Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Interview with Will Jordan - Part One


Will Jordan: One of my good friends who knows as much or more than me [about old showbiz] is Milt Moss. If you don't know the name, he was the one with the famous commercial, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." He goes way back. He was on Eddie Cantor's radio show in 1948. I was on Fred Allen's radio show in 1949.

Kliph Nesteroff: I'm fascinated by that post-vaudeville era when there were all these shows taking place before the films at all the movie palaces along Broadway; places like The Strand, Loew's State and The Paramount...

Will Jordan: Before the film, yes.

Kliph Nesteroff: I read that in 1948 you played The Reuben Bleu with Connie Sawyer, Thelma Carpenter and concertina player Raymond Chase.

Will Jordan: Yes, that's very accurate.

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember about that gig?


Will Jordan: Well, it was my first real job. I had several other jobs when I had started as an actor. I did a couple seasons of summer stock and very minor events in Mount Redmond, Pennsylvania where I got my equity card around July of 1946. In May or June I was an usher on Broadway at Lyceum Theater for the play Born Yesterday. That was a great experience for a kid. In the movie they did not use Paul Douglas, which I thought was a huge mistake. Paul Douglas was absolutely perfect. In the movie they used Broderick Crawford, who I thought was terribly miscast. But I got a chance to see this wonderful play and everything else. I got into summer stock and got my equity card; became a union member and did what they called equity library theater. Theaters that were in the libraries. It was all kind of low-key and it wasn't really what I wanted to do. I was really more of a stand-up comedian type. 


In the same school as me in 1945 were Don Rickles and Tom Poston. I became very friendly with Tom Poston. There were others like Tige Andrews from Mod Squad. First thing I noticed was ... the people with the most talent weren't getting anywhere and the people with the least talent were. It was disillusioning. I always thought that if you were good you would make it, but it doesn't happen that way. Anyway, then after 1946-47 I enjoyed another shoe-string company in Redbank, New Jersey. Myself and John Dennis who you might know as a bit-player in the movie From Here to Eternity. A big blonde guy. We were the stars in July of 1947. The stagehand was Mel Brooks. He had already changed his name to Mel Brooks and we became good friends. 


Not only was I not comfortable being an actor, I didn't feel that was my great talent. Our cheques were bouncing! My cousin came along with me and he helped me and he became friendly with Mel Brooks for life. I went on to do different amateur nights. Some of the amateur nights I did, Lenny Bruce did. We were not on the same nights because we were too similar. We had all the same background. In his autobiography he mentions things that [if I wrote] an autobiography - would mention the same things. The same amateurs beat us out on the same amateur nights. Lenny was born the same day as my brother - October 13, 1925. I got my first job at the Reuben Bleu, which I auditioned for. For a brief period I was part of a trio. Very talented people. 


My good friend Eddie Ryder from the American Academy was in the trio. He did a lot of TV, but never starred. You see his name on dozens of films and I thought he was more talented than anyone. Unlike me, he wanted to be more of an actor and I wanted to be more of a comedian, so we both moved and got into those fields. But we tried to be a trio of impersonators. We were very bad, but we still had interesting experiences. I did the amateur nights and started to get better, coming in fifth, fourth, third. One of the agents that I met, Val Irving, was at that time handling Jack E. Leonard and other people - he took me to some of these clubs to audition and that's when I got my first taste of auditioning. 


I didn't actually get any business through him, but I did get a taste for the business of auditioning - which was hard to do. Finally, I did a play called Sabine Women, which was the same as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. We did it in costume and everything. There were several people in the play that I became friendly with. There was a team called Fletcher and Sadie, they were kind of a gay Martin and Lewis. They preceded me into the Reuben Bleu. When I auditioned they very kindly laughed it up for me. That audition was greatly helped [by them] and I owe a great deal to them, and to Julius Monk who was the emcee. That really helped me get started and that really helped me get going. Lenny Bruce came by. He looked like an Arab pimp! Very pale. Moustache. Big white coat and everything. But very nice. I didn't know that years later he would be a terrible thief. But I'm getting ahead of my story. 


Then I signed with the agency MCA and another agent named Sol Tepper. Sol Tepper at that time, 1948-49, was handling several people; the female lead in the movie Top Banana and Tony Bennett and Sam Levenson. They were both doing much better than me, but I still got started. Somewhere along the line we auditioned for The Arthur Godfrey Show and they didn't think I was good enough. Turns out that Sol had a girlfriend who was influential. I hate to admit this, but it was because of her that I got on the Godfrey show.


It was kind of insulting that they said I wasn't good enough, but perceptions of talent are not necessarily the same. Anyway, I did get on and I won the show. A few weeks later I was told if I were to do this benefit show for one of the assistants of Fred Allen - his name was Jim Harkins - then I would get The Fred Allen Show. I didn't believe that, but I said, "Oh, what the hell." It turned out they were right! If you did this benefit, you got The Fred Allen Show, which was extraordinary! To be on Arthur Godfrey and win and then, just a few weeks later, to be on Fred Allen was quite exciting. Nothing quite that exciting happened after that.



Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Will Jordan: But it did get me started and meeting these wonderful people. I had heard nothing but bad things about Arthur Godfrey being anti-Semitic and it may have been true. Milt Moss, who was also connected with the show [heard about the rumors]. I don't doubt that they're true, but I never saw that. Later on when I met Arthur Godfrey [again], he was now the good friend of my buddy Chuck McCann, whose wife was an agent at William Morris. She was handling Godfrey. Even though he was very wealthy, he wanted to get back on TV. She was also handling Mae West and George Raft; these old-timers. Of course, Godfrey and Mae West had all the money in the world and George Raft was broke. Nevertheless, that's how I got to know him and he was extremely charming. When I talked to him about the [anti-Semitic Miami] hotel [that Godfrey invested in] he said, "I didn't know." I didn't believe that. But he was so charming to me that I didn't go into a whole tirade. 


Kliph Nesteroff: I read that the piece you performed on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts was a "baseball take-off."

Will Jordan: Yes. I was playing a nightclub in Atlantic City. I was working with a very sweet guy. A magician. He looked just like Mandrake. The comic strip Mandrake. Very nice guy and very good. He believed in symbolism. We were playing with these various cranes. You put in a quarter and it picks up the toys - that kind of thing. I won a little baseball trophy. Just a cheap little statue and he said, "That's a symbol. You must do a routine about baseball."


Well, I'm very un-sports. I didn't know a thing about baseball, but when I told people about the idea - Charles Laughton as the umpire, Jimmy Stewart as the outfielder... later on a writer helped me finish it. We had Boris Karloff saying, "Kill the umpire!" We put this together and it was quite successful. This was the routine I put together on the Godfrey show. Even though it was a great success for me, I had people helping me. The Godfrey show was on Monday nights and they had had too many winners that were singers. They wanted to help mimics and comedians; people like me and Lenny Bruce. Allan Melvin! Who you may remember. 


Kliph Nesteroff: Yes.

Will Jordan: He had been a very good mimic.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, I didn't know that.

Will Jordan: He was the original mimic in Stalag 17 on Broadway. You would have thought they would have used him, but they didn't.


Kliph Nesteroff: They used Jay Lawrence.

Will Jordan: They wanted Larry Storch. Storch, at that point, felt it was beneath him. Doesn't make sense now, but he was already doing big things. While it was a nice part, it was very small. Larry suggested his brother who was very good. I liked him very much. He was a great womanizer and a wonderful guy. He was quite talented, but I don't think he was as talented as Allan Melvin or me. But it worked for him. You don't really have to be that great, you just have to do some impressions. He looked sort of like a short Clark Gable. The spot paid off very well. [That role] could have helped me a lot, as it did him. Larry had always been my idol. Larry Storch. When I was at the Academy, I would often go to The Paramount and watch Larry Storch. I was sixteen or something. 


I couldn't understand why Perry Como was the star. I could never understand why singers were billed over comedians. Although I was a huge Bing Crosby fan, I never thought the singer was better than the comedian. Of course, the audience would just scream over Como, but Larry was just great. He inspired me greatly. Later on when he became more of an actor, I could never understand that. I said to him, "You were the greatest mimic in the world!" It was the Peter Principle. The further you go from what you do best, the more successful [you become]. In Larry's case he went far from what he did well - impersonations - and he became successful. Other people disagree with me. They all feel he was a better actor than a mimic and I would say, "None of you ever saw him as a mimic! How would you know?"


Of course, that's the way people are. Larry had a lot to do with the formation of my style, although I didn't actually copy him. I could imitate Larry as he is when he isn't doing impressions. He and Milt Moss were in the same class in a Bronx high school and they're both eighty-eight now. Larry had affected a British accent and he used it all his life. To this day he talks like this (in Larry Storch voice), "My name is Larry Storch. This is how I talk." That's not really what you'd expect from a Bronx Jew. The same thing happened with Grace Kelly who affected a British accent. People from Philadelphia don't talk that way! She went to the American Academy a couple of years after I did. That being said, I couldn't see her getting an Oscar. Maybe it's my bitterness. Giving an Oscar to Grace Kelly was just ludicrous. I studied enough acting to have an opinion, but I was not successful as an actor.


Kliph Nesteroff: You mention Larry Storch and people do not realize that he was an enormous star in the late forties as a mimic on Broadway and all those huge theaters.

Will Jordan: I don't think he was that enormous, but I think he should have been.

Kliph Nesteroff: I spoke with Larry a year ago and just going through some of the trade papers of that era - at such a young age he was doing quite well with that act. He appeared on Duffy's Tavern doing impressions...

Will Jordan: I would like to get a copy of that. I have a tape of him winning Major Bowes [Amateur Hour] around 1937. He must have been very young.

Kliph Nesteroff: I believe the Duffy's Tavern episode is much later. I think it's 1945 or 1946.


Will Jordan: If you could make me a copy of that... do you remember who he impersonated? Cary Grant was probably his best. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, it was all movie stars as I recall. He may have done a Charles Laughton, a Cary Grant... can't remember the rest off the top of my head.

Will Jordan: Oh well, it's not that important. Would you remember the year?

Kliph Nesteroff: I think it's 1945. I'm almost certain. It was interesting to hear him on Duffy's Tavern, you were on Fred Allen, Jack Carter was also on Fred Allen doing impressions and Lenny Bruce doing impressions on Arthur Godfrey...

Will Jordan: Yeah. When I ran into Irving Mansfield he told me there was no video of me winning the Godfrey show, but by fluke there was. Apparently, there was some period between 1948-1949 when kinescopes were suddenly available. Irvin Mansfield wanted to get the video of Lenny Bruce winning the show. He got the audio. He said, "There is no video of you." I said, "Well, Irving (laughs). I have it!" A lot of kinescopes were, unfortunately, not made. But this was. By fluke, some guy in some flea market said, "I've got you winning on the Godfrey show." 


I think I'm absolutely awful in it, but it is one of the earliest pieces of my stuff that I have. I also have a copy of myself from The Fred Allen Show too. That was hard to get too. Some of these shows disappear from the collector's charts because they had no [celebrity guest] stars on them. For instance, my two appearances on The Red Skelton Show - you can't get them. Even though you can buy almost every Red Skelton show. You can't buy the two I was on. I don't know why. I was on December of 1962 with Rosemary Clooney and then December of 1964 with Pat Boone.




When I did the show they gave me two 16mm cans. The first 16mm wasn't me. It was a newsman. The second can had only the last five or six minutes of the show. All of these years I have been trying to get a copy of me on The Red Skelton Show. I don't think I was particularly good, but it would just be for my collection. All of those things of that nature came after I imitated Ed Sullivan. I never thought that imitating Ed Sullivan was going to be that important. I didn't think he had any talent. 



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.