When Bob McLaren was offered the chance to join a cruise ship band at the end of 1973, he wasn’t expecting more than a few months of fun. “I’d performed on several ships before,” he explains. “I had no plans to go again but then my agent offered me a great gig that I couldn’t turn down.”
In January 1974, the ship docked in Los Angeles, where it picked up DeeDee Zweibel. “I was working as a dancer,” she says. “I was part of a double act with a magician.” Bob, meanwhile, was playing bass guitar and double bass. As soon as he spotted her on stage, sparks began to fly.
“All the other band members used to tease me and say she was out of my league,” Bob recalls. “But I won her over.” They became a couple and, for the next three months, they spent all their time together. “She made me laugh. I felt like we were soulmates at that time.”
DeeDee made plans to move to Scotland, Bob’s home country, where they hoped to find work as a comedy duo. But she soon realised she wasn’t ready for such a big change. “I was worried his feelings might be stronger than mine and I got cold feet about moving across the world and settling down.” She sent him a letter asking him to come to LA instead, but the contact soon fizzled out.
“I was a bit miffed she had changed her mind,” Bob admits. “But I sent her a mixtape, which was my way of saying it was all OK.” For years afterwards, DeeDee would play the New Seekers song Alright My Love from the tape and tell her friends about her adventures with Bob. “We’d had such a great time together.”
Back in LA, DeeDee settled into her career as an actor and dancer, while Bob became a civil servant in the UK. In 1976, he married Helen and they had four children together. Then, after 31 happy years of marriage, Helen died – she had leukaemia. He remarried in 2009 only to be hit by tragedy again. “My second wife, Jo, was diagnosed with cancer just two weeks after our honeymoon. I nursed her through the illness for six years.”
Before her death, the couple had been to counselling together, where Jo expressed her desire for Bob to meet someone else. “She told me to look up old friends and reconnect with people. One of the people she mentioned was DeeDee, because I had such fond memories from my time on the ship all those years ago.”
In October 2016, he took the plunge and sent DeeDee a friend request on Facebook. “I was shocked because I never thought I’d hear from him again,” she recalls. “It didn’t look anything like him, so I didn’t believe it.” But the pair began to chat and things clicked into place. Before long, they were having regular Skype calls, reminiscing about their adventures at sea. “It was so comfortable it just felt uncanny,” says DeeDee. “I’ve never laughed so much with anyone.”
When she invited him to visit LA the following April, she didn’t think it would be more than friendship. “It quickly became clear the chemistry was still there, though. I pounced on him,” she laughs. They now love travelling the world together and going to film screenings when Bob is in LA. “We recently visited Vienna, where DeeDee’s mum was born,” says Bob.
The couple say their personalities complement each other perfectly. “I have a quick temper and he always lets me get it out,” says DeeDee. “He is always so calming and level-headed.” Bob says he loves DeeDee’s sense of humour and caring nature. “Whatever happens, we communicate really well. We’re always able to talk and resolve anything.”
The pair aim to marry this year and Bob is hoping to move to the US. “We’ll go to LA first because I’m still working there as an actress,” says DeeDee. “I’m not ready to give that up yet. If I ever do, we plan to go to live in Florida together.” They both feel lucky to have found each other again after more than four decades apart. “It felt like no time had passed when we met up again,” says Bob. “We just picked up where we left off 43 years earlier.”
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