James Darren achieved his mark on the entertainment world through singing, acting, and producing, taking on varied roles over a long period of time.
He was born James William Ercolani in Philadelphia in 1936. He aspired to be a singer and an actor, first heading to New York City to study acting. In 1955 he moved to Hollywood and began to pursue movie roles. It was the age of the teen idol and Darren somewhat fit that image. He landed a contract with Columbia pictures. He acted in movies such as Rumble On The Docks, Operation Mad Ball, The Brothers Rico, The Guns Of Navarone, and Because They're Young.
Darren's big break came in the 1959 movie Gidget. He played the role of Gidget's boyfriend Moondoggie and sang the title song, which became his first hit song. Other hits followed, including his biggest Goodbye Cruel World, which reached number three in 1961. His other top ten entry, the following year, was Her Royal Majesty. Darren also acted in the sequels to the Gidget movie with Sandra Dee, namely Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes To Rome. Several of his songs were hits in the UK.
Goodbye Cruel World on the Colpix label was the most successful of Darren's five top forty hits. Many people are surprised to learn that the calliope sounds on the record are actually the human voice of Gloria Shayne, who wrote the words and music to the song.
Darren continued in other movie roles and acted in some television series, including Time Tunnel and T. J. Hooker. His final Top Forty song, from the movie Run For Your Wife, was All in 1967. He was the host of a syndicated television series in the 80's that featured profiles of rock music stars.
Beginning in 1987 James Darren turned his attention to directing television programs, which he continues to do to this day. Some the shows on which he has served as director include Hunter, Walker Texas Ranger, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. In 1998 he was tapped to portray singer and hologram Vic Fontaine on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The episode on which he made a guest appearance included his singing four standard tunes. The response was so great that he was made a regular for the 98-99 season. He was also tapped to play Tony Marlin in the last five episodes of Melrose Place which reunited him with TJ Hooker co-star Heather Locklear.
After his appearance on Star Trek, James Darren got back to singing again, making his first live concert appearance in 14 years at the Clairidge in Atlantic City in April, 1999. Darren released his first album in 20 years later that year.
He was a close friend of Frank Sinatra and his family, and is the godfather of Nancy Sinatra's daughter. Darren's son Jim Moret is a reporter with CNN. Darren's career as a rock singer in the 60's was rather brief and unremarkable. He has endured in the entertainment business in different capacities for five decades.
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