts going out of sync. The doctors have a way of jarring his heart
back into rhythm with electric shock. That's no fun. Then the kid has problems
with his teeth. A dentist works on the kid's teeth but uses a medication that
causes conflicts. The kid is weird about taking all the medication that's
prescribed to him. He goes through changes. He takes his medication
sporadically. Sometimes he's faithful to it. Sometimes he feels he must learn to
live without it. Sometimes he simply forgets about it, or half-forgets about it.
The kid continues to have problems. He's now taping two shows a week. The kid is
ready to quit, but Steve is negotiating an insurance policy for him in Vegas, a
deal where the kid will get a million dollars a year for only 12 week's work.
Steve needs the TV show to clinch the deal. Steve doesn't know how sick the kid
is feeling. By the night of his last TV taping, the kid is exhausted, half-dead
again. There's a screwup. The kid doesn't even get rehearsal time. Not for
lights, camera, sound or anything. He goes out and does his night club act,
including the best of his past hits. He jokes about wanting to be the
Cosmopolitan centerfold. He'll pose for nothing. All he wants is the magnifying
glass concession. His show is electric. It's like he's 22 again. But he's not. A
few shots show how really done in the kid is. But he won't give up. Steve nearly
loses the Vegas deal, then sews it up. A million dollars a year for 12 weeks of
work! The kid marries Andy.
The prospects are bright.
The kid has worked hard to get back on top. But he doesn't feel good.
Everything's crashing in around him. It's 1973. He's past 35. The kid calls up
his writer friend in New York and makes a date for the writer to meet him in
Vegas when the kid plays there that summer. "It's memoir-writing
time," the kid says. The kid doesn't know it, but ever since the trouble
with the dentist, something has happened so that not enough oxygen is getting to
his brain. All his life he's acted impulsively anyway. He's acted on his
hunches, on his ego, on his pride. He's certainly never been what you would call
strictly rational. He's always lived on the edge. With Andy, his sex life has
been as wild as he could make it. He's told her to fuck other men. He enjoys
listening to her tell him about these scenes. He takes her into orgies with him.
He enjoys watching other men fuck her. Is this irrational? The kid learns that a
lot, if not most, men are really like him. He's always been kinky. Now he gets
kinkier. He likes scenes. The reason he's so close to Andy is that they can
enjoy these scenes. Actually, Andy makes up stories to satisfy him. But now the
kid is wasting away. When he's sick, he gets so irritable that Andy can't stand
to stay with him. She goes to visit friends. The kid gets spells of confusion.
He gets paranoid, distrustful, suspicious. He's in and out of hospitals. He
sneaks out when he gets paranoid of the nurses or doctors. He is plugged in so
his heart is being monitored on a TV tube at the nurses' station in the hall,
but he gets dressed in the dark still plugged in and he doesn't pull the plug
until he's ready to split. All his friends are panicking over him. He's
beginning to look emaciated. He's beginning to look like a concentration camp
inmate. He gets hiccupping attacks that last for weeks. These leave him
exhausted. His heart keeps going out of sync for weeks, months. Finally the kid
says yes, he'll see a shrink. He picks one. He asks Andy and Steve to accompany
him. He wants the shrink to talk to all three of them individually. Out of
nowhere, the shrink pulls a fast one. Without telling Andy, Steve or the kid,
the shrink reserves a room for the kid at the UCLA psychiatric ward before he
even examines the kid. When the kid comes to the shrink's office with Andy and
Steve, the shrink hardly even talks to the kid when he announces that there's
nothing wrong with the kid from the neck down. He asks Steve and Andy in front
of the kid whether they agree the kid should be checked into the loony bin for
examination. Andy and Steve are clutching at straws. If the kid is mentally ill,
it's better than him being physically ill. It's an explanation for all his
troubles. Cornered, they're forced to say yes to the shrink. The kid goes into
an immediate burn. He tells Andy and Steve never to talk to him again. He moves
out of the house he's sharing with Andy. He moves into a hotel. The next day he
tells the press he's divorcing Andy.
The kid sees an old friend,
Dave, who used to be one of his managers. They have dinner with the kid's heart
specialist. The three of them decide the kid should go to a house he owns in
Vegas. Nobody's supposed to call him there. Nobody's supposed to talk to him.
He's supposed to be alone, to rest, without anxieties. Without anxieties maybe
his heart will go back into sync by itself. He calls Vee Vee, the niece he now
knows to be his sister. He asks her to come to Vegas and be his secretary, his
companion. She flies in from Jersey. She can't believe how emaciated he looks.
There's hardly anyone the kid trusts any more. His sister, Vee Vee; his friend,
Dave; his lawyer, Jerry. But the kid is going through constant changes. He goes
to see his son in L.A. While he's there, he tries to make up with Andy, but that
doesn't work. He tries to make up with Steve, but that doesn't work either. He
leaves it so Steve has to sue him to collect any commissions when the kid starts
working again. The kid knows he never will. He has a broken heart, whatever that
In November of 1973, the
kid flies to New York for 24 hours to see old friends. They are shocked at how
bad he looks. Isn't anyone in L.A. taking care of the kid? The next month,
December, the kid goes into Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for tests. They're going
to give him an arteriogram, put a catheter into his artery and shove it into his
heart for a look. On December 18, while the kid is in the hospital, out of
nowhere, his heart stops for a while. The doctors are worried. They schedule an
emergency operation the next morning. At 9:30 a.m. of December 19, the kid goes
on the table. A machine takes over the functions of the heart while the doctors
open it up. The shrink had said there was nothing wrong with the kid from the
neck down, but now the doctors find the left side of the kid's heart to be
completely infected. They cut most of the left side out. But their big concern
is whether the heart will start working again when they shut off the machine that kept pumping
the blood during the operation. Their
big concern is whether the heart will adapt.
The operation is finished in the afternoon. The doctors shut off the
machine. The heart adapts.
The doctors are jubilant. The kid is wheeled unconscious into intensive
care. But it's not over.
The doctors stay with the kid. He
doesn't regain consciousness. Vee
Vee is in the waiting room with Dave. Hours
and hours pass. At 10 that night, a
woman doctor in a hospital gown comes out.
She's the anesthetist. Her
face is sad. Vee Vee and Dave get
worried. Finally the kid's doctor
comes out and talks to them. "Look,"
the doctor says, "it doesn't look good.
We've tried all kinds of things. We're
keeping him alive artificially now. We're
going to try some far-out things. If
they don’t work, we may need your permission to pull the plug." There
isn't much Vee Vee or Dave can say. All
they can say is, "Try." It's after midnight on December 20 when the
doctor comes out with another doctor. The
two doctors start talking.
"Things aren't working out," one of the
"Well, does that mean you're going to pull the
plug and let him go?" Dave asks.
"We already did that," the doctor says.
[The foregoing treatment for a biography and
movie was written without using the biographee's name to show how his biography
would work as a book or a movie neither because of who he was nor despite who he
was. The kid was Bobby Darin.]
© Al Aronowitz, 1981
FOR AS LONG AS PEOPLE KEEP LISTENING TO BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, PEOPLE WILL WANT THIS BOOK
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Duritz (he's the lead singer and writer for the famed
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. .It is a fascinating, insightful read. You are such a wonderful
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IN THIS 615-PAGE PAPERBACK, AL ARONOWITZ, ACCLAIMED AS THE "GODFATHER OF ROCK JOURNALISM," TELLS YOU MORE ABOUT BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES THAN ANY OTHER WRITER CAN TELL YOU BECAUSE NO OTHER WRITER WAS THERE AT THE TIME. AS THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED ALLEN GINSBERG TO BOB DYLAN, BOB DYLAN TO THE BEATLES AND THE BEATLES TO MARIJUANA, ARONOWITZ BOASTS, "THE ‘60S WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN THE SAME WITHOUT ME."
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