July 13, 2006
Now there’s an all-round showbiz icon in my book that one can truly respect. Actor, composer, songwriter, singer, hoofer, and of course his standup routine – there seemed to be nothing he couldn’t do. 5 Broadway plays, appearing with Uta Hagen in 1942, 29 movies, which included Sayonara with Marlon Brando, which earned him an Academy Award, and innumerable television appearances. In 1945, as a performer with an army unit in Europe, he served as master of ceremonies in a presentation for President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the Potsdam Conference. This diminutive man’s career spanned 70 years, and he certainly had his ups and downs with periods when he couldn’t get arrested. I think most people around here ran into this fun-loving man at different times, and it would always be a positive experience.
I last saw him at a lunch of the Pacific Pioneers Broadcasters, and he rewarded us with his “Some of the most famous people in history never got a dinner” routine, for which he will probably be best remembered.
“Never got a dinner . . .Venus de Milo, whose mother once said, I never hear from you. What’s the matter? Can’t pick up a phone?” Or “Alexander the Great, who said on his wedding night, Hey, it’s only a nickname!”
The last thing I heard him say: “Ninety isn’t old. You’re old when your doctor doesn’t X-ray you any more – he just holds you up to the light!”
Such memories he had.