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by Susan Decuir

I was fourteen on that September Saturday in 1961 when my best friend from school, Linda, asked if I would like to go with her and her mom to watch scenes of the new version of the movie State Fair being filmed on the Texas State Fair Grounds in south Dallas. I responded with a resounding, “Yes.” I knew that two of my favorites, Pat Boone and Ann-Margret, were starring in the film. What a thrill that would be to see them in person.

It was about a thirteen-mile drive from north Dallas where my friend and I lived to the fair grounds. The anticipation of seeing my movie star idols mounted as the State Fair came into view. After Linda’s mom parked, we followed the crowd to where the filming was taking place. We chose a spot in front of one of the many buildings on the fair grounds where a group of people had gathered.

Several movie-type looking people stood around a microphone where the onlookers stood. An older man, perhaps in his fifties, I later learned was Tom Ewell (one of the main characters in the movie) was speaking. I wasn’t impressed. I had never heard of him. Then, when the older man stepped away and a familiar looking much younger and very handsome man moved toward the microphone, I was stunned. I turned toward my friend and said, “That’s the singer Bobby Darin. I didn’t know that he was one of the main characters in the movie.”

Seeing Bobby Darin brought back a precious memory from late 1959 when I lay beside Dad in his sick bed. With an IV bag hanging from the bedroom door—attached to a vein in Dad’s arm—we talked and listened to the radio. When Bobby Darin’s popular song, “Mack the Knife,” came on, Dad suddenly said, “That’s my favorite song.” I liked it too. He had a nice voice. We listened quietly. It was like a spiritual moment. Something special. Something I needed to remember.

Though Bobby Darin wasn’t Pat Boone, seeing Bobby Darin far exceeded my anticipation of seeing Pat Boone. Sadly, we lost Dad before I could tell him that I saw Bobby Darin in person practicing one of his songs for the movie, State Fair.

We were about to leave when, suddenly, not far from where Linda and I stood, I noticed a beautiful young blonde woman sitting on a movie set chair beneath a shade umbrella.

“That’s Sandra Dee,” I practically shouted. She was my teen idol from the 1959 movie, Gidget. My favorite Gidget and Gidget movie.

It turned out that she was Bobby Darin’s wife and was expecting their son. I felt my face flush, obviously star-struck, when my friend suggested, “Let’s ask for her autograph.” Sandra Dee (she will always be Gidget to me) graciously autographed a sheet of paper for each of us.

Seeing Bobby Darin rather than Pat Boone and Sandra Dee rather than Ann-Margret far exceeded my anticipation of seeing my favorite stars on that special, once in a lifetime experience for one ordinary Texas teenage girl in 1961.

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