The Roots Are There

     Rarely does a week or so go by without someone asking me about a celebrity I knew, or had worked with, from my vast past history file. Often the question alone will bring a smile, considering I would have to be well over one hundred years old to have known or worked with the personality the inquirer was asking about. I will admit to the fact my Dad began taking me to the movies when I had attained the ripe old age of three. The same fact applies to baseball games. My Mother didn’t have a love affair with either of those outings. Unless Mom was the main entry, forget about it.
     And then there were the early days of baseball in the life and times of yours truly–at, or before, age three. My Dad told me how he would take me to see baseball games in Brooklyn, during the summertime. Some of what Dad had to say was a little hard to believe; he described not having to pay for my ticket because I would be sitting on his lap for most of the game. It was also a very meaningful outing for me, along with my Father. I watched history being made when Jackie Robinson stepped on to the playing field, for the then Brooklyn Dodgers, as the very first black man in the major leagues. We, kids, took to Jackie Robinson with total glee! Overnight, all us kids became Jackie Robinson emulators. We walked like the man, swung our bats the same way, and even slid into bases the same way he did, with complete and reckless abandonment.

On Tuesday, April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his 
MLB debut in front of 26,623 fans at Ebbets Field.

“The Roots Are There”

     Time and again I come to you with another: da harv’s “smile and think” self-indulgence drill. Some of you out there might be going, “ha-ha, da harv has to think about an incident, and then smile about his thoughts”. (Well, I said it was my drill, my game–I get to play it my way.)
     Knowing how the game is going to turn out is my allowing factor; allowing me, da harv in charge, to do it my way. My premise, you see, is a simple one: I do know in advance, my game will only involve remembrances which bring me a smile, or oftentimes the most hearty (and hardy) belly laugh. Even when I retrace a beleaguering incident from the past history of this marvelous country we’re all privileged to live in, I find myself taking great pride in our ability as Americans to overcome some of the world’s most daunting events.
     How often does a parent turn to a young child and asks the question, “Why did you do that?” If what the parent is asking about is a bad thing and the child should know better, you might bet the kid is going to respond by placing the blame on someone else; like “it was my brother, Charlie, who did it”, or “made me do it”. But in retrospect, thinking back to an incident when the parent walks into a room and finds his child busily pouring water on to the back of his dog, “Bonkers”, and laughing hysterically at the outcome of “Bonkers” shaking the water all over the room in an effort to dry himself off…then doing it over and over again. Looking back at the two of them, boy and dog, seemingly laughing together, out of control, with outright pleasure, makes this a remembrance which just might be the stimulus of a well-needed belly laugh; it was for me! After all, it’s my game. You may want to make it yours.

(So,) Virus, Smirus! It’s date night!

Or, the other day, many of my fellow travelers on the 134 freeway who happened to get a glimpse of me as I, laughing with some tears rolling down my cheeks, drove by figuring I was a five PM, late afternoon, normal, everyday nut case. I was heading back from Pasadena after picking up one of our repaired computers. The traffic was wall-to-wall despite the virus.

Let the games begin!


     What caused my laughing brain into the afternoon’s uproarious laughing jag was THE ONE and ONLY, Buddy Hackett. Back in time remembrance: thinking of Buddy always brings a smile, and/or my complete loss of control!

And as the years rolled by

     Those who really knew and understood Buddy, are always quick to say what a nice man he was. Buddy had the ability to do and say things with one single driving force: to make people laugh out loud. That’s not to say he didn’t care for money. At one time, he was the hottest ticket on the Vegas Strip.

     For those of you out there who were never treated to Buddy telling one of his many stories, you might not understand how funny a man he really was. So many ingredients went into his revelations, it wasn’t unusual for an entire room (night club) to become hysterical with laughter; his voice and simultaneous facial contortions were completely disarming. No one in the audience was immune from Buddy’s contagious effects; he looked and sounded funny.

      Often it didn’t take much for Buddy to have an entire group roll with laughter just after giving out an unexpected answer. He was standing at an outside swimming pool at a noted Beverly Hills hotel, speaking to a young group of our American Women’s Olympic skiing team, when Johnny Carson comes walking by and asks Buddy what he was up to. Buddy with a perfectly indignant smile, looks at Johnny and says, “I’m teaching them how to Schuss!” At that, Johnny completely loses it with laughter, to which Buddy seals it with, “They’re skiers, aren’t they?” At that, Johnny was out of it!

Note: “In alpine skiing, a schuss is a straight downhill run at high speed.”

“You must remember this.”

     The year was 1960. The movie, “The Joker Is Wild”, starring Frank Sinatra, Mitzie Gaynor, Jeanie Crane, premiered in Las Vegas. The storyline for the film was the life of the then well-known singer Joey Lewis, played by Frank Sinatra, and how Joey became a comic, after having his throat cut by a gangster. (All true.)
     In the days following the star-studded premiere of the movie, Joey Lewis was headlining at the “Silver Slipper”. A good size group of us got word, unknown to Joey, that there was going to be a surprise guest singer named Frank Sinatra; only my all-time favorite! We couldn’t wait for the 11:00 PM show to begin. The smallish club was packed. We were given the house seats right up front, just about dead center. The table adjoining ours was manned by Buddy Hackett, who came in right before showtime. He waited until the last minute because he was finishing his own gig right down the strip from us at “The Desert Inn”. (By then, he had eight solid years of unbelievable success as a Vegas headliner under his belt.)
     That evening, at the “Silver Slipper” in Las Vegas, had to be one of the best evenings a club could possibly present. In that era, it wasn’t at all unusual to be in the same room as many of the biggest names in Hollywood.

Note: Just Google the movie title “The Joker Is Wild”, premier in Las Vegas, 1960, and you’ll get a birds-eye view of what I’m talking about.


     Joey was well into his act when in comes Mr. Frank Sinatra. Joey stops abruptly and without hesitation Frank chimes in with, “If you don’t mind, pal?” Joey smiles with a total display of humility as Frank takes the stage. Joey comes down and sits at Buddy’s table. The music is playing while Frank is talking to the audience with a manner of sincerity, second to none. I do remember Frank saying how he was a saloon singer. There were smiles around the room. 

     Then the highlight of the evening–I remember it almost as if it were yesterday. The forty-five-year-old Frank Sinatra was at the top of his game. Men and women around the room became one. The lights came down as Frank lit his famous cigarette smoking delivery and moved down, stage right, directly to the front, and singled out a young couple in the front-row position as the song “I’ve Got A Crush On You”, began. The group became even more cohesive than I could have imagined it possible to become. Frank sang for twenty minutes, bowed deeply to the mesmerized audience, shook the hand of Joey Lewis, bowed again, threw a thank-you kiss towards Buddy, and took leave. Buddy Hackett looked up at Frank, and with his palms together, bowed in homage. Buddy then turned to leave, and with all eyes upon him, he squeezed the tip of his nose and gestured in disgust for the way Sinatra had stunk up the room with his performance. The audience, without exception, took Buddy’s antic for what it really was–humor at it’s highest level. Obviously Buddy and Frank had great respect for each other.
     Forty years later, Buddy and I worked together, intimately, as actor and director. I’ll bet you a dollar to a dime, wherever Buddy and Frank happen to be, someone or many are being spectacularly entertained.

Find the time
Binge a little
a song or rhyme
when will you smile again
there’s still time
Recapture the uncapturable
If life causes a fall
Fall down laughing
Schuss down a hill
When you can’t ski
And if you’re to take a knee
Sing “I’ve Got A Crush On You”
Maybe to a puppy
Or looking at yourself in a mirror
This will be a happy charmed
“Silver Slipper” kind of day
Like Buddy and Frank
Good stuff remains forever
Your remembrances
Keep them stored forever
Don’t let them get away

And then tomorrow
When the Virus is gone
We’ll have a driving life force
We’ll all group together
We’ll all carry on
We’ll take the time
To thank one another
Remembrances of help
Our little drill
How to laugh and carry on!

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