Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Interview with Jack Carter - Part Five




Kliph Nesteroff: So, I'll be seeing you here in Vancouver soon...

Jack Carter: Naw, it's off. We canceled our trip.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh no! How come?

Jack Carter: My wife has a [medical thing]. It kind of fell apart because then my son couldn't come and my other kid is graduating and well... I feel bad about it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh well. I'm planning on coming to Los Angeles in September.

Jack Carter: I'll be here!

Kliph Nesteroff: So maybe we can have lunch then.

Jack Carter: You betcha.


Kliph Nesteroff: Well, I hope everything goes all right.

Jack Carter: Yeah. You still writing that book for Woody Woodbury?

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, he's supposed to send me some work that he's done and I'm going to take it from there - but he still hasn't sent me the material, so it's pretty stagnant right now.

Jack Carter: Yeah, mine is all screwed up. I had it all set and that guy came here from New York. A piece of garbage writer. I wasted a bunch of time. He took it back to New York and he sent me back half. Missing a couple of chapters.

Kliph Nesteroff: I'm more than willing to do it. I would enjoy doing it as I enjoy talking to you. I published a transcript of the very first interview that we did on the Internet with a bunch of images and newspaper clipping from your career. It had an audience of twenty thousand people and everyone loved it!


Jack Carter: Really?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yup.

Jack Carter: Well, I got up last night and entertained at the Dorothy Chandler. There was a youth orchestra night with a lot of celebrities like Carol Channing and June Lockhart. I spoke from the audience. I did a crippled stand-up.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: But I killed 'em. I still got it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Excellent. I heard from two different people now, that when you spoke at Eddie Fisher's memorial - it was fantastic.

Jack Carter: Yeah, I was the only one that got up! I couldn't believe it. Shecky Greene was there, Norm Crosby...

Kliph Nesteroff: And I heard you brought down the house...

Jack Carter: Yeah...

Kliph Nesteroff: I heard it from two different people. I heard it from Shecky and I think Sammy Shore...

Jack Carter: Oh my God, that's funny. So you're not coming in til September, huh?

Kliph Nesteroff: September, yeah.

Jack Carter: That's a long way off.

Kliph Nesteroff: If you want me to piece together some stuff from the interviews we've already done...


Jack Carter: Well, I've got to have an opening chapter about my life and... I don't know. Every time I start to write one I always [stop and] say, "Who the hell wants to hear that? They want to hear jokes!" I wrote a chapter with this guy about going to Florida and doing gigs at condominiums and I put a lot of gags in there. You could look at it and see if it's worth anything...

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, listen. That very first interview that we did... you weren't telling jokes. You were simply telling honest stories about various things you experienced throughout your career - and those stories were funny in and of themselves. You were engaging and your stories were fascinating. And it got a huge response! Those stories are funny...

Jack Carter: Yeah, well, I don't know what you did but...

Kliph Nesteroff: All I did was transcribe our conversation verbatim, inserted a bunch of Jack Carter imagery - publicity photos, newspaper clippings, magazine ads, nightclub reviews...

Jack Carter: Well, you have a good command of it, it seems. You're a good interviewer.



Kliph Nesteroff: Well, I just take our conversations verbatim. I barely, barely tweak 'em. I just publish them exactly as they are and insert images. Actually, you know who told me they really enjoyed it? The film critic Leonard Maltin.

Jack Carter: Really? He's a nice guy.

Kliph Nesteroff: Somebody introduced me to him. I had never met him before - yet he was aware of that first interview that you and I did - he thought it was fantastic. So, if we do this book - forget about what you did with this other guy and forget about gagging it up - we'll just write down your honest recollections and let your true personality shine through. There's no need to punch it up. You're funny and entertaining in conversation.


Jack Carter: I had a funny thing happen the other day. Somebody said to me, "Some letters and notes you wrote to Phyllis Diller are being sold on..." on.. that thing... whatever it is... what's that thing where you can buy things?

Kliph Nesteroff: Ebay.

Jack Carter: Yeah. I said, "You're crazy! Where'd they get them?" So I called Phyllis and she laughed and joked like she had nothing to do with it. But she gave 'em up [to be sold].

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: I always send her notes and she sends me notes and I write her back - funny birthday cards and... she fucking went and...


Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: ...and sold 'em all or gave 'em to be sold on this internet thing...

Kliph Nesteroff: My goodness...

Jack Carter: Where they're getting forty or fifty bucks - people are buying them.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, there's a magazine for sale on there right now that I have been thinking about buying. It's a TV magazine from the nineteen fifties that has you on the cover. It's called TV Forecast and there's a picture of you on the cover grabbing your cheeks and stretching your face

Jack Carter: Yeah? Really?

Kliph Nesteroff: It has a feature article in it. It's from The Jack Carter Show era...


Jack Carter: Yeah, I always get mail asking for pictures. Sometimes they send me photos [to be autographed]. I don't know where they get 'em! There are shots of me I never saw in my life! People find them! I've got them from people in Europe! Sweden! France! They send shots (laughs) - in fact there's a beautiful color portrait of me that was going to go up in The Friar's [Club] here [in Beverly Hills]. The night of the hanging and the affair I had my heart attack and I went in to the hospital for a four-way bypass. The manager of the Friar's then - a real asshole - he hid the damn thing and wouldn't give it to anybody. Just now - a nice couple that I know from around town who run a "Brooklyn night" every year... a nostalgia night - they got it for me and I just got it framed.



Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, fantastic. This is the one that was supposed to hang in the Friar's?

Jack Carter: Yes. I had it framed at Aaron Brothers.  I'm taking down a different one I had up. A guy from Vegas took photos at one of my shows, colored it, and blew it up and put it in a frame.

Kliph Nesteroff: Nice.

Jack Carter: He was an old gay guy (laughs).

Kliph Nesteroff: They used to have all those old portraits hanging along the corridors of the Friar's Club, right?

Jack Carter: Yes. So this was going to be one of them! Somebody would take a photo of you and then color it up and make it like a painting.

Kliph Nesteroff: I have a friend who...

Jack Carter: They had a schmuck who was the manager!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: A real jerk!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: And a wealthy guy too. He destroyed the Friar's and then his son took over - and the building was torn down altogether.




Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, just a couple of months ago.

Jack Carter: Yeah, it's just a lot now. But the son took over and just destroyed it completely. I forget his name now. He's in the pill business. But he got mad that I missed that evening. He never called the hospital. Never came by. Nothing! He got really mad that I had a heart attack!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: Surgery in the hospital - never heard from The Friar's! Not a visit! Not a Friar get-well! Nothing!

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah.

Jack Carter: Nothing from this schmuck!

Kliph Nesteroff: Right.




Jack Carter: So, finally this couple, Zigmans, do this big night here called Brooklyn Nostalgia Night in which they inaugurate people into their hall of fame and they have a gathering of hot dogs, egg cream and all New Yorky things. Every year they induct two people from Brooklyn or they have an honorary. It's a big evening in July. So, they went to The Friar's and fought. They didn't want to give the painting to them, but they got it and they gave it to me.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, that's wonderful.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Lou and Fran Zigman - that's their name.

Kliph Nesteroff: I have a friend who - I guess he went to the George Burns estate sale - and he bought the George Burns Friar painting. He has it hanging in his living room. I think he also has the Jessel one.

Jack Carter: Anyway, I'm sorry we're not coming up [to Vancouver]. We were all set.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, when I come down in September, I'll bring my little computer that and I have this footage of you performing at The Cave that I can show you...

Jack Carter: Really, jeez... you should come down sooner!

Kliph Nesteroff: I might come down sooner. I got a call the other day from [name withheld], who you know...

Jack Carter: (silence) Yeah.



Kliph Nesteroff: And he wants to bring me down to work on [project details withheld]. So, I might be there sooner, but I need to get the work visa or green card and that's going to take a while.

Jack Carter: Oh, really? It's getting tougher now. You need a passport to visit Canada. Yeah, I've got to have my passport freshened up.

Kliph Nesteroff: So, I think realistically, September is the earliest I'm going to get down there.

Jack Carter: Okay.

Kliph Nesteroff: But I don't mind if you want to just do more interviews over the phone for the time being...

Jack Carter: It's okay with me!

Kliph Nesteroff: We can try and cultivate some material. I think the right approach, if you're going to do a book, is to not do the gags...




Jack Carter: It seems like the joke books sell! But I got nothing going for me now. There's a girl in the LA Times that likes to write up performers that once were... like Dick Van Dyke and she just did one on Peter Marshall. Well, Van Dyke just had a book come out and he was working with Mitzi Gaynor (pause) who was doing a staggering death act.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: She's trying to eek something out. We don't see her much anymore. We lost a mutual friend and that ended our mutual friendship.

Kliph Nesteroff: Ah, that's too bad. Well, I think the right approach to your book - it's not about selling...

Jack Carter: Hold on (grumbles). I don't know how to put someone on hold! How do I do that?

Kliph Nesteroff: I have no idea.

Jack Carter: Hold on [clicking sounds]. (silence).

Kliph Nesteroff: (silence)

Jack Carter: Hello?

Kliph Nesteroff: Hey, Jack.

Jack Carter: Hey, I did it! Wow!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) Better than me, I wouldn't have known how to do it. I was going to say, that the right approach and the right attitude toward your book is not worrying about it selling or not selling because...

Jack Carter: Because none of them sell.

Kliph Nesteroff: Exactly.

Jack Carter: Every day somebody has got one out. There's a nickel and dime comic Jeffrey Ross here. Suddenly he's the king of roasters.

Kliph Nesteroff: The best thing to do is to market your book to what I guess you would call a pre-ordained audience. The specific audience that is interested in showbiz of a certain era, as opposed to trying to mass-market your book to people that don't already know who you are...


Jack Carter: I wrote a good chapter about a film I did in Mexico with David Niven, which never came out. But Niven put it in a book he wrote, but he blended it into the plot, you know? He was brilliant at writing! Niven really wrote brilliant books!

Kliph Nesteroff: This is the approach we need to take with your book. Telling stories about your career. The stories are funny.


Jack Carter: Well, I've got some great ones... like my lunch with Chaplin. And having Buster Keaton on my show. I mean, giants! And going to Hillcrest [Country Club] and playing golf with Jack Benny and seeing these giants. My tour with this Roy Radin thief, the one that got murdered. How I was asked to go on this tour with him and I was with Jessel and Donald O'Connor and Gloria DeHaven. I learned so much from Jessel. He was so brilliant. Few people knew how brilliant he was. Radin wanted to get in with The Cotton Club movie. He tried to become the producer of it and he was messing with the mafia. Robert Evans was also involved in that. There was a girl that used to fight snakes and do stunts - and they tried to kill her! They actually shot a bullet at her in a supermarket... the bullet went through her arm. I forget her name now.


Kliph Nesteroff: Speaking of which... I read an anecdote just last week... do you remember a guy that wrote for the Vancouver Sun named Denny Boyd?

Jack Carter: Yes.

Kliph Nesteroff: He is quoted in a book I was looking at... I don't have the book in front of me, so I'm paraphrasing, but he said that one night you were across the street from The Cave and that bullets were fired. You had to dive to the ground because someone had tried to kill you....

Jack Carter: Yeah.


Kliph Nesteroff: Is that true?

Jack Carter: That's true, yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: You never told me that!!!

Jack Carter: I never knew that story [was written down]. I was at Hy's [Steakhouse] across the street. Somebody was after somebody there. I remember running back to the club. I would never eat before a show - only after. After I would go down to the...



Kliph Nesteroff: The Penthouse?

Jack Carter: The Penthouse. What was the name of the family? Rocky? Joe?

Kliph Nesteroff: Phillipone.

Jack Carter: Phillipone, yeah. I told you that the FBI had come to me for years after that to see what I knew about them. I went there frequently. All I know is I got slipped a mickey there one night...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) Right, you told me.


Jack Carter: Hoo boy. Some blonde gal came over and sat down with me. It was a mobster's gal. I'm talking to her and I order another drink and the guy laced it. I got home and I was going to leave the next day because I had closed that night. I had a big event in Los Angeles to go to. I was dead. I had to stay over at the Georgia [Hotel in Vancouver] for another day until I stopped throwing up.

Kliph Nesteroff: Listen, when I come to Los Angeles in September we'll start to work...

Jack Carter: I can't even find those chapters I wrote. I can't find anything that the guy mailed back. I sent him a copy of the Rickles book and he never sent it back to me.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, forget about that guy. He's not part of the project anymore and he's not going to be.

Jack Carter: No. He claimed he was ghost writing the book on Charles Strauss, the songwriter. Strauss was here for a musical, but he did ghost a book for Marnie Nixon. You know that name? Marnie Nixon? She's the girl that sang for a lot of people. She sang for big stars in movies.


Kliph Nesteroff: She was in Los Angeles this past spring and did a big presentation and interview at the Turner Classic Movies film festival. Anyway, listen, forget about what you did with that other guy...

Jack Carter: Yeah, no, I'll start fresh. I'll jot down a chapter or two...

Kliph Nesteroff: Please do and the best approach is just telling the stories you already have. No gags. Your stories are fascinating.

Jack Carter: You know, what I always wanted to... you said you talked to Sid Caesar?

Kliph Nesteroff: No, I haven't talked to Sid Caesar.

Jack Carter: Oh! I thought you had.

Kliph Nesteroff: No, someone told me he's not well.

Jack Carter: Yeah, he isn't well. His legs are gone. They have to carry him everywhere. His legs are black. He has three guys in the house. His wife just died and his daughter - they had to put her in an insane asylum. He's got a crazed daughter. His son is a doctor - never sees him and his other daughter looks in occasionally. She's okay. But Sid told me... I don't know who it was that talked to him... he told some interviewer that, "Jack Carter, good friend of mine was handicapped by Max Liebman our producer who wouldn't let him do certain things until we finished our show." And that's true! We couldn't do anything until the Caesar show decided what they were doing, so we had to wait til the last minute.


Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, I was the one who told you Sid said that - but it was in Sid Caesar's book that he wrote.

Jack Carter: Oh! That's it. I said to Sid, "Did you write a book?" "Yes." "You mentioned that I was strapped? Handicapped." That was so true. Finally they fired me from NBC because of Liebman. That was when Pat Weaver, the father of Sigourney... he named her after the gypsy song...

Kliph Nesteroff: And then he gave his brother his own show. Doodles.

Jack Carter: Oh, Doodles, yeah (laughs). But that was the embarrassment of the family! Doodles Weaver.

Kliph Nesteroff: He killed himself.

Jack Carter: Yeah, he couldn't do nothing. He had one routine about a racetrack. "And the winner! Beetlebaum..."



Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, he did that with Spike Jones. Well, the one bit was funny.

Jack Carter: So, Sid is a sweetheart, but he talks monosyllabic. He never was a big talker. He couldn't perform onstage - only on television. When he performed on Broadway, it was that great show Little Me. I toured with it. Sid opened with it and eight days later it closed. You couldn't hear him over the footlights. He couldn't project. He was a TV actor. He was a musician in a navy band. He was a sax player.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, well he did something called Tars and Spars...


Jack Carter: Tars and Spars, yeah and he was funny in that. He's funny in sketches, but he can't do stand-up. The only time he did stand-up pretty good - he was at The Village Gate. He was marvelous! He had a good girl with him and they were doing the best stuff from Caesar's Show. I got a friend of mine from Detroit who was a millionaire to back him on Broadway. They took him to Broadway and they got rid of the good girl and they put in a rotten girl and they get some faggot...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: Some guy to come produce the show and they destroyed Sid and it bombed. Yeah. All that good naturalness that he had at the Gate with this cute little girl, they got rid of her and it was terrible.



Kliph Nesteroff: I've never talked to Sid. I'd like to, but someone else I talked to told me to just forget it because he's not healthy.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Well, he doesn't really talk at all. "Yeah. Oh boy. Uh huh. Good. Nice" He sounds like Tarzan and the Apes. "Me good. You boy. You Jew. I talk. Yeah. Okay, Jack. Good. Thank you. You call. Nice. Good." Any second now he's going to say Bwana. But he's a nice man. We became friends because we would meet at Danny's Hideaway after our show. We were like friendly enemies because of Liebman. Both on Saturday night. I'd go there and he'd come with his crew from upstairs and then we became real friends through a mutual friend named Milt Chasen who was in the electronic store business. They were friendly. The other friend was a guy named Harry Rejeski who owns Halva. You know Halva?


Kliph Nesteroff: No.

Jack Carter: Huh?

Kliph Nesteroff: No.

Jack Carter: You never heard of the candy Halva?

Kliph Nesteroff: (silence)

Jack Carter: Independent Halva? Comes in chocolate bars? Vanilla. It's an Arabic-Turkish candy. It's a gigantic business. These were the buddies. Sid Caesar, Harry Rejeski, Milt Chasen - and I joined that group. We'd go to Sid's every Saturday night. Parties. Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers would come over. Of course, Milt Chasen had a Bedford television store right by Ebbets Field, so we were friendly with all the Dodgers. In those days it was Jackie Robinson!


Kliph Nesteroff: Wow, certainly. And those were Sid's big drinking days too...

Jack Carter: Oh, he would tear a sink out of the wall! He'd go to the writer's meeting and if he didn't like something he'd hang Mel Brooks out a window. I saw Mel two nights ago. He's very sad. His wife died. He's never been good to me, you know. He's a big fan of mine, but won't use me. He always goes for those comics...

Kliph Nesteroff: Wait, but didn't he use you in one of his films?

Jack Carter: Yeah, I had to fight to get into it! History of the World. I sold the rats. And Jan Murray sold nothing - and he tried to get rid of him. Wanted to cancel him on the shoot.


Kliph Nesteroff: Shecky is in it too.

Jack Carter: Shecky got the big part that I should have had! Shecky is not an actor! He couldn't sustain the role! I should have played the part that Shecky played!

Kliph Nesteroff: It's interesting that you, Shecky and Jan Murray are all in that movie...

Jack Carter: Yeah, well now that I recall it - the movie was really stolen by Harvey Korman. Harvey played the fop, y'know. But Shecky was in it and the black actor - Hines. Gregory Hines. I had one day's shoot as the rat guy. Shecky was in it the whole way through. And he was terrible! I lost another movie to Shecky. Tony Rome.



Kliph Nesteroff: With Sinatra.

Jack Carter: Yeah, I was supposed to be in the one that was after that - written by Jacqueline Susann. She cast me in it because we were close friends. The schmuck producer threw me out and brought in Shecky - who can't act! Shecky can't act! He can just do his act.

Kliph Nesteroff: That was or that was not Tony Rome?

Jack Carter: No, it was Valley of the Dolls.

Kliph Nesteroff: Shecky is in Valley of the Dolls!?

Jack Carter: No, no, I was supposed to be. I think so. Or whatever name they used [Ed. Note: The film was The Love Machine]. Jackie and Irving were my closest friends. The producer knocked me out of it. What the hell was his name? He was married to Binnie Barnes. He was a producer that used to be a football player. A real schmuck.


Kliph Nesteroff: There were a lot of nightclub comedians in History of the World. Art Metrano. Charlie Callas.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Well, the bane of my existence is It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, yeah, how come you're not in that?

Jack Carter: Because of [Stanley] Kramer, that prick!

Kliph Nesteroff: What happened?


Jack Carter: Kramer was in Vegas. I was appearing there. We were such buddies. He was a big fan of mine. Came to my show. Now he's got this movie. And my agent was Freddie Fields. He says, "I finally got you a part in a movie and there's no way you can miss. There's going to be thirty comedians in it!" Every day Kramer would cast another one. Phil Silvers! Buddy Hackett! Jonathan Winters! Berle! "You're getting in tomorrow." And that fucker never used me! All the parts went and he never cast me. Yeah. I laid into him later when I bumped into him with his wife. She sucks around with the stupid daughter. He went crazy in the end, Kramer. He died a horrible death.

Kliph Nesteroff: But did he ever explain to you why...


Jack Carter: No, no, I never got an explanation. Freddie Fields said, "I can't understand it. I can't sell you to this bastard." He bought everyone else. Phil Silvers - [Fields] sold him to Kramer. Joey Bishop, Dick Shawn, everybody. Everybody. He just would not use me. People always say to me, "Are you in Mad Mad World?" I say, "No, I'm not! I'm the only one not in it!"

Kliph Nesteroff: You and Don Rickles.

Jack Carter: Yeah, well, Rickles wasn't that big then. He was still in small rooms.

Kliph Nesteroff: What's the movie you're in with Jim Hutton? On a submarine?

Jack Carter: The Horizontal Lieutenant and his wife Paula Prentiss was in it. Now she's married to Dick Benjamin.

Kliph Nesteroff: You had a good part in that movie.

Jack Carter: Yeah, it was all right, but Frankenheimer turned to shit on us.

Kliph Nesteroff: John Frankenheimer?

Jack Carter: He said, "I need comedy. I've got you and Mickey Rooney. I need all the comedy help." He had just one an Oscar for that racetrack movie he did in France - Grand Prix.

Kliph Nesteroff: James Garner.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Grand Prix. So when we got on set and suggested a line, he would scream at us. "Quiet! I'll do this!" I came up with a camera shot. We were down in a hole. I said, "Why don't you lower the camera down and shoot up?" He says, "Good idea." (laughs) But he held us and the whole movie was disaster. We couldn't get film. He aggravated the locals in Mexico. That's a story in itself.

Kliph Nesteroff: What movie is this we're talking about?


Jack Carter: The Horizontal Lieutenant.

Kliph Nesteroff: It was shot in Mexico?

Jack Carter: Oh! No, I've got two movies mixed-up. I'm thinking about the one I did with David Niven. That one was a total disaster. No, The Horizontal Lieutenant was shot at Metro. This one was called The Extraordinary Seaman with David Niven, Alan Alda, Faye Dunaway and we were in a shithole in Mexico. We couldn't get food! Everyone got diarrhea and sick from the caterer. If not for Mickey Rooney getting a CARE package from Nate n' Al's of salami...

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)


Jack Carter: We would have starved to death. We couldn't go in the streets - there were rats. The hotel was only half-built. It was half a hotel. I took Niven to dinner one night. We ordered wine. He took one sip of it and said (in Niven voice), "Absolutely undrinkable." And he walked out on me! He left me like a date sitting alone!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) That movie was a huge bomb, right?

Jack Carter: It never even came out. And we had seven Oscar winners involved in the movie. Other than Frankenheimer, we had a guy who had just won an Academy Award for editing - he and his brother. The cameraman was an Academy Award guy...



Kliph Nesteroff: Why was it such a disaster? Other than all the diarrhea...

Jack Carter: A guy named Hal Dresner was writing it down there. He was drunk most of the time. We got a page at a time. It went nowhere. It was all built around a ship. They found a ship down in Mexico. We were in a barge in this oil filled, slimy river. So the barge was supposed to be... it was a mythical story about an officer who can't go to heaven until he equates himself in battle. So there were shots with Niven where bullets go through him, his glass of scotch was shot at, but it filled itself up again magically. It was like Here Comes Mr. Jordan, but it never made it. The writer stunk it up. I went to Mexico City and I had to apologize to the press for Frankenheimer's bad behavior. He then brought a French crew in. Well! The Mexicans loved that. He brought in his crew from Grand Prix to work on this Mexican production. So that's quite a story. That could be a chapter. But I don't know if anybody would care. My other chapter would be how Max Liebman hand-tied me.


Kliph Nesteroff: Well, those are good stories because nobody has really ever heard them before.

Jack Carter: We were a big hit with Cavalcade of Stars and NBC bought me. Went to Chicago, we had a massive rating in Chicago, beating Bob Hope and everything else. They brought me to New York and I got killed. They put me in a theater with no audience because Kate Smith took out the audience. She didn't care. She was just doing photographs. I needed an audience. And we had to rehearse at eleven o'clock at night because my band was busy working on the Gleason show; my old show. Eleven o'clock at night and then the cops would come in and say the neighbors were complaining about the noise!



Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: You want to hear the shit I went through at NBC during my first and second year. Nobody would believe it. We still got a good show out and I went out on a high. Great stars. Clark Gable. Bill Bendix...

Kliph Nesteroff: What was William Bendix like?

Jack Carter: Oh, he was a sweetheart. Oh, yeah. I had a cute sketch with him. And I had Hugh Herbert on my show in Chicago.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah?

Jack Carter: It was unusual because he was scared to do anything live, so we wrote a sketch where all he had to do was be Hugh Herbert. I bet you don't remember Hugh Herbert!

Kliph Nesteroff: Sure I do. Hoo hoo! Hoo hoo!


Jack Carter: Yeah, hoo hoo! So we had a Hugh Herbert school where he just teaches kids how to be Hugh Herbert. He said, "I love it! This is easy!"

Kliph Nesteroff: He was interesting because he started out as a screenwriter.

Jack Carter: I have no idea.

Kliph Nesteroff: He wrote a ton of movies before he started doing that character. He wrote a lot of stuff for Vitaphone, Warner...

Jack Carter: Oh my God, really? I loved every one of those [1930s Warner Bros character actors]. I could imitate every one of them from those days.

Kliph Nesteroff: Allen Jenkins, Frank McHugh...

Jack Carter: Allen Jenkins, yeah. They were Cagney's guys.

Kliph Nesteroff: The Irish Mafia.


Jack Carter: Yeah! I had a great run-in with Cagney. They honored him at the AFI and he wouldn't sit on the dais. He wanted to be in the audience with his family. I made a flight and ran into Frank McHugh, Cagney's closest buddy. He was a cute character. So I met him after dinner and I said to Frank, "Gee, I'd love to meet Cagney." He said, "Well, go over! He knows you." I said, "Oh God, I wouldn't do that. I'm scared to death." He said, "Go ahead, Jack. Go over." So I walked over to Cagney and I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and he said, "Hello Jackie! Whaddaya hear, whaddaya say?"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)


Jack Carter: (laughs) I couldn't believe it! The fact that he knew who I was! "Hello Jackie! Whaddaya hear, whaddaya say?" "Nothing! I just wanted to say hello to you!" He could talk full Yiddish, y'know. A lot of them worked in Yiddish theater in New York when they couldn't get on Broadway. What's his name did too - oh, what's his name - from Wizard of Oz.

Kliph Nesteroff: Ray Bolger?

Jack Carter: Ray Bolger! He spoke full Yiddish.

Kliph Nesteroff: There's a Cagney movie called Taxi from 1932 where he plays a New York cab driver. There's a scene where Cagney gets rear ended by another cab driver, a Jewish cab driver, and Cagney cusses him out in Yiddish.


Jack Carter: (laugh) Really? Oh, that's wonderful. Eddie G. Robinson loved to speak Yiddish. He'd see my wife and he'd run like a shot to her. He loved Yiddish. His real name was Emmanuel Goldenberg. He always played Italian guys.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah.

Jack Carter: All right, let's keep in touch. Come to Los Angeles earlier if you want. You can stay at our house if you like.

12 comments:

Life said...

Wonderful blog.

Bob Lindstrom said...

Another masterpiece, Kliph; but I'm troubled that you didn't know halva (or, as they used to spell it in Mad Magazine, halvah.) Oh well, at your age I guess we can forgive you for not reading Mad in the '50s and '60s.

I s'pose you don't know "potrzebie" either, huh?

Anonymous said...

Great to hear that you and Jack Carter are still in touch and planning to collaborate on his book.
Sad to hear about how ill Sid Caesar is. My prayers go out to him.

Sam Kujava

Unknown said...

Hi Kliph:

You are doing an AMAZING thing with this here blog of yours. It's the first thing I click on every day. It's all fascinating.

Every new chapter with Jack Carter makes me think of Eugene Levy's impersonation of him from SCTV. I wonder if Jack ever had the chance to see it and just how pissed it would have made him. My guess (after reading all these interviews) is he would not have been amused!

Anyway thank you for all the great reading and fascinating clips.

Dave G in Phoenix AZ

Kevin K. said...

Jack is endlessly interesting and hilarious. You bring out the best in him by asking the right questions (usually about obscure topics) and letting him talk, even when he goes off-topic. I love when guys like him and Shecky still get steamed at people and events from 60 years ago!

ajm said...

One tiny flaw in an otherwise brilliant piece: The composer's name is Charles Strouse, not Charles Strauss.

Mike B. said...

I love reading your interviews and your scholarly knowledge of these old tumlers never fails to amaze me. I loved watching these guys on Sullivan and Carson when I was a little kid in the 60's & 70's. BTW, I think Jack was right - September is a long way off, for a 90 year-old man.

Mark Murphy said...

Another great job, Kliph.

I believe that the "schmuck" producer Mr. Carter talks about, the one who was married to Binnie Barnes, is M.J. "Mike" Frankovich, who also produced "The Shootist" and "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice."

Phil In Phoenix said...

GREAT Stuff, Kliph!

I really hope you do the book with Jack exactly the way you want to do it. He is fascinating to listen to. His natural humor in telling a story doesn't make jokes necessary.

When you meet him in LA, take him to Canter's on Fairfax, order an Eddie Cantor or Dedicated Fressers, place your recorder on the table, and let Jack tell stories.

Between your interviewing skills, Jack's stories, and great deli, the book will write itself.

Bobby Wall said...

Who the hell wants to read jokes?! We just want these great stories about those times, those people, those shows, those personal recollections, etc. etc. The last thing I want to read are jokes. And, of course, you know this Kliph. But Carter doesn't seem to understand that we're interested in the history of those times and those people... which is EXACTLY what you're doing Kliph. Carter really needs to understand this.

I have a feeling that people didn't use Carter due to Carter's personality. I mean, if he was such a great friend of Stanley Kramer's, then why wasn't he featured in "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World"?

Another fantastic interview Kliph. And I hate to say it. But, with a lot of these great stars, time is definitely of the essence, if you know what I mean. For example, you'll never get Sid Caesar, and oh boy! what a great interview that would have been!

Keep 'em coming!

KING OF JAZZ said...

Great blog. It's addictive!

I think Jack Carter did a very good job when he appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show. He portrayed a oldtime friend who wanted Rob Petrie to get him a job as a comedy writer on The Alan Brady Show, and Rob had to turn him down. It played quite realistically, with a dash of pathos under the comedy. I'd be curious what Carter remembers of that episode.

Anonymous said...

These Jack Carter stories are great. Like things that landed on the cutting room floor of "Mr. Saturday Night". I've read at least a half dozen comics claim Billy Crystal based his character on them. I'm betting Carter thinks so too. Shoot, I'm betting Carter was part of the composite. Great read.