I’m not a music critic and I don’t snap my fingers very well, although I can easily make things rhyme[Toby Keith fans will understand those last two references], so I’m just telling my story of going to see James Darren at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood. As luck would have it my friend Karen and her hubby go to the Catalina Club for jazz and gave me a primer on the setting. The club is on Sunset, near Hollywood High, located on the ground floor of an office building. Turn right and the parking is in an attached structure that is well lit and attended. Only $6 to park, then it is a short walk to the club’s door. It was first come – first seated, and although the club officially opened at 7, when I got there a few minutes before a dozen or more patrons were already seated, most of them along the edge of the stage. Being a single I was seated along the stage, just as it curved to the side. Close up, but bad for taking photos. Oh well, the best photos are always in your head.
There is a 2 drinks or dinner minimum. The club has a good variety of appetizers and enough dinner choices. Service was fast and good. Prices were fine. $8.50 – $9 for a basic glass of wine, with a decent wine list if you wanted a wider or pricier selection. Mixed drinks came from a full bar and seemed generous. Dinners included steak, seafood, and pasta – all the basics. And there was a nice choice of desserts. Give the apple tart a try.
I sat next to Ira S. Behr who is the producer who hired “Jim”, as he called him, to be the hologram Vic Fontaine for Deep Space Nine. The James Darren Orchestra started to play, then did a bit of the theme from Gidget which got a great reaction, and then there he was. A basic introduction and he walked onto the stage, from the side facing me. I’m 13 again and staring at Moondoggie. James wore a dark charcoal suit, white shirt, black tie with small white polka dots, and black alligator loafers. His hair is mostly grey but my heart still knew it was Moondoggie.
The time just passed so quickly. He sang mostly standards in a smooth voice, talked a lot, showed clips from Gidget while he sang the song, then clips from TJ Hooker where he played Officer Jim Corrigan and Deep Space Nine, along with a few others, and video of his wedding to Evy Norlund over 54 years ago. They are still married. Jim said that he had not performed in a club in Los Angeles in decades, the last time being at the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. The list of standards – I Get A Kick Out Of You; I Could Have Danced All Night; I Only Have Eyes For You; As Years Go By; The Best Is Yet To Come; Hello Young Lovers; Breaking Up Is Hard To Do; Am I Blue; Because Of You; Summer Wind; and many others. Do you remember the Penelope Cruz commercial with someone singing “Come Fly With Me”? That was Mr. Darren on vocals.
Jimmy studied acting with famous coach Stella Adler and performed in the 1950s in several films. He said he considers the movie Gidget the best break of his career and spoke fondly of the sweet, young Sandra Dee. And “Goodbye Cruel World” one of his biggest hits – he didn’t care for when he heard it and had to be talked into recording it. He told a great story about seeing Bruce Springsteen, going over and saying he was a big fan, and introducing himself. Bruce, smiled and said, “Goodbye Cruel World, I love that song”, which of course was a great intro for Jimmy to sing it.
Check Amazon for a recent release of Jim’s first four albums digitally re-mastered onto a two CD set and “This One’s From The Heart”, a 1999 CD of standards, along with music from Deep Space Nine. Are you listening to me Santa? “This One’s From The Heart” WILL be in my stocking. Right?????
Every Day Is A Good Day. VJ