Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Look At Her

1944 - 2005

I saw her photo and my heart stood still.

It shouldn't really happen after all these years, but there she was, smiling that smile that made young Me fall deep into my first crush.  I was about 10 and she was 17 at the time, but in the time-honored manner of young love, I vowed not to let her advanced age be an impediment to true love.  True love it was, with only the one problem. Well, two.

One, she didn't know me from Adam: Carolla, Curry or Sandler, Jones or Jones.

And two, she was Sandra Dee.

Yes, my own Gidget, and how I Jonesed on her.  Like a young scholar learning all about pre-Raphaelite art, I learned all I could about my future bride.  Born Alexandra Zuck in fashionable Bayonne, New Jersey, she changed her name to begin modeling at age four. She got into the movies in the late 50's, playing Gidget and Tammy and a reluctant debutante.  To be honest about it, I didn't get to many movies with her in them, because my choice in movies to invest my 50 cents in at the Towson Theater ran more to The Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis, but I would hang around grocery stores and newsstands until closing time, scoping out pictures of her in Photoplay, Modern Screen, Movieland, and other magazines of the day which also featured ads for itch relief and marital aids.

She married Bobby Darin (nĂ© Walden R. Cassotto) but I figured he was just a flashy placeholder until I was old enough to get my fake ID.  The marriage did not last, nor did her career.  And as has been well-documented here and elsewhere, I fell even more madly in love with a woman who was actually in the same room with me (and showed no inclination to flee into the night!), so that was the true love, and Peggy and I were married in December of 1973.  Twelve days after that, Darin died.  And I spent a lot less time in my Sandra infatuation, even when the movie "Grease" came out, with the song "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" as performed by Stockard Channing with a reprise by Olivia Newton-John.

Because every road has a link back to Baltimore, the story came full circle when a good friend moved to Los Angeles and called me one day for my pork loin recipe.  She was having some company over for dinner, and had borrowed a blender from her neighbor in the next apartment down the hall, a woman she described as a broken-down, pixilated former actress who was always smashing her old Rolls-Royce into the dumpster in the apartment parking lot.  Do I even have to finish this paragraph?  Didn't think so.

I checked Miss Dee out a little more after that, just out of sad curiosity.  I found that by 1990, Sandra was living on soup, crackers, and a quart and a half of vodka per day.  By then, even the roles in tv shows that had replaced the roles in beach movies were not coming her way, and by 2005 her final TV appearance came when Brian Williams told us that she had passed.  A life fronted by beauty but also populated with a family of substance abusers and sexual abuse (her stepfather) had come to an end.

Sometimes, all the beauty just gets tired of covering all the sad and ugly.  But when I saw her face on a DVD box the other day, I had pleasant memories of a childhood crush.  And they can't take that away from me.

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