Friends mark Darin birthday with Vegas star

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LAS VEGAS -- Friends, fans and his half brother marked what would have been singer Bobby Darin's 71st birthday Monday by dedicating a sidewalk star on the Las Vegas Strip to honor the "Mack the Knife" crooner.

"Bobby never left us," Strip entertainment icon Wayne Newton said of Darin, whose 15-year singing career crossed into pop, folk, rock and country music, and included stints in television and movies. Darin died in December 1973 at age 37 after heart surgery.

"Bobby will never be gone," Newton said.

Darin is the 19th person to be honored with a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars, a group that includes Liberace, Rich Little, Siegfried & Roy, Sammy Davis Jr. and Newton, who received the first star.

The singer know for his "Danke Shoen" rendition said Darin gave him a boost in his early career in Las Vegas and produced early Newton hits.

"I really thought of Bobby Darin as my older brother," said Newton, 65.

Darin, whose early hits included "Dream Lover" and "Splish Splash," became a nightclub fixture in the 1960s in his hometown of New York with songs like "Beyond the Sea" and the theme from "The Threepenny Opera," "Mack the Knife."

His sidewalk star is outside the Flamingo hotel-casino, where Monday's ceremony reunited old friends, including former pianist and conductor Bob Rozario and former bandmates Bill Aiken and Tommy Amato, amid the red velvet curtains and curved booths of the main showroom.

Darin played the Flamingo more often than any other Las Vegas venue, ceremony organizers said, but he also played at the Sands, the Sahara and the Hilton.

Darin's half brother, Gary Walden, 51, of Waretown, N.J., accepted a framed replica of the sidewalk star honoring Darin's "contributions to the world prominence of Las Vegas."

"This wouldn't have happened without a bunch of absolutely devoted fans," Walden said.

The biggest donor to the $15,000 cost of commissioning and installing the star was Darin fan Michael Cembalest, 44, chief investment officer for JP Morgan Private Bank in New York. He said he hoped more listeners would hear Darin's work.

Darin was previously inducted into the Rock and Roll and the Songwriters halls of fame, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His work has drawn new interest since a 2004 filmography starring Kevin Spacey.
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