Category Archives: Celebrities

The Real Rod Serling

Tinseltown Talks

By Nick Thomas

 

It’s been called one of the most influential programs in the history of television drama. “The

Twilight Zone,” an anthology series that aired in the early 1960s, was created by Rod Serling

(1924-1975), a veteran of radio and World War II. Both influenced his career as a writer.

“When he returned from war in the Philippines, he went to college and wrote for the campus

radio station,” daughter Anne Serling recently recalled to me. “He later wrote plays for

commercial radio, then television. He said writing was a way to get the war trauma ‘out of his

gut.’”

 

During the show’s five year run, Serling was executive producer and chief writer, penning more

than half the some 150 episodes. But he is best remembered as the program’s stone-faced host,

whose foreboding narrations introduced the show each week. In biographies after his death, the

master storyteller of chilling sci-fi and fantasy tales was often described as dark and depressed,

inaccuracies that led Anne “to set the record straight” in her own book about her father.

 

“He was described as a tortured soul, but that wasn’t my father at all,” said Anne, who published

As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling in 2013. “Although the war left scars, he was also a

very positive, fun, down to earth person. My friends adored him and any apprehension they had

about meeting him would instantly dissolve because he could make anyone feel at ease. He was

brilliantly funny at home, a great practical joker, and was always at the dinner table each night.”

As a child, Anne had little knowledge of her father’s career. “I knew he was a writer, but didn’t

know what he wrote about until I was about 7. Some mean boy on the school playground asked

if I was ‘something out of the Twilight Zone,’ but I had no idea what that meant because I

wasn’t allowed to watch much TV during the week – my mother’s rule! A few years later, we

watched ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’ together, the episode where William Shatner sees a gremlin

on an airplane wing. I remember looking at my father and thinking ‘this is what you write?’ It

was a bit scary.”

 

Praised for his original fiction writing, Serling was also highly respected for raising social

issues in some episodes although controversial topics were subject to the censors’ whim. So

he frequently concealed his intent in fantasy. “He famously once said he could have aliens say

things that Democrats and Republicans couldn’t,” Anne recalled.

 

Several Twilight Zone actors also shared vivid memories of Serling.

Theodore Bikel is well-known to fans of “My Fair Lady” as Henry Higgins’ rival linguist, the

nosey Zoltan Karpathy. In July, 1960, Austrian born Bikel appeared on a Hollywood TV talk

show, “Caucus with Backus,” and was verbally assailed by fellow guests – glamorous silent film

actress Corinne Griffith and beloved character actor Adolphe Menjou.

 

“We were talking politics and they said I had no right to open my mouth because I wasn’t born

in this country,” recalled Bikel. Appalled, Serling appeared on a later program defending Bikel’s

right to freedom of speech. “I will never forget how Rod came to my defense. I later appeared in

the Twilight Zone episode ‘Four O’Clock,’ in 1962.”

 

Ann Jillian and Mariette Hartley were teenagers when they first met Serling. “I was 13 when I

starred in the episode, ‘Mute,’” Ann recalled. “I was very excited about doing the popular show.

Mr. Serling made me feel at ease and didn’t talk down to me.”

 

And after seeing him on TV, a gutsy 14-year old Mariette Hartley telephoned Serling and asked

him to speak to her Connecticut high school drama club.

 

“He said he would be delighted and I can still see him sitting in the teacher’s desk at the front of

the classroom talking to us,” Mariette said. “Years later, when I started working in Hollywood,

I met him again when his limousine pulled up as I was walking out the studio. He remembered

coming to my class. I told him I was looking for work and within a couple of months he gave me

the wonderful gift of working in ‘The Long Morrow’ episode.”

 

Today, Serling continues to inspire other moviemakers. J.J. Abrams, director of the new Star

Trek films, has called “The Twilight Zone” a big influence on his career and reportedly has

secured the rights to adapt Serling’s last, never-produced script, “The Stops Along the Way.”

Until then, Rod Serling’s work is still available for your viewing pleasure, almost nightly, on

classic TV cable channels …. in The Twilight Zone.

 

Nick Thomas has written features and columns for more than 350 magazines and newspapers.

He can be reached at his blog: http://getnickt.blogspot.com

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Saluting Marvin Kaplan

TINSELTOWN TALKS

By Nick Thomas

 

Half a century ago, the country was embroiled in civil rights conflicts, a war in Asia, and

mourning the loss of a president. When released in the midst of this social turmoil in 1963,

Stanley Kubrick’s “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” must have seemed appropriately titled.

In reality, the film was an epic comedy featuring one of the greatest casts of comedians ever

assembled on film.

 

“There was a pall on the whole country and not a lot to laugh about,” recalled Marvin Kaplan,

who appeared in the movie’s memorable gas station sequence. “With stars like Mickey Rooney,

Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, and Spencer Tracy, the

film soon became a comedy classic.”

 

In the gas station scene, Marvin is paired with Arnold Stang. Their characters, Irwin and Ray,

attempt to subdue a highly agitated Jonathan Winters whose character is competing in the mad

race to locate buried money. When Winters erupts in anger, he reduces the building to rubble.

“Unfortunately, the gas station was destroyed before all the close-up scenes were filmed,”

Marvin recalled. “It had to be rebuilt overnight – a mistake that cost $100,000!”

 

The film, which took two years to make and was shot in thirty California locations, had its world

premiere at the new Cinerama Dome in Hollywood which was completed just days before the

movie’s first showing.

 

While filming his scenes, Marvin was pleased to share quarters with Winters who had one of

the few air-conditioned trailers on the set – a blessing in the 107 degree California desert. He

also recalls experiencing firsthand Winters’ brilliance at improvisation and mastery of madcap

mimicry and mime. “We would play a game in the trailer called ‘Who are you today, Jonathan?’

He would go on for 45 minutes making up characters while we waited to shoot the next scene.

I’ve worked with two comedy geniuses in my life and one was Jonathan Winters.”

The other was Charlie Chaplin.

 

In 1948, a youthful Marvin Kaplan was stage manager for a play called “Rain” at the Circle

Theater in Los Angeles. Chaplin was the director. “He was so graceful and walked like a ballet

dancer. One time he did a handstand on a table – he was around 60 at the time! And during the

shows, he couldn’t sit in the audience and watch because he was too hyper. So he’d walk around

the theater with a handkerchief in his mouth, but all the audience was watching him!”

 

Kaplan also recalls performing one Christmas in a play, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,”

with Chaplin in the audience. “I was in dark Egyptian makeup with my glasses removed.

During the show I was supposed to hold up cards, but couldn’t see a thing, so they were all the

wrong way. It was really messed up. Chaplin came backstage after the performance to see the

cast and Sydney, his son who was in the show. We asked him how he liked it: ‘Sydney was

good,’ he said. ‘The monkey was good, too. But that nearsighted Nubian slave really cracked me

up.’ It was one the greatest compliments I ever got!”

 

Since the 1950s, Marvin has appeared in numerous films and TV shows, and was a regular

cast member on the 80s sitcom, “Alice.” With his distinctive Brooklyn-flavored accent, he also

worked as a voice actor, notably in the popular “Top Cat” cartoon from the early 1960s where

he voiced Choo-Choo. “People tell me all the time they named their cat Choo-Choo after that

character!”

 

In recent years, Marvin, who turns 87 in January, has concentrated on writing and producing,

including the plays “A Good House for a Killing” and “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife” (see

www.marvinkaplan.com) and is especially interested in working with veteran actors.

“I also executive produced and wrote the screenplay for ‘Watch out for Slick,’ which was in nine

film festivals and won several awards,” said Marvin. “The average age of the cast was 70 and

one was 98 at the time. It’s a myth that actors over a certain age can’t memorize lines. We did

one-takes mostly, and they came prepared and on time – none of the nonsense or tantrums we see

from some young stars today!”

 

In addition to writing and producing, Marvin still acts. “The great thing about growing old is that

I can do whatever projects I want. I have to keep busy.”

 

Nick Thomas has written features and columns for over 330 magazines and newspapers and is

author of “Raised by the Stars,” published by McFarland. He can be reached at his blog: http://

getnickt.blogspot.com

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Elly May Offers up Some Vittles

TINSELTOWN TALKS

By Nick Thomas

 

If ever an actor was recognized by one career role, it was Donna Douglas with her portrayal

of ‘Elly May’ in the highly popular CBS 60s comedy, The Beverly Hillbillies. In the four

decades since the series ended its nine season run in 1971, the drop-dead gorgeous blonde native

of Pride, La, is still strongly identified with the show wherever she goes.

 

Rather than distancing herself from the connection to the Jed, Granny, Jethro and the Clampett

clam, Donna has embraced her sitcom heritage and stills makes public appearances as a real-life

Southern belle.

 

“Elly was a slice out of my life,” says Donna, whose new web site

(donnadouglasofficialwebsite.com) was launched in September. “I was raised a Tom boy, with

one older brother and all male cousins. So I grew up swinging from vines and playing softball.

I was getting ready for Jethro long before we ever met! I still adore Elly and we have a lot in

common, with the same interests and values.”

 

After the Hillbillies ended, Donna was offered many roles, but accepted just a handful which she

felt wouldn’t comprise her standards. “I’ve got no regrets about anything I turned down. I sold

real estate for a while, made a couple of record albums, and speak at churches, ladies groups, and

schools around the country. My days are full and I’m very happy!”

 

This year, she also published a nostalgic cookbook, “Southern Favorites with a Taste of

Hollywood,” a collection of recipes gathered over the years, many from friends including Debbie

Reynolds, Buddy Ebsen, Phyllis Diller, and Valerie Harper.

 

“The cookbook came about as a way to share my favorite recipes,” said Donna, who recalls

home cooked meals prepared in the rich, Southern tradition that many will also remember from

their childhood.

 

“Homemade dishes are almost unheard of today,” she lamented. “They’re all premade in a box

or from a drive-thru. That’s today’s way. But there was something about the way your mom made

dishes with a special touch – with a bit of this and a pinch of that.”

 

Although her own mother never used Granny’s “possum fat,” her childhood meals weren’t

exactly lean. “Lard and bacon grease, especially in the South, were cooking essentials!”

Interspersed between the book’s recipes, are delightful personal anecdotes from her Hollywood

days. “I thought fans would enjoy a few remembrances from my life, along with some photos

from my scrapbook.”

 

In an effort to remind readers of the long lost art of good manners, there’s also a quaint section

called Hollywood Social Graces. Advice includes never using your fork as a toothpick, chewing

gum in someone else’s home, or answering a cell phone while a dinner guest. “Etiquette was

taught in the South, but I’m afraid it’s a thing of the past now. Social graces are lacking all

around us, people are rushing all the time, and no one sits and visits any longer.”

 

Not a big fan of today’s television programming, Donna says she likes to watch the classics in

reruns, such as “Touched by an Angel” as well as the occasional Hillbillies episode which brings

back memories. “Elly May not have kissed many fellows during the show’s run, but she sure

did kiss a heap of animals. Somewhere around 500 were used during the series, provided by

Hollywood animal trainer Frank Inn.”

 

Today, she shows little sign of slowing down. “I seldom really rest,” admits Donna, who turned

80 in September. “I travel all over the US and Canada and have a very busy schedule. But I have

to turn down a lot of requests. I also garden, spend time with family and friends, and still get

quite a bit of fan mail. My days are full and then some, so I’m always playing catch-up. Life has

been very good to me, and full of blessings for a little backwoods girl from Louisiana who never

had any thoughts of a career in showbiz.”

 

Thomas’ features and columns have appeared in more than 320 magazines and newspapers. He

can be reached at his blog: http://getnickt.blogspot.com

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Tinseltown Talks

Stuart Whitman: A Class Actor

By Nick Thomas

 

You won’t see Stuart Whitman’s name listed in the closing credits for the 1951 sci-fi classic,

“The Day the Earth Stood Still.” But he’s there, if only for a few seconds, in an uncredited role

as one of the sentries guarding the alien spaceship.

 

Such was the humble beginning of many young actors in the 50s, appearing anonymously in

bit parts hoping ultimately to be “discovered.” It took about a decade, but critics and audiences

eventually noticed the handsome, dark-haired Whitman.

 

While waiting for that big break, young Stuart bought and hired out a bulldozer, to help pay the

bills. But it wasn’t an entirely odd employment choice. “My dad was a real estate developer, and

I helped him out before I was put under contract with Universal Studios,” he told me during a

June interview.

 

His patience and perseverance paid off with a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance

in the 1961 film, “The Mark.” Shot in Ireland with co-star Rod Steiger, it was a controversial

film for the time, with Whitman playing a recovering sex offender.

 

“I didn’t see the script until I got to my hotel room in London,” he said. “My first thoughts

were ‘I can’t do this’ and tried to think of an excuse to get out of it. Later, I got a call from

Steiger who wanted to meet and rehearse at his place. We worked our way through and it turned

out fine.”

 

After the film’s release he says coworkers told him “Stuart, you’re going to get an Oscar, or

at least nominated.” They were partly correct. “I was living in North Hollywood and heard the

nomination on the radio while driving. I was shocked and almost crashed the car!”

 

But he didn’t win. Quite likely, the film’s sensitive theme turned off some Academy voters.

He was also up against stiff competition that year including Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman, and

Charles Boyer. The award went to Maximilian Schell in “Judgment at Nuremberg.” Ironically,

Schell’s sister, Maria, was Whitman’s co-star in “The Mark.”

 

“Maria told me she didn’t know who to vote for that year!” he recalled.

 

Whitman’s charm and charisma made him a natural for western roles including the short-lived

but popular TV series, “The Cimarron Strip” in 1967, and films such as “The Comancheros” co-
starring with John Wayne in 1961.

 

“Director Michael Curtiz wanted me for the part of Paul Regret in the film, but said it had

already been cast. He suggested I go talk to Wayne,” said Whitman. “I found him on the

Paramount lot coming out of his trailer. I’d never met him before, but walked right up to him and

spent 20 minutes pitching for the part. Finally he said ‘Okay kid, you’ve got it.’ That’s the kind

of power John Wayne had. Duke loved to play chess between scenes and we had many games.

His strategy was strange because he would give up major pieces just to save his pawns!”

 

Whitman’s most well-known film is probably “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying

Machines” in 1965. “That was the first big money I made in a movie – $300,000,” he said.

Money, however, was never an issue for much of his later career. From his humble bulldozing

beginnings, Whitman went on to make millions from real estate investments. “I didn’t need to

act to make a living, but had a real passion for it – I just loved to act.”

 

After some 200 film and TV roles, Whitman, now 85, retired to his 30-acre ranch in Santa

Barbara. “I’ve lived there for 45 years, in between the mountains and the ocean. It’s a beautiful

spot.”

In 2006, he married his third wife, Julia, a Russian. The two met when Whitman traveled to St.

Petersburg to be best man at a friends’ wedding. “After returning to the US, I got a phone call

from her saying she was in Pasadena and could we meet. I’m sure glad I said ‘absolutely!’”

 

Thomas’ features and columns have appeared in more than 320 magazines and newspapers. He

can be reached at his blog: http://getnickt.blogspot.com

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Happy Birthday Rose Marie

By Nick Thomas

 

Best known for her role as Sally Rogers in the 60’s CBS sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rose

Marie turns 90 in August. “I don’t feel it,” she admitted when I spoke with her recently. “I feel

 

60, and still keep busy.”

In the past year, that included voiceover work for The Garfield Show on the Cartoon Network. “I

love it. You don’t have to dress up or put on makeup. All you have to do is show up! Although I

can do many different voices, the producer wanted my voice so people would know ‘that’s Rose

Marie.’”

 

Audiences have known Rose Marie for nine decades, since she began performing at an age

when most children would still be potty training. Her phenomenal singing voice as a child (see

www.missrosemarie.com) rocketed her to fame overnight.

 

“I have no idea where that voice came from, I think God just gave me a wonderful gift,” she said.

“When I was three, I won an amateur contest, and my family took me to Atlantic City. We saw

a showgirl named Evelyn Nesbit perform and I started singing along. She invited me up on stage

to sing with her, then people began throwing money.”

 

Backstage, Nesbit suggested changing her name to Baby Rose Marie and her career soon took

off. “I had my own radio show coast to coast on NBC when I was five.”

 

But there were also doubters. “Unlike other child singers, I sang adult songs with adult phrasing

and mannerisms. People would write to the station in disbelief saying that no child could sing

like that and I must have been a midget. So NBC sent me out to play theaters to prove I was a

child.”

 

As her fame grew, the famous wanted to meet her. President Franklin Roosevelt invited her to

the White House when she was just six. “After I sang for him, we played tiddlywinks with some

poker chips I found in his office.”

 

She caught the attention of the infamous, too. While working with Milton Berle in Chicago, a

visitor came backstage. “It was Al Capone and he wanted to invite me to dinner! He picked me

up the next day and we went out to eat with all the mob.”

 

Years later as a young adult, she was invited to perform at the opening of the Flamingo Hotel, in

Las Vegas, in 1946, along with Jimmy Durante, bandleader Xavier Cugat and other stars of the

day. The invitation came from notorious mobster and hotel owner, Bugsy Siegel. “We became

friends and he was very good to me. I just didn’t think of those guys as gangsters.”

 

At age ten, Rose Marie met Morey Amsterdam, who would become an important influence

in her career and later her co-star on The Dick Van Dyke Show. “He was a popular writer for

comedians like Fanny Brice and Fred Allen and become a comic himself,” she recalled. “We

met when I guest starred on a radio program. He also wrote most of my nightclub material and

become a life-long friend. I actually got him the Dick Van Dyke Show job.”

 

As for Dick Van Dyke, she says it was a joy to work with someone so talented, and has only

fond memories of Dick and the cast. “We were a close group and genuinely liked working

together. Everyone came to work happy, and oh did we laugh!”

 

Speaking from his Malibu home, Dick Van Dyke recalled meeting Rose Marie for the first time.

“I knew she had been in show business since she was three, but never met her until the first

reading of the script,” he said. “She just knocked me over. She probably had the most razor sharp

sense of timing of anybody I ever worked with. She was a delight and still is.”

 

Thomas’ features and columns have appeared in more than 300 magazines and newspapers, and

he is the author of Raised by the Stars, published by McFarland. He can be reached at his blog:

http://getnickt.blogspot.com

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Mike Connors Will Always Be Our Joe Mannix

By George Khoury

 

Mike Connors has the Midas touch. His Karma must be strong and active-things just fell into place for

Mike. Born Krekor Ohanian in 1925 to Armenian parents, Mike was raised in Fresno, California. A star

basketball player in high school, he was nicknamed, “Touch.”

 

When World War II began, Mike joined the Air Force. When the war ended Mike knew he had to

develop a career so he was awarded a basketball scholarship and went to study at the University of

California. Mike played under legendary coach John Wooden. It was because of the unique expressions

he made when he got the ball that caught the attention of famous director William Wellman. Wellman,

a two-fisted and hard drinking director from the old school, took a liking to Mike and suggested that he

try dramatics and pursue acting.

 

Under the name “Touch Connors,” Mike appeared on a local Los Angeles show, “Jukebox Jury.” Young

actors starting in the business would sit at a table and rate records. It was an early American Bandstand

without the dancing.

 

In 1953 Wellman put Mike in a film-“Island in the Sky” with a star-filled cast. By staying on the set and

watching Wellman work with such stars as John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr., Lloyd Nolan, James Arness,

Andy Devine, Bob Steele, Fess Parker and the popular Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer Mike got the best education

possible.

 

His next film was a hard-hitting adventure film “Swamp Women.” It was an early Roger Corman movie.

Shot in the swamps of Louisiana its poster claimed “Flaming Passion and Weird Adventure.” Eventually

Krekor Ohanion became Mike Connors since there was an actor named George O’Hanlon.

Mike had the good luck to appear in another Corman film, “The Day the World Ended” in 1955. It was

a typical 1950s horror flick with mutant monsters brought to life because of nuclear testing. Mike was

eager to branch out so in 1957, he raised almost $150,000 from friends to make “Flesh and the Spur.”

Mike was the Executive Producer. The film starred John Agar and Marla English. The box office numbers

are unavailable.

 

Would you believe that Mike appeared as a herder in the Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic with Charlton

Heston- “The Ten Commandments.” “I always thought that Heston was stuffy and above it all,” Mike

said recently in an exclusive Senior Scene Magazine interview. During the 1950’s Mike appeared in

most every dramatic show on television. He played cowboys, newspapermen, lawyers, submarine

commanders as well as comedy.

 

In 1959 he starred in his own series, “Tightrope.” It was a crime adventure series that lasted one year.

It got Mike noticed. Lucille Ball and her husband Gary Morton had the perfect vehicle. It was a series

featuring an anti-hero detective-Joe Mannix.

 

Mannix was developed in the Sam Spade, and Phillip Marlowe mold. Not slick and urbane like a Nick

Charles. Not philosophical like a Charlie Chan and certainly not as cerebral as Sherlock Holmes. Mannix

could take a punch… as a matter of fact in every episode he took many. During the run of the series

(1967-1975) he shot and wounded 12 times, knocked unconscious over 55 times. Maybe it was his loud

checkered sports jackets that offended thugs. It was a unique show in many aspects. The opening credits

were split screened with an offbeat type face. He also drove souped up cars. I can still hear the squeal of

the tires as Mannix tries to elude hoods in an underground parking lot. His assistant was played by Gail

Fisher-a Black actress. There was always hip banter between them, maybe slightly suggestive.

He used his skills in comedy to co-star with Lucy in an episode of Here’s Lucy entitled, “Lucy and Mannix

Held Hostage.” Mike was nominated for 4 Golden Globes and 4 Emmy Awards while Gail was nominated

for 4 Emmys 3 Golden Globes-she won two.

 

In our interview Mike had nothing but positive words for John Wayne, James Gardner, Ward Bond,

Loretta Young as well as Lucille Ball. “Lucy knew lighting and production like a union pro. She fought to

keep the series going after the first year. Her production company produced the show.”

“I live a quiet life with my wife of 64 years. I golf, play tennis and enjoy the grandchildren. I just did a

“Two and a Half Men” shot. I golf with Tim Conway, Bob Newhart and Bob Wagner regularly. I am still

recognized by fans. My life in California is wonderful. Tell my fans I am happy and healthy.”

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Groucho Marx: Remembering an American Classic

By George Khoury

This month we honor the birth of an American original- Groucho (Julius) Marx.
In 13 feature films, he and his brothers, Harpo and Chico brought a sense of mayhem, madness, irreverence and a strong sense of the absurdities of life as our country suffered under the Depression.

Who could ever forget the stooped posture, the cigar jutting from the mouth, the greasepaint mustache and eyebrows, the glasses and the quick-witted wisecracks?

The Marx family grew up in a section of Manhattan populated by Europeans. Mother Minnie’s brother was Al Schoenberg, who morphed into Al Shean. Shean was half of the famous vaudeville team Shean and Gallagher. The brothers loved and respected Al. They sought his opinion on matters about their future.

Mother Minnie pushed the boys toward show business careers. The eldest, Leonard (Chico) was encouraged to play the piano, Julius was discovered to have a pleasing soprano voice. His goal was to become a doctor but to help the family he dropped out of school when he was twelve. Even though he lacked a formal education, Groucho learned to become a voracious reader.

By 1909 Minnie grouped the boys together as a low-quality singing group. The group included Groucho, brother Milton (Gummo), brother Adolph known as Harpo and another boy from the neighborhood.. The boys played the vaudeville circuit across the country.

It happened in Nacogdoches, Texas on a sweaty night years before air-conditioning. The boys were performing and the audience was a bit uncooperative-they were rude, unruly and on the dangerous side. The boys started cracking jokes among themselves on stage and the audience responded. The group now switched on stage from a singing group to a comedy troupe. They “borrowed” an existing comedy skit, “School Days” and now called it, “Fun in Hi Skule”. This bootlegged skit would provide their bread and butter for the next seven years.

While cutting their show business teeth in vaudeville, the brothers often performed with fake accents. Leonard, the oldest developed his Chico voice to convince a gang he wasn’t Jewish but Italian. Young Groucho developed a wonderful German accent that had to be stopped because a German U-boat sank the Lusitaania. The German character was quickly and repeatedly booed off the stage. This was a stroke of great fortune. Scrambling for a character, Groucho evolved into the stooped and wisecracking image we still love today.

As their popularity grew they next invaded Broadway and struck gold with three hit plays. By the time the Marx’s hit Hollywood, they were already major stars. Their first film was a silent comedy made in 1921 and never released. Tem years later they adapted their Broadway plays to film such as The Coconuts and Animal Crackers. In all Groucho made 26 movies, 1includimg the 13 with his brothers. When the film career
came to a halt, Groucho was asked to host a radio quiz show, You Bet Your Life. By 1950, it was brought to television. Although it seemed that Groucho was ad-libbing his way through the show, much of it was later revealed to have been scripted.

Songs Groucho introduced as still sung today-”Hooray for Captain Spaulding”, “Hello, I Must Be Going”, “Whatever it is, I’m Against,” and, “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” The greasepaint mustache and eyebrows were born one night in vaudeville when Groucho didn’t have time to put on pasted ones.

His three marriages ended in divorce. He once described the perfect woman as “someone who looks like Marilyn Monroe and talks like George S. Kaufman.”

Despite not having a formal education Groucho carried on correspondence with most of the major figures of his day. The letters are housed in the Library of Congress and are included in his books. In the 1960s he experienced a rebirth. The films were on television and he became a hot guest on the variety shows. He was a favorite with Johnny Carson, Jack Paar, Dick Cavett, Steve Allen and Merv Griffin.

By the 1970s he started to fail. He died at age 84 on April 21, 1977 in Palm Springs, California. His death, some believe, was overshadowed by the death of Elvis three days earlier.

To this day Groucho impersonators are found in Vegas and cruise lines entertaining another generation with his style and wisdom.

Many years ago I took an assignment to interview Marvin Hamlisch because I knew he was a close friend of Groucho’s. When the interview was over Marvin thanked me. I asked if he would honor me by giving Groucho my address for a signed photo. He agreed. Weeks turned into months until one day a 9X 12 brown envelope arrived. Inside was a photo of all the brothers with Groucho’s inscription, “To George, You Bet Your Life. Groucho.” To this day it is one of my most cherished keepsake.
Hooray for Captain Spaulding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some of the most famous Groucho Comments

Alimony is like buying hay for a dead horse.

Are you going to believe me or what you see with your own eyes?

Why was I with her? She reminds me of you. In fact, she reminds me more of you than you do!

A man is 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.

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John Garfield

“If I hadn’t become an actor, I might have become Public Enemy Number One.” A revealing comment from the man born Jacob Jules Garfinkle. Filmgoers knew him by his stage name-John Garfield.

Born March 4, 1913 in a small apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Russian immigrants David and Hannah Garfinkle. Growing up his friends called him “Julie,” not meaning any disrespect. His father, although a hardworking man struggled to support his growing family. When his wife died as a result of a difficult pregnancy, David’s two sons we sent to family members scattered around New York City.

Wherever the two young brothers went they faced poverty. Young Julie spent more time on the tough New York streets than in school. His ability to read and perform in school suffered since he was chronic truant. He once said that he learned all “the meanness it’s possible for kids to acquire,” while surviving on the streets. It would be a natural extension for him to learn boxing. He soon started earning a few dollars as a sparring partner at local gyms. He soon developed a reputation as a kid who would bring his personal frustrations into the ring and punish whoever climbed into the ring for a workout. To Garfield, there was no such thing as soft boxing; he fought with a fire and passion.

After being removed from school three times he was sent to a special school for “difficult youngsters.” This was the best thing to happen to Garfield. He came under the guidance of the principal, Angelo Patri who introduced the young man to the art of acting.

Patri noticed a stammer in John’s speech and had him assigned to a speech therapy class where his teacher had him memorize lines and recite them before his classmates. John worked hard and soon he was cast in school plays. His teacher encouraged him to enter a citywide debating contest for students. John took second place. John was amazed at the love and admiration he received for his achievements. A whole new world opened to him.

His teachers urged him to take acting classes after school. He balanced his schoolwork with his acting classes. When he wasn’t acting, he volunteered building sets, auditing rehearsals and becoming involved in any shape possible. It wasn’t long before he petitioned acting groups to let him participate in productions. He got his break when
a Clifford Odets play, “Waiting for Lefty” hired to him to play a brooding young man.

John received positive reviews and thought that Broadway was to become his new home. This was not to happen. Promises made, promises broken.

John heard the call to Hollywood when Warner Brothers offered him a featured player contract for seven years. The first thing Warner did was change his name to John Garfield.

In 1938, his portrayal as a tragic composer in “Four Daughter” and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Quickly Warners realizing what they had, renegotiated his contract-now he was one their Star Players for seven years.

John tried to enlist in the service and join the fighting in World War II. He was rejected because of a heart condition. Eager to do all he could, he and Bette Davis organized the famous Hollywood Canteen. He went overseas to entertain troops, made promotional films encouraging the purchase of war bonds. He also made such patriotic films as “Air Force,” “Destination Tokyo,” and “Pride of the Marines.”

After the war, he continued to make well received films- “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” and “Humoresque” The production company he founded tackled the issue of anti-Semitism with the 1947 film, “A Gentleman’s Agreement.” In 1948, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in “Body and Soul.”

When his contract with Warner Brothers expired he elected not to resign and instead focused on developing scripts and films for his own company.

A supporter of liberal causes, he was involved in the Communist investigations of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and asked to name members of any organization he was connected with. Garfield refused to list any names and this damaged him personally and professionally. “I have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. My life is an open book. I am no Red. I am no Pink. I am no fellow traveller. I am a Democrat by politics, a liberal by inclination, and a loyal citizen of this country by every act of my life.” Garfield became blacklisted. He could not find work in Hollywood since he was too hot to handle.

Needing work, he returned to his love of Broadway and starred in a 1952 revival of “Golden Boy.”

On the morning of May 21, John Garfield was found dead in the apartment of a friend. The cause was linked to his long standing heart problem. Others believed it was as a result of the blacklisting.

Long before there was a James Dean or a Marlon Brando, or Pacino or DeNiro, John set the pattern of the brooding dynamic rebel.

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Bob Hope and his Famous Christmas Shows-Giving So Much More than Entertainment

By George Khoury

It is an empty world without Bob Hope in it. A success in vaudeville, radio, Broadway, films, live shows and television Bob was actually British-born but his photo is next to the dictionary definition for “patriotic American.”

By 1908 the family had moved to Cleveland, Ohio and in 1920 he became a U.S. citizen. Knocking the entertainment circuit with various partners, he developed a smooth song and dance and comedy routine. Friends told him that he was funnier than any partner he had so Bob went dropped all other partners.

From 1934 until 1936 Bob made comedies for fledgling film companies in New York. In 1938 Bob signed with Paramount and took a part in The Big Broadcast of 1938 which starred W.C. Fields. Bob starred in fifty-two films between 1938 and 1972. But is is his wartime entertainment shows that have long endeared him to our hearts. Hope first show during a war took place in September 1939 while onboard the RMS Queen Mary. He went to the captain and asked to be allowed to calm down nervous who had wartime jitters.

His first USO show occurred May 6, 1941 at March Field in California. He traveled the world entertaining troop from World War II, Korean War, to the Vietnam War and then the Lebanon Civil War, The Iran and Iraq war and the Persian Gul War. His service lasted fifty years and earned him awards and the undying love of all Americans. During WW II, John Steinbeck was a war correspondent. He observed in 1941: “This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people.”

During WW II, Bob went overseas six times and logged in over a million miles. Hope was one of the earliest entertainers to want to go to Vietnam. At 61 years old he got his wish. He brought his show to the war in December 1964. The best way to appreciate Hope and those from the shows is to hear from former GIs.

“In 1969 I had just returned to Cu Chi base from an extended stay in the hospital. I had good timing, the Bob Hop show was in camp. Tht show did me a lot of good, and for a while there was no war. A very brave man, that Bob Hope. He is greatly missed, but also fondly remembered.”

“I attended the ’67 show at Cam Ranh Bay. Sat so far back, it was hard to see, but that didn’t matter, 43 years later, I was closer, thanks to You Tube. They don’t make ‘em like ol’ Ski Nose anymore. RIP, Bob. Vets don’t forget.”

“I was at Cam Ranh Bay also in ’67 at the show. Do you remember when they sang, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” There was not a dry eye. Take care. God bless and glad you made it home.”

“I will always have tears in my eyes when I remember singing, “Silent Night.’ I will always be grateful for what they brought and the courage it took for them to do it. He had our back.”

During his last filmed show televised Vietnam Christmas in 1972. Hope read a voice over narration as the footage showed the crowds at his Long Bihn show. Then the shots shifted to the way it currently looked-overgrown with weeds and empty. “Well this is how it looks now… this is how it should be…all those happy, smiling beautiful faces are gone. But most of them are really where they belong, home with their loved ones.”

Bob Hope went to his final curtain call July 27, 2001. His lovely partner and wife, Dolores followed in 2003.

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Elizabeth Taylor: Always a Participant in all Life Offers

By George Khoury

Even in death she is bigger than life. Although gone since March 23 of this year, the recent auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection brought over $156 million in sales at Christie’s New York from December 3-17.

The auction and sale brought many achievements:

It was the most valuable sale of jewelry in auction history

It was the most valuable collection of fashion ever sold at auction

It was Christie’s first “Online-Only auction which ran parallel to the live one.

The Online-Only auction took in $9.5 million alone

Six items sold for more than $5 million

The opening night jewelry sale alone set seven world records

The famous Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (also known as the diamond given to Ms. Taylor by Richard Burton) sold for $8.8 million or about $265.697 per carat.

Ms. Taylor’s auction drew bidders from 36 different countries and contained over 1778 lots of jewelry, fashion, and film collectibles. Items were bought at five to fifty times their estimated value.

Chris Wilding, Taylor’s son and member of the Elizabeth Taylor Trust said, according to Forbes, “My mother always acknowledged that she was merely the temporary custodian of the incredible things she owned. Today I think she would be happy to know her collections will continue to enrich the lives of those who have acquired pieces. My family is proud that our mother’s legacy as a celebrated actress, tireless AIDS activist, and accomplished businesswoman, touched so many people’s lives that they wanted to have a part of it for themselves.”

All of the proceeds went to the Elizabeth Taylor Trust with a focus on her AIDS research foundation.

It was estimated that 58,000 visitors saw the collection since September when Christie’s began an 8-city world-wide tour that extended into Moscow, Los Angeles, Dubai, Paris, Geneva and Hong Kong. The event culminated in a museum-like showing at the Rockefeller Center Christie’s.

Steven P. Murphy, Christie’s International CEO said, “The exhibition and sales of the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor in New York have been the crowning achievement to a very strong year at Christie’s. The Success of these sales, with bidders participating from all over the world, demonstrated not only a recognition of the taste and style of Miss Taylor, but also the convening power of Christie’s. I am very proud of our whole team, from all corners of our global operation. Their achievement was successfully bringing this event to fruition in a manner that paid homage to the panache and glamour of Elizabeth Taylor herself.”

Her eight marriages, life –threatening illnesses and celebrity status never over shadowed her zest for living.

She supported HIV and AIDS research with not only her name but her money.

She received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Legion of Honour, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards, and a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute where she was named seventh on their list of “Greatest American Screen Legends.

Before she converted to Judaism she was a student of all religions. She was a follower of Kabbalah and became a strong supporter of Israel. In 1959, because of her large purchase of Israeli Bonds, she suffered Arab boycotts. She could not enter Egypt to complete the film Cleopatra. She and Richard had wanted to marry in Israel but could not because Burton was not Jewish. She supported organizations to free Jews to leave Russia. During the 1976 Entebbe skyjacking she offered herself as a replacement hostage.

She was hospitalized more than 70 times and had at least over 20 major operations. She broke her back five times, replaced both hips, had a hysterectomy, and was afflicted with dysentery and phlebitis, a punctured esophagus, skin cancer, a brain tumor, pneumonia, pill and alcohol addiction. It was finally congestive heart failure that took her life at 79 on March 23, 2011.

Her acting skills live on when you see her in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; BUTTERFIELD 8; Giant; Taming of the Shrew and Cleopatra and her guest spots on

Television shows.

She designed jewelry and launched three popular perfumes, in 2010 brought in $69million in sales.

“There’s still so much more to do. I can’t sit back and be complacent, and none of us should. I get around now in a wheelchair, but I get around.”

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