Sunny, the stylish Sandra Dee, the bright star of classics including bao Gidget, A summer place, and fake life, was the ideal youth of the Eisenhower era. Bobby Darin is an electric singer, performer and producer whose iconic songs include “Beyond the Sea” and “Mack the Knife”. Together, they seemed like the perfect young American couple.
But their golden public personalities hid dark pools of private pain, as their son, Dodd Darin, writes in Dream Lovers: The Broken Wonderful Life of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee.
Dodd writes: “Together, my parents embodied a dream of what one could become, or have, or marry. “Dream lovers is about two peoples whose childhoods are cruelly distorted by forces they cannot control… It’s the record of my search for the truth about my parents as a human being, let me can accept them, separate from them and have a life of his own as Dodd Darrin. “
The Bronx’s Sun King
When 17-year-old Nina Cassotto discovered she was pregnant out of wedlock in 1935, she decided to keep the baby. But she made a deal with her mother, a widowed ex-girl, bubbling with morphine addiction: Polly would pose as the child’s mother and Nina as his sister.
Robert Cassotto, born May 14, 1936, will not find out his true origins until he is 32 years old. As a child, his heart would be severely damaged by four bouts of rheumatic fever, leading doctors to believe he would not live past 16. Often too sick to attend school, Polly would teach her son/nephew at home, helping him heal with stories about her time in the show business.
Called “The King” by his family, Darin grew up to be a glamorous, showy negotiator who always expected the world. “I remember being told my whole life,” said Bobby sickly. You have to be careful and you have to protect him,’ sister Vee later told Dodd. “So that’s… what my family did. And that was a mistake. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be protected… I’m saying we should make him a human too, and we didn’t.”
Alexandra Zuck was born in New Jersey on April 23, 1944, to Mary and John Zuck. Mary, just 19 years old when her only child was born, quickly divorced John – and became obsessed with her unbelievably beautiful daughter. “Mary always wears Sandy like a little doll… skirt with an Eisenhower coat and a little hat,” one cousin told Dodd. The smart, obedient girl is a lonely girl, quietly playing with her dolls in the large, ramshackle house of her grandparents.
But Mary was always there. According to Dee, she was often not at home to go to school, pulling down the shade, thinking it was raining. “Of course it didn’t rain,” Dee told Dodd. “My mother just wanted me to continue her company. She likes to spend all day curling my hair.” The actor said Mary also fed Dee with a spoon until she was 6 years old, leading to Dee’s lifelong battle with anorexia.
Mary’s overprotective instincts will fail miserably when she begins dating Debonair NYC commercial real estate entrepreneur Eugene Douvan. According to Dee, Douvan began sexually abusing her when she was 5 years old and raping her when she was 8 years old. As Dee told Dodd:
The newlyweds took me on a honeymoon, and I slept among them. That has become our habit. Eugene always said he was going to marry both me and Mary. It sounded nice because I was included but later I found out he was married with two children. One of them was me and I became his favorite daughter.
The abuse will continue for many years. Dee recalls her mother forcing her to say goodbye to her stepfather before going to school, and then 40 minutes later, she came back, irritated and traumatized, asking Mary to button her up. As Dee told her son:
Thirty years after Gene’s death, I told my mother what had finally happened. She was screaming… about what the Saint Gene was, and in the end I couldn’t stand it. I said, “He’s not a saint. He had sex with me.” She said, “You are crazy and you are drunk. Go to bed.” I went to bed, and the next day I said to her, “I’m very awake now. And it happened.” She said nothing. She had nothing to turn back.
By 1959, the multi-talented Robert Cassotto had become Bobby Darin, a teen idol whose hit records included “Mack the Knife” and “Splish Splash”. Darin is obsessed with getting ahead – the amount of oxygen he has to take in between performances will no doubt remind him he’s borrowed time.
https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/07/sandra-dee-bobby-darin-relationship-marriage | Shooting Stars: The Ballad of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee