• Dick Van Dyke was a fan of Laurel and Hardy, and he was eager to visit Mr. Laurel after he (Mr. Van Dyke) had arrived in California. After a year of unsuccessfully trying to get Mr. Laurel’s telephone number, Mr. Van Dyke finally found it—in a telephone book: “Stan Laurel, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica.” Mr. Laurel was truly a nice man: he answered fan mail, and he received visitors in his apartment—Mr. Laurel had his telephone number listed so that his fans could find him.
• Carl Reiner left the series The Dick Van Dyke Show to appear in the feature film The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Taking over his duties as producer were Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. One day, the telephone rang and Mr. Persky answered it. A voice asked, “Is this Carl Reiner?” He answered, “No, but I’m doing the best I can.”
• Jack Benny’s comic persona was cheap. One day, Mr. Benny made a long-distance, person-to-person telephone call to his agent, Milt Josefsberg, but the telephone operator told his agent, “Person to person to Mr. Milt Josefsberg from Mr. Jack Benny, only I don’t think it’s really him because he didn’t call collect.”
• According to Alan Young, one of the good guys of show business was Ted Knight, who starred as Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Mr. Young, of course, played Wilbur Post on the TV sitcom Mr. Ed, which featured a talking horse.) The two actors crossed paths early in Mr. Knight’s career. Mr. Ed used to be driven to the set of his series in a horse trailer that had “Hello, I’m Mr. Ed!” painted on both sides. Often, Mr. Young would be driving to work at the same time and would form a procession with the horse trailer. Of course, other motorists would recognize Mr. Ed and Mr. Young, and they would honk and wave. One day, one of these motorists was Mr. Knight, then a character actor newly arrived in Hollywood, who was driving with his kids in the car. Mr. Knight and the kids waved to Mr. Young, and Mr. Young waved back. In his autobiography, Mr. Ed and Me, Mr. Young writes about later meeting Mr. Knight, “Ted said he felt that the reassuring sight of their TV friends, Wilbur and Ed, driving merrily along made them feel at home and welcome in their surroundings.”
• The lagoon filmed in the TV series Gilligan’s Island was artificial—and after a while the water got funky. One day, the crew of Gilligan’s Island released a live trout in the water—five minutes later, it floated to the surface, dead. Seeing that, Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, said, “If the trout can’t live in that water, I’m not going in it.” The studio executives didn’t want to pay the money to drain and refill the lagoon, so Mr. Denver offered to go in the lagoon if one of the studio executives went in first. The lagoon was drained and refilled.
• Early in his career, Buck Henry, the co-creator (with Mel Brooks) of the TV series Get Smart, appeared on television talk shows as G. Clifford Prout, who argued with a straight face that naked animals were an affront to decency and that we must either start clothing our animals or face moral decay.
• Bill Cosby stood up for the integrity of his sitcom Cosby. His TV son, Theo, had an anti-apartheid sticker on his bedroom door. NBC wanted to remove it, but Mr. Cosby threatened to quit. NBC backed down.
• The comedy team John Sigvard (Ole) Olsen and Harold Ogden (Chic) Johnson were famous in the 1930s and 1940s for their no-holds-barred comedy performances. At the beginning of each performance of Olsen and Johnson’s stage show Hellzapoppin’, a man walked through the audience carrying a small plant and yelling, “Mr. Jones!” Periodically throughout the performance the man would appear walking in the aisles and yelling for Mr. Jones, and each time the man appeared, the plant he was holding was bigger. At the end of the show, when the audience walked through the lobby, they saw the man sitting on a branch of a big tree in the lobby, still yelling, “Mr. Jones!”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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