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Splish Splash on the West Side

Posted by Sirena West on November 1, 2013 at 2:30 AM

Splish Splash on the West Side

In 1957, a chance meeting tookplace at Hanson’s Drugstore, which was attached the famous Brill Building, homeof such great composer at Carole King and Neil Diamond and next door to theWinter Garden Theatre, then home to Broadway sensation, West Side Story.  This chancemeeting not only produced a lifelong friendship of creative souls definitely onthe same wavelengths, but creative projects still being embraced today. 

The two young creative soulswere singer/composer Bobby Darin, and David Winters, already appearing in hisfourth Broadway show as Baby John in WestSide Story. 

David recalls that one earlyperk of his friendship was getting a preview of Bobby's breakthrough hit, Splish Splash, some time before it wasrecorded.

"It was at Hanson's. Oneday, Bobby was talking about it, and then he started singing it to me—and Ithought it was great. I told him, if he ever got it released properly, it wouldbe a big hit and make him a big star. We laughed about it, because it was sodifferent, and the lyrics were so funny. He was very excited about it and I wasalso excited for him."

Winters was so taken with thesong, he was still talking about it when he got to the theater that night toperform in West Side Story

"When I went backstagethat night to do the show, I sang it for Chita Rivera, Larry Kert and TonyMordente .  Eventually, I had everyone inthe cast singing it and for a while it became our backstage and curtain callanthem. And then when it was released, we all went crazy, because we knew itbeforehand and we all knew it would be a big hit. It was like we were a part ofits success, and Bobby's too."

As the years went on, theirfriendship grew, fueled by great professional and personal respect.

"Over time, I got torealize that Bobby was a very, very loyal friend and person," saysWinters. "He had a big heart and was only too happy to help others inneed. There were a few times that Bobby came to my rescue and I reallyappreciated him so much. He was a very good and gentle man. He was a veryspecial person and I was proud to know him."

Bobby's willingness to stepin and help a friend in need was never more evident than in 1969, when Winterswas working on a pilot for a TV variety series starring singer Barbara McNair.

"At that time this was areal gamble, because in the South, they did not want black people with theirown show, and the stations were hesitant to run our series.”  David knew they needed a big name guest. 

"So three days beforeshooting, I took a chance and called Bobby. I told Bobby this was a groundbreaking and possibly dangerous situation, and I could only pay him scale—whichwas a few hundred dollars at the time. He said, 'David, I still remember timeswhen a few hundred dollars would have been reason enough to go to a gig.' Hesaid he would do it. I loved him for it. And true to his word, two days laterhe showed up at the studio and did the TV show for me."

Not long afterward, in 1970,Winters returned the favor, by producing TheDarin Invasion, an hour-long Bobby Darin Special for Canadian TV.

As he had done withAnn-Margret, Raquel Welch, and Nancy Sinatra, David created a format toshowcase the many talents of the versatile performer.   Withoutstanding performances by Darin himself, plus George Burns and Linda Ronstadt,Daivd recalls the project as one of the best and most easygoing experiences ofhis career.

While Winters was not awareof Bobby's health problems at the time TheDarin Invasion was shot, inretrospect, he is amazed at the way Bobby set aside his pain in order toperform.

"I think he truly justblocked it from his mind when he went on. He was the ultimate performer. Showbusiness was in his heart, and I knew how deeply he was committed to it. Hewanted to be the best and give the audience more than they had paid for. Evenon TV he was truly 'one of a kind.' He was born to be a performer and he lovedevery minute of it. He loved the feedback from the audience as well."

Clearly, this intensededication to the business and to performing is a trait these two men share.

 

 

 

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