“Is it too windy for my hair piece?” jokes Dodd Darin, who clearly does not have a hair piece, unlike his famous pop star father Bobby Darin.
“My father had the worse hair pieces in show business,” Darin laughs. “Some of them looked like they came off a coconut.”
Darin has flown in from Beverly Hills for the opening night of Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical, the bio-musical starring David Campbell opening at the Lyric Theatre on October 6.
Co-created by Frank Howson and John-Michael Howson, the show includes all of Darin’s big hits – Splish Splash, Dream Lover and Mack the Knife – and lifts the curtain on the man behind the showbiz facade: the drama of his parentage (he grew up believing his mother Vanina was his older sister); his marriage to the troubled movie starlet Sandra Dee, and the lifelong health problems that led to his early death at 37.
Darin says he saw the show within hours of landing and found it “very emotional”.
“This man,” he says, touching Campbell’s shoulder, “has done something very special. I’m overwhelmed. David has a connection with the material that only he can understand. It’s not just a gig for him. He really cares. My only complaint is that David is far too good-looking to play Bobby Darin!”
“Stop it!” Campbell says.
“No, really,” Darin says. “My Dad wasn’t like Fabian or Ricky Nelson or Elvis. He was this puffy little Italian guy and I can say that because I look like him. He thought he was downright ugly and my mum didn’t help. She made fun of him. But when he went on stage, he was like, ‘I am Cary Grant. I feel 10 feet tall.’ That was who he was.”
Darin was born in 1961 at the height of his parents’ fame. In 1994 he released a warts-and-all book, Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, chronicling his parents’ relationship, their divorce (when Dodd was six), and his mother’s struggle with anorexia and depression. After many years of ill health, Dee died in 2005, aged 62.
Bobby Darin died four days after his son’s 12th birthday but Dodd has strong memories of him.
“When you were around him, it was a buzz, an excitement,” he says. “He really loved life. He did all the celebrity stuff with me. I met Muhammad Ali and [baseball player] Willie Mays. But he never forgot where he came from and he was a great father.”
Darin, who manages his father’s estate, says Dream Lover is a tribute that has been a long time coming.
“My father was one of the greatest entertainers to walk the nightclub stage but he didn’t get the respect he deserved,” Darin says. “It was partly that he was arrogant. It wasn’t that he was – excuse my French – a prick.
“It was that he knew he didn’t have long to live so he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was misunderstood. I think he deserves this acknowledgment. He would be happy with this show because he wanted to be remembered.”
Campbell says Bobby Darin has been a musical idol of his for years.
“His musicality was astounding,” he says. “He had a brash rock-and-rollness but he took that into swing. He wasn’t like the other crooners of the time. There was an edge to what Bobby did. His energy was right in your face, insisting you listen.
“But now, I also feel a real connection to Dodd. I am also him in this story. This could possibly happen to my dad [rock singer Jimmy Barnes] in the future. I might be watching some guy playing my dad in a musical. So I feel a real duty of care toward Dodd. As somebody who is also the child of someone famous, I know the road.”
Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical opens at Sydney Lyric Theatre on October 6.