If you’re a baby boomer, you’ll remember Bobby Rydell. This teen idol heartthrob – and what a cutie he was – exploded on the scene in the 1960s with hits like Kissin’ Time, Wild One, and my personal favorite, Volare.
Rydell appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1959, and went on to sell more than 25 million records during his career.
Now 74 years old, Rydell has written an honest and compelling autobiography: TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS: A Tale of Second Chances. I was privileged to receive a review copy and gave the book a read over the weekend.
Baby boomers will enjoy Rydell’s memories of his childhood in South Philly back in the day when no one locked their door and the best places to meet girls was at the local ice cream parlor.
The stories about his rise to stardom at the tender age of 17 and the famous people he met along the way are also fascinating. For example, Sammy Davis Jr. wanted a homemade Italian meal and Rydell’s grandma offered to cook for them. Eager to impress, Rydell was relieved when the dinner went well, but you can feel his horror when his grandmother brings out watermelon for dessert because that’s what she thought “they liked.” Sammy couldn’t quit laughing but Rydell was mortified beyond words.
There are also fascinating stories about Dick Clark, Red Skeleton, Frankie Avalon, Fabrian, and Ann Margaret.
But what touched me the most were Rydell’s personal, brutally honest stories. He describes his relationship with his bipolar, manic depressive stage mother back in the day when little was understood about mental illness. Rydell pours out his heart telling the story of his first love, Camille, to whom he was married for 35 years. She later suffered from breast cancer and your heart will break as you read how he felt “sheer terror” at the thought of losing her.
However, Rydell doesn’t offer these events as an excuse for his slide into alcoholism. In this day and age when stars, and people in general, play the blame game, it was so refreshing to read how Rydell takes full personal responsibility for his drinking and the dire consequences.
Readers will cheer as they read how he faced a double organ transplant and later double heart bypass surgery with admirable courage and gratitude for his second chances in life. He eloquently expresses his gratefulness to his donor, a young 21-year-old girl named Julia, who was tragically hit by a car and killed.
Rydell manages to come through all his fame and trials shining with optimism and heart as he finds a new love and makes a successful comeback. Yes, this man is still touring and you can still catch his act. If you want to purchase his book (autographed books are available), attend a book signing, or check out his tour dates, be sure and visit Rydell’s site.