Teen idol and Time Tunnel star James Darren took his name from a failed 1940s sports car

He fondly recalled being attacked by a mob of teenage girls. "They broke down the plate-glass window and pulled me out on the sidewalk… I loved it!"

Never underestimate the power in a pack of teenage girls. It was the early 1960s, and James Darren was arguably the top teen idol. He was Moondoggie, after all, the main squeeze of Gidget. The beachy sequel Gidget Goes Hawaiian had just come out. Better yet, Darren had a smash hit at the top of the charts, "Goodbye Cruel World," a tale of a heartbroken man who becomes a circus clown. It was a different time.

Anyway, Darren found himself in San Francisco, plugging his pop music on a radio show. A gaggle of girls turned violent. 

"They broke down the plate-glass window and pulled me out on the sidewalk," Darren told the Newhouse News Service in 1983. "They… started to rip my clothes off, screaming all the time. I remember lying there out on the street on my back and looking up at all those faces in the sky."

He was hardly traumatized.

"And know what?" Darren confessed. "I loved it. Loved it!" 

What many of them did not know — and what you might not know — is that "Darren" is not the man's real name. He was born James Ercolani, an Italian-American kid in Philadelphia. He started performing at the age of 12, belting tunes at bar mitzvahs and weddings around Philly. Once he got a little older, he began commuting to New York City on a motorcycle to take acting lessons.

"Ercolani admired a failed car from the '40s and adopted its name," that 1983 newspaper profiled explained.

That car would be the "Darrin," the convertible sports car with the curved doors produced by Packard in the early 1940s. The cool ride was named for its designer, Howard A. "Dutch" Darrin. It might be unfair to call it a "failed" car, as production was stopped due to World War II.

Darren parleyed his teen idol status into television stardom. In 1966, he landed a lead role in The Time Tunnel, a history-hopping sci-fi adventure from Lost in Space creator Irwin Allen. Oddly, it would be his only major TV role for 16 years, until he joined the cast of T.J. Hooker. That is why newspapers were again profiling him in 1983.

So what happened in the gap?

"I got a lot of film offers after Time Tunnel, but they were all things I didn't want to do," he explained. "I hit the nightclubs and never looked back." 

By "hit the nightclubs," he means crooning for the cocktail crowd, singing oldies. "Some of it's time warp stuff, sure," he admitted, in a funny, unconscious reference to his time a TV time traveler. "Why not? That's what people remember. That's why I'm there."

Watch The Time Tunnel on MeTV!

Saturdays 4 AM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Yolonda 38 months ago
I would love to see the Legend Of Jesse James or The Second Hundred Years again.
38 months ago
James Darren's son is a TV journalist and anchor. I'm blanking on his name!
JM4415 Pilaf 38 months ago
Jim Moret
MadMadMadWorld JM4415 10 months ago
Seen frequently on "Inside Edition" tv syndicated news series.
justjeff 38 months ago
"Goodbye Cruel World" reached #3 on the Billboard charts for Darren, in 1961... "Her Royal Majesty" (1962) peaked at number 6... "Conscience" (1962) topped out at #11.. and would you think the title song from "Gidget" way back in 1959 would hit the top 40? Not quite. Colpix 113 only made it as hgh as #41...
cperrynaples 38 months ago
Fun Fact: Darren once marketed spaghetti sauce based on his mother's version!
Carole 38 months ago
Too bad he turned out to be a deadbeat dad!!
EdFillman 38 months ago
I like Time Tunnel. Why don't you air it during the day rather than 3:00 A. M. I'm sleeping at that time.
EdFillman 38 months ago
This comment has been removed.
robert52 EdFillman 38 months ago
In my hometown, the local affiliate airs it at 4:00 A.M. Sunday Morning. I have been left with the choice of setting my alarm clock to catch the show. The promos bill Saturday as Sci-Fi Saturday.
Andybandit 38 months ago
James Darren is a good looking man. I never watched Time Tunnel. I have no clue what Time Tunnel is about.
Andybandit 38 months ago
This comment has been removed.
daDoctah Andybandit 38 months ago
Robert Colbert, his "Time Tunnel" co-star, however, tended to play lunkheads. He made seven appearances on 77 Sunset Strip, a different character each time, all of them either "slow-witted" or out and out morons.
cperrynaples daDoctah 38 months ago
Yes, and he was the OTHER Maverick cousin, chosen simply because he looked like James Garner's twin brother!
Andybandit 38 months ago
This comment has been removed.
justjeff stephaniestavr5 38 months ago
"Quantum Leap" kinda-sorta mimicked "Time Tunnel's" premise...
robert52 daDoctah 38 months ago
Then later he (Robert Colbert) turned up in two episodes of Mannix.
Marianne 38 months ago
I was a HUGE James Darren fan. When I was about 10, my parents took us to Atlantic City Steel Pier to see James Darren in concert. As soon as he stopped singing, my dad made us leave. He said he was going to take us to the back door to maybe see him. Sure enough. Not only did we see him but he actually went on the Ferris Wheel with ME!!! Sat next to ME!!! I was more than excited and couldn't sleep for weeks. He was, and still is, so very handsome and such a gentleman. Even kissed my cheek. Then, if that wasn't enough, my dad was talking to him about the movie he was in, Guns of Navarone, and said, "C'mon James. Lets shoot some guns." They both went to the booth and were shooting together. I'll NEVER forget that awesome day. Even have a pic on the wheel with him. Thanks, Mr. Darren, for being such a wonderful down to earth guy!
LoveMETV22 Marianne 38 months ago
That is so cool. Thank You for the share.
TheDavBow3 38 months ago
Time Tunnel was a fun show. My gosh, whenever they transported to a new time, they would flip, tumble and hit the ground so hard. It's a wonder those stunt men didn't hurt themselves! 😄
RubyO 38 months ago
Thanks for stories about the "MeTV midnight shift". I'm an all nighter and love the shows in the wee hours.
I always liked Time Tunnel - imaginative fantasy. James Darren is still a very handsome man in his 80's. And Robert Colbert was a very versatile actor. Love seeing him in the westerns - Wagon Train, the Virginian, Gunsmoke, etc.
srrainwater 38 months ago
He was good in DS9 as Vic Fontaine.
MrsPhilHarris srrainwater 38 months ago
Sounds like a character in a Godfather movie.
madvincent MrsPhilHarris 38 months ago
Leave those Italian guys alone......lol
srrainwater MrsPhilHarris 38 months ago
There was an episode of DS9 where Vic was threatened by the mob. But you and I know that doesn't happen in real life 😉...............................allegedly
BrittReid 38 months ago
The Guns of Navarone.
texasluva BrittReid 38 months ago
Good movie. I might do the movie quiz with that one in the future.
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 38 months ago
I’ll make a note of that.
texasluva MrsPhilHarris 38 months ago
I can't hide nowhere.
MrsPhilHarris 38 months ago
This comment has been removed.
MrsPhilHarris Wilbur88 38 months ago
🖋 Got one thanks!
daDoctah 38 months ago
Fun fact: Darren played Moondoggie in all three "Gidget" pictures, but a different actress played the title role in each one.
JeffPaul76 daDoctah 38 months ago
Sally Field was Gidget in one of the movies as well as the TV series.
daDoctah JeffPaul76 38 months ago
I don't see the movie you mention listed for her on IMDb. Might it have been one of those things where they edit together several episodes of a series and release the result to theatres?
JeffPaul76 38 months ago
This comment has been removed.
daDoctah stephaniestavr5 38 months ago
First movie, "Gidget", starred Sandra Dee in the title role. First sequel two years later, "Gidget Goes Hawaiian", starred Deborah Walley. Third movie, two years after that, "Gidget Goes to Rome", starred Cindy Carol.

Interesting trivia: the latter two films featured (Miss) Jeff Donnell as Gidget's mother. The character was deceased in the Sally Field TV series. Jeff Donnell played Sally Field's mother-in-law in one episode of her later series "The Girl With Something Extra". And both Field and Donnell played Peter Parker's Aunt May in versions of Spider-Man, Donnell in the 1977 TV series and Field in the 2012/2014 "Amazing" Spider-Man films.
texasluva 38 months ago
Darren and Sandra Dee were on Gidget (1959) last night. Full color and just a fun movie if you are into those old beach movies. After those series I did not see Darren again much until Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which he was a character Vic Fontaine as a hologram Holosuite program the crew used. Also played in Time Tunnel & TJ Hooker series with others along the way.
texasluva 38 months ago
This comment has been removed.
texasluva stephaniestavr5 38 months ago
TCM on Thursday I believe. If you log into the TCM web site they show previous movie for like 10 days after 📽📺🙆‍♂️
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?