Category Archives: Celebrities

The Apollo Theater-An American Musical History Institution

By George Khoury

The celebration of Black History Month could not be complete without an appreciation of the role the Apollo Theater played in African-American history. Located in New York City’s Harlem, The Apollo Hall was established by a former Civil War General Edward Ferrero as a ballroom and dance hall. Ferrero (1831-1899) was born in Spain to [parents who later moved to and settle in New York City. His father was a famous dancer and military friend of Garibaldi who opened a dance studio. Upon retirement the son took over the academy. He focused on teaching the wealthy the newest dances that would spread across the country. He quickly became known as one of the best experts on dance. He even was a dance instructor at West Point and authored a book in 1859, The Art of Dancing.

When the Civil War started, Ferrero raised a regiment using his own money. Soon his troops were known for their tight drilling. During the battle of Antietam Ferrero and his men saw distinguished duty in storming Burnside Bridge under fire. He was promoted to brigadier general. He saw action during Fredericksburg and the Siege of Vicksburg. He was transferred east and commanded a division of Black troops during the Siege of Petersburg.

He was mustered out of the service and returned to New York to lease a new building on the site of the present Apollo Theater. In 1872, he ended his lease and the building was converted into a theater. The theater closed in early 20th century. The theater in 1913 reopened for burlesque and vaudeville shows.

The Apollo Theater was in the right place at the right time. The Harlem Renaissance was starting to flower in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The neighborhood was almost exclusively black and since white performers cost more, it made sense to hire local talent. The management could offer quality entertainment at reasonable rates.

The Apollo became famous for its Amateur Nights. In 1934 a 17 year old Ella Fitzgerald made her debut and won the first prize of $25.00. It billed itself as the place “where stars are born and legends made. The careers of Stepin Fetchit, Pigmeat Markham, Billy Holiday, Patti LaBelle, Diana Ross and the Supremes, James Brown, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gay, Stevie Wonder, Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill and Ben E. King just to name small number. Even Jimi Hendrix performed and won first place in 1964.

An unforgettable part of the show was the “executioner” who would either sweep a poor act off the stage or prod them along with a hook to hoots, boos and howls of the audience. A source claimed that on August 16, 1957, Buddy Holly played the Apollo.
During the 1960s and 1970s, fell into disrepair and reopened as a movie theater in 1975. The Apollo reopened in 1983 when former Manhattan borough president purchased the landmark. His investment group got federal, state, and city funding as a landmark for preservation. In 1991, the building was bought by the State of New York and reopened on December 15, 2005 after $65 million renovation. The building receives 1.3 million visitors annually and continues its tradition of entertain-of all races. In December 2010 Paul McCartney performed.

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The Fish is More than a Mob Capo

By George Khoury

Abe Vigoda, one of three brothers was born in New York City on February 24, 1921 to Russian immigrants. His future was preordained at an early age. His career began at the age of six in the first grade, when the teacher walked into the classroom casting for a play entitled, “By Candlelight” by Sigfried Geyer. There was only one role left to be cast for a 50-year old baron named Count Von Rischenheim, who found his wife in the closet with a strange man. The teacher looked at Abe and said, “I think you will do, you look old.” So very young Abe Vigoda’s course was charted. He was destined to play the elderly and has not stopped acting since.

Today Vigoda, 91 continues to enjoy a rewarding career. During his early years, the New York theatre was alive with activity and young Abe was drawn to it. At the age
of 16, Abe auditioned for a role in a classical play, after seeing an ad for a Casting Call at the Butler Davenport Theater. He told the Director, Mr. Butler Davenport, “I have been acting since the “foist grade”. He stopped me and said, “We are doing classic Shakespeare, you will have to learn to speak properly.” Abe wanted to study acting and be a performer, so he agreed.

After WWII, Abe used the G. I. Bill to study acting at the Theater School of Dramatic Arts in Carnegie Hall for two years. Upon completion, he enrolled, for another two years, in the American Theater Wing in NYC. At these professional schools for the dramatic arts, he learned enunciation, how to walk on stage, and how to use every skill he possessed.

“In 1961 I played John of Gaunt in “Richard the II” for Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park at the Wollman Rink in Central Park. In 1962, the first production to be performed at the new Delacorte Theatre was “The Tempest” where I played alongside James Earl Jones and Charles Durning.”

His Broadway credentials are enviable. He played in “The Cherry Orchard” (1962-63), “The Cat and the Canary” (1965), “Marat/Sade” (1967), “The Man in the Glass Booth” (1968), “Inquest” (1970). He played Abraham Lincoln in “Tough to Get Help” in 1972 and in “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1987) in the Boris Karloff role. “That was a great cast. We had Jean Stapleton, Tony Roberts, William Hickey, and Polly Holiday. We gave over 200 performances.” He has toured nationally with Hugh O’Brien in “Guys and Dolls”.

Slowly his career caught fire. He went on the road with the classic, “To Inherit the Wind,” On television we enjoyed him in “Toma”, “The Rockford Files,” “Dark Shadows”, “As the World Turns,” and “Santa Barbara.” He was a regular on all the “Roast” shows in the 1970s and 1980s. He has appeared on the Comedy Central, N.Y. Friars Club roasts of Rob Reiner, and Hugh Hefner as well as just about every series. He estimates that he has appeared as a gangster or cop in over 100 television shows and films.

He is most famous for two roles: “The Godfather” March, 2012 marks the 40th Anniversary – where Abe portrayed Sal Tessio, the capo in the Corleone crime family. He worked with Brando, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall. “The Godfather” earned 4 Academy Awards and 5 Golden Globes. It is ranked by the American Film Institute as the third greatest film behind “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.”

Abe recalls how he landed the part. “I was interviewed twice by Francis Ford Coppola. He told me he saw me in a performance on the stage. I was a stage actor and he wanted stage actors who were unknown to the movie audiences. Coppola went out to Hollywood to search for actors and returned to New York. He interviewed hundreds on both coasts. On his return, he interviewed me again. He saw something in me, he found his Tessio.”

When asked about the rumors that real mobsters were around the set, Abe said, “There were always guys around the shoot. Some thought I was a gangster in real life. I accepted it as a compliment. I was lucky to work with some of the best actors of our time. We were all trained on the stage. I shared a dressing room with Brando. He was a prankster. He once put extra weights on a stretcher when people carried him out, just for laughs. Most of us, at the time, were unknown to film audiences but as the film progressed you could see us grow as actors. We each found a piece of the character within us and that is the key to acting and making yourself believable.” When asked how the wonderful wedding scene was staged, Abe said that over 500 non-actor neighborhood Italians from the Bronx were brought in and made it look authentic.

“The director made us feel like mob guys. They brought us to Little Italy just so we could get the local flavor. They drove us around like we were mob guys.”

One of the most touching scenes was during the wedding sequence with the towering Vigoda dancing with a little girl. “I had the idea for the little girl to dance with me by placing her feet on mine as I moved around. Francis gave all of us great leeway to add to the richness of the character.”

Abe’s second most famous role was the sad faced cop, “Fish” who debuted on ABC-TV’s “Barney Miller”. His slow pronounced walk, his hunch, slow speaking manner became a national treasure. The character Fish became so popular that the network produced a spin off with his own series aptly entitled “Fish”.

He quickly became a beloved and regular guest on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”. Conan used him in random and often pointless scenes because Vigoda’s facial expressions alone were hilarious.

Vigoda made several appearances on the “Today Show”. Matt Lauer proclaimed Abe, “our favorite guest of all times”. Meredith Vieria joked, “Matt will age to look like Abe Vigoda.” In June 2011, he appeared on Meredith’s last broadcast to the wild applause of the audience.

At the age of 88, he appeared with fellow actor Betty White, also 88 years, in the most downloaded and beloved commercial that ever ran in a Super Bowl; the “Snickers” commercial. The commercial won first place for Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010.

When asked who he respects as actors, he quickly responded, “Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant.” Age does not seem to slow Abe down. “The secret is to do what you love and love what you do. I believe what doctors tell me that it is possible to live to 127 years old. I avoid sugar and walk every day,” the former handball player and jogger said.

A five time Emmy nominee, Abe Vigoda is almost unable to walk the streets of New York City without hearing the cheers of people. He still has that slow pronounced hunch when he walks. New Yorkers approach him on the street. With love and respect they call out to Fish and or Tessio. He smiles and signs autographs and continues walking now at a brisk pace that defies a man of 91 years and makes one wonder if his trademark walk was part of his public character.

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Jamie Farr-From Films, to Comedy, to the Stage

If you thought Jamie Farr was a one-dimensional actor and know him only as Max Klinger from the M.A.S.H. television show you are in for shocking revelations. Like Klinger, he was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1934 and came from Lebanese-American parents. Dad worked long hours as a butcher and took Sunday as a day off.

Young Jamie took a first step on the ladder of show business by winning a local acting contest at age eleven. The prize was $2.00. An achiever at the High School, he edited the school newspaper, served as class president, played varsity tennis and when he graduated in 1952 was voted Most Outstanding Student.

Although Mom and Dad wanted Jamie to become a doctor or accountant but not an actor they advanced him $600. He followed his dream and started reading Theater Arts magazine that ran ads for acting schools. Jamie headed to the Pasadena Playhouse, which was a training ground for many famous actors. During the week he studied and on weekends worked in an Army-Navy store. He traveled between work, school and his sister’s apartment where he slept by taking two buses and catching sleep whenever possible.

You hear about being in the right place at the right time and that is exactly how Jamie got his break. “I was doing a play at the Pasadena Playhouse and there was an MGM talent scout who saw me on the stage, he told me they were casting for “Blackboard Jungle” and he wanted me to take a screen test for the role of Santini, an inner city juvenile. I did. Here I was a kid from Toledo, Ohio in high school watching MGM movies at the Loews Theater and a few years later I am in the MGM studio. I tested with another young actor, who went on to star in his own series, James Drury, The Virginian. Actually, I was one of the few actors from Los Angeles who were in the picture. Most everyone else were New York actors.”

In the late 1950s Jamie’s career started to rise. He was a regular on the Red Skelton Show; he teamed with Harvey Korman for comedy skits on The Danny Kaye Show. He had guest shots on most television shows of the period.

Jamie is most remembered for his role as Corporal Klinger in the television series M.A.S.H. Originally he was to play a character that was inspired by comedian Lenny Bruce’s attempt to get out of the army. The reasoning was simple. If a soldier wore dresses he would qualify for a Section 8 and be useless to the army. It didn’t work for Klinger.

Jamie did even read for the role. He was happy to get one day’s work. Jamie was directed to a dressing area to change. “There was a woman’s Army Corp uniform hanging up and high heeled shoes. I thought I was dressing with an actress. They said, “No, they are yours. Put them on.”

Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter) holds a special spot in Jamie’s heart. Morgan’s career extended to such early television shows as December Bride, Pete and Gladys, and Dragnet. “Harry was 93 years old so most of his contemporaries were gone except for the M.A.S.H cast. He was a wonderful actor; charming as could be. He could do comedy, farce, drama, and burlesque. He was a man I learned a great deal from. He never threw a line away. He was always great fun.”He also has kind words for Alan Alda. “Alan is a wonderful person and actor. To this day we are great friends.”

Jamie was a regular judge on the Gong Show, a panelist on countless game shows such as The $25,000 Pyramid, Super Password and Hollywood Squares. Since 1984 he has hosted the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic on the LPGA tour. The tournament has raised $7.5 million for local charities.

He has done made for television films, starred on Broadway as Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls.” He continues to appear on stage in regional theater in the United States and Canada.

The park where Jamie used to hang out in Toledo in now named in his honor. At the opposite side of town another park is named after another of Toledo’s favorite sons-Danny Thomas.

His love for Toledo burns brightly to this day. When Klinger waxes about the city he fondly recalls Tony Packo’s for hot dogs. Jamie has referenced Packo’s on the show. “I used to have them sent to the mess tent on the set all the time.” He counts among his friends Wayne Gretzky as well as other member of the Edmonton Oilers and the American Olympic team that beat the Russians. When the Oilers or the Islanders are in Los Angeles playing the Kings, Jamie would host a Packo’s and beer party.

He is the author of a Children’s book, with his wife Joy Ann. He also wrote his biography, “Just Farr Fun.”

Jamie will be celebrating 79th birthday this July 1. When asked his secret to life he responded, “Every time I leave the house my wife says, “be a good person.” I don’t know what that means. All I try to do is be respectful to other people, do my job and get through life the best I can. People complicate things in life and take too many things to heart. When I was in ‘Tuesday with Morrie’ he said, ‘Love is the only rational act, without it you are a bird with broken wings.’

The young boy from Toledo will never forget where he came from or the people who helped him along the way. Jamie Farr overcomes challenges and views them as opportunities. Carpe Diem Jamie!

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Meet The Real Pat Boone: Humanitarian, Husband, Dad and Businessman

By George Khoury

Pat Boone, who will be 78 years young this June, must be a master of time management. You have seen the performer on the old Ed Sullivan show that juggled chain saws or has a half dozen spinning plates on a stick and somehow was successful at this delicate balancing act. Pat Boone does it daily and with style, humanity, and grace.

Speaking from his Los Angeles office recently, you had the sense that while focusing on the telephone interview, Pat was also doing many other things at the same time. “I have no typical day. Each day is a terrific potpourri of opportunities and projects that are worthwhile. I am involved in helping develop Israeli tourism, a Bible translation project, developing a United States Blood Donors data base. This registry will help blood banks identify donors and their locations easily,” Pat said. In addition, he performs almost twenty-five concerts a year and is redirecting his food company toward broader national markets. “We tried selling quality foods through the internet but it didn’t work out. Now we are working with Wal-Mart and Costco about a new marketing approach that will sell directly to retailers. It is based on the idea of Paul Newman’s food company.”

Two other projects seem to have Pat’s attention. “We are establishing a theater in Myrtle Beach where people can come and see family-oriented shows. Right now it is moving along slowly because of the economy but it will be completed. I am also interested in the development of a car that runs on compressed air. I have met with scientists and the technology has been tested and it is possible. It is starting manufacturing in India. There is zero pollution. I am very excited about this safe and smart technology.”

But let’s see, is this the same Pat Boone who has sold 45 million records, and had 38 Top 40 hits, and acted in 12 films, and is a Best-Selling author? Did you also know he is a regular political columnist for World Net Daily.com? He tackles such topics as current politicians, religion, the separation between church and state, abortion, the death penalty and the problems with public education.

“I came out of the closet years ago as a senior citizen. I became a spokesman for 60Plus. It is a conservative organization that was created in response to AARP which has become too liberal. We saw that people who paid into Social Security and Medicare were having their benefits cut. I also saw that the government’s estate tax or “Death Tax” was robbery. You are taxed on what you earn and then when you die, the government can take half of your estate and then cause your family problems. In many cases the family, if they have a business, must sell the business just to pay for the taxes. We must abolish the estate tax. It was natural to expand into writing about these issues.”

For over 27 years he has hosted the Pat Boone Show. It is a national radio program that features Christian music. He has over a half million listeners every month. He directs his own record company, owns a television station and has been a part owner of a basketball franchise.

Since the 1970s, Pat and his Shirley have helped solve the food crisis in Cambodia by developing the Mercy Corporation. To date it has raise over $200 million in assistance. He has served as the Chairman of Pepperdine University’s Advisory Board for twelve years.

“When I started I wanted to be a high school teacher. I went on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and the Arthur Godfrey Show and kept being asked back. A record producer found me and wanted to record me. I was ready to sing Perry Como, Bing Crosby or Eddie Fisher type songs. He had me singing Rock and Roll! I did covers of Fats Domino and Little Richard. It helped get their music played on a more national basis and opened up new markets for them to become known as well as enjoy royalties. Fats Domino once called men on stage and lifted his finger for all to see and said, ‘Pat Boone bought me this diamond ring.’ He meant that because of the royalties from his song, “Ain’t That a Shame,” I had a hit and he also made money.”

Pat Boone has always worked hard and placed himself in God’s hands. “ I avail myself to God for him to sort out things he wants me to do. I try to make myself useful to others and everything works out.”

Youthful and bursting with energy, his health regime is simple. “I drink V-8 Fusion, bike, play singles tennis and swim. I have been taking MDR vitamins and Vital Factors which has been shown to slow the aging process or help reverse aging. I’ve been taking everything for ten years and feel great and I am afraid to quit now.”

Always focused on success, Pat graduated with honors from Columbia University, had the number one television show, a beautiful wife and four children and all at 23 years old. Pat has been in Billboard’s Top 40 Artists at number 9 for performers from 1955-1995. If you Google Pat, 1.9 million citations pop up.

He hosts a golf tournament to help children of families in crisis and been involved in an organization that has assisted over 300,000 Jews from the Iron Curtain emigrate to Israel.

In an entertainment industry that grinds up stability and creates challenges to marriages, Pat and Shirley Boone have been married 55 years, raised four daughters and enjoy 15 grandchildren. They have also lived in the same home for 40 years.

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Jack Klugman

During a recent telephone interview Jack Klugman made the startling revelation that he “was destined to be anactor.”

Klugman, who just turned 80 years-old has been a fixture in the theater, stage and television since 1954 when he played Jim Hanson on the soap opera, “The Greatest Gift.” Jack always seemed to portray “Everyman.” He did not possess the looks of a Cary Grant or Gregory Peck, but you knew he would give a great performance in whatever role he took. Klugman, born April 27, 1922 to Russian Jewish immigrants grew up in Philadelphia. His love for acting was connected to his love of gambling. “When I was young, I owed a bookie some money. I told him I couldn’t pay.

Even though he was friend, he could not let the debt go unpaid. He gave the debt to a collector so I decided to get out of town. We heard about Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, so I enrolled. This was 1945. I enrolled in the Dramatics program. If I wasn’t any good, I would return and try and pay off the debt. If I was good I would keep going with it. The first time I got on stage I just knew. I was calm and more comfortable than in real life.”

Jack focused and graduated in 1948. Realizing acting was his future; he made his way to New York City where he roomed with Charles Bronson. “Bronson taught me many aspects of staging. He was delightful.” By 1954 he was making regular appearances on a television legal drama, ”Justice.” The show was based on real life cases from the Legal Aid Society of New York. In a unique twist of fate, Jack appeared with another young actor in an episode of a CBS anthology series, “Appointment with Adventure.” The other actor was Tony Randall.

His career was moving with great speed. He played a juror in “12 Angry Men.” “12 Angry Men is my favorite film. I worked with someone I admired and respected-Henry Fonda. I appreciated his integrity that he brought every day. I learned so much by just watching him work.” “But my greatest thrill was appearing in “Petrified Forest” with Fonda and Humphrey Bogart,” he added. Jack also appeared in the classic, “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962) and in 1969, “Goodbye, Columbus.” He was an Emmy winner for his work in series, “The Defenders.” He appeared in four classic “Twilight Zone.”

His skills were soon recognized and he went to Broadway to star in “The Odd Couple.”
On September 24, 1970, the television show, “The Odd Couple,” went on the air. Jack played the sloppy Oscar Madison while Tony Randall was the prissy clean freak. The show ran for 114 episodes, and according to Jack was a flop in the rating. The show originally was shot and a laugh track used in production to sweeten up the audience response. It was Randall who stopped the canned laughter and fought for a live audience.

The relationship between the actors extended to their personal lives. In his book, “Tony and Me,” Klugman tells stories of the depth of the love these men had for each other. “When I was in the hospital with throat cancer, Tony was the first person to come and visit. When I came out he was there. I thought my career was over-an actor without a voice. Tony said that he would personally take care of putting the mic on me to get the best quality. He taught me to be brave and to live with being vulnerable. I love him.”

The show was known for having guest celebrities. “Tony had the idea to bring on guests. I never thought to ask anyone. He did. He had Bobby Riggs, Billie Jean King, Howard Cosell, and members of the New York opera and dance community as well as Roy Clarke. Our funniest shows were the two we did with Monte Hall.” To this day people still voted those shows two of the all-time funniest.

Jack is married to the lovely Peggy who has lived and loved each other since 1988.
Dean Martin once said of Jack Klugman that he was one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. We would also say that like Spencer Tracy, Jack is an actor’s actor.  Happy birthday Jack!

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Ed Asner is Juggernaut of convictions, ideas and talent that never slows down

By George Khoury

He is the only actor to win Emmy awards for both Comedy (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and Drama (Lou Grant) while playing the same warm and loveable supportive character.

Asner could have taken his Emmys, continued to act on stage, do voice over work, star in television shows or continue in films but he didn’t. Over the years he has also added “Activist” to his distinguished resume. His critics have called him a Socialist and it is alleged that he is a member of Democratic Socialists of America. He has taken unpopular positions against racism, nuclear power and has his own opinion about 9/11 and what took down Building 7.

“When you think about 9/11, no one was punished. No one was fired, lost their job or anything like that. We don’t want answers. We have become what I call, American Sheeple,” he said during our recent interview. He has been affiliated with a group of architects who have questioned why Building 7 went down without being damaged. “People want to believe in the American Myth that we would not participate in a 9/11 act.”

Asner has paid a high price for speaking out. While Lou Grant was a successful show, he signed a letter attempting to raise money for medical supplies for the rebels fighting in El Salvador. The issue was that the rebels were fighting against a US-backed but corrupt and oppressive regime. A few advertisers cancelled their contracts and within two weeks CBS cancelled the show. “I took that as a personal “_ _ _ _ you” from the CBS Chairman.”

Asner speaks in a colorful and raw style. Granted (what?) the Lou Grant role was rough around the edges and the real Asner speaks in a salty and direct manner that is refreshing. He does not mask or cloud his ideas. You might not like his politics but it is compelling to hear his logic and ideas.

Asner was born November 15, 1929 in Kansas City to an Orthodox Jewish family. The family ran what is now considered a Thrift store. He attended the University of Chicago. Later he served with the Army Signal Corps and appeared in touring plays. During the 1950s and 1960s Asner appeared in almost every television show. He has played police officers, a slave catcher in Roots, and even Pope John XXIII. By the way he has also played Santa Claus five times and is active in Jewish causes. Last year he returned to Kansas City to perform his one-man show, Asner as FDR for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

As President of Screen Actors Guild, he was instrumental in the 1980 SAG strike. He has lent his voice and image for prison reform, and single-payer health care in California. He is a member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an advisor for the Rosenberg Fund for Children. He has sought and fought for new investigations into 9/11.

He is a parent and grandparent of a child with autism and is involved with Autism Speaks. He is a member and active member in organizations too numerous to cite.

Asner is an intellectual tiger who will not go gently into that good sleep. Long may your banner wave Ed!

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Wavy Gravy- Living More than the Hippie Philosophy

George Khoury

He may be the last living embodiment of the 1960s and the tangible importance of the Woodstock generation. It was Hugh Romney who stood on the stage at the Woodstock festival, August 1969, and announced, “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000!”

Known as Wavy Gravy (a name given him by B.B. King) he is an activist and entertainer that does not ever slow down. Wavy founded and co-founded several organizations that have changed lives. Camp Winnarainbow has made a difference in the lives of children. Each summer the camp holds four two-week sessions for kids and a one week session for adults. The instructors are volunteers who teach juggling, unicycle, tightrope walking and trapeze, in addition to music and art.

“Grownup camp is just like our kids camp but here you stay up late and don’t have to brush your teeth. What we are into is producing universal human beings who can deal with anything that comes down the pike with some style and grace. We curry both hemispheres of the brain, “Wavy said. The kids start each day with a reading from Wavy. Then they can go to yoga or aerobics and the other physical classes. The camp is funded from royalties from the Ben & Jerry’s Wavy Gravy ice cream flavor as well as with grants from the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation. Scholarships are provided for homeless children in the Bay area and American kids from a reservation in South Dakota.

Wavy has always been committed to helping children. As he was home recuperating from his third spinal surgery, a group of doctors from the Children’s Hospital of Oakland had read about Wavy and paid him a visit. Although he could hardly walk he could not refuse their invitation to entertain their kids. “I thought I had troubles until I eyeballed some of those kids.” This one visit to clown around and make kids laugh developed into a seven year daily visit until it came to A mysterious stop. “I visited the kids’ everyday for seven years. I went on a tour and when I returned they would not let me in anymore. It was a blow. I guess someone on the board didn’t want a hippie freak coming in there.”

A lesser person would have moved on to other business but not Wavy. He did move on but to the Children’s Cancer Research Institute in San Francisco. His childlike view and attitude of the world brought fun and joy to kids going through chemotherapy. Wavy’s sense of the absurdity of the world brought his traveling commune, The Hog Farm to music event on a New York State farm.

“We were holed up in a big loft in New York’s  East Side in 68-69. One day a guy with an attaché case showed up and asked how we would like to do this music festival. They were going to fly 85 hippies and 15 Indians in an Astrojet toward a place called Woodstock. We were requested to build fire pits and fire trails around the grounds. We convinced the promoters to also let us set up a free kitchen. They agreed. When we stepped off the plane the international press greeted us and asked how we would set up security and manage crowd control? Somebody got things wrong-us? Security? I told them we were going to use cream pies and seltzer bottles. They wrote that down and we were on out way!”

After Woodstock, the Hog Farmers toured the world setting up stages for major rock festivals. “ After setting up for a Pink Floyd concert in England, the Hog Farmers pooled their money and worked their way across Europe.

“It was around that time of the great Pakistani flood and relief was not pouring in. I remembered a line from Gandhi, ‘If God should appear to starving people, God would not dare appear in any form than food.’ The free kitchen worked so well at Woodstock that we took the idea into the flooded area. We got so much publicity that governments were shamed into sending contributions.”

When the Indo-Pakistani war erupted, Wavy and the gang moved into refugee camps and distributed food, medical supplies and clothing. They stayed longer and repaired homes and built playgrounds. Who is this Wavy Gravy who seems to arrive in disaster and despair and leave the circumstances much better?

Hugh Romney was born in East Greenbush, New York on May 12, 1936. It was said that as he was growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, young Hugh would take walks with Albert Einstein. He completed his high school education in Connecticut and after 22 months received an honorable discharge from the Army. Under the G.I. Bill he studies theater and quickly found himself in New York City where Lenny Bruce was his manager and became good friends to a skinny singer from Minnesota-Bob Dylan.

He was the right place for a cultural boom. He plugged into the poetry and music community. Marlene Dietrich gave him a book of poems, a Dylan song was composed on his typewriter. He has opened for John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Peter, Paul and Mary.

By 1962 Romney was in Los Angeles. The Hog Farm Collective grew out of a floating commune called the Merry Pranksters. When a local hog farmer needed caretakers in exchange for rent, Hugh took it. Soon local musicians, artists and others drifted to the farm. “It was a bizarre communal experiment with the people outnumbering the pigs.”

By 1966, The Hog Farm developed into an organization that provided light shows for the Grateful Dead, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix. Wavy helped found Seva Foundation which is involved internationally with ongoing health projects that fights preventable and curable blindness in underserved communities. He has relied on such friends as Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash for fund raising concerts.

As an artist, his work is exhibited periodically across the country. Satirist Paul Krassner has called Wavy, “the illegitimate son of Harpo Marx and Mother Teresa.” When people call Wavy a saint, he responds with, “I tell them I’m Saint Misbehavin.”

It would be an empty world if Wavy Gravy was simply an entertaining clown and not a man who sees things with a broader vision… and a loving attitude to change the things that he can change.

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Tab Hunter- One of the last Studio Movie Stars Enjoys a Centered Life

By George Khoury

Some movie goers might think that Tab Hunter has had a charmed and easy life. He had it all. He starred with Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Sophia Loren, Debbie Reynolds and the ever glamorous Tallulah Bankhead. During the 1950s Tab was seen with beautiful ladies at every Hollywood event. He even had a hit rock and roll song. He burned up the screen and his personal appearances were the stuff only an agent could dream about. All was perfect or was it? Tab was living a lie to the public and shielded his sexuality.

“During those days I had to stay focused on my work. My real focus was tending to my horses. Working with an animal that depends on you for existence centers you as you go through any journey”, Hunter recently told us.

In 1956, Tab received 62,000 Valentines. By 1957 his hit record, “Young Love” swept the country-even with Elvis selling records.

It was his love of horses as a young man that led him to Hollywood fame “While I was at the Riding Academy I got friendly with an actor, Dick Clayton. Dick introduced me to his agent who handled Rock Hudson, Guy Madison and Rory Calhoun. I remember the day I was given my stage name. The agent said, “We’ve got to tab you something. Ok, Tab is your new first name. What do you like to do.? “When I told him I like riding horses, he said I was a hunter and jumper.”

“I was just trying to learn my craft and succeed. I was never comfortable in Hollywood except to work. Horses have been my touch of reality in an unrealistic world.”
Born in New York City to two German immigrants it was a tough life. The love Tab received came from his Mother. The Father was abusive and the Mother took her two sons to California to avoid further problems. Tragedy followed. Tab’s brother Walt, a medical corpsman, was killed in Vietnam. As a young man Tab tracked down where in New York his father was living. Tab located the apartment and knocked on the door only to be rebuffed by a woman who answered the door. She slammed the door in his face without meeting his Dad.

In recalling his leading ladies, the 81-year old Hunter said, “Debbie Reynolds was the average American girl. She was bawdy. Sophia Loren was statuesque. She had a beautiful aura and had childlike qualities. Tallulah was sad; she had a gift that she let escape.”

When asked when he felt he had made it Tab said, “I never thought I made it. For me it was the journey and the learning process.”

When I reminded Tab that he had a connection to Lee Harvey Oswald, his interest grew. He was surprised to learn that when Oswald was captured in the Dallas movie house, Tab’s film, “Battle Cry” was on the marquee.

In 1958 he starred in “Damn Yankees. From 1955 to 1959 he was Warner’s top grossing star. When things slowed down in the United States, Tab made films in Europe. He became a cult star after starring in John Water’s “Polyester” Still performing in films as well as regional theater, Tab’s biography became a New York Times Best Seller.

Surviving a quadruple by- pass, a prostate problem and a stroke Tab can’t wait for each day to dawn. “By 7:30 in the morning, I am running on the beach with my dogs and thinking about what I have to do for the day. After breakfast I am in the barn with my horse.”

It seems Tab Hunter continues to be at peace in charting his own course and surviving the pressures of Hollywood-thanks to his horse, close friends and an occasional project.

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Dwayne Hickman- Forever Dobie Gillis and More

By George Khoury

For over fifty years we have known him by one television character that he played so well. He was every male growing up in the late 1950s early 1960s who needed a Rosetta Stone to help communicate with girls. He even wrote a book that sums it all up-Forever Dobie. He has attained fame as a television programming executive and as a pioneer in booking country and western talent at Las Vegas resorts. He is now known as an artist who has his work shown in galleries across the country. Dwayne Hickman is truly a Renaissance man.

Growing in Los Angeles and as the brother of Darryl Hickman, who already was making a name as a child actor; it was easy to go into the family business. Dwayne guested on early television shows like The Lone Ranger.

By 1955 Dwayne was a student at Loyola University in Los Angeles and his big break came. “I was lucky to be in a great series, The Bob Cummings Show. The years on The Bob Cummings Show, is where I learned comedy from such masters as Jack Benny, George Burns and Bob Cummings. I played Bob’s nephew.” As Bob was moving from one beauty to another young nephew Chuck was looking enviously at the adventures of Uncle Bob and his women. “George Burns owned the show and he was around the set with suggestions as was his friend Jack Benny.”

The series ended in 1958 and the Dobie Gillis show became available. The show sparkled with quality writing that was hip with hit home to all young men trying to unravel the mysteries of dating. The cast was great. Veteran actor Frank Faylan and Florida Friebus played Ma and Pa Gillis. Warren Beatty played his nemesis for a while then Steve Franken was brought in to play Chatsworth Osborne Jr. Beyond all the girls there was one who always pursued Dobie. She was there to pick up the pieces when all the schemes to win over other girls failed-Zelda Gilroy. Persistant, smart, relentless and unsinkable, Sheila James provided warmth to this stalker.

Some of Dobie’s other love interests included Marlo Thomas, Sally Kellerman, and Yvonne Craig.

But the one actor who Dobie played straight man to was Maynard G. Krebs played by Bob Denver.

“I want to share a few thoughts about my dear friend, Bob Denver, who passed away on Friday, September 2, 2005. Bob and I have been friends for over fifty years. We both attended Loyola University in Los Angeles.

I knew him briefly from his work with the Del Rey Players, the college theatre group. In 1958 he came in to audition for the role of Maynard G. Krebs opposite my character, Dobie Gillis. I had already been cast and the producers asked me to test on film with all the actors they were interested in for the role of Maynard. I must have tested with twenty actors, some good, most not. It was the end of the day and as I was leaving the studio the producer called me back to test with one more actor. It was a favor to a secretary on the lot – it was her brother.

When I returned to the set I was amazed to see that the secretary’s brother was Bob Denver. From the moment we began to read the lines all the other actors who had auditioned for the role just evaporated. Bob and I had a rhythm and timing that was instant and a new comedy duo was born.

For the next four seasons, I had the privilege to be Bob’s straight man. My favorite line? “Maynard, go home and feed your iguana.” Maynard’s reply? “He don’t need me, Dobe, he can open the refrigerator door himself.”

After Dobie Gillis ended its run, the next season Bob landed the title role of “Gilligan” and for the rest of his life, he and that character would become one.

Bob was a gentle comedian and wonderful with physical comedy. Everyone loved Maynard and Gilligan; they were both characters that you could identify with and root for.

We worked together on two Dobie Gillis reunion Movies of the Week in the 1970’s and 80’s and several years ago I joined him in the “Surviving Gilligan’s Island” movie. We had always hoped to work together again as Dobie and Maynard.

In fifty years we never had a harsh word. My wife Joan, son Albert, and I send our love and prayers to Bob’s beautiful wife, Dreama and his wonderful children. I will always cherish my friendship with Bob and feel honored to have been his straight man…”Goodnight, Maynard – now go feed your iguana.”

In films, Dwayne starred with John Wayne (“Tall In the Saddle”), and Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou. “I worked for Howard Hughes when he owned the Landmark Hotel in Las Vegas. They were open to new ideas so I brought in talent from the Grand Old Opry. I remember Jerry Lee Lewis tore up the place not only on stage but he provided entertainment off stage as he like to get into fistfights with patrons.”

As an Executive at CBS television he worked on daytime programming and directed some shows.

Now, Dwayne paints and shows his work across the country. “I have always loved the use of bright, vivid colors…their intensity gives such energy and life to the subject. When I paint a cobalt blue sky or a field of flowers in sprays of magenta, cadmium yellow, cobalt violet and alizarin crimson, the painting is so vibrant and passionate that the canvas seems to come alive.”

In speaking with Dwayne it was as comfortable as talking with a long lost cousin and catching up on news. He paints, shows his work and with wife Joan they also have a production company. Dwayne is truly a Renaissance Man.

To see Dwayne’s work or order his biography visit him at DwayneHickman.com

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Alex Karras- More than Muscles and Football

By George Khoury

“Toughness is in the soul and spirit and not the muscles” – Alex Karras. He was affectionately known as the “Mad Duck.” Some of us laughed at him in Mel Brooks’ 1974 film, “Blazing Saddles” as Mongo, when he rode into town on a Brahmin bull and quickly punched a horse in the face.

He portrayed Mongo, the muscle bound thug as philosopher. He reduced his role to the simplest of terms when he looked at the camera as said, “Mongo only pawn in great game of life.”

His humor and acute sarcasm earned him a spot on the early years of Monday Night Football. He made news when he announced that an Oakland Raider lineman was from the “University of Mars.”

It seems that Alex Karras also always made news. Alex was an All-State lineman while in high school and went to Iowa. Here he conflicts with the head coach. The coach benched him. Alex walked off the team. This seemed to be a regular dance between the two of them. His performance when he did play was electric. In 1956 he was on the 1st Team All American. By the next year, he was the most dominant defensive lineman in the league. At the end of the year Alex was second in voting for the Heisman Trophy. That was almost unheard off for a lineman. In 1958 he was a first round pick for the Detroit Lions and anchored one of the most devastating defenses in NFL history. His fiery tenure with the Lions lasted from 1958 to 1962 and then from 1964 until 1970. He was an All-Pro selection from 1967 until 1969.

He, along with the Packer’s Paul Horning was suspended in 1963 for gambling. Although he owned a bar at the time, he admitted to placing bets. Once again his name was in the headlines. Always at war with his coaches, Karras was always his own man and never compromised. His ego and personality grew.

He was a major subject of George Plimpton’s book, The Paper Lion and also figured prominently in the film adaptation playing himself. A few years later, as the casting to The Godfather was under way, he was considered for the role of Carlo, the double-crossing brother-in-law who was to take a street beating from James Caan. His witty remarks as a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson enhanced his image and drew attention that here was a unique personality and story-teller. Alex became one of the earliest pro athletes to expand their images and reveal other dimensions of their personality.

When his playing days were over he took to acting. He had a role in “Porky,” “Victor Victoria,” and as the hulking thug in “Against All Odds.” The role of Mongo was classic and still enjoyed today. Who could ever forget him guesting on The Odd Couple and pinching Tony Randall’s face like a chunk of Silly Putty when he suspected Tony of seeing his wife.

He played good hearted strongman in an episode of M.A.S.H. He acted in a few films in serious roles. His big break came when with his wife, Susan Clark, they produced and starred in a show called “Webster.” The show ran from 1983 until 1981.

Toward the end of his life he joined in a suit against the league about better head gear and protection against concussion. His end came as he suffered from dementia, heart disease and cancer.

On October 10, 2012, this laughing giant lost his battle-kidney failure killed Alex Karras.

“It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more manhood to abide by thoughtful principles than blind reflex.” – Alex Karras

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