The TV Collector - April 1997 (typed by Carol R.)
Getting Together With Bobby Sherman
It is a perfect fall day in New York City. Bobby Sherman, accompanied by Ward Sylvester, his manager of 30 years, is right on time for an 11:00 a.m. interview. We settle down in the lounge of the Parker Meridien Hotel where Bobby skips the breakfast buffet and orders an iced tea. (Both breakfast and coffee have turned him off since childhood when he used to accompany his father on a crack-of-dawn milk route. They would stop afterwards for a couple of donuts and a cup of java - neither of which Bobby ever really cared for much.)
In town to promote his new autobiography, Still Remembering You, Bobby, now 53, is still handsome. Those renowned teeth and blue eyes sparkle, though surrounded now by some creases. The hair, although streaked with gray, is as thick as it was back in the La La La (If I Had You) days. The chiseled features remain, including the famous cleft in his chin.
Along with the movie star good looks comes a glow from within. And why not? The Bobby Sherman story is not about some former teen heartthrob turning up in some cheesy Vegas lounge, crooning a couple of old tunes, or one who falls on hard times ending up at the Betty Ford Clinic. It is about a man who, grateful for the years of adoration, decided to give back to his community.
For the last 10 years, Bobby has dedicated his life to saving the lives of others as a volunteer emergency medical technician and trainer, a position he calls, "a labor of love."
Bobby's new career highlights include assisting in the delivery of five babies, rescuing children at accident scenes, and being on-call for nearly two days straight during the L.A. earthquake in 1994.
"With my two sons, Christopher and Tyler, growing up, boys will be boys - skinned knees, bloody noses, and all of that kind of stuff. It was up to me to come to the rescue since my ex-wife was really squeamish when it came to blood," he recalls.
"So I took some basic first aid. As time went along, I found myself enjoying the opportunity to help people when there was a accident. I'd be the one to stop and help them. I felt like I could. A friend of mine, the chief paramedic for L. A. City, said, "You ought to take this a little further because you really have a knack for it."
"So I started advanced first aid and learned CPR. Then, I became an EMT and CPR instructor. For the last five years I was a medical training officer for the Los Angeles Police Department where I train officers in first aid and CPR.
"There is nothing better than being involved in saving someone's life or being there in their time of need. Every man, woman and child from the age of eight years old should know first aid and CPR because it works and saves lives. It's the most rewarding thing I have ever done."
Dena Hill, the co-author of Bobby's new book, witnessed Bobby spring into action while they were conducting an interview in a park and two cars collided nearby. "It was like watching Batman." Dena Recalls. "Really, what could be better than watching your former teen idol save somebody in a car accident?" He had on a jacket and as he ran across to save this woman, his jacket was flowing behind him like a cape. It was like Superman going from Clark Kent in the phone booth. He didn't have any equipment with him, so all he could do was sit and hold this woman's head in place to make sure she didn't move until the paramedics arrived.
"Fortunately, she wasn't bleeding. He immediately clicked into this other gear. It was wonderful. People were just standing around, looking at the accident scene. No one knew what to do. Then, Bobby came along and knew exactly what to do."
Bobby has known exactly what he has wanted to do since growing up in southern California's San Fernando Valley. While his friends were out riding their bikes, Bobby was busy teaching himself to play the trumpet and drums, and singing along to Ricky Nelson's old records.
"I never had much formal musical training. I just had a gift of an ear with respects to rhythm and music and could pick things up instantly," he recalls. "I started with the trumpet. I would listen to things and copy them. I used to watch a show called Victory at Sea. I liked it so much because I played a soldier all the time growing up. I loved the music they played. So I bought the Victory at Sea record. I would memorize the music and play along with the records. And my parents encouraged me all the time.
"Then I went to the drums. I took metal waste paper baskets, turned them upside down, and took tin pie plates and used them for cymbals. I used coat hangers for the drum sticks. I'd break them down with their crossbars and start banging away. So my parents said 'He seems to have some rhythm.'"
"A family down the street had a son who went into the service. He had a drum set that he didn't want any more. They sold it to us for practically nothing. I would sit and play along with the music. My dad used to play guitar, so we used to jam together. That helped me a lot, too. It was one of the ways I was able to communicate with my dad because he was so busy. Then it was on to the guitar and the piano. I dabbled in it and finally got better at it."
Bobby says that as a child he was shy, a daydreamer, and that performing could overcome the awkwardness of having to strike up conversations with people.
"When I used to go out with my dad on the milk route, I was always frightened of people. I didn't know what to say. I couldn't start a conversation. If someone spoke to me, I'd say hello, but that was it. As time went on, I became the class entertainer. I would do stupid things and make jokes. But, I found that to be a mask and something that gave me an opportunity to not reveal who I was. And who I really was, was somebody who was really shy and demure. So, performing was a tool to overcome shyness. But I don't think I ever got rid of that. I think it's still there" he reveals.
When he was eleven, Bobby met Louis Armstrong at a TV station in Las Vegas, which made a huge impression. "My parents would go to Las Vegas every summer and drag me and my sister along," he recalls. "There wasn't anything for kids to do there, except swim. So I went over to a local television station to see if I could work for them.
"One director, Tom Cunningham, gave me a job for three bucks a day. He said I could be a cable jockey, which basically was to keep the cable out of the way of the camera. I had so much fun. One day, Louis Armstrong, who was performing nearby, stopped in to do an interview. Tom said, 'I wish we had a trumpet so we could open (the interview) with it.' I said, 'I've got mine over at the hotel.' I went running over and came back. They put it up in the opening shot. My trumpet was on television. Louis had a couple of words with the host and ended up picking up my trumpet and playing a few bars. I was so proud!"
Throughout high school, Bobby performed with friends in rock groups while achieving success on his high school football team. Then while studying child psychology at community college, he was invited by a girlfriend to a party for the film, The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Jane Fonda, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood were all on hand. A few guys from a band he played with in high school were performing. Bobby sat in on a couple of numbers. Shortly afterward, he got a call from an agent who got him an audition for Shindig. "If I didn't go to that party, would something else have happened? I don't know. I was really going towards child psychology at that point. If it was fate or destiny, I welcomed it for what it was," he says.
Anybody that had a record did our show from the Rolling Stones to The Beatles. It was the forerunner to MTV with non-stop music. I was the male house singer and sang everyone else's hits. I had only one record, called It Hurts Me, that Jack (Good, Shindig's producer) let me sing a couple of times.
"It didn't do that well on the charts, so I had the impression that I was not a record act. At that point I was getting a lot of recognition as a television personality. But I couldn't get arrested with a record and I kind of gave up on that."
"We had a live audience at Shindig, so you expected them to scream. It was like the Beatles thing. I didn't think I had anything to do with it. I figured it was just part of the show. We did a Shindig tour where I remember playing to older audiences who really weren't screamers."
"It wasn't until I did Here Come the Brides that I saw the phenomenon of the real hysteria - fifteen- or twenty-thousand screaming to the point where you couldn't hear yourself think," he says.
On Shindig, Bobby especially enjoyed working with the Righteous Brothers, who, too, got their big break on the show. "Our dressing rooms were right next door to each other, he recalls. "I always thought that they should become a comedy team because they kept me in stitches. I would sit and laugh at all of their jokes. I knew they were going to make it because their style was terrific. Success didn't change them. When they got very busy, they didn't become snobbish. I saw a lot of people who became above everybody else, which was kind of a shame."
Bobby, too, was often praised for his courtesy towards his fans, even in the midst of Bobbymania. "My parents had so much to do with it. They made me very aware of other people's feelings and to always be respectful of others. I really had a good sensibility about the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, kindness and cruelty, and all of that".
"I saw my dad interact with his customers. He was always a gentleman and went out of his way to be not just their milkman, but to be a friend. And I saw that work. So I took that in stride and said, "This is how you conduct yourself." Bobby's dad died in 1990.
Bobby's first acting break came in 1966 when he played Frankie Catalina, a takeoff on Frankie Avalon, in a beach parody episode of The Monkees. There were also guest appearances on The F.B.I., Honey West and The Dating Game.
In 1967, Epic released Think of Rain, a song Bobby loves, but which never attained commercial success. Then along came Brides which propelled him to superstardom during its two-year run, and helped launch his pop music career.
"When I started doing Here Come the Brides, Len Levy with Metromedia Records came up and said, 'We would like you to put out some records.' I said, 'Hey, don't waste your time. Tried it. It didn't work.' He said 'Let us be the judge of that.' So, the first sessions I did Easy Come Easy Go, Little Woman and La La La. My favorite was Easy Come, Easy Go. I said 'That has to be the one we put out,' even though I didn't expect anything to happen. But Little Woman came out first. I cannot believe how well, overnight, it took off! I was more surprised than anyone because I didn't sing a note on Here Come the Brides! But the fans who were younger than those from Shindig were locked into Jeremy, who happened to be Bobby Sherman. They wanted anything I put out!"
It was during that time that Bobby gained millions of young followers including Kathi Hoffman, who first met her idol about 14 years ago. "I had written to him and sent him things for his birthday. He called one day and invited my husband and I out to see him. We've had a special relationship now for years. He calls my son. He called me when I was in the hospital. He's a very special man."
Kathi has started a Bobby Sherman fan club. "I hope to get all his fans to submit a recipe so I could put together a book. All the proceeds could be used to further EMT or CPR training, because that is what Bobby's heart is in."
In his book, Bobby tells how he related to his Brides character; his shyness, integrity and sensitivity. He noted that he and Jeremy both gained confidence, as he grew along with the character.
"Jeremy was the honest brother," he says. "My two older brothers were like con artists. I (represented) the banner of truth, justice and the American way. They wanted to make it difficult for me, so they made me stutter. So, here I am wanting to say something righteous, but having a lot of difficulty saying it."
"The bottom line was, it made the character more endearing and a lot of fans locked onto Jeremy. We were averaging about 25,000 letters a week. As time went on, I felt more comfortable with Jeremy, and I was able to adapt a lot of me in him. I was very pleased with our second season, how Jeremy emerged from a wallflower character into someone who stood up for himself."
Bobby became the clean-cut, make-believe boyfriend who starred not only on TV, but on bedroom walls everywhere. "That was pretty much who I was," he says. "I realized that my audience was very young and impressionable. I could have done and said some really nasty things. When I went out in concert, I didn't talk about drugs, sex or politics - not that they could have heard me anyway because the noise was so excruciating." Bobby suffers from some permanent hearing loss, courtesy of those concerts.
"I ended up getting a lot of letters from parents which were basically thank-yous for helping bring up the kids. It was at a time when drugs were starting to take off, Woodstock, and all those things that were making parents nervous. We were like a day care center for a few years."
After Julie, Do You Love Me? hit the top five in the summer of 1970, things began to slow down. Bobby hit the top 40 only twice more, and starred in the short-lived 1971 Getting Together series.
"We only did 13 or 14 shows because we were up against All in the Family. Oddly, we did very well. But they didn't see our numbers because we were being watched upstairs on the kids' television which didn't have the (Nielsen) black box on the back," he says.
In September 1971, Bobby married long-time girlfriend Patti Carnel and assisted in the delivery of his two sons, both 14 months apart in 1973 and 1974. Bobby and Patti divorced in 1979.
"I didn't realize what happened until it all started to settle down," he says. That is when I enjoyed it the most. I was literally working seven days a week for about four or five years. Then, I had the time to say, 'Okay, let me put some energies into different areas like producing and directing - and at the same time raise a family." The timing worked out well.
"What do I miss most about that time? I miss the ability to have that one-on-one with the fans. It was the proverbial love-in. The kids couldn't drive themselves to the concerts, so their parents took them. Kids would be screaming left and right. Their parents would be there with hands over their ears, but big smiles on their faces because they really enjoyed it. It was an innocent time."
Innocent perhaps, but Bobby laments that fame puts people at a distance and that walls built to protect his family's privacy also kept him from knowing his neighbors. "I don't live in the kind of neighborhood where you look across the fence and say, 'Can I borrow some sugar?' It's kind of spread out."
"My fans were very excitable, so there were always the possibilities of lawsuits if they came onto your property, fell over or something like that. We had to erect very tall fences and gates for legal purposes. That kind of made it an isolation...encamped," he says. "Nowadays you do that because you're worried about threats of crime. Then, it was basically for innocent protection, because my fans did not have a malicious bone in their bodies. But it did create a thing where people couldn't just walk in and say hi. It would be impossible, because I never would have gotten any sleep.
"I don't think it had too much to do with my neighbors that if I didn't have any fences I would have been closer to them. Generally speaking, it's not just the house, but my life was like that. I had to be protected. I had to be isolated because things could have gotten way out of hand."
During his "Daddy" days, Bobby constructed a one-fifth scale replica of the first two blocks of Main Street in Disneyland. He actually made two Disneyland replicas in his youth, but the final one remains most life-like and still stands at his southern California home.
"I thought it was going to take three months. It took two-and-a-half years," Bobby recalls. "It's like fifty feet long and fifty feet wide. I built it for Christopher and Tyler, but obviously it was tremendous therapy for me. I love working with wood and it gave me an opportunity to be around the house a lot. I put thousands of man hours in on it. It gave me a chance to be around the boys while they were growing up. I got to hang out with them. For the longest time, they thought their daddy was a carpenter, which was fine.
"I've got an acre of land and it sits out in one of the pool areas. I don't know if it's an obsession or I've become a slave to it. I have to go out and refurbish it and dust it off because people always want to see it. Everyone says it's marvelous and a one-of-a-kind piece of work. So I guess I'm duty-bound to keep it alive as long as I am."
Once the teen idol days came crashing to a halt, Bobby stayed in semi-retirement, making the obligatory guest shots on such programs as The Mod Squad, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. He had a recurring role on the USA network's Sanchez of Bel Air in the mid-80's. He composed the music for People Magazine on TV and Crimewatch Tonight for CBS and produced the TV movie The Day the Earth Moved, scoring all the music for the film in his home recording studio.
Bobby's entire music catalog has been re-released on CD by K-Tel. He produced a music video for the L.A.P.D. entitled Thin Blue Line and says he is always on the lookout for different television projects. He's gearing up for a possible 1997 summer tour, which he hopes will include his sons in his back-up group.
"It's easy to make money in this business and really hard to keep it," he notes. "I'm not much of a businessman. If I was smart at anything, it was to surround myself with people like Ward. We shook hands and that's been our contract for thirty years. Many people get in control of all that money and don't know what to do with it. They don't invest wisely. The next thing you know, they're bitter. I don't mind that teen idol title because it was my job. I have grown up; I can do other things. Those opportunities availed themselves to me because I didn't have to starve and take something out of need or desperation. I have been very lucky. My fans have made my life wonderful."
Nowadays, the teen idol market is fragmented. There is no longer a Bobby, a David Cassidy or a Donny Osmond, a clear-cut idol offering a sense of community, bringing youth together at an awkward age.
"I think that is kind of bad" Bobby notes. There is a death of innocence. With the Internet, the computers and everything else that is going on, it has shrunk the world to a point that it is so fast. Now, a child is born and goes right to puberty. There is no in-between.
"I see kids nowadays, they don't get excited about things like they used to. They're very blasé. In my era, kids would get excited about things. They would have slumber parties. They exchanged ideas. The Tiger Beats were geared for that audience. Now it goes from cartoons to soaps - from a Romper Room kind of thing to Beverly Hills, 90210. What's in-between? It doesn't seem to exist. It's unfortunate because it's taken away the time that kids have been able to enjoy things - and a time in their lives when it is a little slower and a little less chaotic."
Marivi Wolfe, the owner of Spand-X, an oldies club on Long Island, recruited Bobby for a special appearance at her club and was thrilled to finally meet her long-time idol, who arrived to meet her with a rose in his hand.
Recalling the fervor of the night, she notes, "The audience brought in memorabilia for him to sign. He's very down-to-earth, sincere, and just a really nice guy. He was shaking hands and dancing with the crowd. Everybody loved him!"
He's been out of the spotlight for years, yet continues to attract a loyal following. Dena Hill philosophizes, "People my age, in their mid-to-late thirties, are looking for something real to connect back into, from a time in their lives when all of their youthful idealism was new and fresh."
"We've been let down by so many people we believed in and by dreams we had that we haven't fulfilled. And here's Bobby, someone who has gone on to do good things with his life. Here's a person you can look back at and say, 'Hey, I was right. If I was right about him, then maybe I was right about some other things that I believed in.'
"That is the important message here. Not everything that seemed good has fallen apart."