"Everyone Thinks I'm Dying, but I'll Make A Comeback"
"Everyone thinks I'm at death's door...but I'm not. I'm not dying," Bobby Darin told me at Hollywood's Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. "I'm going to make a comeback. I'll be up and running, and working and making records before you know it."
In the last interview before his tragic death, Bobby Darin and I were playing games. One game was chess. We played it as Bobby lay propped up in his hospital bed, gaunt and pale, and looking a lot older than his 37 years.
But we were playing another game - and Bobby played it bravely to the end. He was denying that he was deathly sick, even though he knew I'd seen his medical records which showed he was suffering from a critical heart condition
"I've told you before, it's a damn lie," Bobby said, glaring at me over the wire-rimmed glasses he was wearing. "There's nothing seriously wrong with me apart from the fact that I'm tired. Sleep will soon put me back on my feet."
The Bobby grinned and winked - and for a moment he looked like the brash, cocky youngster who'd taken the world by storm in 1957 with his spine-tingling performance of "Mack the Knife."
As we played chess, my mind drifted back to the first time I'd spoken to Bobby. He'd just been released from Midway Hospital in Los Angeles, and I had asked him if he'd suffered another heart attack like the one that forced him to undergo open-heart surgery in 1971.
"That's a damn lie," he stormed. "I was in the hospital because I had excessive water in my joints. Where did you hear this terrible rumor? I'm not sick. Oh, I've had heart surgery before, but that was caused by a childhood disease. My heart is in 100 percent perfect working condition."
Bobby just wasn't a man to slow down - or admit he was sick. But I knew he was. I'd seen his medical records that showed he was admitted to Midway Hospital suffering from congestive heart failure. I told Bobby and he said angrily: "I don't believe it. You're trying to lead me on. I don't have a thing wrong with my heart. You're the only reporter who's asked me about this, so don't you think you could possibly be wrong?"
That interview had taken place in a parking lot in Burbank, California - just across from a TV studio where Bobby was recording a performance on the "Flip Wilson Show." As Bobby got into his car, he said" "Just tune into the Flip Wilson show I've just done when it comes on the air. Then you'll see what a sick man can do."
Now, only weeks later on November 3, I was in a hospital room with Bobby, and he still was denying he was sick Bobby was a winner to the end. He won our chess game - and he won the other game we'd been playing. I'd never once been able to make him admit he was gravely ill.
As I started to leave, he called after me: "Hey Gordon. What's your favorite song?"
I answered, "Mack the Knife - what else?"
Bobby's face lit up. "Okay, my friend. You just wait and see. One of these days you'll turn on your TV set and see Bobby Darin in action. And I'll sing 'Mack the Knife' - just for you. That's a promise, Gordon."
That was a brave promise, Bobby...but somehow I think you knew you'd never keep it.
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