Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Interview with Jack Carter - Part Four

Jack Carter: I did that Don Rickles documentary for that director. I never got any credit. He got an Emmy for it.

Kliph Nesteroff: John Landis.

Jack Carter: Yeah, Landis. He knew Rickles from Kelly's Heroes and they became buddies. I did about six hours of interviews for it and they gave me three bottles of vodka for it.

Kliph Nesteroff: I was flipping through some more reviews from the late forties. You played The Paramount in New York in 1949 with Charlie Barnett and his Orchestra and Bob Hope's moustachioed sidekick Jerry Colonna.

Jack Carter: Yeah, yeah. I don't remember much about Colonna, but I got friendly with Hope through Morey Amsterdam. Later I became one of Hope's flunkies. They'd call me to go with him on tour. I didn't know he was getting paid. I had no idea. Hope would go to a high school and he'd get forty thousand. He would pocket it and hide it. He got big money everywhere. I got a call from his two guys; Ward and Tony. I was thrilled to go along. I did Florida a couple of times with him. He'd introduce me and I'd do the rest of the show and he'd take off - because he had broads stashed everywhere! In fact, one of them my daughter ended up living with - Joy Monroe. She later married the head of Avon. We got some of her artwork and furniture when she just left. But she was one of Bob Hope's tricks. He, Jesus (laughs), he had girls every where. And his wife knew it.

Kliph Nesteroff: This review of The Paramount gig...

Jack Carter: I was never a press favorite. Never. They hated... they had no use for me. I was just a wiseguy, one-liner, nobody gave me any credit for anything legit. Even if I did a legit show it was, "Oh, he was miscast." I'll never forget that. I did Sugar at The Chandler here in Los Angeles. It was marvelous. One of the drama-logue pieces-of-shit here wrote, "Miscast!" Bobby Morse and I stopped the show every night with a number that never even got applause in New York. The problem with the show was we had Joe Namath - who was very good in it, but they killed him. They didn't even give him a chance. I played the old guy; the Joe E. Brown part. Remember the movie? Some Like It Hot? I had the great line at the end. "I'm a man!" "Well, nobody's perfect." That was the line at the end of the show. I wore heavy make-up every night and had a big opening song. Bobby Morse and I had a big gypsy dance number together and we stopped the show with that ever night.

Kliph Nesteroff: Robert Morse has had a big comeback recently with Mad Men.

Jack Carter: Yeah, he's a cute little guy.

Kliph Nesteroff: He's funny.

Jack Carter: I love him, yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: I saw footage of you on a Bob Hope special singing with Harry Ritz.

Jack Carter: Really!? Well, I did about four or five of his specials. I did one where I did impressions and Hope was doing like a Danny Kaye thing.

Kliph Nesteroff: This special is with Harry Ritz and Sammy Cahn at the piano. You're leaning on the piano with Jan Murray and Marty Allen.

Jack Carter: That's a photograph.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, this is from a TV special.

Jack Carter: Wow. I don't remember that. I have a picture of that with all of us at the piano. The best Bob Hope special I did was one that had Milton Berle and Danny Thomas. And they hated each other. They were after each other. I had to go out and warm the audience up [between takes] and keep the audience alive. Hope loved that. The show got great ratings and I think Tony Randall was on it too. Mort Lachman wrote it. It was a take-off on a scandal that had just happened. Some kind of a scandal. It was well-written and got great ratings. Mort was a sweet man and he was a great friend of mine until he married this terrible woman that got rich off of him. Yeah. He married a woman with hair all over her face.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: He had gone with this lady writer for twenty years. Lila Garrett. They busted up and he started going with this terrible woman and it ended our friendship. The last time I saw him was at Hope's funeral. He got up and it took him an hour to get to the microphone...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: He was still funny.

Kliph Nesteroff: Danny Thomas and Milton Berle. Did they actually hate each other or was that just...

Jack Carter: Oh, they were really after each other at this rehearsal. In front of the audience they were yelling and cursing and I had to try and cover for it. I went out to the audience and would say, "They're only kidding. Just forget it." And I'd do jokes and keep the crowd warm, y'know.

Kliph Nesteroff: Why were they so vicious with each other? Jealousy?

Jack Carter: I have no idea. They were always having these... Berle resented Thomas and Thomas resented him. Different styles. But that was a good special. I forget what the theme was, but something had just happened with the government and it was a take-off on that. Hope used me on about four specials.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, that sequence where you sing with Harry Ritz is great.

Jack Carter: Boy, I don't remember that at all. We adored Harry Ritz. We had to chip in for his funeral. Jan Murray loved him. Harry stayed with Jan Murray. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Just going back to the topic of Milton Berle. I read that before Milton Berle was awarded the Texaco Star Theater on television, you were also up for that job as host of that show.

Jack Carter: Yeah, I guess so. I had that successful Cavalcade of Stars. So, I kind of invented television on Saturday night and had that hit show. Then NBC bought me. Then they killed me when I got too ambitious. I was a threat to Max Liebman and Liebman complained. They called me in and they fired me.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, we spoke about that last time. I was flipping through Sid Caesar's book and noticed that he actually mentions that.

Jack Carter: Sid Caesar has a book?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, he put it out about six years ago. He said, "My friend Jack Carter was handcuffed by the Max Liebman restrictions in which he couldn't write his show [each week] until Your Show of Shows had been written."

Jack Carter: That's right. I never knew he said that (silence). I gotta write this book. I wrote a couple of chapters and they disapeared! I gave them to this guy who took them back to New York and this agent couldn't sell the book anywhere and it died. So I don't know what to do. I asked Carl Reiner. He said, "Publish it yourself!" I said, "I don't know how! You know how. You get books published every three minutes!" Everybody's got one. Even that little shit Jeffery Ross! You know? The new roaster. He's been in the business four minutes and he's got a book out! King of Roasts! Can you believe this? Everyone! Dick Van Dyke just came out with a book and is getting all kinds of publicity. But he's visual - you see him around. He's doing shows with Mitzi Gaynor and he and his brother are doing The Sunshine Boys. Again, two gentiles doing Sunshine Boys.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) Good point.

Jack Carter: I'd like to see two Jews do it just once! Jack Benny and George Burns...

Kliph Nesteroff: Then Jack died and Walter Matthau took over...

Jack Carter: Jack passed away and George got an Academy Award.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, George was great in it.

Jack Carter: Yes, rightfully so. George was great in it. We were so close. God, we were friendly. We'd go out New Year's Eve - we'd go back to his house and have soup and a Martini. (In George Burns voice) "We'll go party some more, Jack. We'll go to a couple more parties. What do you want? Chicken soup or mushroom and barley?" George proved that Jews liked hot soup. I used to go to Hillcrest [Country Club] just to have soup with him.

Kliph Nesteroff: I saw you, George Burns and Milton Berle on a roast of Jerry Lewis.

Jack Carter: They don't show much of me on those Dean Martin roasts... recently they've started showing one - the Jack Benny one.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, well the roast I watched wasn't a Dean Martin incarnation. It was a Kraft Music Hall roast.

Jack Carter: Ohhhhh, yeah, yeah. That was a goodie!

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, very good.

Jack Carter: Yes, we got paid for that.

Kliph Nesteroff: Much, much better than the Dean Martin ones.

Jack Carter: Oh, yes.

Kliph Nesteroff: Funnier, more spontaneous. Just better quality all round.

Jack Carter: Absolutely. I forgot all about those, yeah. Yeah, the Dean Martin ones were quickies. I wrote mostly my own stuff on the Dean Martin roasts. They had terrible writers, except for Milt Rosen. Milt was good, but I liked to do my own stuff. I used to go into New York for The Friar's ones, but they don't want to pay anymore. I used to go in and, God, I would get pissed off. Everyone leaves me out. An article in the local Beverly Courier. I'm going to appear at this concert and everyone else was mentioned but me. I called the editor. He wouldn't even answer my calls. Story of my life! Left out. Left out.

Kliph Nesteroff: One of the other comics on the dais of the Milton Berle roast was Red Buttons...

Jack Carter: Yeah...

Kliph Nesteroff: You hear a lot of stories about Red Buttons and his temperament. Some people say he was terrible to work with. Others say he was a mensch. What is your opinion on Red?

Jack Carter: Cheapest man who ever lived. Not cheap, penurious. Naw. I'll top that even. Miserly. Never had an act. Never worked Vegas and the minute somebody died they'd go to him for an interview. He never worked Vegas. He never had an act. He went there once to The Freemont Hotel and they canceled him in one night. He had no act. He had that little Jewish, "Ho ho! Ho ho!" with three jokes. But you've got to have an act for Vegas! You've got to be a pro!

Kliph Nesteroff: So how did he sustain himself then?

Jack Carter: Well, he didn't! He schlepped along for years doing nothing until he got lucky with "Never got a dinner." That made him and he got huge money - thirty or forty thousand an appearance. He aggrandized that with his "I was there! I saw it!" bit. So in his later years he scored big. But he was always the cheapo. He and Gene Barry. Two leading cheapos...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: I once scared them into thinking they were going to have to pay a cheque with me - but I had already paid it. They turned white. They didn't know what to do. Gene Barry always carried a credit card that was canceled. "Oh, really?" When they'd come back. He'd ask his wife, "Oh, do you have any money?" "No." "Oh, I'll get it," said the other people. He did that time and again, the old credit card is not working shtick.

Kliph Nesteroff: Red Buttons...

Jack Carter: Well, Red was kind of nasty. I had a run-in with him for life because of one of his wives. It somehow came out at a party that we had called her a hooker... which she was. She used to sit in Danny's Hideaway in New York and take calls; turn tricks. That was his third wife, the last one, Alicia. She turned out to be a lesbian and that was the end. He discovered her with girls, y'know.

Kliph Nesteroff: He had a TV show around the same time that you had your own TV show.

Jack Carter: Yeah, it was terrible. It was on for a minute. He almost had a fistfight with one of the writers! The writer was an elderly man who was one of Bob Hope's big writers! He almost came to blows with Red. It was that bad! Red couldn't get along with anybody. Red thought he knew it all. He had some good, big writers. I forget the guy's name now. Imagine him coming to blows with Red!

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, well that's the kind of story I have heard. That if you were a comedy writer he was impossible to work for...

Jack Carter: Absolutely, yes, absolutely. A nasty little man.

Kliph Nesteroff: There are three guys that you hear about being nothing but trouble for comedy writers - Milton Berle, Red Buttons and Red Skelton.

Jack Carter: Yes, Skelton was rough too. Skelton "knew it all." And he had some greats - Bud Yorkin, Norman Lear and some big people.

Kliph Nesteroff: And Sherwood Schwartz, who quit.

Jack Carter: Sherwood Schwartz, yes. He was Robin Hood's rabbi.

Kliph Nesteroff: (groans) (laughs)

Jack Carter: That's the joke with him (laughs). There's a younger Schwartz who cast me on Baywatch. The minute I came to read he loved me. "You got it! You got it! I'm thrilled to have you. You got it!" I played a wrestling instructor.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) That's perfect.

Jack Carter: (laughs) "Oh you're Sherwood Schwartz's son? Robin Hood's rabbi!"

Kliph Nesteroff: You had a writer on The Jack Carter Show named Snag Werris.

Jack Carter: Snag Werris was magical! I don't know where he came from. He was the cutest man and he knew a million jokes! He knew routines. I don't know where he came from. He was so bright. He could do two-man jokes with guys talking to each other and he did everything! He came out to the West Coast out here. His daughter came to see me and told me he got mugged and beaten to death. Isn't that awful? Right in the street.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh my God.

Jack Carter: Yeah, he got beaten, mugged and died. But he was my main writer, really. I carried a guy named Mel Diamond who did nothing for years. In New York I used Marty Roth who was also a fraud. They were just good typers and copiers. I had these guys when I did all those Ed Sullivans. I was on almost every week with fresh material. I did about sixty-five of 'em. I did a lot of Merv's. Merv constantly.

Kliph Nesteroff: You also had a writer named Walter Stone.

Jack Carter: Walter Stone and Marvin Marx. I left them and they went with Jackie Gleason and worked for him for twenty years. I was at the Adelphi Theater doing Cavalcade of Stars. I came outside into the freezing cold and there was a kid standing there shivering. He had papers in his hand. I said, "What is this?" He said, "I'm a writer. I wrote a monologue for you." It was forty below. Went in the theater and I took a look at this thing and I said, "Oh my God. This is funny." I did it that night. That night I did Walter Stone's monologue. Biggest jokes I ever did! Some of those jokes stayed in my act for years. I bought him a coat and kept him on until I left that show and went to NBC. 

He stayed there with Gleason and went to CBS. They created the bartender character for him and all the rest. Walter Stone, God bless him, from Dunellen, New Jersey. I remember the town, even. For a schnookie, skinny kid he was a racetrack freak. Marvin Marx was fat little Jewish kid that loved to eat.  He'd come back, "Oooh! I just had this great sandwich! You wouldn't believe it! For $3.85!" That was his whole life (laughs).

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: But Marvin Marx and Walter Stone stayed with Gleason for years.

Kliph Nesteroff: Some other names I have. The producer - Kenny Lyons.

Jack Carter: Ah, I'm blanking. Coming up blank on that one.

Kliph Nesteroff: Director Paul Monroe.

Jack Carter: Monroe - a drunk! I was eight minutes under on my very first [television] show from Chicago. Paul Monroe a total drunk, a waste of time! But he had a good girl with him; Cissy Williams. So, she stayed on and did the show. She was a producer. I was eight minutes short on my first show from Chicago. He didn't know from shit. I had to go out on nationwide television and ad-lib for eight minutes!

Kliph Nesteroff: A lifetime.

Jack Carter: We got rid of him in the first week.

Kliph Nesteroff: Then there was another director Sean Dillon.

Jack Carter: Yes, well, I had some other guy left over from Dave Garroway. I think that was him, yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: Music by Jack Barnett and music by Harry Selznick.

Jack Carter: Well, Jackie Barnett wrote for me. He wrote for Durante. He was a lifelong friend. He was like a brother. Very clever. He wrote me original songs.

Kliph Nesteroff: For your nightclub act and for TV?

Jack Carter: Yes, for both. Mostly TV, but he wrote for Durante. He wrote Durante's three big songs. A cute guy. A young good looking kid. Boy, you got (laughs) a load of history.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, I actually watched an episode of The Jack Carter Show since I last talked to you.

Jack Carter: Well, all the good ones are gone. The NBC shows were the best. The NBC ones they burned up.

Kliph Nesteroff: The episode I watched had David Niven as a guest star.

Jack Carter: Oh, Niven was... that movie My Favorite Year was based on that. The movie with Peter O'Toole. It was based on me having Niven. That idea came from me and Niven. Niven had no idea we were live. He wanted signs in the wings to read from. We put together a sketch he would be comfortable with, but that as a disaster trying to get through that show with Niven. I got a lot of acts from Berle because people would come to New York, do the Berle rehearsal, and then quit.

Kliph Nesteroff: Right, you told me this story.

Jack Carter: We would sit in our office and wait for the call from the William Morris office. "Would you like to have Bill Bendix? Would you like Basil Rathbone? Would you like to have Rex Harrison?" They walked out on Berle! If they were in New York they could pick up $7500. As the star of the show I only got $3250! Can you believe it? It's The Jack Carter Show and the guests are getting more than me! That was the William Morris office! That shit office!

Kliph Nesteroff: That show was sponsored by Campbell Soup...

Jack Carter: Yeah, that was one of 'em...

Kliph Nesteroff: The Wildroot Company and Whitman's Chocolate.

Jack Carter: Yeah and live commercials too.

Kliph Nesteroff: I don't know how much you were involved with the booking of your show, but did you have to deal with the McCarthy blacklist or the loyalty oath?

Jack Carter: No. I booked people I knew would work well in sketches.

Kliph Nesteroff: So you never had to deal with anything "red scare" related?

Jack Carter: No. Nothing. Not that I knew of. Nobody was... the people that were involved in it... I don't know. Woody Allen [was in The Front]. I had a run in with him once.

Kliph Nesteroff: With Woody Allen?

Jack Carter: Yes. The Garry Moore Show. He was one of the writers. I became a Garry Moore favorite. Carol Burnett was on it and other people. There was a talk show. David Susskind. Mickey Rooney was on and [so was] Woody Allen. Woody went to work on him - and I defend Mickey and let Woody have it. Whatever he said I counted him. He was one of the headwriters on Garry Moore and that ended my career on The Garry Moore Show.

Kliph Nesteroff: I had heard that Larry Gelbart was one of your writers.

Jack Carter: Larry was a close buddy. I just finished discussing him with my secretary. She worked for Gelbart. His wife used the same accountant that I used; the one that robbed me blind. Stole four hundred thousand from one check and two hundred from another, did my taxes wrong and was robbing all his clients. The girl that blew the whistle on him is now my secretary. That was Barry Pollock. Gelbart's wife used him. I said, "Why!? He's a crook! He robbed from everybody!" The only one that was able to beat him in court was Billy Dee Williams. He collected a couple hundred thousand. Meanwhile this guy had Rolls Royces, he had boats, he was stealing from all of us. I had given him power of attorney and he was buying stocks in my name and he took everybody's pension and spent it. He got hold of some acts like The Temptations and he wiped them out. He was on the same floor as the soul man. The guy that had all the soul acts, y'know?

Kliph Nesteroff: Berry Gordy.

Jack Carter: No, no, no. Another guy. He used to have a show called Soul Train.

Kliph Nesteroff: Don Cornelius.

Jack Carter: That's it! Don Cornelius was on Barry Pollock's floor. He broke them. Cleaned them all. And then he died. A terrible man. I never watched my books. He didn't file estimates for me and so I got hit with government things four years in a row and he just destroyed me. I would have been a rich man had it not been for him.

Kliph Nesteroff: Now, Larry Gelbart...

Jack Carter: Gelbart did a pilot for me, but it never sold. He did it with Burt Sheveloff. It was a show where I ran one of those Henry Street settlements in New York. One of those places that did everything where you could socialize, hang out, swimming pool all that. The night we did the show, Jack E. Leonard the comedian sat up front and destroyed us.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: He kept heckling and ad-libbing during the taping and it killed it dead. CBS was never so furious in their life. When we shot it again it went into the toilet. It was never sold. It was called Love That Guy.

Kliph Nesteroff: We mentioned Sid Caesar. Were you friends with Sid despite the fact there was that problem between...

Jack Carter: Yes, we became friendly. We used to meet after the show at Danny's Hideaway. His group would go there and I would go there after my show on Saturdays and we got to be friendly. I would go to his house on the island. He's like a big golem. He's a big non-speaker. Sid would talk in monosyllabic terms. "Oh, good. Boy. Nice. Ooh. Wow. Do that. Boy. Oh." He was a musician originally. He was funny in those sketches. But the guy who did he run-through of those sketches was also a musician. He was a french horn player - Milt something. And he was really the one that ad-libbed the sketches and set it up. He would do the dress rehearsal and Sid would save [himself] for the show. But he got plenty of shtick from this guy. This guy died destitute and broke. I can't think of his name now.

Kliph Nesteroff: He was one of the writers or...

Jack Carter: No, no. He was a comedian. He was Sid's stand-in. He did the run through and he did the dress [rehearsal] and he was also a comedian. Milt something. It's one of the great stories of our time. Milt would do these run throughs and be funny and ad-lib and it was a lot of the stuff you saw Sid do later. He was brilliant. He did one movie... can't think of his name. Milt... Milt... with a G or something.

Kliph Nesteroff: So many stories from that era indicate that Sid was absolutely insane - a giant drinker and explosive.

Jack Carter: Yeah, oh yeah. He was, yeah.. well he was a musician originally, a sax player, so musicians are always kind of weird when they become performers. Like Charlie Callas the drummer. There was Herkie Styles, a drummer-comedian. But Sid was monosyllabic. He opened on Broadway in a show called Little Me and it closed in four days because you couldn't hear him. He couldn't perform out to an audience. He was a TV comedian, y'know. He could work to the camera, but he couldn't project to an audience. I went to the opening night. Later on I did that show and I made it work. Little Me. It was a brilliant show, but I really punched it up and made it work and did it all over.

Kliph Nesteroff: I wanted to ask you about Jerry Lester. He took over from you as the host of Cavalcade of Stars when you left.

Jack Carter: Yeah, only for one show.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, really?

Jack Carter: They hated him because he used to spit. They canceled him immediately.

Kliph Nesteroff: (silence)

Jack Carter: (silence)

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you mean he used to spit?

Jack Carter: He would do a thing where he would spit on the floor. Like "Ptuwi!" That joke stinks - "ptuwi!" I think that was his running thing. It was distasteful, especially for the sponsor which was a drug company. No, he didn't last. They tried Morey Amsterdam. They tried several people. They begged me to come back. They [offered to] quadruple my salary. I said, "No, I'm at NBC."

Kliph Nesteroff: Jerry Lester went on and did Broadway Open House, but that would be the peak of his career... from there he just kind of... fizzled.

Jack Carter: Yes. He was kind of a nasty man, Jerry Lester.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, really?

Jack Carter: He was vicious. He was vicious and angry. He was only out done by his brother Buddy Lester who wound up living in Vegas and doing odd jobs and movie bits.

Kliph Nesteroff: Jerry Lewis kind of sustained him. The only work I ever saw Buddy Lester get was in Jerry Lewis movies.

Jack Carter: Yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: Is that why their careers never really prospered? Because they were nasty to the people they encountered?

Jack Carter: I guess so. Yeah. There are a lot of nasties in this business, but a lot of people never know about it, y'know?

Kliph Nesteroff: The first time we spoke you mentioned that you guest hosted The Tonight Show the first time between Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, as did many people.

Jack Carter: Yes, four weeks. They never mention it. The other day [PBS] replayed the Pioneers of Television. They showed some of the people that did that. They showed Jan Murray and Soupy Sales. Never showed me. I did four weeks and I was a riot. You know? I knew how to introduce. How to talk to people. I had a good co-host; Hugh Downs. I remember when Hugh Downs said to me, "Boy, you're sensational. You're going to be around here for a longtime!" I said, "You'll never see me here again." He said, "Why?" I said, "I'm too strong. I'm too strong and I'm too funny. They want somebody nice, polite and gentile." And that's who they got. You know?

Kliph Nesteroff: And you never appeared much with Johnny Carson.

Jack Carter: No.

Kliph Nesteroff: How come?

Jack Carter: I never got along with him. He was a terrible anti-Semite.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, really?

Jack Carter: Yeah, Jan Murray beat him up one night. We went to a restaurant one night and he was throwing around the "Jew Bastard" line, you know? Jan slapped him around. One night we had to throw him out of a party. Milton Berle threw him out on the lawn. Threw him out of the house.

Kliph Nesteroff: This would have been in his drinking days then...

Jack Carter: Yes, he was drinking and he was a nasty drunk. He had [it out] for anybody Jewish, y'know. He had to prove that only gentiles could be a funny host and stay on TV. Which is true. That's who survives. I never got along with him. I did the show one time and I was waiting to go on. Just before I went on Bill Cosby burst in and did something where he had tape over his mouth. It seems he had a run in with some critical stuff and that killed my time. It left me time for one joke - which went into the ground. I never did the show again.

Kliph Nesteroff: But you did do Ed Sullivan a lot and you must have gotten to know him before he got a show - when you were doing Broadway, right?

Jack Carter: Yeah. Yeah, I knew him from around New York from restaurants and stuff. Submitting jokes to him and stuff through press agents. You know, keeping your career alive. I'd have mentions from him or Walter Winchell.

Kliph Nesteroff: You two used to have drinks at Danny's Hideaway.

Jack Carter: Yes, he loved to go there. He loved to be free. He loved to be hosted. He'd come in with twenty people after the show and Danny would pick up the tab. He'd come to Vegas too and live off you. The minute some performer was appearing at The Riviera - he'd show up right away with people - and you had to pick up his tab. He was tough to work for, boy. Tough to get through that show.

Kliph Nesteroff: Right. I was going to ask you about that. You were obviously one of his favorite comedians...

Jack Carter: Yes, you would fly in and do the dress rehearsal. I always had twelve minutes of fresh, great stuff. Kill the people and then they'd cut you down to six. When you went up to his room while he was being made up, he would curse like a drunken sailor (laughs). He had this clean-cut American image, but was so filthy off-camera. "You can't do that fucking shit on my show, Jack. That's bullshit. That's fucking shit you're saying there!"I was trying to clear the word naval or bellybutton!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: I'll never forget. Oh, that was so funny. I couldn't tell anybody about that, you know. How he would dress you down with violence, filth. Then when you got to go onstage you were cut to four minutes. Then sometimes you'd be in the wings and the director would say, "You've got two minutes." Try to put a spot together [that is] two minutes! He'd run over and he'd use he comics for a bolster.

Kliph Nesteroff: Did he ever truly get mad at you personally?

Jack Carter: No. No. He'd just do the screaming up in his room. You went up there to be edited. The only time I ever had a fight with him was over the naval. "It's an aperture in the human body!" I said, "Yeah, so is an asshole, but I'm not saying that!" He got mad. "A bellybutton is an aperture in the human being." An aperture! You like that? He was big rivals with Winchell, though. Oh, Winchell was dying to  have a show of his own.

Kliph Nesteroff: The comedian Bobby Ramsen told me a story. He said the whole reason Myron Cohen became a star was out of spite because Walter Winchell hated him - so Ed Sullivan booked Cohen on his show as often as possible.

Jack Carter: No kidding? Bobby Ramsen went out to California because Rickles promised him a career. Nothing ever happened. He couldn't get arrested.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, he's close with Rickles and close with Newhart.

Jack Carter: Yeah, well I think he made it close himself. I don't think they were too thrilled with him.

Kliph Nesteroff: A hanger-on?

Jack Carter: Yeah, that's it. You nailed it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Did Ed Sullivan boggle your name? He was notorious for screwing people's names up.

Jack Carter: Oh, sure! Carver. Carson. Finally he got to Jacques Cartier.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: When I worked Montreal I was Jacques Cartier. That was my Montreal routine.

Kliph Nesteroff: I have never seen this, but apparently you appeared on an episode of Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person.

Jack Carter: Worst experience of my life. I did the most brilliant run-though at the dress rehearsal. Then when it came to the show I froze. I just froze. "What are your favorite books?" I said, "Ivanhoe." I was going with a girl at the time who was brilliant. She said, "Ivanhoe!? Ivanhoe, you said!?"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: "Of every book in the world, you choose Ivanhoe?" I just froze. (In Murrow voice) "Hello, Jack. Edward R. Murrow here. We're coming into Jack's home. What's that book you have there?" "Ivanhoe!"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: It was over.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: Edward R. Murrow. One of my impressions.

Kliph Nesteroff: Did they actually do that from your house?

Jack Carter: Yeah! Right from your apartment. I was at 25 Central Park West. The dress run-through went beautiful. I was lucid, I was bright, fun. When it came the minute the show was on - holy Christ! I just froze. I staggered all over. I bumped into furniture.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: Terrible.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, now I want to see it! Ah, man.

Jack Carter: You better plan some nice things for us to do! How the hell am I going to get to the hotel from the airport?

Kliph Nesteroff: A taxi is thirty dollars from the airport.

Jack Carter: I don't know. It's going to be a mess.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) We'll figure it out.

Jack Carter: Ugh. I think you oughta come in and do the book with me.

Kliph Nesteroff: I would love to. You mentioned you had some photos from when you guest hosted The Tonight Show.

Jack Carter: I have a photo of me on The Tonight Show with Jerry Lewis. I don't even know where it is. I put aside a block of pictures I wanted to use in the book, but somebody said, "You've gotta clear every picture you use in the book with the photographer!" How do I track that down if it's not on the back of the picture? You can't use it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes and no. It depends where it's from. Some you can just put "Courtesy Jack Carter Collection" and that's enough. It really depends on its origin.

Jack Carter: Bah, but if I finish a book... to promote it... I don't have a press agent. I'm not in the news, I'm like forgotten.

Kliph Nesteroff: With a lot of these books, they are marketed to a pre-existing audience. We market your book to a specific niche of people that are into old showbiz. It's a specialized audience, but it exists. There are conventions for shit like that. Around Los Angeles there are the autograph shows...

Jack Carter: Book signings, you mean. Betty White is doing one today at Costco. She's so red hot now. She's at Costco. I saw the ad in the paper. I forget the name of her book is Don't Ask Me, I Won't Tell You or something like that. My tentative title was Pissed Off.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: I'm just angry about everything! I'd slant the book that way. But then someone said people don't want to read about how this went bad, how this guy screwed ya, they don't want to read that!

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, I don't know...

Jack Carter: They want laughter. The only books that sell are comedy books; Seinfeld's, Cosby's...

Kliph Nesteroff: It's not so much a matter of sales, Jack, so much as getting  your story down. There's people that fascinated and interested in the story. Whether it sells or not... hell, no book sells. Books don't sell period... all the sales are down. Even the big books.

Jack Carter: Yeah. I'm always amazed when I see Chelsea Handler! She's got shit books about vodka drinking or something and she's on the bestseller list for five or six weeks!

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, but she's got a built it audience. The people that buy the book are the same people that already watch the show...

Jack Carter: Yeah, well that's mostly me. I watch her because she's got the best body in the world.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, she's very attractive.

Jack Carter: Huh?

Kliph Nesteroff: She's very attractive.

Jack Carter: Not her face or her teeth. But her body is incredible.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) You know, I stumbled across an ad where you were the spokesperson for Essley Shirts. Do you remember that?

Jack Carter: No.

Kliph Nesteroff: It says, "The star of television's Jack Carter Show." There's a picture of you and Essley Shirts.

Jack Carter: No, don't remember. I had liquor for a while. Some scotch company.

Kliph Nesteroff: Right. Jack McScotch.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Geez. You know more about me than I do.

Kliph Nesteroff: I saw you on an episode of The Joey Bishop Show with your ex-wife Paula. 

Jack Carter: And I did a lot of the game shows. They're replaying them, but they don't pay you a nickel. That kid got away with murder. The son of that guy who produced all those game shows.

Kliph Nesteroff: Goodson-Todman...

Jack Carter: Yeah, Todman. We were supposed to get fifty bucks for each. People call me up. They say we saw you on Password, we saw you on To Tell the Truth... and you get nothing, you know.

Kliph Nesteroff: I saw you on one with Paul Winchell.

Jack Carter: Yeah, we were good buddies. Boy, he ended up bad.

Kliph Nesteroff: What happened with him?

Jack Carter: He got very sick at the end. Almost unrecognizable. He got a little maniacal at the end. He loved languages. He loved medicine. He became a doctor. One of the last few times I saw him at voice over places, he hardly even looked at me. He turned on me. I don't know why. His kids never spoke to him.

Kliph Nesteroff: I had heard he didn't get along with his kids or visa versa.

Jack Carter: Yeah, his son was going to be a doctor and he wouldn't speak to him.

Kliph Nesteroff: The game show I watched was called Can You Top This. It was hosted by Wink Martindale and featured you, Morey Amsterdam, Paul Winchell and Richard Dawson.

Jack Carter: Oh, telling jokes you mean?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah.

Jack Carter: It had several different titles. They tried it different ways. Can You Be Funny and there was an old time guy they used to use for those shows - can't think of his name - with a moustache. He was great at that. They tried that funny thing under eighty different titles of how you try to make someone laugh. That was an awful show.

Kliph Nesteroff: Make Me Laugh.

Jack Carter: Make Me Laugh, yeah. Ugh. God.

Kliph Nesteroff: There was another one like it that you did in Toronto with Monty Hall, Marty Allen and Nipsey Russell called The Jokes On Us. Do you remember that?

Jack Carter: Yeah (silence). Not really, but I say yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: Andrea Martin was on that, I think.

Kliph Nesteroff: You told me that Tony Martin is still alive.

Jack Carter: Yes, yesterday my wife told me that he's in a home now. He's in a place. He's okay. He's ninety-six. Ginny Mancini goes to visit him. I was wondering if he had any money left. He was living in one of those rich, big high rises  on Wilshire. He's out of there and is in some kind of rest home or retirement home.

Kliph Nesteroff: Do you know if he's together mentally? I would like to...

Jack Carter: I think so. I have no idea where the home is. He was on Wilshire. Did you find a number for this guy Sid Golden? We used to live out by the Jewish Country Club in Vancouver out by the airport.

Kliph Nesteroff: I didn't, no. I did get in contact with the kid singer from back then, Kenny Colman and also, as I mentioned before, my neighbor is the son of the bandleader from The Cave Supperclub. So when you come to Vancouver maybe we can all have dinner...

Jack Carter: Oh, I'd love it. I would like you to plan a few things for us to do!

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, what would be ideal? I'm not sure what your mobility is like these days...

Jack Carter: I'm with a walker or a cane... I'm a hindrance now. What was the name of that guy that had a few places? Oil Can Harry? He had a couple of clubs. He was a cute guy. What's the theater I played vaudeville there?

Kliph Nesteroff: It was called The Beacon when you played it, but it was alternately known as The Pantages and The Odeon. It was owned by the Pantages people, but they changed the name to avoid confusion with the other Pantages up the street.

Jack Carter: Still there, huh?

Kliph Nesteroff: No, I think it got knocked down around 1968.

Jack Carter: Oh. Well, I played there with Morey Amsterdam. That's where Morey and I met and became lifelong friends. We even went fishing together. How about The Bayshore? Is that still there.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, it's still here.

Jack Carter: Bob Hope used to stay there when his friend Alex Spannos would lend him his jet to go in. A lot of celebs stayed at that Bayshore. I don't know where to go. I don't know any restaurants anymore.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, let's go to Hy's Steakhouse for certain and I will think of some others. I have to keep your mobility in mind.

Jack Carter: You know what happened with Jan Murray, right? His wife died with me in that car accident.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, I know.

Jack Carter: That crippled me. When that car hit my legs - I've never been the same since. It took twenty weeks for my legs to stop bleeding.

Kliph Nesteroff: Brutal.

Jack Carter: By the time it stopped, my legs were gone. Now I have no balance at all. You gotta schlep me everywhere and you've got to have a strong arm to get me around. It's terrible. I don't know what the hell I'm going to do when I come to Vancouver. I'm going to be a pain in the ass.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, do you have a wheelchair or anything to get around? I can escort...

Jack Carter: Nah, no wheelchair! When that happens I'll shoot myself.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: No, I use a walker. I can still walk - I've just got no balance. I went to a balancing class for eight weeks and it didn't do anything. It was bullshit. They give you a fucking balloon...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: And you're stepping on a plate and you wobble and step over sticks...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: And nothing!
Kliph Nesteroff: Doesn't work.

Jack Carter: Nah, it doesn't work! So, I'm going to call you when I get in?

Kliph Nesteroff: Please.

Jack Carter: You want to do the book with me? Talk to me. We'll do it.


Tom M said...

I hope that the book works out. Jack deserves it and so do you quite honestly.

Another great read, thanks. One odd tidbit. I have a DVD in my collection called "Side by Side", it stars Berle, Danny Thomas and Sid Caesar. In a small, but important role, Morey Amsterdam.

Reading some of Jack's comments will have me watching that movie in a different light next time.

Thanks again Kliph.

Booksteve said...

More great stuff. These pieces with Jack have given me a whole new respect for him and I've always enjoyed his work! He was a great villain on a umber of TV shows also...as was Jan Murray!

Anonymous said...

I'm loving this continuing melodrama interview thing you're
doing with Jack Carter! Many laughs, but much honesty about our
showbiz legends. A book by Jack,
co-written by you, Kliph, would be
a scorcher and a keeper. Do it!

Sam Kujava

Mike B said...

Please write the book with Jack! I would buy it in a heartbeat. Unlike the superficial TMZ-type press agent-written bullshit we're shoveled on a daily basis, his story has the veritas that only someone who has lived a lifetime in show biz can bring. And his asides and comments on the stars he's been associated with are freakin' hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Count me in as part of that built-in audience for a Carter/Nesteroff book, I'm ready to place my order now. I particularly want to know what that Mickey Rooney vs. Woody Allen talk show appearance was about; what could be more intriguing than that? I talked about doing a book a couple of decades ago with Enrico Banducci, the owner of the hungry i nightclub in San Francisco, he was one of my closest friends at the time, but we never got around to it and I've regretted it ever since, mainly since it's a book I'd like to read, much less write. Banducci's dead but collaborate with Carter while he's still, if not kicking, at least not kicking the bucket.

The best show business interview book I can think of offhand has to be "This Is Orson Welles" by Welles and Peter Bogdanovich. They also marketed some of the actual interview audiotapes from it back in the late '90s and they're so entertaining.

Bobby Wall said...

Another knockout interview, Kliph.

A few things: Carter has quite a chip on his shoulder, doesn't he? I think that his problem is that he over-values his talent and stature as a comedian. I truly remember, when seeing him when I was a kid, thinking that he wasn't as good as so many of the other comedians. He was an average comedian and I don't think that he deserves the accolades that he thinks he deserves.

Another thing: He says that Sid Caesar's "Little Me" wasn't a success and that it only ran for 4 performances. Well, "Little Me" starring Sid Caesar ran for 7 months on Broadway.

He says that Johnny Carson was an anti-semite. I don't know about that. But I do know that Carson had on so many Jewish comedians that it's not funny. Who's more Jewish than Don Rickles? And Carl Reiner used to play cards at Johnny's house all the time. Johnny gave instantaneous success to so many Jews. I can't see how an anti-Semite would act like this. Also, if he were an anti-Semite, it wouldn't have been hidden all this time. I think Carter is blaming Carson's dislike of him on the wrong thing.

Carter certainly had gotten around and he knew so many people. But I'm not sure if all his stories are accurate. But they're still interesting!

Bobby Wall said...

One other thing about Carson that I left out: If he had been an anti-Semite, then why would he have allowed Joan Rivers to be his permanent guest host? If anything, I have believe that Carson admired Jews, not hated them.

ajm said...

You've done it again, Kliph!

One typo: The comedy writer "Burt Sheveloff" SHOULD be "Burt Shevelove" -- he and Larry Gelbart wrote the book to A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and collaborated on a number of British comedy screenplays in the 1960s.

Anonymous said...

Kliph, you are doing with these interviews what a few decades ago could not have been imagined as needed - restoring credibility to history. Jack Carter was a solid comedian but his honesty came across to many as a lack of humility. There were and continue to be numerous utter monsters in the entertainment industry, all quite adept at faking humility to their public. This is not news to Mr. Carter but he tells it like he sees it and regardless of what anyone thinks about that, he should.

Jeff 68 said...

Sid Caesar's stand-in was comedian Milt Kamen

Anonymous said...

That Ivanhoe story had me laughing my ass off. I vote this interview as your best yet. You gotta help him write that book.

Kevin K.

Kevin Kravitz said...

Hi Kliph! You are right about the piano skit with Harry Ritz. Jack Carter & others appeared on a 1976 comedian-studded Bob Hope special called JOYS which was a spoof of JAWS. A few of the comedians you have interviewed are in it, and it's now famous for its hilarious surprise ending revealing the murderer of 100 stars! Also, its the final appearances ever of Jerry Colonna and Groucho Marx! Check it out on Youtube, because it was one of the funniest things I ever saw as a kid and it was shown on NBC only once! All the best, Kliph!

kenny colman said...

hi kliph, sorry re small font,, i just emailed you a very long email to you and it disappeared..maybe u can locate it..i will make this brief, i very muxh enjoyed your interview on jack carter..we go bk to my first gig in shw biz in 1961 at the flamingo hotel was in longe for 3 weeks with harry james and aniother 3 weeks with lional hampton.. and the rat pack led by sinatra dino sammy on and on to create havoc running through the casino to see vic damone and jack carter for 3 weeks and then with joe e lewis,,and vic damone,, after gig we all went to see donrickles and shecky green.. little did i know that 7 tears later i would be singing at jillys and meet fs and wine and wined and dined with him and he later would arrange a booking at loews monte carlo for 4 months i was held over 13 months ..then met freddy heineken the beer baron who read an article in the international herald tribune full page on kc.. andd he flew me to holland and had some people hear me sing and 3 months later i was in london with the london philharmonic and johnny mandel and mt wrld class cd dreamscape was produced by mt heineken through the juice of sinatra..i really enjoyed your zeal and respect and love for comics especiallyy the older guys, i have oened for alan king edd foxx at vegas hilton george carlin pat morita so many..sang on johnny carson steve allen midnoght special merv griffin,,worked for goodson todman on nbc with merv on play your hunch,, thanks to guy who told me about yiur interview,i just tonight read it..and i was wondering if we could grab a coffee at the new urban fare in olympic village if you have time..i was wondering if you know of me and woukd you think about maybe collaberating with me re my memoirres. a more interestsing saga than jackks, well a different look at the the show biz i experienced re mafia , lived oin bermuda went wiith a bilionairs daughter met erv and steve dondheim, marheite mead i danced with her going through the panama canal, jack benny george burns prince albert princess steffanie, jing of botsawana in south afrika ..bill todman i worjedfor him aith merv dj in bermuda..so many stories r u interested.. do you know of me...thx, oh may i have jackcarters cell and email ? my ph is 604 563 4121... grace jones jones now how do i send this to you ? my email is colmankenny@hotmail.com check me out on google i tunes, you tube be well thx kenny