Encore

Darin and Dee Say 'I Do'

Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin get hitched -- Wedded bliss proves to be elusive for "Gidget" and the man behind "Mack the Knife"

The bride wore a purple cocktail dress, no shoes, and one of America's favorite smiles; the groom, a jacket and one of America's favorite snarls. The 10-minute ceremony at music publisher Don Kirshner's Camden, N.J., home was preceded by a high-speed car chase to elude reporters, but when the smoke cleared on Dec. 1, 1960, Bobby Darin, 24, and 16-year-old Sandra Dee were man and wife.

Dee (born Alexandria Zuck) had already graced such airy confections as Gidget and A Summer Place when she met singer Darin (né Walden Robert Cassotto of the Bronx) on the set of Come September three months earlier. But the match made in publicists' paradise was soon on the rocks. The doe-eyed starlet secretly bore the scars of a terrible childhood: She later would claim that her mother force-fed her and ignored sexual abuse by her stepfather. In marriage Dee found peace still elusive: The tedium of nightclubbing, and the rigors of moviemaking and motherhood — only child Dodd was born in 1961 — led to a seesaw mix of booze and speed.

Meanwhile Darin, propelled by the success of ''Mack the Knife'' (No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 100 of all time), chased superstardom at the expense of all else, including his marriage. He even refused to visit his wife on set. ''If it didn't involve his career — no,'' says Dee. Darin's drive, coldhearted as it seemed, was fueled by a weak heart, a result of childhood bouts with rheumatic fever. As Dodd Darin writes in Dream Lovers, a newly published account of his family, ''My dad knew his life would be short (so) he wanted to do it all before he died.'' Darin's ambition led to divorce in 1967. ''I just couldn't keep up,'' Dee says.

Darin was still performing when he married Andrea Joy Yeager in June 1973, only to divorce her a few months later; on Dec. 20 he died of heart failure at the age of 37. Dee, now on the mend from decades of eating disorders and alcoholism, will soon plug her own fragrance line on infomercials. It could be popular: In 1991 she appeared in an L.A. stage production of Love Letters and was greeted by a five-minute standing ovation — proving once again that some people never forget their first sweetheart.

TIME CAPSULE

December 1, 1960
James Michener took readers to Hawaii, as Elvis Presley wondered, ''Are You Lonesome Tonight?'' TV viewers circled round NBC's Wagon Train, and Elizabeth Taylor was on her way to winning an Oscar for Butterfield 8.

Originally posted Dec 02, 1994 Published in issue #251 Dec 02, 1994 Order article reprints