Howdy! I tell ya, living on Long Island ain’t for sissies. Years ago in L.A., I read a book, FOLK MEDICINE by Dr. Jarvis. He said folks who live in America’s northeast need to be extra hale and hardy because of the constant extremes in climate changes. Cowboy up! Babs is hale, I’m hardy.
August. We call it Arghhh! Gust. If you can make it thru Arrghh! Gust, you can make it anywhere. This year, August came in like a severe case of crabs and went out like a long visit from the in-laws. Can’t something be done? Psychiatrists take vacations in August, explaining all the nutsy-ness. Maybe, we could get rid of August, apportioning its 31 days to the other 11 months, especially February. OR…I have it! Shorten August to a week! Call it Augie.
Back in ‘38 I lived on Valley Brink Rd., hard-by the mighty L.A. River B.L. (before levee). The rains came. The river surged. A guy drove down our street with a bullhorn—“Attention! You must leave your homes! The river is rising! You will all be flooded! This is your only warning! GET OUT NOW!” We did. My mom had a friend in Al Gilks, ace MGM cameraman. He invited us to stay with his family at their art deco house, high in the hills of Los Feliz, overlooking Walt Disney’s spread. Uncle Walt’s backyard featured a miniature railroad for children of all ages to ride on. Apres le deluge, we ended our highland fling and returned to our house by the river.
Al suggested me for the part of Jody in “The Yearling” starring Spencer Tracy. Wow! My first visit to a movie studio! I was deemed not gangly enough, nor was Mr. Tracy. Heh, Heh. In ‘46 MGM made the flick with those gangly guys Peck and Jarman Jr.
Babs grew up on TV. I grew up on radio. When America’s population was 130 million, 55 million listened to Bing Crosby every week. My favorite kiddie show was “Uncle Whoa Bill” with Tommy Monkey and Al O. Wishes the giraffe. Uncle Whoa Bill told us not to cry when we fell and skinned our knees. “Pick yourself up, grit your teeth, and say ‘Uncle Whoa Bill!’ Don’t run to Mommy. Keep on playing!” Hmmmm. I can see him at home, nailing a picture to the wall. He hits his thumb with his hammer. I can see him gritting his teeth. You reckon he yells Uncle Whoa Bill?
Babs’ favorite TV kiddie show was hosted by the great Chuck McCann. When he was in grammar school he, his Mom, and his pals set-up their own radio station. Took the FCC three years to figure out where their shows came from. Back in ‘68 I put McCann’s name #1 on my Oscar nomination ballot for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”.
I was honored one Arghhh! Gust, when Chuck asked me to join him in Rochester, NY, at the fab George Eastman House. We put on two live shows, “Chuck McCann and Friends”. We performed selections from old-time radio classics. I played a wide variety of roles. I’m known was “The Man with a Thousand Voice.” Sprinkled throughout were screenings of some triumphant moments from Chuck’s brilliant TV career: Clark Kent’s baffled “How does everyone seem to know I’m Superman?” His red cape dangling below his suit coat. Two veddy, veddy proper British officers review the troops on an extremely rainy day. By skit’s end, they are mud-covered from helmets to boots. A segment from The Garry Moore Show. Chuck is Gunga Din, warning the troops by blasting “Retreat” on his trumpet. He gets creamed. Bang! Bang! Bang! And falls behind a low wall. Lots of smoke and debris. Gunga struggles back up, bloody but unbowed, blasting forth again on his now damaged horn. Kaboom! This goes on. Finally, Gunga is one disheveled monstrosity, his horn a mere mouthpiece. Blam! Blam! More smoke. Here’s Gunga, one more time, playing a tuba. Chuck and I rendered a shaggy dog story as Laurel and Hardy. Chuck, as Hardy, made-up in front of the audience. He produced Ollie’s famous mustache and proceeded to swab spirit gum ‘neath his nose. I took a deep breath and blurted, “Wheee! I’m getting high!”
After the shows, Chuck put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Hutch, over the years I’ve worked with over a hundred guys who played Mr. Laurel to my Mr. Hardy, and I just wanna say—You’re one of them.” Someone asked Chuck’s beautiful wife Betty what it was like being married to a funny man? She replied, “I didn’t marry a funny man. I married a genius.”
While up there, I learned a fascinating fact: Jack Benny plays a white-jacketed waiter at Rick’s place in “Casablanca”. A guy tells me he spotted Benny nine times. Good reason to watch it again. Sorta like Where’s Waldo?
Ooops! Hey, Boyd, I detected another western boo boo in the final chapter of “Zorro Rides Again”. Big shoot-out climax. El Lobo (Richard Alexander) points his gun at Zorro (John Carroll) and pulls the trigger. All we hear is a click. Cut to Zorro. He grimaces and clutches his left shoulder!— Mosquitos? Happy Holly Daze!