Born Walden Robert Cassotto in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Bobby Darin was reared by Polly, his maternal grandmother, who he thought was his mother.
Darin’s birth mother, Vanina Juliette “Nina” Cassotto (born in November 1917), became pregnant with him in the summer of 1935 when she was 17. Presumably because of the scandalous nature of out-of-wedlock pregnancies in that era, Nina and her mother hatched a plan to pass off the baby as Nina’s younger brother.
Darin always believed Nina to be his older sister and Polly his mother. But in 1968, when he was 32 and only five years from his untimely death, Darin finally learned the truth from Nina that she, not Polly, was his mother. She chose this timing to tell him the truth because he was running for political office and she did not want a surprise revelation by some investigative reporter to derail his ambitions. Yet she refused to reveal the identity of his biological father, and kept that secret up to her death in 1983.
The news devastated him. “My whole life has been a lie,” he said at the time. This was an emotional earthquake, an explosion of his core beliefs.
He spent a year living in a trailer in the Big Sur forest, thinking and writing, but never recovering from a lifelong deception he could never understand. His fabled self-confidence and ego turned to doubt and introspection. His self-esteem, personality, values, and musical direction underwent major changes.
Darin wasn’t sure if he could ever trust again.
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