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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Analysis of Prince Charles's wedding plans/Reminiscences of the late Sandra Dee
Aired February 23, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the royal snub that's got the whole world buzzing, Queen Elizabeth will not attend Prince Charles and Camilla's ceremony. What's going on? We'll ask our panel of royal experts in London, including the queen's former press secretary..
And then, remembering the late Sandra Dee, from her Gidget teen idol days and her life with Bobby Darin to depression, alcoholism and an untimely death last weekend. We'll talk with Sandra Dee's close friend, Natalie Stortz, who was with her when she died; Debbie Reynolds, another friend, who starred in the Tammy films before Sandra took over; Frankie Avalon, former teen idol and a neighbor of Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin; James Darren, Sandra's "Gidget" co-star; and John Saxton, her co-star in three films and in one of her last projects, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
OK, we start with the world-wide news of the day. The queen will not attend the wedding. Robert Lacey, the veteran author, veteran royal watcher, what's going on?
ROBERT LACEY, BEST-SELLING ROYALS BIOGRAPHER: Well, when I first heard the news last night, I didn't think it was very serious, inasmuch as the fact that this is just one part of the ceremony envisaged for April the 8th. The queen is still going to stay up in Windsor Castle and preside over the party that she's giving for Prince Charles, and she'll also be attending the service of blessing in St. George's Chapel, which is the royal holy of holies.
What has been announced is that she's not going to walk across the street to the registry office, the town hall of Windsor, to take -- to sit alongside her son and future daughter-in-law. It seemed to me that wasn't a very big deal, really. It's not very dignified for the queen to walk across to -- through the streets of Windsor. Elizabeth II's style is not like that.
Really, though, the response today in Britain I think is really quite serious. And it's the latest in a series of controversies over this wedding which I think threatens to produce another annus horribilis, horrible year, for the queen.
KING: Patrick Jephson, the former private secretary to Princess Diana, who served in that role for six years, what's your reaction?
PATRICK JEPHSON, PRINCESS DIANA'S FORMER PRIVATE SECRETARY: Well, I agree with Robert that this is turning into something rather more serious than it first had appeared to be. On the other hand, I think what we see here is the queen reacting, as she must in her primary role as head of state, to protect the position of the monarchy. For reasons either of bad judgment or bad luck, the issue of the legality of Charles's marriage to Camilla has become matter of some dispute.
And what we need to remember is that the queen is going to be presiding over the service of dedication, which, as Robert says, follows in Windsor Castle. I don't agree with him when he says that it's not necessarily dignified for the queen to go to the Windsor guild hall. I don't think it's a matter of dignity, and I don't think that the queen considers that part of the day to be beneath her in any way at all. But I do think there are many people in this country and perhaps beyond who will be relatively relieved to see the queen is putting a bit of distance between herself and this part of the day's event, which is, after all, essentially an administrative ceremony.
KING: Dickie Arbiter, you're a former spokesperson for Buckingham Palace, former spokesperson for the queen and for the Prince and Princess of Wales. What do you read into it?
DICKIE ARBITER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO QUEEN ELIZABETH: Well, it seems that it's the media that's making the point that it is a snub because if you look at the first editions of the morning newspapers over here, and certainly, a television poll on one of the networks last night, over 70 percent of those polled agreed that the queen should not go across the road. What she is doing, she is presiding at St. George's Chapel as head of the Church of England to witness the ecclesiastical head of the Church of England place a blessing on both the bride and groom. That, to her, is a lot more important than spending five minutes in a registry office.
And let's put it in perspective. What we are seeing are two people well into their 50s getting married. This is not a 20- something, these are 50-something-or-other. And I hardly think that it needs the queen and the mother of the heir to the throne to be alongside as they tie the knot in five minutes. No, it's St. George's Chapel, and I think most people in this country certainly agree with it.
KING: Hugo Vickers, best-selling biographer, veteran royal watcher, you agree?
HUGO VICKERS, BEST-SELLING ROYALS BIOGRAPHER: Yes, I certainly do. I mean, I think that if you look at the historical precedents -- I mean, if you want to see a snub, the snub was that which was delivered to the Duke of Windsor by his family in 1937, where none of them went out to France. He very much hoped that they would. He hoped that his brothers would come, possibly even his mother, and his so-called best friend, Lord Mountbatten. But none of them came. That was a real snub.
I mean, this is just, as the others have said, the small technical, legal side which takes place in the guild hall, which would under happier circumstances have taken place in some anonymous room in the castle. And the queen go to St. George's Chapel, which will, by all accounts, be quite a big ceremony with probably 700 to 1,000 people in the chapel, followed by a reception. That is the purpose and point of the day. So it's not -- it's wrong, I think, to say that she's not going to the wedding. I mean, she's going to be taking quite a big part in the day.
KING: Robert Lacey, if it's a civil ceremony, can I attend?
LACEY: Ah. Well, that's a very good question. Pop over, Larry. You'd be very welcome. You're referring to one of the snafus, the cock-ups that have been revealed in the course of the last few days. Anybody has the right, in theory, to walk into a registry office. And so it's not quite sure how that's going to be handled.
The very reason why it's being held in the registry office is because the original plan, as the others have said, was to have a quiet service in a room somewhere in Windsor Castle -- not a service, a civil ceremony. Then it was discovered that if that happened, every Tom, Dick and Harry -- or Harriet or Thomasina -- would have the right to come along and say, I'd like to get married in the same room, thank you very much. And so that's why they're going across the road. It's pretty certain that if that had been the plan, the queen would have attended inside the castle, but not across the road.
KING: Patrick, why a civil ceremony? Why not just do it in the church?
JEPHSON: Well, the Prince of Wales is the future head of the Church of England. And as a divorce marrying a divorcee, the Church of England doesn't yet feel that it's in a position to remarry people in those circumstances. What's happened here is that the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks that it's appropriate for him to give the couple his blessing, but under the rules of the church, as they stand, a full ecclesiastical marriage was not on the cards.
Would have been different if they'd gone to Scotland, as Charles's sister, the princess royal, showed. It is possible under the rules of the Church of Scotland and under Scottish law for couples to remarry in church. But Charles and Camilla opted for Windsor.
KING: We'll take a break, and when we come back, we'll ask if the queen is sending any kind of message about this or it might be much ado about nothing. And then our tribute to the late Sandra Dee. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Six weeks to go, and the last-minute hiccups for Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are bordering on the absurd. Royal defenders say even if the queen misses the civil ceremony, she will still go to the religious blessing at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, and she's hosting the reception at Windsor Castle. So as the pop star Meatloaf once sang, two out of three ain't bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dickie, the palace had to know that when the queen announced she was not coming, it was sending some kind of message. Had she not said anything and just come, that would have been expected. So was she sending a message, Dickie?
ARBITER: No, I don't think she was sending a message. And I have to disagree with what Robert said a few moments ago, that had it been in Windsor Castle, the queen would probably have gone. I don't think it was ever her intention to actually go to the civil ceremony. It was always her intention, and she is, indeed, going to St. George's Chapel. And I said a few moments ago that is far more important than a five-minute ceremony. And it's not sending any messages. The queen is head of the Church of England. She believes in the sanctity of marriage. She is a deeply religious person. And that is a lot more important than five minutes across the road in a civil ceremony.
KING: Hugo Vickers, one British newspaper wrote today, "All that's left is a fight to break out at the wedding." Is the press having a field day with this?
VICKERS: The press is certainly having a field day with this. They absolutely are. And I think also, it's very, very hard to work out what the general public is thinking. I think everybody's a little bit confused, but the word fiasco is the one that seems to fall off everybody's lips at this particular moment.
I mean, I still think that a lot of things that are being said, as to, you know, whether it's legal or not legal, whether they have to do it in the guild hall, whether they should have to go to Scotland and all these things, still obscure the main issue of this wedding, which is the fact that not only is Prince Charles marrying Camilla Parker Bowles, but also she is becoming a royal highness, and therefore, a very senior member of the royal family. That's what I think is the most important thing that will happen on the 8th of April.
KING: Robert Lacey, why is he not having a best man?
LACEY: Well, this is a very good question. It was thought that maybe the two boys would be his supporters, and it turns out that that is not the case. I do think there is some sort of message going on here. I mean, I think if the queen were really fond and supportive of her son and of Camilla, she would make the effort to go across the road. I think we can read something into it.
I mean, you were asking what the press was saying. One of them says it's as if Henry VIII said, Although I've had my wife, Anne Boleyn, beheaded today, this is in no way intended as a snub. It's in keeping with her wish to make this event a low-key affair. I think there is meaning to be read into it, and it does show the definite coolness that exists between the queen and Prince Charles. And I also think it shows a certain anger on the queen's part at the way this whole affair has been a catalog of disasters.
KING: Is the public warm to Camilla, Patrick? Is she popular?
JEPHSON: I think that one of the bits of fall-out from this that's quite intriguing is to see the number of people, in fact, the majority, that appears to be showing up in polls who say that the queen is right to be staying away. And I think that popularity is going to be a continuing problem for Charles and Camilla. There's no doubt that she's more popular than she was at the time of Diana's death, but those memories are still very raw.
And I think that the sooner issues of her popularity are put to one side, the clearer we'll see what Hugo is saying, that, in fact, this is a very major development in the royal family's history. Camilla is being put right in the front rank of senior royal women. And if she makes a success of that, then the future is more assured. If, on the other hand, perhaps because of the problems over this wedding or any other misfortunes that occur in the future, her lack of popularity becomes more acute, then the whole future of the dynasty, I think, must have a question mark over it.
KING: And Dickie, there is some irony in it. In a sense, Diana looms over this wedding, right?
ARBITER: Yes, she still looms large over this wedding. And some people have even said to me today, Well, would the wedding have gone ahead if Diana was still alive? That's crystal ball gazing. I don't think anybody can answer that question. But yes, the memory of Diana is still looming large over this. And it all boils down to the popularity of Mrs. Parker Bowles. And as Patrick rightly says, as soon -- the sooner the better that that is pushed aside and we take her at face value and what she contributes, the better off the monarchy will be. But as long as they keep analyzing him and her and what they're doing and how they're doing it and whether she's acceptable to the British public, the cracks will continue to be there.
KING: Hugo, do we know the guest list yet? Is there going to be entertainment? Anything released?
VICKERS: Well, you know, people keep talking about this thing at the guild hall as being a big (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you can only fit 100 people in. I don't think there'll be more than about eight people there, frankly.
As for the guest list, no, we don't yet know it, but the indications are that it's going to be a very large party. And they have a very wide section of friends and people who support them. And he lives in a kind of cocoon of a big, happy family of friends, and no doubt, they'll all be present. Of course, the next thing that we shall have is evidence of the one or two people who won't be invited for one reason or another, and we can look forward to discussing that. I can think of one or two names.
KING: Robert, do you expect to go?
LACEY: No, I certainly won't be there, Larry. One of the things I'm looking forward to is the wedding photograph and who's smiling and who's not. If you remember, when it came to Prince Edward's wedding, Prince William's face actually had to be replaced by a smiling face because his verdict on the whole occasion didn't seem very positive. So I imagine there'll be quite a lot of computer work going on perhaps on April the 8th.
KING: Patrick, are you going?
JEPHSON: I'm with the queen on this one, Larry. I'm going to sit it out.
KING: Dickie, are you going to go, if invited? Are you going to be invited, Dickie? You should be invited.
ARBITER: No, I'm not going to be invited. And I follow Patrick's lead. I'll sit alongside him and sit out with the queen.
KING: Hugo, you going to go?
VICKERS: Well, you raise rather a difficult problem for me here because I've been associated with St. George's Chapel for a very long time, ever since I was at school, in fact, as a -- when I was at school, I used to show tourists around on Sunday afternoon, and I then became a lay steward. And in fact, I have received a suggestion that I might be present, but not as a guest, as somebody who would be helping to seat the congregation. But we'll see what happens nearer the time.
KING: And we'll get full reports on it. Thank you all very much -- Robert Lacey, Patrick Jephson, Dickie Arbiter, Hugo Vickers, all in London. The queen ain't going. Maybe she'll go to the opening of baseball season here. There's a chance.
Our tribute to Sandra -- boy, it's hard to say she's gone. Sandra Dee is gone, and we're going to talk about her with friends and co-workers right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDRA DEE, ACTRESS: It's my fault. I should have worked at being an A student in both. But don't worry. I never flunked out on a subject yet. And by the time I shake this crummy tonsillitis, I'm going to be the best female surfer in California!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's happening?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She just got thrown under by a 30-foot wave!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: At approximately 5:45 AM Sunday morning, Sandra Dee took a sudden turn for the worse and passed away. With us is Natalie Stortz. Natalie is a close friend and employee of Sandra Dee's, who was with her in the room when she passed away. Debbie Reynolds, the famous Debbie, now appearing at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, she worked in the same studio as Sandra when Dee was just starting out. Debbie and Sandra both played the character Tammy in that famous movie series. Frankie Avalon spent three New Year's Eves with Sandra and her husband, Bobby Darin, was a neighbor of Bobby and Sandra's, started out in the business alongside Bobby. In Las Vegas is James Darren, who co-starred with Sandra in 1959's film "Gidget." And in Los Angeles, John Saxton, Sandra's co-star in three films, performed with her in a 1991 stage production of "Love Letters." And that's believed to be the last time she acted.
Natalie, what was the friendship all about? Were you just friends, or did you work for her, what?
NATALIE STORTZ, SANDRA DEE'S CLOSE FRIEND, WAS IN ROOM WITH HER WHEN SHE DIED: Both. We became friends very quickly when I started working for her. We shared a lot of similarities in our lives. And it just grew from there.
KING: You were with her that morning?
STORTZ: Yes, I was with her for the last 11 hours of her life.
KING: And what happened? As I understand it, she was doing well and then turned bad? What happened?
STORTZ: Yes. She actually -- when she first entered the hospital, she was not doing well at all, and five or six days later, came back around and was doing great. And we were looking forward to her coming home. And Saturday, I got a call that she was not doing well. I immediately went over there, and it wasn't as grim as I thought it was. She was starting to get better, like she always did. She was bouncing back, and things were going really well. And about 45 minutes in, past the 10th hour, she went into a sudden distress. And efforts were made to revive her, and they were not successful.
KING: Was it peaceful?
STORTZ: Yes. And very calm.
KING: What was the cause?
STORTZ: She had a cardiac arrest.
KING: She had a lot of problems, though, right?
STORTZ: Yes. They were -- her kidney, renal, problems were manageable. She was going to dialysis three days a week, and everything was fine with that. She, other than that, was very healthy at the time.
KING: Frankie, how would you -- what was her career to you? Because she's so -- she was an actress in her own right, successful, but she's so affiliated with her ex-husband -- her husband, who she divorced.
FRANKIE AVALON, FORMER TEEN IDOL, WAS NEIGHBOR OF BOBBY DARIN AND SANDRA DEE: Well, that's how we met, through Bobby, when they first got married. But her career -- to me, she really represented that girl from the '50s, you know, the innocence...
KING: That era.
AVALON: ... that ponytail. Yes.
AVALON: It was wonderful. And of course, I got to meet her because of Bobby, when they got married. And we spent about three New Year's Eves together. So I knew her more on a personal friendship, as opposed to work. I never worked with her. But she was just full of laughs and fun. And every New Year's Eve, we had the best time.
KING: How realistic was "Beyond the Sea," the movie?
AVALON: You know, I have not seen it yet, and Bobby and I were...
KING: It didn't do well. It should have done well. It was a hell of a movie.
AVALON: Well, you know, Bobby Darin and I were real close friends for a lot of years. I'm looking forward to seeing it just to...
KING: Debbie, how talented was she?
DEBBIE REYNOLDS, WORKED AT SAME STUDIO WHEN SANDRA DEE STARTED: Oh, very talented. She was a wonderful actress. First of all, she was the cutest thing in the whole world.
KING: Oh, adorable.
REYNOLDS: I mean, she was this face and these brown eyes, you know, those huge eyes. She loved Bobby Darin, of course, like mad. He loved her like mad. I mean, I'm not saying that he didn't have a lot of other ladies, but when he was with Sandra, and after they were married, then he was with her. Because I knew Bobby also really well. He was a great guy, and full of mischievousness.
KING: I know. How did she get to be Tammy after you were Tammy?
REYNOLDS: Well, they asked me to do Tammy, because being the first Tammy, they were going to go on with it. But I couldn't do it. I was going to have my son, Todd, so...
KING: She did the first one?
REYNOLDS: No, I did the first one.
KING: Right. REYNOLDS: And then that's where they recorded the song, "Tammy." And Sandra was under contract, as was John Saxton, and most of us were under contract, you know, to a studio. So we did any film the...
KING: What they told you.
REYNOLDS: Whatever they said you're in...
KING: So she got to be Tammy 2?
REYNOLDS: She was Tammy 2.
KING: Were you friends?
REYNOLDS: Yes. Well, in the morning in make-up, you know, we talked. She was always with her mother.
KING: That was an extraordinary relationship -- I mean, a tough relationship, wasn't it?
REYNOLDS: But she was a very nice lady. So I only knew her as really terrific, and she adored her daughter. And we just heard all the rumors, but she adored her daughter.
KING: What was she like to work with, John?
JOHN SAXON, SANDRA DEE'S CO-STAR IN THREE FILMS: Well, my relationship with her was largely professional. And the first film we did, which was called "The Restless Years" -- it was peculiar that every once in a while, Sandra would say something seemingly out of context that I didn't understand. For example, I hated my stepfather so much, I couldn't even go to his funeral. I didn't know exactly what -- where that was coming from until many, many years later.
During the filming, the one awkward thing that happened was we had a kissing scene. And as we were rehearsing it, like, dry rehearsing for camera moves, I began to feel extremely uncomfortable. I didn't know why, but this scene of kissing her was making me very uncomfortable. I went to the director and I said -- I told him what I was feeling. He said, Well, you're too mature for this part. And we did the scene. It was fun.
And it was only probably 30 years later, when I was interviewed for a book, a biography of Sandra, I found out she was probably only 14 years old at that time.
SAXTON: And then in 1991, when she came out in "People" magazine, I found the other part of what she was trying to say to me that I couldn't understand.
KING: Which was?
SAXTON: Which was that she had been molested by her stepfather repeatedly. KING: Boy.
KING: We'll get James Darren's thoughts in a moment. We got to take a break. And as we go to break, let's see them kissing. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY DARIN, SANDRA DEE'S EX-HUSBAND: We met while we were both doing a film called "Come September." The year was 1960. The place was Portofino, Italy. And I don't think there'll be anything more romantic or lovelier as a meeting place. And hit it right off. She hated me, and I loved her. And that was it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "COME SEPTEMBER")
BOBBY DARIN: Let's have dinner tonight, and the two of us will sit and talk and maybe get to know each other. OK? OK?
DEE: What'll I tell Mario?
BOBBY DARIN: Who's Mario?
DEE: My date for tonight.
BOBBY DARIN: Oh. I see.
DEE: Oh, but I can cancel it.
BOBBY DARIN: Will you?
DEE: I won't even answer the phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEE: All I want is someone to love me.
SAXON: I will, Emily.
DEE: If ever I'm sick or in trouble, that's what I mean.
SAXON: Emily, I'll try. I'll try.
DEE: I mean forever, you do hear? forever and ever.
Kiss me once, before it's too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You were a handsome devil there.
SAXON: Thank you.
KING: All right. James Darren, by the way, I mentioned Debbie Reynolds works the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas. She opens on the 17th of March. Tomorrow night, James Darren opens and he co-stars with Sandra in the 1959 film, "Gidget." What was she like to work with, James?
DARREN: She was great to work with. She was a sweet, charming, lovely person. And as John mentioned earlier, I never thought about it until now really or given it much thought, but she was very mature sometimes and yet when we'd come to these love scenes, to the kissing scenes, she would be so awkward and kind of push you away. In a strange sense, you know, you would feel she wasn't in to it, welcoming the kiss.
And I spent a lot of time with her on the set, as much as I could. Her mom was extremely protective. Her mom -- you couldn't really spend any private time with Sandra, because her mother was always -- always, you know, separating us.
KING: Was she almost -- was she virginal?
DARREN: Yes, she was. Extremely. You would never think -- she had a great appeal, but it wasn't sex appeal. It was some kind of love, some kind of -- some kind of aura she gave.
KING: That's a very well -- like your sister. We invited Dodd to be on the show tonight. He understandably declined. The did send us a home run statement which I have here. I spoke to Dodd on Sunday, the day his mother died.
"My love and gratitude go out to those who have been reaching out to me. My mother will always have a special place in the hearts of people of her generation. She did not plan it that way. It just happened. She cherished her bond with the public and was grateful for it.
"Dear precious momma, I know your beautiful, sensitive and angelic soul is reunited with pop. I can't imagine life without you but I'll try and make you proud. I love you, Dodd."
There's little Dodd now all grown up. And he had a very tough time with this, I guess as you know, Natalie. He did not take this well.
STORTZ: No, he's not doing very well.
KING: Did she love Bobbie Darin to the end? Even though they divorced he had remarried.
STORTZ: I asked her why she never remarried. And she said Bobbie was the one true love of her life. And she regretted the divorce and she blamed herself.
KING: She was drinking a lot too, then, wasn't she?
STORTZ: Well, yes. But she told me -- I said, what is it you thought was the demise? And she said her tantrums. She thought, drove him away.
KING: What were they like together?
AVALON: It was amazing, when he first married her, I would go over to the house with them and they were lovey-dovey all the time. The funny thing about their relationship was he never really talked about her in those hard times, when they were going through whatever problems that they had. I would see him, we would be playing Las Vegas together or on tour some place, or whatever, never would bring up Sandra. So that relationship, in the very beginning, for the first five or six years was wonderful and then it was just gone, for Bobbie, is what I felt.
KING: Her talent was what? I think James Darren said it well, she was never a sex symbol, right?
REYNOLDS: She was the little girl next door. And I didn't think she drank before Bobbie. Was very sweet, amusing, charming darling little girl. I see her in the morning, but I was a little girl, too, at the time. But I'm older, of course, 10-years-older.
And so Sandra, to me, was a cute little kid coming up there, a great talent. She was a dramatic actress. She did wonderful parts, you know, imitation of life. She did wonderful roles. She should be remembered not for her drinking, which came after her divorce, as it can.
KING: It was discussed in the movie.
But you're saying she was underrated as an actress.
REYNOLDS: Well, we should just know that she was a wonderful actress, dramatic actress. She really was beautiful and she was a wonderful, lovely woman.
KING: Would you say, John, she was a wonderful actress?
SAXON: She had a great facility of being able to read lines and throw them around for someone seemingly much more older and practiced and professional. She was, even at the beginning.
KING: Was "Gidget a -- how did you react -- how big a movie was "Gidget," James?
DARREN: Oh, it was giant movie. It was a giant movie. It was all because of Sandra. I mean, Sandra just came through that screen like something you...
KING: OK, we lost James Darren. We'll try to get him back.
Frankie, you're doing "Grease" right?
AVALON: Yeah, but I'm with the stage show.
I do it in about 15 cities now where I recreate the roll that I did in the film.
KING: Now one of the hit songs in that show is.
AVALON: Oh, the original score, "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee." Which, again the '50s was all about. She was the goody two shoes gal that then changes character at the end of the play or the picture and becomes the blonde bombshell.
KING: You can't take it out of the show, right?
AVALON: No, no, no, I don't think so.
It's actually a tribute to Sandra.
KING: I wonder if it felt funny for those groups performing it Sunday night.
AVALON: Yes. Well, you know, Lauren and Tiana (ph) the two kids in the cast, there's two versions of "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee." And, you know, as we always say in show business, the show must go on.
KING: Do you think Bobbie was tough to live with?
AVOLON: Bobbie was a great guy. I mean, he had things going constantly.
KING: He was cocky.
AVALON: But you know, he went through that period of time in his life when he was still married to Sandra. And my mother-in-law used to live right across the street. I would see him quite a bit and Dodd growing up. But he went through that period of time he was not Bobbie Darin anymore, he wanted to be Bob Darin. While he was married to Sandra, he was living up at Big Sur in a trailer. I mean, he just went...
KING: It's in the movie.
AVALON: Is it?
KING: He removed himself from life, involved with Robert Kennedy.
REYNOLDS: Played a trobador, played little clubs with a guitar. He went a whole other way.
KING: I remember seeing him on the Tonight Show as Bob Darin.
AVALON: No more tuxedos and bow ties he used to say. That's over.
KING: Yeah, that's over. Then he went back it to a little at the end.
AVALON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. He came back again. And was better than ever.
KING: He was one of the great nightclub performers.
AVALON: Oh, he was fantastic.
KING: Right, Debbie?
REYNOLDS: He swung.
KING: You wouldn't want to follow him in a room.
REYNOLDS: I wouldn't want to be on the stage with him. We did a television show, he came over, and did the arrangements for me right after his open heart surgery. And, so, we did an impression of Sonny and Cher. He played Sonny. So, you know, we really had a lot of fun together. He was a great musician. He could do great arrangements. He really was sensational.
AVALON: He played drums, he played guitar, he played piano.
KING: He's the first famous person I ever interviewed.
AVALON: Is that right?
KING: He would walk down the street and he would listen to the sound of music. And he wanted always to find that Mack the Knife beat, where can I find it? He wanted it in artificial flowers, he wanted it in clementines
AVALON: Dick West was his arranger.
KING: Dick West was a drummer.
AVALON: Was he a drummer.
KING: That's what he said. He said, I liked a drummer who arranged.
He loved Dick West. The drums was the driving force to him.
AVALON: What was that one quote his said? By the time -- I think it was "Life" magazine at the time. "By the time I'm 25, I'll be a legend. And he was.
KING: He had a lot of -- He had a lot of confidence.
Was she a happy person, Natalie?
KING: Was Sandra Happy?
STORTZ: Yes. She was very happy, very active. I think there's a big perception with a lot of public she was out of control, reclusive, unable to take care of herself. And that just wasn't true. She just chose to give up the limelight and live a very private life.
And she was enjoying immensely the two grand daughters, Alexia and Olivia that Dodd and his lovely wife, Audrey, blessed her with. She was very happy.
We were about to travel. She was pursuing transplant options. She really was doing very well.
KING: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll include some of your phone calls. As we go to break, scene from "Imitation of Life."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; I'll never see again.
DEE: Oh, momma, stop acting. Stop trying to shift people around as if they're pawns on a stage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Suzy.
DEE: Oh, don't worry, I'll get over Steve. But please, don't play the martyr.
Oh, momma, I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt you. But last night, I was so unhappy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEE: Now, when he kissed me he made me feel like a little girl, not fully growed. But then there was Tom Freeman, you know, the almost professor of Seminole College, well, when he kissed me, he gave me a sort of womanish feeling.
PETER FONDA, ACTOR: Now you want no kiss you so you can compare.
DEE: Well, that's what Miss Gull said I just got to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Wow, Peter Fonda. What was it like doing "Love Letters" with her, John?
SAXON: I'll tell you, the night we went out on the stage at the Cannes (ph) Theater, which is about a 500 seat theater, everybody got up and applauded and applauded and applauded until I turned and whispered in her ear, Sandra, it's never going to be any better than this, let's leave now. But it was a good week, you know. I mean, we did very well. At the end of which, I said, Sandra, if you want to have a cup of coffee, here's my phone number, please get in touch, we'll meet. I didn't expect she would call me.
KING: James, are you checked in with us now?
DARREN: Yes. I was there that night that John was talking about. And Sandra was so frail, I remember going backstage after the play and -- which was wonderful, by the way. Sandra was -- she could hardly walk like 10, 15 feet, that's how frail she was. But still beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.
KING: You were mentioning during the break, James, that you thought there were demons around her with the drinking?
DARREN: Absolutely. It's horrible enough having been molested, let alone by your stepdad. To overcome that, I don't know how anyone does. But that would have to drive you to something, and Sandra evidently went to alcohol and whatever else.
KING: She told you...
DARREN: There were many demons, I'm sure.
KIN: How happy she was when she stayed in a little room in a hotel with Bobbie in New York?
STORTZ: It was little apartment. And it was so small that if the Murphy bed was down and you wanted to go to another room, you had to crawl over it.
And it was just a little hole in the wall place. They stayed there for a few days. She said it was the best tile she ever had with him, the happiest: no glitz, no glamour, nothing, just the two of them. They went out and ate and came back and she loved it.
KING: Do you know, Frankie, if they were in touch before Bobbie died?
AVALON: No, I don't. I don't know. I have not and did not see Sandra for all those years. I mean, from the beginning of their marriage, for the 5 or 6 years, yes, great friendship. After that, I never saw her again, any contact at all.
KING: Did she dance a lot, too, Debbie?
REYNOLDS: Everybody dances in show business. Like a little monkey. You do whatever the part says, even if you can't.
KING: You don't think of her singing and dancing, although she had to sing in Tammy.
REYNOLDS: Sandra could do everything. As I say, she was a very fine actress. But she wasn't particularly interested in that. I mean, she fell in love with Bobbie Darin for the man that he was. He was very out there and so full of pizazz, with it. Everything she wasn't, he was. And I think that's what brought them together and that's what she fell in love with, was Bobbie. And stayed that way in love with.
And the boy, she had this wonderful son, who took good care of her and adores her like nobody else, this is a miracle son. He's just -- thank God for the boy.
KING: Dodd is a -- she worshipped, Dodd, didn't she?
STORTZ: That was Sandra's proudest achievement was Dodd. And if she had it to do over again and pick acting or full time motherhood, she told me she would have picked motherhood. She would have given it up and been a mother.
KING: Let's take calls, Port Richey, Florida for our wonderful panel of Natalie Stortz, Debbie Reynolds, Frankie Avalon, James Darren and John Saxon. Hello.
CALLER: Yeah, hi, Larry. You do have a wonderful panel.
I'd like to ask her friend, did Sandra have any brothers or sisters?
KING: She was an only child?
STORTZ: Yes. That's correct.
KING: Did you know her mother?
AVALON: No. I never met her mother.
SAXON: Oh, yes. Very well.
KING: She's portrayed in the movie as very...
KING: Imposing, controlling.
SAXON: She may have done that. She was personality-wise kind of flighty and bubbly and was always cooking in some way.
KING: Around her all the time, right?
SAXON: Yeah. Most of the time. When I saw her, was always with Sandra.
KING: Did you know her, Debbie?
REYNOLDS: Yes. I got to meet her. But as John just said, she wasn't a down mother, she very up and like Sandra. So, in a way, they were like sisters.
KING: Did you know her, James?
DARREN: Yes. I knew her mom, sure. She was between Sandra and me every minute of the day.
KING: James, it sounded like you would have been interested in Sandra. Am I correct?
DARREN: I was in love with her. I mean, who wouldn't be. She was absolutely adorable, beautiful person inside and out. And yes, I had a mad crush on her, I did.
KING: Dallas, Texas, hello.
CALLER: I was wondering what..
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: What was her favorite movie? My favorite movie of hers was "A Summer Place.: Does anyone know what her favorite movie was other than the one she did with her husband?
KING: Does anyone know, Natalie?
STORTZ: That was her favorite movie.
KING: Summer Place?
STORTZ: No, "Come September" with Bobby.
KING: Where she met him, right?
SAXON: In Italy, huh?
KING: She met him making that movie.
All right. We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments in our little tribute to -- it's hard to say it, to the late Sandra Dee. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEE: Did I do it all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very nicely.
DEE: Not so bad considering it was for the first time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Not so bad at all.
DEE: But you weren't very good, were you? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wasn't I? I'm sorry.
DEE: No, you didn't seem to have your heart in it. Perhaps you didn't when we started?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not when we started, no.
DEE: But you were getting better towards the end. Shall we try again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sandra, this is quite an occasion for Dodd, isn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sure is. First time. He was at the opening in Las Vegas, but there weren't so many people and press around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stay drunk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Darling. I think he should just sit and be quiet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Was it difficult for you to see them play out arguments between your father and mother?
KING: Your father and his temper, your mother and her drinking?
DARIN: Absolutely. I mean, that's one of the beautiful things of the film, is it's very real. And it was difficult. I mean, my mom, you know, went through a lot with him. He could be difficult, she could be difficult. It was painful to see that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the slaps and smiles, and in meantime I'm a damn joke out there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not as big a joke as you are right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what it is, Warren Beatty is there with Leslie Caron as nominated for best actress, and I'm there with "Gidget." (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And by the way, Sad to say this, but Natalie confirmed Sandra Dee was planning to come on this show?
STORTZ: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. That and a trip to Las Vegas and a few other things we were going to be doing.
KING: Los Angeles, hello.
CALLER: Yes, two points. First of all, in her autobiography that came out approximately 10-years-ago, she said that when she made her first movie, she was disappointed in her own looks. That she really wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn. Do you think she really felt that way?
And number two, she made a wonderful movie called "Doctor, You've got to be Kidding" with George Hamilton in 1967. When will that be released on DVD? It's not even on video.
KING: Has anyone ever heard of that movie?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't know it.
AVALON: I've heard of it, but...
KING: James, have you heard of it?
DARREN: No, I have not.
KING: Did she think she was not pretty, John.
SAXON: I don't think that was the case.
KING: I think she thought she was pretty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think that was...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But she didn't play on it.
SAXON: Something like that is pretty common to all kinds of -- I mean, people don't want to watch themselves, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and hate what they've done, and so on.
KING: Vancouver, British Columbia, hello.
CALLER: Hi, I was wondering, Sandra Dee was sick with kidney disease for two years. Why didn't they give her a kidney transplant?
STORTZ: It's not that easy and it's not that quick. KING: Was she on a list?
STORTZ: You go on a list. She had been battling kidney disease for approximately four years and was going to dialysis religiously three days a week and was doing very well with it. But certainly, wanted a transplant, and like everyone else in that predicament.
KING: She'll be remembered how, Debbie?
REYNOLDS: Well, I know she'll be remembered a the lovable, adorable girlfriend to all, wonderful actress.
KING: And it will be impossible to separate her name from Bobby Darin, right?
REYNOLDS: I think that will go down together.
REYNOLDS: Bobby and son.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Abbott and Costello, that's -- they're together.
REYNOLDS: They probably are together now.
AVALON: Well, I think, she again, I say, she really epitomized exactly what you would think the girl from the '50s. She was sweet. She was adorable. She was charming. And everybody related to her. And I think that will never ever go away. When you see Sandra Dee, you just fall in love with her.
SAXON: Well, watching the scene that she did with Lana Turner, I realize again how great...
KING: Great (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
SAXON: ... great capacity she was.
KING: And James, you were in love with her, so you still think about her, right?
DARREN: I think about her all the time. And she's what every teenager wants to be.
KING: Thank you all very much and thanks. And thanks Dodd for helping put this together. The funeral services will be private, by the way.
And a happy birthday, by the way, to our senior producer, the lady in charge of this, Wendy Walker. A very young Wendy Walker. I don't have to give the age, does a super job, though. And a very happy birthday to you Wendy, and we thank this crew for getting together. And we'll be right back and tell you about tomorrow.
KING: Tomorrow night, the strange case of Sarah Johnson, the 16- year-old charged with killing her parents. It's a Idaho case. We'll looking into it. Right now we'll looking into "NEWSNIGHT" in New York, with my man Aaron Brown.
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