Monday, October 24, 2011

An Interview with Jack Carter - Part Six

Jack Carter: Rolling Stone had a big article on Jon Stewart. There must be forty writers in that room! The room is filled with about eighteen people, girls and boys. Last night he had Ron Paul on the show. It was great. He really interviewed him nicely. He has great interviewing skill.

Kliph Nesteroff: The only problem with it is they simply don't have enough time with their guests. The segment is generally too short to really create something great.

Jack Carter: The whole show is too short! Actually, he grimaces too much for me. He does wild expressions, but it gets annoying after a while. But it sells every joke he's doing. He sells it with his reactions. He'll play a clip and then he'll play off of it, but he is brilliant. He's won the award eight years in a row. The Emmy.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, it's a great show. There's no doubt about it.

Jack Carter: Aboot it! You say aboot it! The biggest accent of all is Keely Smith's. She says around the hoose. Around the hoose. Oot and aboot. There's a David Letterman story in that Rolling Stone too. The comedienne that Letterman lived with for a long time, Merrill Markoe, she became his producer as well.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, she created all the famous bits.

Jack Carter: Yes, all of that. I wonder why he never married her. She didn't want to marry him, I guess. My son likes Rolling Stone a lot. We really should mail it to him.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, they have a great political writer named Matt Taibbi.

Jack Carter: Oh, Taibbi is always on with Bill Maher.

Kliph Nesteroff: He's great for Rolling Stone, sort of a Hunter S. Thompson kind of guy.

Jack Carter: Yeah, perfect. Perfect.

Kliph Nesteroff: I watched the very first televised Friars roast. 1958. You hosted - written and produced by Nat Hiken.

Jack Carter: Yes. Well, it wasn't a Friars roast, but it was a special on... I don't know why they called it a Friars roast. It was Ed Sullivan sponsored, wasn't it?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes.

Jack Carter: Didn't we roast Sullivan on that?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Ed put it on. It was an episode of Toast of the Town. They called it Roast of the Town. My line was, "It's the only live show with a dead host." Did you watch that roast on Charlie Sheen? A waste of time. It was terrible. That Mike Tyson was annoying! He kept laughing and the camera was on him the whole time and he kept saying things. And then he got up - and he was better than anybody!

Kliph Nesteroff: I don't mind them, generally, but I don't understand why they throw a bunch of people together that have no relation.

Jack Carter: That young guy... who was that young guy they all picked on for going on so long and bombing? Where do they find some of these people? And Bill Shatner. Why him? There are no roasters around anymore. Jeffery Ross, to me, stinks. He's the hot one today. He's got a book out even, King of Roasts.

Kliph Nesteroff: Freddie Roman has helped him a bit in assuming that mantle.

Jack Carter: Yeah. Freddie is a third-class comic, but he does a good Florida act. I toured with Freddie for about a year when he had the Catskills on Broadway thing. I replaced Mal Z. Lawrence, who is a good comic. He does seven-eighths of my stuff. The night he appeared here [in Beverly Hills] with Catskills on Broadway... when it was over, four people ran over to me and asked, "How did you like watching yourself?"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: He did everything that I do about food and eating, traveling on ships - word for word! I used to see him standing at the back of the room when I was working big hotels and he was waiting to go on for the late show. They'd have a show at two in the morning with a cheap comic. But he's good. He's got a good style. He works more like a dancer or a singer. Now he's back with Freddie Roman and they do a tour.

Kliph Nesteroff: Mal Z. Lawrence used to tour with Wayne Newton.

Jack Carter: No, with Wayne Newton it was Dick Capri. Dick Capri was with Wayne Newton a lot. Jackie Kahane used to be with Elvis until he died. Kahane was a good story teller.

Kliph Nesteroff: Jackie Kahane replaced Sammy Shore as the Elvis opener. The Colonel fired Sammy Shore.

Jack Carter: Yes. The Colonel loved me. Every Elvis opening I was right at ringside and Elvis would introduce me. He'd go through special effort. Then I went over to his dressing room one night. One night I decided I would go over on my own after my show at the Flamingo. He was at the Hilton. I went backstage and I was working my way through the curtains. Did I ever tell you this? Suddenly I'm lifted up in mid-air. Two bodyguards raised me up and carried me to the front door of his dressing room to see if Elvis knew who I was. They went, "Okay?" and threw me in. I came over unannounced. Elvis had said, "Anytime when your show is over - come visit." He would go to his dressing room and hang out. I was there the night he shot the gun at his TV set. He said he didn't like the show, so he blew the set away.

Kliph Nesteroff: This was up in his hotel room?

Jack Carter: No, his dressing room backstage was a whole suite. He never left it. Upstairs they took over the whole third floor. The Colonel had the entire third floor. The Colonel was a nice man. Nobody liked him (laughs). But he made an empire out of it, except they worked Elvis too hard and it killed him. God, they had him working when he was 400 pounds. He had a heart attack. He couldn't breathe at the end when he was doing these songs with the tight outfit. It's amazing with all of these Elvis imitators around these days making a living off of it. Jesus, what kind of a living is that?

Kliph Nesteroff: When did you first meet Elvis?

Jack Carter: Viva Las Vegas. When I did that movie. That was the first time, yes. I didn't get too friendly with him. Just, "Hello," and we did the scenes and then at work at night. One afternoon I watched them shooting around the pool. We never became very friendly, but he always liked me. Certain guys really liked me - like Lenny Bruce. Lenny Bruce called me one night and invited me to see his show. Oh, it was tragic (laughs). Oh my God. I'll never forget it. I was so excited to get the call! He knew I was a heavy weight. He respected me. He put down bad comics like you wouldn't believe. Like Chris Rock - he hates frauds. God, he hates frauds and he really picks on them. He puts down black comics that just use black to be black - and use the N word [with no context] and all of that. He works clean too if he wants. Anyway, Lenny Bruce called me and he respected me for being a biggie, a heavyweight, a goodie. There were so many bullshit comics back then. Frauds. Just Frauds. Y'know? Reciters. 

When I was coming up there were a million of them and there were clubs for them to work at. There was Archie Robbins, Bobby Blane and Bernie everybody. And they were all bad. They all disappeared. So Lenny Bruce called me and told me to come and see him. He was working in Chicago. I was working just outside of Chicago, some big roadside place. They killed the owner. The Mob killed him. I went in because Lenny was at some club in Chicago, like a comedy club with the brick wall. Like The Improv. It was called The Cellar or something. I went to see him. The first bit was... did I tell you this before?

Kliph Nesteroff: He did something about Sophie Tucker?

Jack Carter: Yes, I did tell you this before. Well, he wound up pissing on the wall. He took a leak on the wall. Yeah, he did a bit about different busboys having sex with Sophie Tucker and he did a number on different ways that nuns have orgasms. These were the three big numbers that he had to have me see. I had raved about him before that when he was opening at the other club. The big comedy club... the big one... it was in a hotel...

Kliph Nesteroff: Palmer House?

Jack Carter: No. No, I worked the Palmer. This was in Midtown Chicago in the club area. Shelley Berman and people like that worked it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Mister Kelly's?

Jack Carter No, it wasn't Mister Kelly's. Everyone played that. Even Gene Baylos played Mister... Oh, I dreamed about Gene Baylos last night!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) 

Jack Carter: That's funny! I was at a resort and someone said Gene Baylos! I watched him start and I said, "My God, I thought he was dead." I didn't watch his act though. I left - in the dream.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: I saw him start. I think he recognized me and then he introduced me - and I ran away. Then I woke up.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: He was a funny little man. He came out here [to Beverly Hills] one day. He kept talking about coming out here. Dean Martin invited him out. "You think Dean will use me? Give me a career? He said he'll get me in movies!" He came out here and - nothing. Dean wouldn't even (laughs)... Once in New York he took over a limousine from us... I tell you this?

Kliph Nesteroff: Never.

Jack Carter: We went out to do a benefit way out on the tip of Long Island. We were in a limousine and they put him in our limousine and we did a show with Tony Bennett [dog barks uproariously] Oh, the cleaning guy is here.

[Interview preempted]

Kliph Nesteroff: [Interviewer forgets that we were in middle of Baylos anecdote] We were talking about Chicago. What was the Palmer House like to work?

Jack Carter: Oh, very staid and stiff. Very cold and tough to work. The Fairmont in San Francisco was a little warmer, but they were both cold rooms - because it's all dance floor and you're far away from the audience. The Rainbow Room was nice in New York because that was circular and they were in front of you. So you had an audience. The Palmer House was really cold and a drab hotel. I had a funny experience there. When I was a kid in the army I was in Cleveland. I was in an army show then. We lived in Dayton, Ohio. Lived in a hotel (laughs). Even the barracks were nice... I forget the name of the Camp. A guy in our show was Howard Montgomery who was a straight man in burlesque. A good looking guy. He was one of those straight-men that went (in wise guy voice), "Do you mean to tell me..."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Jack Carter: You know, he was a leading guy that introduced the strippers.

Kliph Nesteroff: Right.

Jack Carter: We went to a burlesque house in Cleveland. The big one. And I met this young stripper. She was brand new. Virginal. She had no name so she took my name (pauses). That's funny. Her name was Roxanne [the name of Jack's current wife]. My God. Isn't that funny? She liked the name Carter. So that she would have had... the same name as my wife's name! But she was gorgeous and that was my first affair. My real first love affair. I went to her home in Minneapolis for my furlow instead of going to New York to see my family. I went there for a few days. We shacked up and I did things with her... because she was brand new also. She was gorgeous. Beautiful. I'm in Chicago at the Palmer House and I was appearing there my third week. Real tough job. A cold room. And I didn't have the kind of an act for that. 

I had more of a nightclub act than a hotel act, but I got by. The woman that booked all the Palmer Houses and Hotels liked me. I can't remember her name now. This woman said, "There's a Roxanne here to see you." This a few years later. I said, "Oh, good!" I went down to the lobby and I saw her - and she saw me see her - and I turned and went away. She had gotten so old and homely - almost unrecognizable. It was like an old lady had shown up and it hadn't been that many years. The army years were 45-46 and now it was '55 or something. She was almost unrecognizable and I made like I didn't see her and I turned and I walked away. Never forgot that. I saw her start to cry. [Maid enters room]. Zola! [Spanish crosstalk]. Let me know when you're hungry, Kliph. She'll make you something. You want an omelette?

Kliph Nesteroff: As I was leaving the other day I asked you about the Negro League games you attended as a child in Brooklyn.

Jack Carter: Yeah...

Kliph Nesteroff: You went to Dyker Heights to watch them play.

Jack Carter: Yes, that's what it was called. Dyker Heights was by the ocean and it was near the field where they played. There was one team and all the players had beards. All the other teams were clean shaven and then there was one team that always played - and every player on the team had a big beard! I can't remember the name of the team with the beards, though. It's driving me nuts! The teams they had were The Black Yankees, The Bushwick Nine and there was the name of the team... the whole team had beards! Young guys with beards!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) I have written down The House of David All-Stars.

Jack Carter: The House of David! It must have been! That's why the beards, yeah. House of David All-Stars.

Kliph Nesteroff: The House of David All-Stars - also the Cuban All-Stars.

Jack Carter: Yes and I remember seeing the great... the great man who went on to pitch until he was sixty years old. What's his name?

Kliph Nesteroff: Satchel Paige?

Jack Carter: Satchel Paige. Yes. I never saw Jackie Robinson there, but I saw Roy Campanella. I remember him being there. I would go home with bats and balls (laughs) and i brought them back to my father's candy store. I don't know who got me into it. I had to travel by subway to get to Dyker's Heights. Vic Damone lived right near the field. His name was Vito Faranello. He lived near right there and I used to see him. I think he may have gotten me into it. He said, "C'mon, you can caddy. They need a ballboy over there. They always need someone to pick up their bats." They gave me gloves, balls, bats. I had (laughs) tons of them. 

Oh, that was a great time to watch them play. I wasn't too hep to the fact that they weren't allowed in the majors then. When it did happen I was a big Dodgers fan. So when Jackie Robinson came along... but he wasn't the first. There was another who played for Cleveland first... what the hell was his name? He set records that no one ever broke. They had a thing on TV about him just the other day. He was a great base stealer too. I have a photo of Jackie Robinson and I with Sid Caesar. Didn't you come across that one in my closet?

Kliph Nesteroff: No, I didn't see that one.

Jack Carter: Oh my God, I've got it somewhere. This friend of mine, Milt Chasen, looked just like Sid and they had become great friends from the steam room in New York. We'd all go to Milt's cellar every Saturday night and I got Sid to bring his cast. When Jackie Robinson was through with baseball, Milt Chasen got him a job with Chock Full o' Nuts and he got Ray Campanella a big radio and television store so that they would have a living. Milt Chasen, a wonderful guy. I still talk to his wife who still lives in their old house in Queens. Every time I would go to New York for a job or a Friars Roast, I would stay with them. I would go in to do the big roasts - sometimes they'd put you up at the Hilton. They have one coming up for Larry King and they're charging six hundred a head.

Kliph Nesteroff: In New York?

Jack Carter: Yeah. I just got the notice.

Kliph Nesteroff: Holy smokes, but it's all for charity, right?

Jack Carter: No! It's for the Friars pocket. They pocket everything. They need the money desperately. Nah, there's no charity.

Kliph Nesteroff: Didn't that used to be the concept?

Jack Carter: Well, that's the con. A lot of it is supposed to go to charity but... Nah, not the Friars Roasts. Those were strictly money-earners. That's how the Friars survived! They couldn't just make it on dues alone. They keep fighting to get new members. Every week I get a new notice. I get the Friars mail still. I talk to Stewie Stone often. We're very friendly. Freddie Roman and I became friendly again. We didn't talk for a long while.

Kliph Nesteroff: How come?

Jack Carter: I forget what the bust up was... Oh, he got mad because they picked me to play a theater in Fort Lauderdale. There was a big theater there that we played together and they brought me back just as a single. They chose me and not him - and he got pissed off about it, but I had nothing to do with it. We didn't talk for a couple of years.


KING OF JAZZ said...

I always devour these interviews! Great stuff.

franklindee23 said...

I have the album and album cover of " Broadway Ala Jack Carter " . He gave it to my parents . My mother Betty was Jacks older sister .I am his nephew. If he would like it back he or you can contact me at email all lower case just discovered your interviews and it's great to hear the stories , from the horses mouth because it fills in the blank spots and corrects the "urban myths" that you accrue in a lifetime of only hearing a story retold many times if at all through my grandpa and grandma and mother and father and aunt .