Andy Kaufman…An Original to Remember

I like original people…Andy was that completely. This post is a little long…for me.

He covered the bases…Mighty Mouse, Foreign Man, wrestling women, Elvis Impersonator (I think the best), Tony Clifton, bongo player, Great Gatsby reader and generally pissing people off, boring them or making them laugh. He was a performance artist – a comedian who sometimes was uncomfortable to watch but great as well. He was not a joke comedian…not remotely close.

I remember seeing him on a clip from the Tonight Show… as the very innocent childlike foreign man talking for a while and doing terrible celebrity impersonations and then suddenly shedding that character like a used coat and did Elvis impersonation…no, he WAS Elvis… I’ve read where Elvis said that Andy was his favorite impersonator but whether that is true or not I don’t know.

His first SNL performance… All he did was to get on stage with a record player playing the “Mighty Mouse” theme and mime along in certain spots. He made it work. He was only doing what he did growing up alone in his room as a child…he translated that to a national audience.

He loved to be the bad guy… At his performances, he would sometimes threaten to read the Great Gatsby…the complete book…just to piss everyone off…He would read a chapter or so and then ask the crowd if they wanted to hear some music from his record player….the audience, thinking of Mighty Mouse would applaud and he then would start playing a record of him reading The Great Gatsby from where he left off right before.

Andy grew up loving wrestling. After he achieved his fame he started to wrestle…wrestle women. I’m sure many people at the time were baffled.

That led to the infamous guest shot on The David Letterman Show with wrestler Jerry Lawler in 1982. Jerry slapped Andy off a chair who had a neck brace on already…at the time people really bought into it. Lawler says he still gets hate mail to this day from people who think he caused Andy’s death. Of course, both planned this and they were friends.

A couple of years before his death he made a film with Fred Blassie… a wrestler Andy admired. He filmed it at a restaurant and called it “Breakfast with Blassie.”

Andy once played Carnegie Hall and took the entire audience out afterward for milk and cookies. Being Andy, some probably didn’t believe it but he had 20 buses waiting outside for them and they all went to have milk and cookies.

He will be remembered best for Taxi and his character Latka Gravas. It amazes me that he was on Taxi…that he was on any normal show…though Taxi was great…It worked out well that they found a place for Andy’s foreign man character…but Andy wasn’t always happy being on the show.

He also had an alter ego character he played called Tony Clifton. Tony was a loud, obnoxious. sleazy lounge singer that would rip the audience. Usually, the person getting ripped was Andy’s writing partner and friend Bob Zmuda. Later on, to really mess with people’s minds…Andy had Bob to play Tony Clifton and they would appear together. “Tony Clifton” even got himself thrown off of the Taxi set.

Some people loved Andy, some hated him, some thought he was irritating and some all three. I just appreciated the fact he was different.

Andy died in 1984…or did he? Bob Zmuda has said that Andy did say he was going to fake his death and said that he actually helped Andy plan it. More people have come forward saying the same thing. Every few years we get an Andy sighting in Albuquerque or somewhere else. No, I don’t believe he did fake it…but hey I would love if he popped up well and alive anytime in the future. The world needs original people. You know he would be loving the rumors about him being alive…if he is alive or not.

REM had a song that was based on Andy called Man on the Moon. It was about questioning everything like the Moon landing, Elvis dying, religion, Andy dying and etc… from REM’s bassist Mike Mills “He’s the perfect ghost to lead you through this tour of questioning things. Did the moon landing really happen? Is Elvis really dead? He was kind of an ephemeral figure at that point so he was the perfect guy to tie all this stuff together as you journey through childhood and touchstones of life.”

In 1999 a movie called Man on the Moon starring Jim Carrey was released about Andy’s life. I went to see it when it came out and enjoyed it. I’m not sure how close Carrey got to Andy’s non-public side because of course, I didn’t know him. Marilu Henner said that he was a warmer person than the movie portrayed and Judd Hirsch said that while not performing, Andy was a very normal, quiet guy but Judd admits he really didn’t know him. I do think Carrey did a good job portraying him.

I like one of a kind people like Andy Kaufman and Keith Moon. Expect the unexpected…it keeps life interesting.

First SNL Appearance

Andy on Letterman

Milk and Cookies

Elvis

REM…Man on the Moon

Home Improvement

Tim Taylor (Tim Allen), Jill Taylor (Patricia Richardson), Al Borland (Richard Karn), Wilson W. Wilson (Earl Hindman), Randy Taylor (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), Mark Taylor (Taran Noah Smith), Brad Taylor (Zachery Ty Bryan), and Heidi Keppert (Debbe Dunning), and Lisa (Pamela Anderson)

This show is not deep nor did it change television like All In The Family or Seinfeld…but it was fun. A lot of fun with Tim, Jill, Al, Wilson, and the kids. Before I started working in IT I had different jobs. When this show was on I was a supervisor in a woodworking shop. Needless to say this was very popular with everyone there. The show ran from 1991 – 1999 with 204 episodes. To my surprise Home Improvement beat Seinfeld in ratings for a few years.

The shows followed a formula…someone, usually Tim, would do something stupid or say the wrong thing. An argument would ensue and then they would go to their neighbor Wilson and he would give them a quote or a story that would go over Tim’s head. The problem would more or less be solved after that.

The formula was an open secret and the writers would often poke fun at it and themselves.

Tim is what some people would call a modern Neanderthal but he had a heart and learned…but not always too well. More power, more power and Tim would blow something up. He was the host of “Tool Time” a fictional cable show about home improvement and tools. Tim would then get into trouble by adding power to the simplest thing (lawn mower which ran at 60 mph, dish washer with a motor that cranked, a vacuum cleaner that sucked up the drapes) and ended up electrocuting himself, gluing himself to a board, falling through a port a potty, and etc.

Home Improvement': Behind-the-Scenes Facts Not Even Superfans Know ...

If Tool Time would have been a real show…I would have watched just to see what trouble Tim would get into next.

Jill was the typical “straight man” character to her goofy husband. She often gave advice to her boys about girls that exemplified how gentlemen should act. She had a sophistication that was totally opposite of her husband. The more she pushed theater and ballet the more Tim would push a Monster truck rally. She was my favorite 90s sitcom mom hands down. She grounded the show and to me was the most important member. She kept it real and believable.

Home Improvement — See the Cast Then and Now

Tim’s ever suffering Tool Time partner was Al Borland who actually had knowledge and knew what he was doing. A bonafide unhip square but a lovable one, who only wanted the best for everyone. He had a much softer side than Tim and talked about his feelings which horrified Tim. He always wore flannel and Tim always made jokes about that and Al’s very large mother. Al was extremely popular with the fictional viewers of Tool Time.

Home Improvement - Albert E. "Al" Borland is a master plumber and ...

Wilson was a peculiar neighbor with very odd habits but was a wise one. The poor guy couldn’t go outside without solving the Taylor’s problems…even the kids came to him for advice. The show played on the gimmick of only showing Wilson from his nose up…or they covered his face entirely if he wasn’t in front of the fence.

The Savage Brothers: 5 Deceivingly Wholesome Sitcom Characters

There were two tool time girls… Heidi and Lisa

Heidi, the lovely assistant from Tool Time on Home Improvement ...Lisa | Home Improvement Wiki | Fandom

All in all I still enjoy watching the show. It still makes me laugh and the show highlighted the problems most couples have…it was Disney so you will not see them face too many serious topics …just everyday problems that we all have…minus some guy blowing things up.

Groucho Marx…August 19, 1977

43 years ago Groucho Marx died on August 19, 1977 and the news of his death was swallowed up by Elvis dying 3 days before. Groucho was 87 years old and still was popular among college kids partly due to a resurgence of the Marx Brothers movies. He was constantly photographed with Rock Stars (Alice Cooper, Queen) and movie stars in the mid-seventies. 

The Marx Brothers remain my favorite comedy team hands down. All of them were talented and Harpo and Groucho in particular never fail to make me laugh.

I’ll leave you with some Groucho Quotes.

He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.

Some people claim that marriage interferes with romance. There’s no doubt about it. Anytime you have a romance, your wife is bound to interfere.

I have nothing but respect for you — and not much of that.

Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him.

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.

A man’s only as old as the woman he feels.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.

I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.

I sent the club a wire stating, PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER.


Death Wish 1974

When I started to watch this movie…I thought it was going to be Charles Bronson randomly mowing down the people in New York City…but it had a purpose and was a pretty good movie.

There was some controversy when this movie was released because of Bronson being a vigilante in the movie. The critics who disliked the film complained that it irresponsibly exploited fear. They also claimed the film gave an exaggerated picture of crime in New York and that it glorified vigilantism… that it endorses violence as a solution to violence.

I enjoyed the film. New York in the mid-seventies makes a great atmosphere…although not a safe one. The movie is brutal but realistic.

On a side note…this movie is Jeff Goldblum’s film debut.

From IMDB

Open-minded architect Paul Kersey returns to New York City from vacationing with his wife, feeling on top of the world. At the office, his cynical coworker gives him the welcome-back with a warning on the rising crime rate. But Paul, a bleeding-heart liberal, thinks of crime as being caused by poverty. However, his coworker’s ranting proves to be more than true when Paul’s wife is killed and his daughter is raped in his own apartment. The police have no reliable leads and his overly sensitive son-in-law only exacerbates Paul’s feeling of hopelessness. He is now facing the reality that the police can’t be everywhere at once. Out of sympathy, his boss gives him an assignment in sunny Arizona where Paul gets a taste of the Old West ideals. He returns to New York with a compromised view on muggers…

 

Night Shift 1982

This is one of the first movies I ever rented. It was one of the few left on a shelf at the video store…remember those? I had never heard of it but it was a good comedy.

This little movie from the early 80s gets forgotten but it a very good comedy. Ron Howard directed this movie about straight-laced morgue attendant Chuck Lumley (Henry Winkler) who gets a wonderfully crazy co-worker Bill Blazejowski (Michael Keaton in his breakout role) who talks Chuck into running a brothel out of the morgue…Chuck and Bill become unlikely pimps (or Love Brokers) after a group of call girl’s pimp gets killed by being dropped out of a window. Chuck falls for one of the prostitutes who is his neighbor named Belinda (Shelley Long).

Henry Winkler plays a character far removed from his Happy Day’s character…the cool Fonz. Henry is very good in this movie and is perfect as the straight man for Michael Keaton.

Micheal Keaton is great in this movie. His timing is perfect and foreshadows some of his comedies such as Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice.

Shelley Long had reservations about playing a call girl but decided to do it…Long, Winkler, and Keaton worked really well together. This was released a few months before she starred in Cheers.

Something to watch for…Kevin Costner makes one of his first big-screen appearance in a nonspeaking role in this movie.

Some quotes:

Chuck Lumley: As we sit here and idly chat, there are woman, female human beings, rolling around in strange beds with strange men, and we are making money from that.

Bill Blazejowski: Is this a great country, or what?

If you get a chance to watch this movie…give it a chance. It even has a 80s music montage.

Image result for Night Shift 1982"Image result for Night Shift 1982"

Image result for Night Shift 1982"

 

 

 

Dan Blocker

I didn’t watch Bonanza as much as Gunsmoke as a kid but I knew this guy. He looked so big on the screen and he seemed like a nice and gentle guy. He played Hoss Cartwright and that was an appropriate name for him. Dan’s other claim to fame was that he was the largest baby ever born in Bowie County (14 lbs.), in the town of DeKalb Texas in 1928. While still in school Dan stood six-foot-three and weighed 300 pounds.

His parents, Ora “Shack” Blocker and Mary Arizona Blocker managed to open up a grocery store after the depression in O’Donnell Texas where a young Dan helped out, carrying groceries to customers’ cars. He football skills earned him a scholarship to Sul Ross State University where he played football and studied English.

He appeared in a play Arsenic and Old Lace and was hooked on acting. He fought in the Korean War, where he served with distinction, earning a Purple Heart, among several other medals, citations and awards.

He got bit parts in television and soon landed the Bonanza role which he would forever be known.

On May 13, 1972, Dan entered a Los Angeles hospital for simple gall bladder surgery. A blood clot in his lung changed everything. Dan Blocker died and left a wife and four children. He was on Bonanza for 13 seasons

Dan was part owner of the successful, once popular chain restaurant, Ponderosa/Bonanza Steakhouse… He also owned a race car.

Image result for dan blocker race car

Ric Ocasek found dead today

Sad news from New York tonight. Ric Ocasek was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Sunday, law enforcement confirmed. Some reports say he was 75 and some say he was 70.

Ric wrote some of the best pop hits of the late seventies and eighties for the Cars. The Cars were a big part of my teenage years.

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Ric-Ocasek-Cars-Singer-Dead-in-NY-at-75-560430391.html

https://pagesix.com/2019/09/15/the-cars-frontman-ric-ocasek-found-dead-in-manhattan-townhouse/

 

Higgins (Benji)

Probably the most famous dog actor in the 60’s and 70’s. The two roles he is best known for were Benji and “The Dog” on Petticoat Junction.

In 1960, animal trainer Frank Inn found Higgins at the Burbank Animal Shelter as a puppy. A fluffy black-and-tan mixed-breed dog, he was marked like a Border Terrier, and Inn believed him to be a mix of Miniature Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, and Schnauzer. He took an immediate liking to Higgins and saw a real potential for acting in him. Higgins ended up being his biggest star.

Frank Inn, also trained Arnold Ziffel (the pig) and all of the other animals used on The Beverly HillbilliesPetticoat JunctionGreen Acres, and The Waltons TV series.

Higgins won a Patsy Award in 1967, and he was cover-featured on an issue of TV Guide magazine. He was really close to Edgar Buchanan who played Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction. They were both in the movie Benji and it would be the last role for each actor.

From 1964-1970 he was in 174 episodes of Petticoat Junction. He also appeared in The Beverly Hillbillies, Village of the Giants, Green Acres, and in the early 1970s appeared in Lassie. In 1971, at the age of 14, Higgins starred in a TV movie with Vincent Price  called “Mooch Goes to Hollywood.” Frank Inn retired Higgins, but in 1974, he brought him out of retirement to star in his greatest role, the loveable dog “Benji.”

Higgins was born December 12, 1957 (per wiki), and sadly passed away November 11, 1975…he was 4 weeks shy of his 18th birthday. Frank Inn had Higgins cremated and wanted his ashes buried with him when he died. Frank died in 2002 but because of changes in the law…Higgins could not be buried with him.

After Higgins passed away his daughter played “Benji” in the next Benji movie in 1977.

 

History of the “The One Take Dog”

 

 

The Eddie Haskell’s of the World

June 7th was Ken Osmond’s birthday and he turned 76 years old. It’s hard to believe Eddie Haskell is that old when he is frozen in time in the never-ending reruns of Leave It To Beaver. There were rumors that Osmond was Alice Cooper. Another rumor was that Ken was Porno Star, John Holmes.

In reality, Ken Osmond joined the LAPD in 1970 and later Osmond retired from the police department in 1988, eight years after being shot by a suspected car thief. Two bullets reportedly hit his bulletproof vest and he was protected from the third bullet by his belt buckle.

Eddie Haskell was one of the great characters of television. Not likable… pretty much the opposite but he was very familiar because we probably all know our own Eddie Haskell.

Eddie was always so nice to adults…Really too nice. The Ward Cleaver character once said…”The boy is unamerican…he is just too nice.” and always tormenting his friends and kids. Eddie was the ultimate two face… all smiles and yeses to authority, but quite the trouble-maker with his peers.

We all probably had an Eddie Haskell in our friendship circles. A guy who was always trying to grow up faster than anyone else. Someone who would give you advice and then criticize you when you took the advice and things went sideways. You stay friends with them because occasionally they will do something decent and you will think… he turned a corner… only to be fooled yet again.

Sometimes I guess we need an Eddie Haskell to blame our troubles on.

Those Who Could Not Escape Their Character.

I’m not saying that these actors and actresses never acted in anything else but they ended up trapped in the role that ended up defining them good or bad. This list could have been much longer.

Bob Denver – Gilligan – I just picked Bob because he was the star of the show but a point could be argued that the entire cast of this show was eternally typecast. Bob Denver also played Maynard Krebs (which I loved) on The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis but Gilligan wins out.

Image result for bob denver

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker – After he auditioned for the title role in 1983 movie Amadeus the director dismissed the idea saying “I don’t want Luke Skywalker in this film.” He has broken a little out of the image by doing voiceovers like the Joker in Batman animated cartoons.

Related image

Carrie Fischer – Princess Leia – Harrison Ford was able to break out more successfully than his other two co-stars in Star Wars. Carrie Fischer acted in a lot of movies but could never shake Princess Leia…she is forever frozen in time in the minds of teenage nerds at the time and now.

Image result for princess leia no bra star wars

Christopher Reeve – Superman – He is said to have stated that he spent his career trying to “escape the cape.”… When I think of Superman…I do think of Christopher Reeve’s version

Image result for christopher reeves superman

George Reeves – Superman – See Above

Image result for george reeves superman

Barbara Eden – Jeannie – She appeared in many TV  movies but nothing topped beautiful Jeannie. Larry Hagman did manage to escape his character in I Dream of Jeannie into another…J.R. Ewing.

Related image

Elizabeth Montgomery – Samantha – Everyone’s favorite witch. Like Eden she did many TV movies…a lot of them really good but is known for Samantha.

Image result for Elizabeth Montgomery - Samantha

Don Adams – Maxwell Smart -Adams also provided the voices for the animated series Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales  and Inspector Gadget but was

Image result for Don Adams - Maxwell Smart

Anthony Perkins – Is Norman Bates and there is no arguing that.

Image result for anthony perkins norman bates

Robert Englund – Freddie Kruger – and I don’t believe he minds at all.

Image result for robert englund freddy krueger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Groucho Marx Quotes

Groucho had the best one-liners than just about anyone else.

“Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”

“I was married by a judge… I should have asked for a jury”

“A man’s only as old as the woman he feels”

“As soon as I get through with you, you’ll have a clear case for divorce and so will my wife

“I married your mother because I wanted children, imagine my disappointment when you came along”

“Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife”

“Women should be obscene not heard”

“Marriage is the chief cause of divorce”

“Marriage is a wonderful institution but who wants to live in an institution?”

“Those are my principles If you don’t like them I have more”

“You’ve got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I’ll bet he was glad to get rid of it ”

“Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?”

“Paying alimony is like feeding hay to a dead horse”

“Remember men, you are fighting for this lady’s honor; which is probably more than she ever did”

“Last night I shot an elephant in my Pajamas and how he got in my pajamas I’ll never know”

“I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty”

 

 

Alias Smith and Jones

This television show only last three seasons from 1971-1973 and from reading the reviews of the day it attracted young viewers because of the young male leads Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. It’s a western comedy about two reformed non-violent bank robbers who are trying to go straight.

The Governor has promised them amnesty if they stay out of trouble for a while but no one can know so, they are still wanted. The episodes are humorous and different from the two big westerns at the time…Gunsmoke and Bonanza. The episodes tended to be uneven though but overall it was a good show.

Pete Duel was going through problems in his life at the time. During the first season, he was driving drunk and pulled into the path of an oncoming car. Two people were injured and one hospitalized. This would haunt him till his death and he would fight a drinking problem to the end.

Pete and Ben are in about every shot of the series. They both worked 12-14 hour days 6-7 days a week. Pete was never happy with the show. He was restless and wanted to do different things. When the second season started he was put on 2-year probation for the accident and lost his drivers license.

One quote from him around this time about being in a TV series was “It’s a big fat drag to any actor with interest in his work. It’s the ultimate trap.” He was very environmentally conscious and often spoke out on issues like pollution.

After being driven home from the set on December 30, 1971, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the early hours of December 31, 1971.

The show continued on with Roger Davis taking over Duel’s character in the series. It lasted only 17 episodes after Duel’s departure.

This is from Wikipedia… it’s a sad commentary

Upon learning of Duel’s death, executive producer Jo Swerling, Jr., initially wanted to end the series, but ABC refused.  Swerling later stated:

ABC said, “No way!” They said, “You have a contract to deliver this show to us, and you will continue to deliver the show as best you can on schedule or we will sue you.” Hearing those words, Universal didn’t hesitate for a second to instruct us to stay in production. We were already a little bit behind the eight ball on airdates. So, we contacted everybody, including Ben (Murphy), and told them to come back in. The entire company was reassembled and back in production by one o’clock that day shooting scenes that did not involve Peter — only 12 hours after his death.

The Intro

Narrator: Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry – the two most successful outlaws in the history of the West. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone. This made our two latter-day Robin Hoods very popular – with everyone but the railroads and the banks.

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: There’s one we thing we gotta get, Heyes.

Hannibal Heyes: What’s that?

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: Out of this business!

Sheriff Lom Trevors: The governor can’t come flat out and give you amnesty now. First you have to prove you deserve it.

Hannibal Heyes: Ah. So all we have to do is just stay out of trouble till the governor figures we deserve amnesty.

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: But in the mean time, we’ll still be wanted.

Sheriff Lom Trevors: Well, that’s true. Till then only you, me and the Governor will know about it. It’ll be our little secret.

Hannibal Heyes: That’s a good deal?

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: I sure wish the governor’d let a few more people in on our secret!

Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House

Steve Stoliar wrote this book about being a student at UCLA and working at Groucho Marx’s house starting in 1974. This book is not about the peak years of The Marx Brothers or Groucho…just the opposite. It’s the decline of Groucho Marx’s health and his eventual death.

Steve was in UCLA heading up a petition to get “Animal Crackers” released again to theaters for which he was successful. The Marx Brothers popularity was on the rise again. Groucho traveled to the campus to help out. Groucho’s PA Erin Fleming eventually hired Steve as a secretary and archivist. Steve worked in Groucho’s house for a little over 3 years. He was a huge fan not only of Groucho but of old Hollywood.

The number of famous people that passed through Groucho’s house was incredible. Old Hollywood stars and also new ones at the time. Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Bud Cort (Harold and Maude), Alice Cooper, Dick Cavett, Woody Allen, Mae West, Queen (they are not in the book though), and many writers from the early days of motion pictures.

The sad part of this story is Erin Flemming (no relation to Harpo’ wife Susan Flemming). She was mentally unstable and both helped Groucho and hurt him. She would scream, berate, and push Groucho to make appearances he had no business doing in his condition. She convinced Groucho that his kids were terrible and she actually tried to get him to adopt her as his daughter. She would fire people for any reason and be very unpredictable.

After Groucho passed on it took years before the court case between Erin and Groucho’s son Arthur Marx to settle. Erin ended up losing and she was in and out of mental hospitals and wandering the LA streets for the rest of her life.

Steve slowly builds a friendship with Groucho and many of the celebrities that passed through the house. Steve didn’t seem to embellish anything in the book. There is only a couple of celebrities he said anything bad about. One was Barbara Streisand.

As a matter of fact, there’s really only one time that I can recall being officially snubbed at Groucho’s house. It was when Elliott Gould arranged for his ex-wife, Barbra Streisand, to come with him one Sunday afternoon along with their young son, Jason. Streisand never made eye contact with me the whole time she was there nor acknowledged my presence in the room even when I was speaking. It was as though I didn’t exist. Others spoke to me and Streisand made comments to the people around me, but to her I was, apparently, invisible.

Groucho had a number of mini-strokes and year by year he worsened. He would have good days and bad ones but he never lost his wit.

Steve was/is a true fan. He relished working there with his hero. Imagine being nineteen years old and working for a celebrity you really admire.

Groucho’s health was fine until around 1972 and he had his first stroke. That is when he started to really age. In the early seventies, he would appear on talk shows with his quick wit and singing songs. After the stroke, you could tell a difference.

Steve was there until the very end and ended up as a television writer and a cartoon voiceover actor.

This is a very interesting book. I will say again that Steve is about a fair as you can get retelling stories. Groucho’s daughters would go on to say that he was very truthful. Some say he was too easy on Erin and some said he was too hard on her… I would say it’s only for Groucho fans but you get a lot of Marx Brothers stories and some information about old Hollywood.

Steve and Groucho

stevegroucho.jpg

Rob Zombie wants to make a movie out of this book. That kind of takes me by surprise…not that a movie could be made…but that Rob Zombie wants to do it.

https://1428elm.com/2018/06/16/waiting-for-groucho-marxs-raised-eyebrows-from-rob-zombie/

As it just so happens, in an interview Zombie mentioned that his favorite book was Raised Eyebrows written by Groucho’s former assistant, Steve Stoliar. It details the last years of the comedian’s life through Stoliar’s eyes.

SteveZombie2.jpg

 

 

Harpo Speaks

I have mentioned this book before but not in detail. It is my favorite autobiography I’ve ever read. He starts off in his childhood in the late 1800s and ends up in the 1960s. I have read this book at least 7-10 times. It’s always my traveling companion on trips just in case I need something else to read. I’ve read books by and about Groucho and others written about the Marx Brothers but this book that Harpo and Rowland Barber wrote tops them all. He doesn’t go through all of the movies by detail but he packed so much living in his life that his life was full enough without much info about the movies.

He was always himself no matter what. The Brothers never would conform to anyone’s standards. He was counterculture before counterculture. Harpo jumped out of the window in 2nd grade and never came back but ended up hanging out with some of the best-known intellectuals of the 20th century and was a member of the Algonquin Round Table but yet he could hardly spell. He frequently stayed at William Randolph Hearst’s super-estate San Simeon. He called himself a professional listener…the only one of the bunch.

He taught himself the harp and played with an unorthodox style. Professional harp players would ask him to show them how he played some of the things he did…

Harpo was a good friend of Alexander Woolcott and Wolcott would invite Harpo and a select few to Neshobe Island in Lake Bomoseen in Vermont that Woolcott owned for the summers to play games and hang out every day. Harpo could make life interesting in the dullest of surroundings. He was friends with Robert Benchley, Salvador Dali, Dorothy Parker, Charles MacArthur, Alice Duer Miller, George Bernard Shaw,  Beatrice Kaufman, and Ruth Gordon.

Wolcott also arranged for Harpo to tour Russia in the 1930s. Harpo actually did a bit of Spy work for the American government at the time…transporting some papers on his leg out of Russia to America.

If you read this just to read about the Marx Brothers movie career…don’t…if you want to know what they went through to get where they did…then yes read it. This book tells what old-time Vaudeville was really like. Not a romantic version of it by some old timers that told their story after they retired. Awful boarding houses, spoiled food, and harassment by promoters.

He never seemed to age in spirit. He kept up with new things and was not stuck in the past.

His son Bill Marx wrote a book later on about his life with Harpo. When the Beatles came out Bill…who studied jazz and played piano, hated them. Harpo told him in 1964 that he better start liking them because their songs would last through time. He said this in 1964 before the Beatles matured. The guy had been around George Gershwin, Oscar Levant, and Irving Berlin. Bill said in 1970 he was playing piano in a club somewhere and what was he playing? Let It Be… “Dad was right.”

Harpo married Susan Flemming when he was 48 in 1936. George Burns asked him in 1948 how many children did he want to adopt? Harpo said “I’d like to adopt as many children as I have windows in my house. So when I leave for work, I want a kid in every window, waving goodbye.”

Harpo was known to wake one of his children up in the middle of the night if he worked late just to play games with them.

They ended up adopting 4 children…below was the house rules for the kids…

  1. Life has been created for you to enjoy, but you won’t enjoy it unless you pay for it with some good, hard work. This is one price that will never be marked down.
  2. You can work at whatever you want to as long as you do it as well as you can and clean up afterwards and you’re at the table at mealtime and in bed at bedtime.
  3. Respect what the others do. Respect Dad’s harp, Mom’s paints, Billy’s piano, Alex’s set of tools, Jimmy’s designs, and Minnie’s menagerie.
  4. If anything makes you sore, come out with it. Maybe the rest of us are itching for a fight, too.
  5. If anything strikes you as funny, out with that, too. Let’s all the rest of us have a laugh.
  6. If you have an impulse to do something that you’re not sure is right, go ahead and do it. Take a chance. Chances are, if you don’t you’ll regret it – unless you break the rules about mealtime and bedtime, in which case you’ll sure as hell regret it.
  7. If it’s a question of whether to do what’s fun or what is supposed to be good for you, and nobody is hurt whichever you do, always do what’s fun.
  8. If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world’s against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of anything crazier to do, do it.
  9. Don’t worry about what other people think. The only person in the world important enough to conform to is yourself.
  10. Anybody who mistreats a pet or breaks a pool cue is docked a months pay.

 

If you are looking for an autobiography…get this book.

Here is a small portion of Chapter 1 of Harpo Speaks!

I’ve played piano in a whorehouse. I’ve smuggled secret papers out of Russia. I’ve spent an evening on the divan with Peggy Hopkins Joyce. I’ve taught a gangster mob how to play Pinchie Winchie. I’ve played croquet with Herbert Bayard Swope while he kept Governor Al Smith waiting on the phone. I’ve gambled with Nick the Greek, sat on the floor with Greta Carbo, sparred with Benny Leonard, horsed around with the Prince of Wales, played Ping-pong with George Gershwin. George Bernard Shaw has asked me for advice. Oscar Levant has played private concerts for me at a buck a throw. I have golfed with Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. I’ve basked on the Riviera with Somerset Maugham and Elsa Maxwell. I’ve been thrown out of the casino at Monte Carlo.
Flush with triumph at the poker table, I’ve challenged Alexander Woollcott to anagrams and Alice Duer Miller to a spelling match. I’ve given lessons to some of the world’s greatest musicians. I’ve been a member of the two most famous Round Tables since the days of King Arthur—sitting with the finest creative minds of the 1920’s at the Algonquin in New York, and with Hollywood’s sharpest professional wits at the Hillcrest.
(Later in the book, some of these activities don’t seem quite so impressive when I tell the full story. Like what I was doing on the divan with Peggy Hopkins Joyce. I was reading the funnies to her.)
The truth is, I had no business doing any of these things. I couldn’t read a note of music. I never finished the second grade. But I was having too much fun to recognize myself as an ignorant upstart.
 
 I can’t remember ever having a bad meal. I’ve eaten in William Randolph Hearst’s baronial dining room at San Simeon, at Voisin’s and the Colony, and the finest restaurants in Paris. But the eating place I remember best, out of the days when I was chronically half starved, is a joint that was called Max’s Busy Bee. At the Busy Bee, a salmon sandwich on rye cost three cents per square foot, and for four cents more you could buy a strawberry shortcake smothered with whipped cream and a glass of lemonade. But the absolutely most delicious food I ever ate was prepared by the most inspired chef I ever knew—my father. My father had to be inspired because he had so little to work with.
I can’t remember ever having a poor night’s sleep. I’ve slept in villas at Cannes and Antibes, at Alexander Woollcott’s island hideaway in Vermont, at the mansions of the Vanderbilts and Otto H. Kahn and in the Gloversville, New York, jail. I’ve slept on pool tables, dressing-room tables, piano tops, bathhouse benches, in rag baskets and harp cases, and four abreast in upper berths. I have known the supreme luxury of snoozing in the July sun, on the lawn, while the string of a flying kite tickled the bottom of my feet.

I can’t remember ever seeing a bad show. I’ve seen everything from Coney Island vaudeville to the Art Theatre in Moscow. If I’m trapped in a theatre and a show starts disappointingly, I have a handy way to avoid watching it. I fall asleep.
My only addictions—and I’ve outgrown them all—have been to pocket billiards, croquet, poker, bridge and black jelly beans. I haven’t smoked for twenty years.

The only woman I’ve ever been in love with is still married to me.

My only Alcohol Problem is that I don’t particularly care for the stuff.

You Can’t Take It With You 1938

I first watched this movie in the 90’s and I still watch it from time to time. Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur had great chemistry on screen. The following year they would be in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”…another great movie. Capra wanted Jean Arthur in It’s a Wonderful Life but she was committed to a Broadway show.

This movie is about a rich man named Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart) who is working reluctantly for his ruthless banker dad. He falls in love with his stenographer Alice (Jean Arthur). The father doesn’t really care but his mother is outraged that he would love someone beneath him. This part of the story you have seen before but it’s when the great Lionel Barrymore who plays Alice’s grandfather Martin Vanderhof enters the movie gets going.

Martin and his family do exactly what they want, his daughter Penny received a typewriter in the mail by mistake and thinks she is a novelist, Alice’s sister dances everytime music is played and a basement full of unemployed older gentlemen who like to invent things…especially firecrackers… It’s a crazy household but they live life and are not bothered by a thing.

This is the opposite of the Kirby family who is uptight, overwhelmed and disgusted by this family…except Tony of course.

The movie is full of off the wall humor and Alice’s family is great. Anyone that comes to the house wants to stay…and sometimes does. The grandfather goes out and finds one person (Mr. Poppins) who invents things but works at a terrible job and Martin invites him to live at the house with his family to be…”a lily of the field” and quit his dreadful job.

Here are some quotes from the meeting

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: How would you like to come over to our house and work on your gadgets?

Poppins: Your house? Well I don’t know, thank you.

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Oh go on, you’ll love it. Everybody at over at our place does just what he wants to do.

Poppins: Really?

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Mmm-hmmmm.

Poppins: That must be wonderful. But how would I live?

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same way we do.

Poppins: The same way? Well, who takes care of you?

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same One that takes care of the lilies of the field, Mr. Poppins, except that we toil a little, spin a little, have a barrel of fun. If you want to, come on over and become a lily too.

This is a screwball comedy and a good one. Lionel Barrymore is magnificent in this. Just a few years later he would play mean Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.

This movie was directed by Frank Capra. Some critics in his day called him “Capra-corn” because of the optimism he showed for the everyday man. I think he was a great director. This is one of his best movies.

It’s a very good movie…any movie with Jimmy Stewart can’t be bad. The comedy holds up today. After the movie, you will want to be a lily of the field.

This movie is based off a play written by the great George Kauffman and Moss Hart.