Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An Interview with Jack Carter - Part Two





Jack Carter: Yeah, where did you ever find something like that?

Kliph Nesteroff: My neighbor is his son so he has this stuff. You close the show with the song The Joker by Anthony Newly.

Jack Carter: Oh my God, yeah. I love that song. Tony Newly. I used to ham it up. I worked hard on songs. I had stuff written for me fresh or I'd get it out of a Broadway show. Don Rickles used to always say to me, "What are you singing for? You shouldn't be singing!" Henny Youngman used to yell at me, "What the hell you singing for?" Jan Murray too. All these guys who have no voice.

Kliph Nesteroff: Rickles now closes his act singing Yankee Doodle Dandy. Speaking of the insult comics, what do you remember about Jack E. Leonard?


Jack Carter: Oh, I loved him. He was the sweetest man that ever lived. He was the forerunner of insult comedy and he was my closest friend next to Morey Amsterdam. Jack would call each day and we'd go walking in New York. He was the most elegantly dressed man. I was with him in Boston once when he fell off the stage and fell into the pit. It nearly killed him. I happened to be in New York coming back from a Europe trip the day he died. He was a lovely man, beautiful and very shy offstage - just like Rickles is.

Kliph Nesteroff: Do you remember what Jack E. Leonard's attitude was toward Rickles when he first came on the scene?

Jack Carter: (in Jack E. Leonard voice) "Ah, the little cocksucker stole my bit! Stole everything that I do!" But he wasn't a venomous man. He was a very lovely man. He didn't hold grudges or anything. I guess he just put up with it. But he didn't go for the throat like Rickles did.


Kliph Nesteroff: We mentioned that you had Ben Blue and Cesar Romero as regular guests on The Jack Carter Show. You also had Vincent Price and The Amazing Ballantine multiple times.

Jack Carter: Vincent Price was great. Loved to do comedy. Luba Malina, she's almost a hundred now, my God. She used to be on my show a lot. And Ann Jeffries also. Pat Morrison used to do my show a lot when she was in Taming of the Shrew on Broadway. Whoever was on Broadway we would use. I used to use Ray Middleton who was doing Annie Get Your Gun and I would be Ethel Merman. I had a whole shtick about that because I could sing, so I could do different things. But I never got credit for it. Nobody said, "Oh, he sings too." If I do interviews they're always amazed that it was me singing. But people used to like to hear me sing. I did Mr. Wonderful with Sammy Davis, I did Guys and Dolls, I did Fagin in Oliver. Lot of singing in that show.



Kliph Nesteroff: You put out an album of singing didn't you?

Jack Carter: Yeah (laughs). Yeah, I did.

Kliph Nesteroff: There's a photo of you on the cover, looks like you're dancing...

Jack Carter: Yeah, Milton Greene shot that, the great photographer. He worked in Duffy Square for a full day to get the birds to fly just right as I leaped up. Yeah, that was a great album. I did songs from Broadway that I liked.


Kliph Nesteroff: The name of the album is Broadway Ala Jack Carter.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Yeah, I have a copy of it on cassette. The album I lost. I don't know what happened to it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Did you ever put out a comedy album?

Jack Carter: No, I never did. I never did because I'm a performer that you have to see. I don't just sit there like Bob Newhart or Shelley Berman. You have to see me. I'm an in-person act, so I never did an album except for that one of singing.


Kliph Nesteroff: With that great, great cover.

Jack Carter: Boy, you really do your research. You got me nailed.

Kliph Nesteroff: Ah, Jack, I've been a fan of yours for years!

Jack Carter: Really? Isn't that nice.

Kliph Nesteroff: I've been trying to get a hold of you for the longest time.

Jack Carter: Well, you got me through Howie Rapp, and he's a nice man. I'm crippled now. I called him and I said, "Listen, can I work Florida if I come out with the walker?" Cause I've got to use a walker now. I was in a car accident last year in which Toni Murray, Jan Murray's widow was killed. She died under the car that knocked me flying and it crushed both my legs. I haven't been the same since. My balance is gone. I go to a balancing class now, but it won't help. I've got to hold on, y'know?


Kliph Nesteroff: I wanted to ask you a bit more about The Jack Carter Show. The Amazing Ballantine was on a couple of times. He did the inept magician...

Jack Carter: Oh, Carl Ballantine. He died not too long ago. I used to see him at acting jobs. He'd go out for the same jobs I would. You know who just died? Every time I went to read for an old man part, he'd be there. Len Lesser. Remember him? "Hello, Jerry!" He just died. He was eighty-eight.

Kliph Nesteroff: You were on an early TV show with the minstrel act Pick and Pat.

Jack Carter: A minstrel show on ABC, yes. Pick and Pat Minstrel. The original Pick and Pat from the radio show with Charles Winninger. We could even do blackface [on television] then. Then I had a show with the Dorsey brothers. I was the emcee with the Dorsey's. Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. That was a summer show also on ABC. But yes, the minstrels, the ABC minstrels. That was the TV show I had before I got the Cavalcade.



Kliph Nesteroff: Why did you end up leaving Cavalcade of Stars on Dumont anyway?

Jack Carter: Because I got the NBC show. I was doing great at Dumont. I was the king of Dumont. They would have offered me anything. They would have given me the network. The guy who owned it was so wealthy. He owned the Dumont television channel, he owned the Dumont television set company, but I got this offer to go to NBC. The William Morris office came and snowballed me. $2500 to $3250. Oh, what a raise. So I went to NBC and had to go to Chicago and had to set up shop there. I made it work, I made it good, they brought me to New York and killed me. I got a raise of two hundred and fifty bucks. I'll never forget it. My wife at the time said, "Don't do it! You might be hot only once in your life! This is it! Ask for the big money!" I should have been getting ten thousand! If I had been with Freddy Fields at MCA I would have got ten thousand. Berle was getting $20,000 then. Sid Caesar was getting $12,000.




Here I am working for $3750 and my guests were getting $7500. They brought me to New York, they put me in a terrible theater, with no audience because Kay... what was her name? The fat lady.

Kliph Nesteroff: Kate Smith.

Jack Carter: Kate Smith was using that theater and she didn't want an audience. She was scared to death of an audience. So it only had cameras and I had to look upstairs for an audience. I said, "I can't do this! I need an audience like on The Ed Sullivan Show!" Incidentally, I did the most Ed Sullivans of anybody. No matter what you read about Alan King or Jackie Mason, I did sixty-five of them. And I did the most Merv Griffins too.

Kliph Nesteroff: You were everywhere.

Jack Carter: Yes, I had a big career.




Kliph Nesteroff: Was The Jack Carter Show originally a summer replacement for The Jack Benny Program?

Jack Carter: Ummmmmm, er, no.

Kliph Nesteroff: I had read that.

Jack Carter: I don't know. I have no idea. For the Saturday Night Revue, I was the first hour and Sid Caesar was for the next hour and a half. But he'd already been on for a year when I came over. They needed someone eight til nine, so I don't know who I replaced. After a year that was when Pat Weaver said, "You gotta go kid. I can't fire Max Liebman and he's screaming. No comedy. No sketches. No opera. No dance numbers. Cause that's what Sid Caesar is doing." When we had to wait til their writing was done until we could write (laughs), that left us with very little time to create.

Kliph Nesteroff: That's so crazy.




Jack Carter: Yes, it was insane. Nobody ever knew it. I was going to write about it in my book, but I gave up on my book and nobody would care anyway. The only books that sell are comedy books not [biographies]; Seinfeld's, Bill Cosby's and the greatest guy of all time, all-time funny man - George Carlin. I met him just before he died and I had never known that he was a fan of mine! George Carlin, what a genius. What a language genius he was.

Kliph Nesteroff: I believe I once heard George Carlin talk about you in reverence. That he initially wanted to be the all round performer like a Jack Carter or a Danny Kaye.

Jack Carter: I had never met him. I met him not that long ago at a comedy round-up in Vegas at a hotel. I met him backstage and God, he came over and said hello. He sent me all of his albums and his books and I said, "I cherish your books! I read each page slow." He died just a few weeks after.

Kliph Nesteroff: Carlin used to do great impressions before he turned into the Carlin that we know.

Jack Carter: Yeah, he did the radio announcer.

Kliph Nesteroff: When George Carlin first did Merv Griffin he did an impression of Jack E. Leonard and Mort Sahl...

Jack Carter: No kidding? I never knew that. That's funny.


Kliph Nesteroff: On that same note - George Carlin was inspired by Lenny Bruce. And January 29, 1961, you are quoted in The New York Sunday News. When asked about Lenny Bruce you said, "I think the guy should be stopped by the union from working" and that his act was little more than rambling.

Jack Carter: No, that's not true.

Kliph Nesteroff: Did you know him?

Jack Carter: Oh, God, yes. I worshiped the man. He called me in Chicago because he liked me. He knew I wasn't bullshit. He knew I wasn't one of those comics that was just around and recited. He knew I was a worker. He knew I was for real, y'know. He called me to come see him. I was in Chicago playing some place outside town. He was at some dive, some hole in the wall or something. "Oh, hey man, it's Lenny. Come see me. I'm doin' a late show tonight." I was thrilled because I idolized the man. When he came to Chicago, they put his ass down, you know, before we got there. I was at a big party with Dorothy Kilgallen. I was with the powers that be that had the Chez Paree. I said, "Why don't you give the man a break? Let him open first before you murder him?" He came in, they went to see them, and he absolutely killed 'em. He was such a big hit. Kilgallen did a rave on him.


He went to New York and he just couldn't be. He was a sore winner. To him, success was a put-down. He had a death wish. He went back to New York to work and he went right back into the toilet, right down into the ground. But he called me to come see him in Chicago after my show. I drove in and I went to the club and he did three numbers. He did a number about Sophie Tucker screwing busboys. Then he did a number about nuns having orgasms. For his third number, he turned around and he peed on the wall. Whaddaya think of that? He called me to come see him special. I just walked out in total disgust (laughs). That was the last time I ever saw him. How do you go backstage to see a guy after that? "Hey, ya peed on the wall just great!"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)


Jack Carter: Can you believe that? Those were the three numbers he did. A funny thing on Sophie Tucker being serviced by the busboys... but he was brilliant. His routine on The Palladium was great... a lot of his routines, Buddy Hackett annexed. They were great friends. They were both big pot smokers, y'know. Buddy Hackett was a big doper. We were raised together and went to school together.

Kliph Nesteroff: I didn't know that.

Jack Carter: Yeah, his father was an upholster and we had the candy store about six blocks away. But we were never very friendly.

Kliph Nesteroff: I heard that he could be hard to get to know and was generally very angry.


Jack Carter: A very angry man. He carried a gun. He was violent. He shot up a car in Vegas that parked in his spot. The Mafia wanted to kill him and I don't know who protected him. I think he shot himself in the end. He went out to the beach to die. They claimed he had a cold, but I don't think so. I think he shot himself.

Kliph Nesteroff: What was it about him that made...


Jack Carter: He gave me a couple of guns. In fact, I am looking at one right now. It's an old revolutionary rifle that's hanging on my wall that he gave me. He was a fan of mine, but we never got along and he had a vicious wife that didn't like my wife. But he had a big talent. He wound up doing Carson a lot where he did Myron Cohen jokes! Carson loved him. How did we get off on this tangent?

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, we were talking about how you had grown up with him.

Jack Carter: Oh, yeah. Same neighborhood and school.


Kliph Nesteroff: Now I don't know if this is true or not... it sounds true and it sounds fascinating. I read a newspaper article from 1952 explaining that you were onstage doing stand-up in Las Vegas when the atomic bomb was being tested and detonated in the Nevada desert!

Jack Carter: Yes (laughs).

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember about that?

Jack Carter: Well, I remember it started a locust plague! It drove the locusts into town and they crawled all over the stage and they were on the highway. They were everywhere. You went into a dining room and they were on your table, they were in your food! I was working the Desert Inn and one crawls on stage and I talked to it. "Good evening, sir. Would you like a table? How about ringside?" And a guy got up in the audience and shot it!

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh my God (laughs).

Jack Carter: The guy was the son of the guy from Reno that owned a hotel there, Wild Bill Smith type or something. I remember I said to the audience, "There will now be a change of underwear and comedians" and I walked off.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: The guy stood up and he shot it and it was right at my feet. Pulled his gun out and sent a bullet right beneath me (laughs).

Kliph Nesteroff: Wow.


Jack Carter: That atomic blast drove the locusts into town. I remember my wife was in town at the time and, she and Don Adams' wife, went to The Sands and there were bugs all over it. Giant locusts. It was a plague, y'know. When we drove out of town we drove on them on the highway. Suddenly, when you got about three miles outside of Vegas, it ended. Just like a science fiction movie. That blast had loosened them and they headed into Vegas. They've never had that since. They never had locusts again. But there were millions of bugs crawling on the highway and the streets, you couldn't keep them out of your room, nothing. I'll never forget that.


And the man who was the son of the Reno hotel owner... he always traveled with two pistols like a cowboy. He stood up, "God-day-yam" and blew the thing away (laughs). He blew a hole right in the floor at The Desert Inn. I was on the bill with Betty Riley, an Irish girl who played guitar and sang. And Pearl Bailey, I think. Pearl Bailey had to sleep in a cabin outside. In a trailer. Because they wouldn't let African-Americans stay at the hotel. All the other Negro entertainers at the time had to stay in North Las Vegas. A place called The Moulin Rouge, a black nightclub. All the entertainers including Sammy Davis. Eventually Sammy was able to stay at The Sands - Frank Sinatra saw to that.


Kliph Nesteroff: You mention Pearl Bailey and that makes me think of the comedian George Kirby who did the great Pearl Bailey impression.

Jack Carter: Yes he did some jail time too. He did about ten years in jail. He was a great impressionist, yes he always did that great Pearl Bailey. Pearl Bailey was a nice lady. She had her own Jewish drummer. I went through some pages of stuff the other day. I was looking for pictures to put up on my walls and I found a whole page of clippings from different clubs and theaters and reviews. But the press was never kind with me. It was always "brash, fast, breezy." I was written off. "Wise guy. One-liners." Bullshit! I was much more than that. I did a real full act, y'know.


Kliph Nesteroff: Let me read you something from a Walter Winchell column. 1958. "Don't invite comedians Jack Carter and Henny Youngman to the same table at Lindy's. Carter's crax about Henny at The Friar's is what did it."

Jack Carter: Oh, yeah (laughs). That's funny. That's funny. Well, Henny Youngman hated everybody. "What're ya doing that for? Bleech. Stick to the crummy mimicry, don't do jokes." Henny Youngman called me one day. "Can you do a club date for me? My wife died." Can you do a club date for me, my wife died!? That's how he announced that his wife had died! He was a rough guy. Ugh. He was one of a kind. He used to do half-liners. Not one-liners, half-liners!


Kliph Nesteroff: Speaking of rough guys, you played The Copacabana, November 1951. What was Jules Podell like?

Jack Carter: Ah, he was special (laughs). He was special. We all have Jules Podell stories. Behind that tough veneer was a very good Jew. He was very good with his temple. I didn't even know he was Jewish. I had always though that he was Italian, the way he would "talk like this heeyah." I once was warned by the captain not to do a joke about the feather flying. I said, "What feather?" He said, "Off the chorus girl. You did some line about the feather flying off. Don't do it. Julie don't want you to do it." I said, "Well whatever I did I ad-libbed it. Mr. Podell doesn't like it? I couldn't care less."


Well, later on that night I was called into the kitchen and he used to line up all the waiters and busboys and everybody and he walked up and down like he was reviewing the troops. And he looked at me and he said (in Jules Podell voice), "I couldn't care less! Couldn't care less!" He ripped at my shoulders like he was tearing my epilets off! He was insane! He was demoting me in front of the troops! He was crazy! "He couldn't care less." Howard Keel worked the club and was bombing terribly. No business. Three weeks of death. He had never talked to Podell the whole time and he sat down at Podell's booth one time and he said, "Mr. Podell before I close I certainly would like to say hello to ya." Podell said to him, "Mr. Keel can you take some constructive criticism?" He said, "Sure." Podell said, "Go fuck yourself!"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)


Jack Carter: Oh, he was a beauty. He was something special. Everybody lived in fear of him. Sammy went to The Copa to see Frank Sinatra and he had already starred in Mr. Wonderful and he was now getting to be pretty big. He went to see Frank Sinatra and they wouldn't seat him. They said they had no room for him. Finally they put him way off in Siberia next to a wall. It broke his heart. He had his whole family with him to see Frank, y'know. And Frank didn't do anything or he couldn't do anything. These big money people were all over the place. At The Copa, you thought you were ringside - then they'd put a table in front of you. Then a table in front of that one and a table in front of that one and soon there was no floor left. Just a band and a microphone. I worked it a lot.


Kliph Nesteroff: Shecky Greene told me that he only played The Copacabana once and that Podell cut his microphone off five minutes into his act. He said something that Podell didn't like and that was the end of Shecky at The Copa.

Jack Carter: Well, Podell was very sensitive. Shecky's whole act is picking on the boss. Especially in Vegas he'd work the hotel over, the boss over, that was his strength - especially when he was bombed, when he was drinking. I imagine he'd only last five minutes and Podell would call him off. I had never heard that, but I can imagine it happening. But he's a lovely man - I love Shecky. We're very friendly. We talk all the time.


Kliph Nesteroff: Ah, yes I love Shecky too. He's the greatest and very friendly.

Jack Carter: I used to have a favorite haunt in Vegas and I'd go there all of the time and Shecky would never go there because he didn't like the owner. But he came to my party that night. I had a lot of parties. Always threw parties in Vegas. I was a big party giver. At The Flamingo I would take over the whole lounge and have the Harry James band and all the showgirls and everybody. But Shecky came this night and it was a place where you could get pizza and food, y'know. And he ordered a pizza from outside. They came and delivered a pizza to him to this restaurant...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Shecky Greene: He hated the owner so he had a pizza delivered from outside!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)


Jack Carter: Shecky came to my wedding, the one that Don Rickles threw for me. He came in a sweater and shorts and he had a wedding cake. He saw comedian Corbett Monica there, a comic that he hated. He threw the cake at him and left!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: (laughs) Another thing I'll never forget is that the preacher didn't know who was who. He tried to marry Rickles and my wife! Oh my God.

Kliph Nesteroff: Why did Shecky hate Corbett Monica?


Jack Carter: I have no idea. I think everyone hated him because he would steal your act. He loved to steal. I once went to see Steve and Eydie and he was working with them and I heard my jokes! One after another! "Who the hell is this Corbett Monica!?" Yeah, he was a real scumbag.

Kliph Nesteroff: Now is it true that you filled in for Phil Silvers in Top Banana when he took a break as star of the production?


Jack Carter: Yeah, I did it on Broadway. It was sensational! On Broadway at The Wintergarden. I had four days... I had to get together about twelve songs, many sketches, and had to work with all these people and I did it letter perfect opening night. I did it for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately there was an air conditioning problem in New York. The heat was so bad that all the air conditioning broke in all the theaters and every show closed and most never reopened. I only ever got about six weeks out of it after all that work. Audrey Meadows was in it with me. She had replaced the other girl that was in it.

Kliph Nesteroff: There were a lot of great character actors in the show.

Jack Carter: Yes, all the great comics like Ben Chasen and Herbie Faye and they remained dear friends of mine for life. The score was by Johnny Mercer and there was a great song in there called A Word a Day. "Lexicon! That's an avenue by Third! Cross the light! That's the girl who works the street!" It was a clever song he did on mistaken words like a Norm Crosby kind of thing.

Kliph Nesteroff: It was an underrated show, but I guess it...


Jack Carter: Oh, yes. I did a TV version of it with Michael Brandman on HBO or Showtime. It never went anywhere. It had strippers and things. We had the original Top Banana costume, the checkered yellow outfit, y'know. (singing) "If you wanna be a Top Banana! You gotta start at the bottom of the bunch! You gotta know the joke about the farmer's daught-ah - and take it in the kisser with the seltz-er watah! If you wanna be a hit in burlesque! It's basic training you gotta take a good take! You gotta role your eyes and do a funny face - and holler 'This must be deh place!' If you wanna be a Top Banana - you gotta start! At the bottom! Of the bunnnnnnchhhh!!!"


Kliph Nesteroff: (applauds) Jack there is still so much I would like to ask you about. We haven't talked about your experiences on The Ed Sullivan Show at all and there are still other comics I would love to rack your brain about like Phil Foster, like Jackie Miles...


Jack Carter: I was just talking about Jackie Miles the other day. I found a picture of him with Jackie Phillips and Gary Morton. Gary Morton who I introduced to Lucille Ball. Jackie Miles. We had to bury him. Jan Murray called and said, "Listen, Jackie died and he has no one." So we all chipped in a hundred bucks each and raised enough to bury him. He died broke. He was hot for a while. He was running around Miami with Joe E. Lewis. They became a team. Two perfect drunks together! But Jackie Miles was heavily into drugs too.


Kliph Nesteroff: I didn't know that.

Jack Carter: Syphillis as well. He was limited. He could only do the little act he did. He never grew with it. So he disappeared. All he could do was the racetrack thing and the cowboy thing. But he worked theaters before anybody.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, he was definitely of the old school.

Jack Carter: Yes, well, when we were coming up he was one of the established greats.


Kliph Nesteroff: What was the drug issue with him?

Jack Carter: All kinds of things, but he was a pot smoker. All those Bronx guys were big pot smokers.

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember about Gene Baylos?


Jack Carter: (laughs) He was a cute little guy. At the Friar's they finally had to bar him from running table to table and annoying people. They used to feed him for free because he didn't have any money. He blew all his money on his wife. He gave her a mink coat - then he tried to get it back so he could sell it! He was a funny character and he just died not long ago in a home somewhere. He was funny. He was funny to us. We loved him. He always wanted to go to the West Coast. "I'm coming out. I'm coming out there, Jack. Dean Martin said he'd get me work. Dean said he'd use me." Dean wouldn't even know he was alive, but he had such hopes of coming out. But, boy, the moment you went to The Friar's, he'd be right at your table. Then he'd sit down and eat with you. Finally they had to just feed him and let him eat free because he was dead broke.

Kliph Nesteroff: We were talking about your singing voice and I've seen you do some wonderful routines with Judy Garland.




Jack Carter: Yes, I did some nice routines with her. I was a regular on The Judy Garland Show. She had a TV show, we did stuff together and I did an episode of The Hollywood Palace with her and she wouldn't come out. I said to the producer Bill Horbach, "The woman does one performance. She can't drum up a second one. She gives it her all and she gave it at the dress rehearsal." She couldn't come out again and do it one hour later. "What'll we do?" I said, "You'll play the film of the dress rehearsal and I'll make believe I'm introducing her. We can solve the problem that way." So I came out and I looked toward her and she wasn't even there. I said, "Judy, you're wonderful" and then we spliced in the film of her doing it in the dress rehearsal.

Kliph Nesteroff: I watched that recently and I figured that was the case because you come out and say, "Thanks, Judy!" and the audience laughs. I assumed they were laughing because she wasn't there.


Jack Carter: Yeah! She was highly neurotic and she would do one great show. Any other act could do it twice. But we saved the day that way. You noticed that? That's funny! Nobody knows about that! I never told that to anybody!

Kliph Nesteroff: I watched that recently and I watched an episode of The Dean Martin Show where you do your famous flamenco dancer bit.

Jack Carter: Yes, well, I worked with Jose Greco in Florida and he hated me for that. But I invented a whole thing about flamenco and about four comedians stole that bit from me, with the dancing and the looking back and all that, y'know. I was inventive and did lots of good stuff. Even Johnny Carson tried to steal my Vegas routine when he did Las Vegas. Milton Berle's wife was in my room one night taping me and I took the tape away from her. I said, "No, no. You don't want to do that." Milton sent her over to [steal] my act.



Kliph Nesteroff: But you and Milton were friendly, right?

Jack Carter: Yes, we were friendly and I adored Milton. Right to the very end we were friendly except the last woman he married was a real garbage pail. A real hooker. She cleaned him out, broke his spirits and took him for everything he had. He died broke, almost.

Kliph Nesteroff: You hear similar things about Groucho Marx's last wife.

Jack Carter: Yeah, she was a toughie. And Groucho was vicious at the end. He used to come over to Durante's house and heckle him. Jimmy was barely alive. Joey Bishop and I would go over and visit with Jimmy every day and keep him laughing. They had to bar Groucho from the house because he was so vicious. "Why don't you die, old man? What are you sitting there wearing that stupid hat for?" Yeah, I'll never forget I used to go to Groucho's every Sunday. He had a dinner group. I was honored to be invited. Steve Allen would play piano and Groucho would do a little act. 


I was standing at the buffet table in front of a man. There was roast beef, string beans and a salad. And that's what it was every week. This man turned to me and he said, "See this string beans and this roast beef? This is the only place in the world you can get this - and you get it every fucking week that you're here!" Later on I said, "Who was that guy?" Steve Allen says, "That was Nunnally Johnson." I said, "Nunnally Johnson! Jesus! My God! A giant!" But those were the kind of people that Groucho couched, y'know. Great literate minds loved him because he was a wit. But Nunnally Johnson, I got such a kick out of that. "Same fucking meal every week."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)



Jack Carter: Yeah, Groucho had that terrible wife. I forget her name.

Kliph Nesteroff: Erin Flemming.

Jack Carter: Erin Flemming. She cleaned him out or tried to. When I first came to the West Coast I went to the Hillcrest Country Club. I was testing for a movie that Aldo Ray got. I went to the Hillcrest Country Club and a man ran up to me. "Oh, Jack Carter! I am such a fan of yours! I watch every Ed Sullivan you do! I love it!" He walked away and I said to somebody, "Who was that?" They said, "That's Harpo." Harpo Marx! My God! Who would recognize him outside of that Harpo look? I had no idea. That was such a kick. 


That is when I met Jack Benny and played golf with him. Benny and Burns would come see me in Vegas. That was such a thrill to have them in the audience. Benny came backstage afterward and said, "You know, Jack. You do more in forty-five minutes than I've done in my entire career!" Because I worked so rapid fast. 


Kliph Nesteroff: I was talking to Alan Young and he had one of the early comedy shows on television too. He said he was amazed one day to look out into the audience of his live broadcast and he see Jack Benny, George Burns and Lucille Ball. He was thrilled! All these big stars were there to see his show. Then he found out later that they were all there to suss out the workings of live television and once they saw him do his show live they all decided, "Nuh uh. We'll do ours on film."


Jack Carter: Ah, that's funny (laughs). That's so true too. A lot of them couldn't face an audience. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, Jack I want to thank you for spending so much time speaking with me today.

Jack Carter: Hey, I appreciate you checking in on my life like this! I had no idea you would be so erudite!

Kliph Nesteroff: I just love showbiz.

Jack Carter: Well, you sure know a lot of stuff. 

5 comments:

Michael Powers said...

Sensational interview, so much information about so many different people that it's fantastic. I don't think I'd ever heard about the Vegas locusts, god I'm glad I wasn't there for that, not to mention the radiation that might've been sweeping through town. And I certainly never knew that about Buddy Hackett, or Berle's last wife, or practically any of these stories. Now that you have his number, Kliph, interview him some more before it's too late!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Carter has a point about Buddy Hackett's exit. It made no sense.

Ken Burke said...

Kliph,

Thank you so much for conducting and posting this fascinating interview. When I was growing up, it seemed that I saw Jack Carter on the tube constantly. Most of us never got to see him do his entire act, so it is shame that he doesn't have a comedy LP to dig up.

Anyway, this is some great research and information. Keep it up!

Best always,

Ken Burke

Bobby Wall said...

Kliph, I cannot tell you how much I love your blog and all the interviews and pictures, etc. etc. that you so generously give here. You are the Herodotus of Show Business and I believe that all that you put on the internet here is of MAJOR HISTORICAL VALUE. Your Classic Television Showbiz blog is unbelievably important for future generations. As you, I have always loved showbiz and you bring back so many great memories that I can't even begin to put into words how I feel seeing all that you put here in your blog. For some reason, I get a special kick out of all the newspaper clippings and advertisements you put here. Just to see those old names from my youth is so fantastic! And to see things like dinners for $3.00 is something else, too. But you just can't beat the interviews you do. What a great interviewer you are. You certainly know your stuff! And you get gem after gem out of all those you interview. I read and re-read these interviews over and over. That's how great they are. You're a very special guy and god bless you for what you're doing here with your blog. If you love old show biz the way that I do, then this is the place to be! Keep up the great work!

Fred said...

Came across your post on Jack Carter and really enjoyed the interview. My parents were big fans of his. I remember him mostly from Ed Sullivan - Thanks so much!