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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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George Reeves – Superman – See Above

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.