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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Encore Presentation: Remembering Sandra Dee

Aired March 6, 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: 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.
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.

KING: 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...

(CROSSTALK)

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.

KING: Oh!

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.

SAXTON: Yes.

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)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(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.

AVALON: Yes.

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?

STORTZ: Yes.

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)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(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?

STORTZ: No.

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...

SAXON: Ditzy?

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? STORTZ: Yes.

SAXON: In Italy, huh?

STORTZ: Yes.

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)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(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?

DARIN: Sure.

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.

KING: Frank.

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?

KING: Natalie?

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.

KING: That's...

REYNOLDS: Bobby and son.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Abbott and Costello, that's -- they're together.

REYNOLDS: They probably are together now.

KING: Frankie.

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.

KING: John.

SAXON: Well, watching the scene that she did with Lana Turner, I realize again how great...

KING: Great (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

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, very much.

Coming up, a different take on Sandra Dee and her marriage to Bobby Darin. From their son Dodd Darin and Bobby's long time manager Steve Blauner and Kevin Spacey, the Oscar winning actor who is such a Bobby Darin fan that he spent years making a movie about him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to our tribute to the late Sandra Dee who died an untimely death February 20 at age 63. We've heard a lot this hour about her marriage to Bobby Darin, about their son Dodd.

Now from another recent show of ours, you'll hear from Dodd Darin himself as well as Bobby Darin's long-time manager Steve Blauncer and Kevin PSpacey, the Oscar winning actor who spent years making a movie about Bobby Darin.

One of the things you'll be shocked at when you see this movie is his ability to sing and dance. Why have you never shown this before?

SPACEY: Just never had the opportunity.

KING: Never did a Broadway musical?

SPACEY: Auditioned for a couple.

KING: You did?

SPACEY: Yeah, didn't get in it. I used to do musicals from the time I was 13 until I was 20. I did a lot of musicals as a kid.

KING: When no one knew you.

SPACEY: Yeah, yeah, I was doing them in the Valley in Los Angeles.

KING: Did you ever think -- did you want to be booked? An evening with Kevin Spacey on Broadway, with you singing?

SPACEY: I am going around the country on a 10-city tour.

KING: But aren't you shocked at the way he sang? Before you knew Kevin.

BLAUNER: Right, right, I was stunned.

(MUSIC)

DARIN: In the beginning, Steve and I both felt, we need to use my dad's original voice in the film. That it's important to have that.

SPACEY: Yeah, they were very much against it.

DARIN: And then, with all due respect, he cared so much, he worked so hard. He got great musicians. And the actual arrangements from my dad's file cabinet.

SPACEY: They went and found all of Bobby's originals and sent them to us. That's what we laid down.

DARIN: So with all that in the mix -- and he is a good singer in his own right -- we have a great film. And I'm proud of it. But in the beginning, Steve and I both, just for natural reasons, we need to use his voice. We need BD.

KING: His entertaining superseded his singing, don't you think, Steve? He was a terrific singer. But there are a lot of voices. Steve Lawrence had a great voice. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) had it. They both have great voices, but he superseded that, don't you think?

BLAUNER: Yes.

KING: As a performer.

BLAUNER: In fact, in fact, it's only -- you know, I always considered him a performer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. DARIN: All right, the rat bastard that took my off the boat, you better bring it back. Can I say that on the air? Too late, I just did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLAUNER: And now, I'll be sitting reading and we'll have his records on, and I'll put the book down and say, I'll be a son of a gun, he could really sing. I'm just discovering it.

(MUSIC)

SPACEY: We just did a great event that's running now at the Museum of Television and Radio both in New York and Los Angeles, where Steve and I put together our favorite moments of Bobby from his television career. And it's just a remarkable 75 minutes that people can now go and look at. I mean, he knew Bob Hope and Judy Garland, and you know...

BLAUNER: Jimmy Durante.

SPACEY: Jimmy Durante. And you know, watching him, just looking at that again, I was -- I just was happy that I've done a version of Bobby Darin. But the truth is, is that Bobby was in a league all his own. And for people who haven't seen him perform, I really encourage them to go get the album you mentioned. Because you know, I feel like this is my Senator Bentsen moment. I knew Bobby Darin and you're no Bobby Darin. The truth is, I've tried to get close to honor him, but nobody gets that close. He was a remarkable talent. And I hope that all the affection and love and dedication that we've poured into this film will do the one thing I think should happen, which is the spotlight gets turned back on Bobby Darin.

KING: He deserved that. He was -- I mean, as we said, when he came on, he did an album. I mean, it's not in the movie. How much could you put in a movie? With Johnny Mercer.

SPACEY: Oh, yeah, "Two of a Kind."

KING: "Two of a Kind." My cuties due at two, two, two, we're two of a kind.

DARIN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Steve was the genesis for that idea.

KING: You brought them together?

BLAUNER: Yeah. In fact, the great thing about Mercer was that Bobby and Johnny were doing a show together. "The Big Party." Television show out of New York. And they didn't know each other. And I didn't know Johnny. And I went up to him. First, I went to Bobby and said, how would you like to do an album with Johnny Mercer? And he said, oh, yeah. And I went to Johnny, and he said yes. And now we do the album. And when the album was over, Johnny came to me and he said, "Steve, I've got to tell you that I thought you were blowing smoke. I never thought this would happen." And you know....

KING: My cuties due at two, two, two today. Who keeps time while the time keeps busy keeping time.

BLAUNER: And you should have seen them.

KING: They were having such fun.

BLAUNER: Oh, God, yes. You could hear it on the record.

KING: Was it difficult for you to see them play out arguments between your father and mother?

DARIN: Sure.

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 that 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. And it was painful to see that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPACEY: All the slaps and the smiles, and in the meantime I'm a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) joke out there.

BOSWORTH: Not as big of a joke as you are right now.

SPACEY: You know what it is? Warren Beatty is there with Leslie Caron, who's nominated for best actress, and I'm there with Gidget!

BOSWORTH: Leslie Caron is not box office!

SPACEY: Most people don't care about box office.

BOSWORTH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Bobby. Only people from the Bronx actually care about the Oscars.

SPACEY: Melvyn Douglas is married to a congresswoman, and I'm married to Tammy.

BOSWORTH: Well, it took Melvyn Douglas 40 years to get a supporting actor's face. You should be happy you did it in just two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DARIN: What was interesting was her reaction when she saw the film.

KING: Which was?

DARIN: She went with her assistant to watch it privately. I wasn't there. Kevin wasn't there. That's how she wanted it. And she came over right afterwards to my house. And she's a good actress. But she ain't that good. She was speechless. She was just moved and touched. And she came in and she said, "you know, I'm so proud to have been part of his life, to have spent those years with him. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

And I was with my family, my daughters. And I just took the moment. And it was -- it was beautiful. Because she's had her share of problems, publicly, you know, over the years. And this was a shot in the arm, some joy for her, some happiness. And it was beautiful. It was a beautiful moment. And as she said, I mean, that's how it was.

SPACEY: She called me after.

KING: Oh, yeah?

SPACEY: And she was incredibly generous on the phone and said she wouldn't change a frame of the film. She was very, very happy. KING: We'll be back. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's Bobby Darin really like?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most patient, lovely man, and nobody believes me. They all believe he's sort of smart and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and you know, got a terrible temper. He's lovely.

SANDRA DEE, ACTRESS: What's the proportion of gin and water in this drink?

B. DARIN: Oh, I'd say it was about even Steven.

DEE: I'd say it was more Steven than even. See, you're not trying to get me drunk, are you?

B. DARIN: We'll examine the motives later.

DEE: But later may be too late.

B. DARIN: You know something? We're talking too much.

DEE: But if I don't talk, how am I going to know what's going on?

B. DARIN: If anything really important happens, I guarantee you you'll be the first to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SINGING)

KING: We're back with Kevin Spacey, Dodd Darin, and Steve Blauner. Kevin is the star, director and co-producer of the new film biography about Bobby Darin, "Beyond the Sea, " now open. Dodd Darin is the only child of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, the co-author of "Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee." And Steve Blauner is Bobby Darin's long-time manager and friend, portrayed in the movie by John Goodman.

The toughest part for you when you direct and star and doing something you haven't done on film before, which is sing. what was the hardest?

SPACEY: The thing I walked into the movie most nervous about was getting sleep. Because when you're directing your mind is always going, always going. And you're thinking about what you shot and you're thinking about what's coming up.

KING: It's a director's medium.

SPACEY: It is a director's medium. But I have to say, I've now read a bunch of articles where they refer to this film as a vanity project. I don't think they mean that as a compliment, or a one-man show. The truth is that this movie was anything but. And that kind of journalism is just a disservice to the collaborative effort of a remarkable team of people that joined this movie, picked up my dream and made it their own.

KING: Do you think they're mad at you?

SPACEY: Oh, I don't know why they write these things. Because it's an easy shot because I'm wearing so many hats, so it's an easy thing to say.

KING: Do you realize you begin to look like him?

SPACEY: Well, we had a great team of people.

KING: Make-up. But I mean -- but you do look like him. Didn't you think so?

BLAUNER: Yes, definitely.

KING: Because you don't look like him. He looks like him. But in this movie...

SPACEY: He has an advantage, Larry.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. DARIN: Here, you play. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) "Boney Boney Stick of Macaroni (ph)." Now play again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: From aficionados you will hear, why did you leave out "Clementine," a major Darin hit?

SPACEY: I had -- you know, look, the hardest choice. The hardest choices in this movie were what to tell about his life and what music to use.

(SINGING)

SPACEY: Let's face it, he recorded well over 320 songs. You can't get all of them in. And what I tried to do was to use the songs that felt organic to the story telling so that the film was always moving forward; whether it was under score or I was performing those numbers.

And look, some of my favorites aren't in the film. It was very tough. That's why I'm loving doing the concert tour because I'm getting to do a lot more of his body of work.

KING: And obviously you were asked a lot about "If I Were a Carpenter and If You Were a Lady," why that was left out? SPACEY: Yes. I just couldn't fit it in dramatically. At one point I tried it as under score, but it felt like a disservice to the song. It really deserves to be heard straight out which is why it's on the album.

KING: And you chose the other folk song.

SPACEY: Well, "Simple Song of Freedom," which is a protest song against the Vietnam War, because it felt to me that that symbolized a particular period in his life. It's a great song that Tim Hardin turned into a hit.

And you know, when I was shooting the movie, I had no idea that that particular song would have a relevance today...

KING: It does.

SPACEY: ... for audiences. I thought it would just be a nostalgic moment.

(SINGING)

KING: How did he like acting?

BLAUNER: He loved it. He started acting. When he went to Hunter College, the first term, he got all the parts in the plays. And then in the second term, the teacher said -- or the professor said, no, we've got to give somebody else a chance, and he quit.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BLAUNER: Yes.

KING: He got his Academy Award nomination for "Captain Newman, M.D." and won the Golden Globe for that, right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. DARIN: You tell Captain Newman I said to shove it. Ain't nobody going to slap no needle at me. It's getting a little crowded in here. I think I'm going to go for a walk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And he did "State Fair."

BLAUNER: He did "Pressure Point." "Too Late Blues," he did "Hell Is For Heroes" with Steve McQueen. And he did -- he played a small role in a picture that Richard Brooks directed called "Happy Ending" where he plays an Italian gigolo and he was just great in that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. DARIN: Sorry, lady, wrong number.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry to lose your lovely accent. B. DARIN: Well, there's plenty more. Would you like to hear me say something cockney? how's about Russian, huh? No, no, you'd much prefer something in French.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DARIN: I think if he'd lived longer, acting would have opened up for him. Because back then, to be a leading man, you had to have the Cary Grant, Rock Hudson look. And that frustrated him immensely. Because...

KING: He didn't have it.

DARIN: He didn't, let's be honest. I say can say it, I look like him. He didn't have that. And so 10 years later when Pacino and Dustin Hoffman, people were making films, I think he would have had a great shot at it. But back in that niche, that time when he was doing it. And it frustrated him enormously.

KING: You're a renowned actor. How good an actor was he?

SPACEY: I think he was very good. I mean, his Academy Award nomination was very deserved for "Captain Newman." It's also, I think that role captures a kind of quality about Bobby. It's a very brashy part. It's a very -- it's a guy who's arrogant.

DARIN: It was him.

SPACEY: It was. It was tailored in some way to him. And he sort of made it his own. And I think he's very good in it.

KING: Did he really get angry when he lost?

BLAUNER: No.

DARIN: No.

BLAUNER: No.

KING: That's the one dramatic scene in the movie. Why would he get angry over losing the first time up for supporting actor?

SPACEY: But it's just -- it's a funny scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOSWORTH: I heard he was dying or something. It's a sympathy vote.

SPACEY: He's dying? I'm the one dying. Way before he was dying, I was dying. Where's my sympathy?

BOSWORTH: You're doing a pretty good job (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for yourself all alone.

SPACEY: Stick your finger in my (expletive deleted) and wiggle it just like the doctor does.

BOSWORTH: Anyway, it's an honor just to be nominated. I've never been nominated.

SPACEY: My damn Hollywood friends are the ones who probably voted against me.

BOSWORTH: I voted for you, Bobby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLAUNER: I made the deal for him to do the movie and I sent him the script. He was playing the Sands. And I was waiting for the phone call. And I got it. Why am I doing this picture? Because he had counted the pages, in fact, I had them marked with paper clips.

KING: Where his part was?

(LAUGHTER)

BLAUNER: Yes. And I said, because if you are one-tenth the actor I think you are, this is the kind of part that Academy Award nominations come from. Winning, that's a whole other thing, but I guarantee you a nomination. And two years later when he got the nomination, this is beauty of the man, I went to the house, and he hugged me and in my ear he said, you were right. I'd take a bullet for him after that.

KING: Opening at the Copa, that was a big deal. More in a minute, and then Kevin is going to sing. We'll be right back. "Beyond the Sea," now playing. If you miss it, you're dead. I mean, no. If you don't like it, there's something the matter. Check with the doctor. We'll be right back, don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you meet?

B. DARIN: We met while we were both doing a film called "Come September," the year was 1960. The place was Portofino (ph), Italy. And I don't think there could be anything more romantic or lovelier as a meeting place. And we hit it right off. She hated me and I loved her and that was it.

(LAUGHTER)

DEE: What did you wish for?

B. DARIN: It's very bad luck to tell.

DEE: I hope you get what you want.

B. DARIN: That's sure sweet...

SPACEY: ... of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut! Great.

SPACEY: Hey, Sandy, Sandy, what do you say you and me have dinner tonight?

BOSWORTH: Oh, no thank you. I'm going to have dinner in my room and then go to bed early.

SPACEY: Oh, my goodness gracious, how can you stand all that excitement?

BOSWORTH: I'm not here for excitement. I'm here to work. Maybe you should think about going to bed early too.

SPACEY: Well, how do you know I don't go to sleep early? Sandra Dee, have you been...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: Are Bobby Darin CDs available?

DARIN: Absolutely. That's the wonderful thing with technology.

KING: You did his whole collection, didn't you?

DARIN: We did. Twenty years ago or so, you could go into the biggest record stores, maybe there would be an album of hits. But you know, now, a lot of product. Stuff that Steve and I are involved with releasing. And it's wonderful. Because truly, A, he deserves it. And B, had he lived longer, people would have had a different appreciation. A full life, Ray or Tony Bennett, or Frank. They lived to 75. He was gone at 37.

KING: Do you think we'll have a revitalization of Darin, Steve?

BLAUNER: I think that this is Bobby's immortality. Long after we're all gone and our children's children's children. There will be still people watching this movie and Bobby will live forever, thanks to Kevin.

KING: I remember walking down Collins Avenue with him and he's saying that he wants to look for this sound that he had in "Mack the Knife" and "Clementine." He talked about it. Richard Wess was the drummer? Who was it?

BLAUNER: No, the drummer...

DARIN: The arranger.

BLAUNER: Richard Wess was the arranger. Back then, well, when you were walking down, I don't think we had enough...

KING: We talked about Richard Wess, though. We talked about Richard Wess.

BLAUNER: Yeah, he was the arranger who did "Mack the Knife."

KING: "Mack the Knife." And he talked about drums, Kevin. Were you aware of that? He had -- he heard the drums.

SPACEY: The drummer is the key to the whole band. And I'm lucky that right now on my tour, I not only have Roger Calloway, who was one of Bobby's music directors, and the first guy I worked with musically, but Gregg Field, who was Sinatra's drummer for the last 10 years, is keeping the beat for us. And so we're doing all right.

BLAUNER: And one of the first white musicians who ever worked with Bassie.

KING: Really?

BLAUNER: Yes. He played drums for Bassie.

KING: He had a great ear, didn't he, your dad?

DARIN: Tremendous ear for talent, you know. Helped Wayne Newton get started. Produced "Danke Schoen."

SPACEY: Gave him "Danke Schoen." Gave it to him. Was supposed to be Bobby's record.

BLAUNER: The publisher was outraged. Because they'd given Bobby the song. Bobby came down to the Copa one night, and I didn't know why. We happened to be in New York, and there was this little group that wanted to stay in the lounge. A trio.

KING: Wayne and his brother.

BLAUNER: Wayne and his brother, right.

SPACEY: That's right.

BLAUNER: And we signed them. And Bobby took them in, gave them the song.

DARIN: You know, I often wonder what he'd be doing now.

KING: Now.

DARIN: Staying on me all the time. But no, it would be amazing. Because look at Tony Bennett, how wonderful he connects with 20 somethings. A whole resurgence.

SPACEY: Tony said something about -- last week, that I thought was so true, which is that, I think you may have asked him how he thought he's endured. And he said, because I never sang for a demographic. I sang great songs that were timeless. And I think that's what's true about Bobby. He sang great songs that are timeless. That will always be around. And this is a guy who -- you know, he moved around from genre to genre. He had more hits in more genres than I think anybody other than Ray Charles and Elvis Presley. And so you walk into a record shop today, and he's in about nine sections, not just one. And I think that also has to do with why his legacy is not as strong as it would be. When you're that diverse, when you do 15 things remarkably well over a brief life, as opposed to one thing remarkably well over...

KING: How's your mother today?

DARIN: She has good days and bad. I mean, I think you know, she has some kidney problems. But knock on wood, she's still fighting, and enjoying being a grandma.

KING: Still in love?

DARIN: That's forever.

KING: We're going to take a break, and when we come back, Kevin Spacey will sing. And don't forget his new CD. We'll show it to you when we come back. It's called "Beyond the Sea." The movie is playing now. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: We've been talking so much about music tonight, we thought we'd close musically, and Kevin Spacey remains with us, of course. Going to do a couple of songs. And with us at the piano is Peter Cincotti, who appears in the movie as Dick Behrke. Did you cast him?

SPACEY: I did.

KING: Where did you find him?

SPACEY: Well, I heard about him from Phil Ramon (ph), but he's also become quite a talented and well known jazz artist. He was on the charts last summer. And I think you were right up there, number one, weren't you?

KING: You never saw -- you've heard Bobby Darin.

PETER CINCOTTI, MUSICIAN: I heard him. I never saw his live performance. But during this film, I felt like I was on stage with him right here. You know? It came so close. And it was unbelievable for me, because it was all new experience for me.

KING: What did you think of him?

CINCOTTI: It was on -- I think he's great. You know, I always was familiar with his songs. I didn't know his life story, you know, as I've come to know. But I knew his music. "Beyond the Sea," "Mack the Knife." And I thought it was great, you know.

KING: Kevin, the two songs you're going to sing, "Just One of Those Things" and "Fly Me to the Moon" are not in the CD.

SPACEY: No, they're not.

KING: So why in your genius of promotion, have you chosen to do these two?

SPACEY: Well, because I'm doing those in a lot of different places, and I'm also going out doing a concert. But one of the things that I love about being able to present Bobby's music in concert is that I get a chance to do a lot of the music of his that I couldn't put in the movie or I couldn't put on the album. And frankly, this is a guy who recorded over 320 songs. So we thought we'd give the audience something a little different tonight. These are classic standards that Bobby did.

KING: You're in for a real treat, folks. Peter Cincotti at the piano, Kevin Spacey. And "Just One of Those Things" and "Fly Me to the Moon" to close it out. Thanks for being with us, guys. Peter, go get them, guys.

CINCOTTI: OK.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be back again tomorrow night with a very special show, great guests too. You will not want to miss it.

Stay tuned now for more news around the clock for your most trusted name in news, CNN. See you tomorrow night. Good night.

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