Marty Ingels: Shecky Greene I'm very friendly with. Back then he was very bipolar and there was no medication for him. For the most part he's considered the underground - and the underground's number one guy. He married the daughter of a well known mafia figure. He has a lot of funny stories about coming home to his mafia princess. Shirley and I met with him recently. He's in his eighties now. Jack Carter is still alive. They are angry people inside. You were warned that when you [started collaborating] with Jack Carter that he was going to turn on you? Maybe that's fair, maybe that's not fair. He hung up on you the other day? Well, Jesus, if I was working with you for a year... I would be over there burning your garage every so often and poisoning your dog.
Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)
Marty Ingels: I'd be much tougher on you than Jack! I think hanging up on you is fine! People do terrible things. Dustin Hoffman is the biggest bastard who ever lived. There are directors who have worked with him that have said, "I'd rather have cancer than work with Dustin Hoffman again!" How do you explain it? It's the business we're in. Bob Hope had a funny thing going, but he didn't treat his people very well. I worked for him. Johnny Carson was a real dark character. Never met his guests before or after the show, y'know. Buddy Hackett was a funny guy, but a bigger prick in the world there wasn't! He was (laughs) the worst! He came to a party and in four minutes you wanted to throw him out the window. Milton Berle was pushy too, y'know? Red Buttons was a nice guy, but don't ever get him onstage when you're supposed to be equals. He'll cut both your legs off and jump on you. Comics are needy people, but its a great talent. I avoided doing stand-up comedy always. That is my big regret - even though I sort of started with a couple routines on The Steve Allen Show.
Kliph Nesteroff: Did you avoid it due to anxiety?
Marty Ingels: Anxiety. It was anxiety. You know? I needed notes. Now you can bring them up or they have teleprompters this and that. I also didn't have the courage to be Bill Cosby. He'd tell wonderful jokes and stories. Today there are no jokes. It's getting up and telling stories about your life.
Kliph Nesteroff: 1967 you did some nightclubs for a few months. You did an act at the Bitter End in New York, the Hungry I in San Francisco and the Troubador in Hollywood.
Marty Ingels: Yeah! I did do that. Boy, you know everything. Yeah, I did that. I opened with the group that did that song, "Cherish is the name that bup bup bup."
Kliph Nesteroff: The Association.
Marty Ingels: Yeah, boy, you know everything. I had stories that didn't quite... I didn't follow it through. In television, when you're an actor and you go to read for a series you're paid seven dollars. When the network goes to a club somewhere and finds you standing up - it's a whole different story. They build a whole show around you and you can make lots and lots of money. The Home Improvement guy was just a young comic and only mediocre. Not the funniest guy and he became the richest guy going. They found him and built a show around him. Ray Romano went on the David Letterman show and Letterman said, "You know I like you and I got a deal with the network. Let's build a show around you." Bingo. Not a funny guy at all, y'know. But each one of these guys they found doing their thing standing up.
When they find them in a club they build a show around them. It's not the same for a comic actor, for whatever reason. I did a guest shot on CSI and that really revived my brain, my ego and my self-esteem. The character was sensational. What was great was that everybody was reading for that part - and I got it. I said, "Bingo, I must be something." It was their last show of the season and everybody watched it. I came home and I said, "Shirley, I'm still in business." I never did stand-up, but I had a funny face and a natural instinct to be funny. I did some variety show in Vegas and a chorus girl drove me to Hollywood and dropped me on a corner. I knew this was going to be my place.
They were going to do the life story of Red Skelton. I would have been perfect for that because I looked so much like him when I was a young cat. My perfect brother Arthur - I lived in the shadow of a brother that was perfect. Quarterback hero, handsome. If that weren't enough I was born on his birthday. Every March 9th the cake, which my mother used to make, she was never good when it got to putting the icing on. "Happy Birthday Arthur and..." there was never enough room for "Marty" on the cake. "Marty" would hang off the edge of the cake on the bottom!
Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)
Marty Ingels: The day I knew Shirley loved me - she made me a birthday cake that said, "Happy Birthday MARTY" and Arthur's name was hanging off the side. I knew that was love! I lived in that shadow. My whole life was "Look at Arthur! Look how great he is!" When I went to school I was using his old books. The teachers would say, "Oh, aren't you lucky to be Arthur's brother!" I couldn't even attempt anything my brother did and he could do everything. I couldn't measure up.
The only thing was - he wasn't funny. So no big puzzle to figure out what makes people people. One day I said something - and everyone laughed. My brain went, "Heyyyyyy! Listen to that! I'm loved!" It has served me well. I never became Billy Crystal, but it has served me well.
Kliph Nesteroff: You were good friends with the comedian Sandy Baron.
Marty Ingels: Very good friends. You're really bringing me home to a lot of soft, sensitive places. Sandy was a very peculiar guy. He had a peculiar sense of humor. I never understood Sandy Baron. I know he had psycho bouts of depression that were very bad. He would go into a clinic or else people would have to physically come to his house and feed him. He had some very bad things going on. But there was a good moment in my life when I did a film with him called If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium.
What a coup that was. We filmed in about fourteen different countries. It was just great and I worked with a lot of wonderful people. I got to play the perfect character. This big loudmouth, flashy guy with a camera and a hat taking pictures of everything. It was perfect. Those were the days when comics didn't become movie stars. They had little bit parts.
Kliph Nesteroff: I watched you in a forgotten television program called The Partners that Don Adams starred in.
Marty Ingels: I don't remember that at all. Before Get Smart?
Kliph Nesteroff: After Get Smart.
Marty Ingels: Oh, really?
Kliph Nesteroff: It didn't last long. I watched an episode where you played a villain.
Marty Ingels: No kidding? You know, when I did Dickens and Fenster I had just bought a house and just got married and then everything dried up. I thought I was going to lose my house. It was terrible. I got a call from someone who handled Don Adams.
He was coming out west to do the pilot for Get Smart and they said, "Would you lease him your house?" So he lived at my house for all those years. I came there one day - and he was moving out. He was there with Louis Nye and Don Knotts and guys that were working all the time. I was at the bottom of the hill - and I remember this. They were carrying out this big white couch... which was mine!
Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)
Marty Ingels: (laughs) Y'know? I went up there... and it was like a scene from a movie. I said, "That's my couch!" The manager said, "You still owe him six hundred dollars for something so he's taking the couch." Well, I just lost it! I got in my car and drove it up and parked it right in the way of their moving truck. I said, "You're not taking my couch. Put it back." I was mister tough guy, but that was a low in my life. And all the other comics and the manager were standing there. They nimbly brought my couch back, I moved my car, they pointed at me and I went home to be sad. Now you talk about being a comic staying in Hollywood after that! I was begging, "Please leave my couch!" Ah, he was such a putz, Don Adams. He was such a cold hearted guy. A real cold hearted guy.
He once told me he had to make a decision whether he wanted to get paid an extra thousand a week or take a big piece of the show. He took less money and more of the show and it was the best decision he ever made. Anyway, I got so sad because you can't take a white couch away from a Jew! He probably would have taken the plastic cover away too. That would have really killed me!
Kliph Nesteroff: Did you know the comedian Joe E. Ross?
Marty Ingels: Yeah, yeah. They used to liken Jon Astin and I to those guys. "Ooh, ooh, ooh!" There's a terrible story about how he died. He was doing a club date and he died in the middle of the show. His wife, who was collecting the money for his funeral or something, was supposed to get four thousand dollars for the show. They sent her two thousand. She asked, "Why?" They said, "Well, he only did half his act." Because he died in the middle! Show business, oh!
Kliph Nesteroff: How about Jackie Mason? He's a guy that a lot of people had trouble with.
Marty Ingels: Interesting you should say that. I didn't want to be the first to say it. I've known him a long time. Peculiar. Maybe the world is like that. He's a cold guy. Hard. Not loving. He's not the kind of guy who puts his arm around you. Not giving. He's a very, very cold businessman. He came to Hollywood hot as a pistol after his Broadway show and did a few movies and two or three series. The sparks flew. He left this town with more enemies... he's a brilliant comic. He really is brilliant. They say some people say funny things and some people say things funny. That's Mel Brooks and Jackie Mason.
They can say anything and they're funny. He's that. He made his mark after all those years, but he's not a nice person and I know so. But like I say, most comics... every one of them has some real baggage. Maybe that's all creative people. Hey, listen. Do you allow creative people to go by different rules because of their creative contribution to the world? Frank Sinatra got away with everything. He was supposed to do the Gordon MacRae role in Carousel. Let me tell you, Shirley did all her prerecording with him! It's worth a lot of money. I've got those. They went out to Maine or wherever they did it. First day of shooting Frank shows up in his big limo. He gets out of the car and he sees two sets of cameras.
They shot some scenes twice because they were using some process for theaters with big movie screens. So they did some of the dance scenes twice. There was a big mystery with what was going on in his life. A lot of rumors were about him and Ava when she was shooting Mogambo. She said, "You get your ass over here you son of a bitch or I'm going to sleep with Clark Gable." He was just starting Carousel and he saw those two sets of cameras and he said, "What's this?" They said, "Well, Frank, we're going to shoot some of the scenes twice." He said, "Am I getting paid once or twice?" They said, "Once."
He got right in the car, slammed the door and left. Nobody knew what to do. Shirley said, "I know a very wonderful singer named Gordon MacRae." So she went to a phone booth right then and called Gordon in New York. "Listen, can you come do Carousel with me? You have to lose fifteen pounds. And can you do it in two days?" Shirley thinks he had the best voice of any singer ever. What a dream team they made. We have all the wardrobe pictures of Sinatra wearing all those Gordon MacRae striped jackets. It's hysterical.
Kliph Nesteroff: Most of the nightclub comedians had to work for the Mob. Since you weren't a nightclub comic I guess you never...
Marty Ingels: I was never really a nightclub comic so I never had to encounter that - even though every time I meet an old comic, "Hey! How bout the old days, huh? How bout when we did Grossingers, Marty? And when we played the place in Jersey! Remember?"
Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)
Marty Ingels: "Remember those days, Marty?" Oh, sure, yeah, yeah (laughs). I was in high school at that time! I never did that! I went right to Hollywood. But Shirley played all those places with Jack [Cassidy] and a lot of the Mob people fell in love with her. A mobster came to her room one night and said, "You wanna see how much I love you?" He took two thousand dollars right out of his pocket and burned it! He lit a match (laughs). Now, that much love I don't have! So, she worked for the Mob.
But she didn't work for the Mob like Sinatra did. She was very close to Dean Martin. Dean would tell her all the time, "Sinatra belongs to them. Til the day he dies." And willingly so. They helped him. Sam Giancana helped him come back, supposedly. One thing I admired about Dean Martin - Sinatra would say, "Suit up. We have to show up for this thing." "What thing?" "The Mob is doing this thing." Dean used to say to Sinatra, "You owe them. I don't." They all had money in Cal-Neva.
The Mob had a part, Sinatra had a part and Dean Martin had a part. Dean thought he was just in it with Sinatra. When he found out he was in it with the Mob he brought a lawyer and said, "I'm out." I admired him for that. Sammy Davis Jr. was in big trouble when he married May Britt. The Mob was not happy about that marriage. They were going to do away with Sammy, believe it or not. Shecky had a touch of that. And that singer, what's his name, who was gonna sue Johnny Carson because he called him a fag...
Kliph Nesteroff: Wayne Newton.
Marty Ingels: Wayne Newton was connected. You know who was very much connected and still is? I'll probably get killed for saying this. Steve and Eydie. They're still around. They were the greatest and the best. They're probably the richest people in the world because he was smart. He saved his money.
Kliph Nesteroff: You did a movie called The Busy Body with a young Richard Pryor.
Marty Ingels: Yeah, jeez, that was great. It was with that interesting director.
Kliph Nesteroff: William Castle.
Marty Ingels: Yeah, that was before Richard Pryor made it as a big hit. He was not on drugs at that time. He once took Shirley to dinner. He was absolutely in love with Shirley. That would have been interesting conversation! I have little fantasies of being a fly on the wall. I always wanted to be at the breakfast table to hear the conversation between the husband and wife teaming of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. I would love to hear what they said to each other! She's no longer with us. I heard he didn't leave the house for a couple years after that. They were very much connected. He's also a crazy person and not very sweet or nice. But very talented.
Kliph Nesteroff: I wanted to ask you...
Marty Ingels: Is that it? I've only been on the phone with you for two weeks. I've shaved twice and changed my underwear too!
Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)
Marty Ingels: Ask me whatever you like. I'll tell you anything.
Kliph Nesteroff: December 1961 you signed a three-year contract with RCA Victor and you were supposed to come out with an album called Marty Ingels Arrives.
Marty Ingels: Jeez, I don't remember that. I was good at writing and I wrote parodies of all the hit songs at that time. It was great. But I forgot to check to see that I had the rights to do them. Everyone I took it to said, "What? Are you crazy?" I said, "I'm doing an album." They said, "No, you can't do that!" And I never got to do it. But I remember a producer showing up at one of the sessions saying, "I just did a session with this girl Barbra Streisand."
He said, "We booked the studio for six hours. She did one take and we said, 'What more can we do? There's no way to improve that!' Why do it again?" So they all went home. She was brilliant, y'know. There's another example. If Barbra Streisand's father had loved her the way she needed him, she never would have felt the need to do what she does. Barbra Streisand's sister was the apple of his eye.
Judy Garland - every time she sang she cried. There was a documentary on about Judy Garland recently. They had people on there that said, "We changed our phone number because she was phoning all the time at four o'clock in the morning." The dues that creative people pay to be creative - I'm very lucky to be married to a woman that is a real icon. Everybody loves her wherever we go. Me, everyone thinks I'm crazy. She doesn't have to pay the dues. Nobody has to worry about her running down the street naked screaming that she's Woodrow Wilson.
She doesn't do any of that stuff. She hates the red carpet. I plan for six days what I'm going to wear for a red carpet! She says, "I'm not going on that red carpet." I say, "Yes, you are! No one wants to talk to me if I'm alone! Go with me! What if I find a plaid carpet? Then will you come with me?" She says, "You would attend the opening of a refrigerator!"
Kliph Nesteroff: Last question, Marty...
Marty Ingels: I dare to say you lie! I can see my wife from here. She's already packed her luggage. She's leaving me and she's going to go live with Jack Carter.
Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)
Marty Ingels: You know, when I did my movie with Jack Carter... he was all over me. He was directing me. A lot of people would get upset about that, but I admired him. I admired what he did and I was very proud of the fact that he would even come over to me. I felt very loving toward him. They say a lot of people are difficult, but he wasn't mean to me once.
Although, I was told he got up somewhere and told a couple jokes and he made me look very bad. He said, "Shirley - why is she married to that lunatic?" or something like that. I called him on it. I called and said, "Look, Jack. Come on." He goes, "Oh, I didn't say that blah blah blah." I said, "Listen. Shirley and I have a charity. Why don't you make out a cheque? Donate some money to our favorite charity because of what you said." He didn't do it. And I thought that was very small of him. Jack still has the first nickel he ever made. No doubt about that. Red Buttons was like that too.
Kliph Nesteroff: There were all those stories about Red Buttons when he had his first TV show...
Marty Ingels: Oh my God, every day. He was a nightmare with his writers. A nightmare! Writers take a lot of shit from everybody. Bob Hope's writers took a lot of shit. We were close with Bob Hope. His penny pinching bothered me a bit. We once went to a party at Bob Hope's house in Toluca Lake. He expanded this little house so that he had this twelve acre place. This big giant estate.
We went there and we were curious that there was nobody to park the cars. So we had to park way out in China and walk eleven miles to his house. It was a party for one of his adopted children that was running for office. We asked one of the security people, "How come there was no parking people or anything?" The guy says, "There was no budget for it." What!? We went to Bob Hope's again for some charity thing. He had tables outside. Hundreds of tables and people. Word came that he wasn't there, but they were going to run this film. They ran this film and he's all dressed up and it looks like he's somewhere in Europe.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be there. I really wish I could, but I want you to know I love you all. I'm out here and its cold and we have to do this show tomorrow." We were sitting there again with these security people and they said, "You'll never believe this. You wanna hear something? He's upstairs in his bedroom right now." "What?" "He didn't want to come down to the party so he had this film done." He was upstairs in his house! Whoa, boy, I said, that's for me! That's what I want to do! Throw a big party and look at it from my window without having to socialize. Just stay upstairs in my pajamas like Hugh Hefner, that son of a bitch. Hugh Hefner could have been a senator, he was so smart at one time.
Now he lives on one girl after another. How many blowjobs can you have when you're eighty-six years old? Unbelievable what a demented life he lives. I'm going to see him in a couple days when I go to this big tribute for Tony Curtis.
Kliph Nesteroff: I wanted to finish off by asking you about Jerry Lewis. He gave you a big break.
Marty Ingels: Oh, yes. He's one of my best... Jerry Lewis... how can I explain? Most comics, as I explained, come from some sort of disorder. You fill it with being a comic. Jerry was the greatest example. He was the real geek of his family. His parents were absentee vaudevillians. He stayed at this aunt's house and that aunt's house and just did a little record act when he bumped into Dean. But all comics tend to evolve as human beings too. You have to also be a human being. Shirley did a show with Bob Hope...
They were driving in a limo and all Hope could talk about was, "Say you know that joke I did? After the third one? You think I should stop there and do my song or should I do..." She said this guy never quit. He was eighty years old. There was nothing else in his life. He wanted to know if this joke worked. Comics have to evolve as people. I remember reading something in TV Guide about how comedians shouldn't be psychoanalyzed because they might lose their talent. A lot of people were upset with that article because if you've got problems you should get the help you need. You don't want to be suffering.
Comics that go to therapy become people. They become husbands, they become fathers and they beat the rap. Jerry Lewis never moved an inch in that direction. He is still that twelve year old kid that is seeing if he can push his name and he wants no competition and he's no father and he's no husband. You know? You never hear him talk about his family. He raised billions of dollars for muscular dystrophy - some people wonder why he did it. Was it to make up for what some people thought was making fun of it or what? He raised billions of dollars and they just threw him out. Nobody knows why. He won't say why.
The general feeling is that the new president hated his guts and so he became a prick on the show. No one understands why there is no cure for MD. He made billions for them selflessly. Shirley thinks somewhere they probably caught him with his hand in the til and they made some kind of an agreement. "You don't say what happened, I don't say what happened." I don't think that is what happened. It was very unceremoniously that they let him go and I know he lived big, but I don't believe that Jerry would have ever done that.
We went to a thing a couple months ago for Jerry. He was up there and they did a Q&A for ninety minutes. He's a legend and an icon, but the audience started to leave. The host said, "Thanks for coming," and Jerry stayed in the chair and wouldn't leave! He said, "Does anybody have any other questions?" People that love him were leaving... because it was just time to go home! It was time to go home, Jerry (laughs).
He stood there like... "Does anybody else! Anybody else, please..." He was (laughs)... I said to Shirley, "Would you look at this picture? This is Jerry Lewis." He is still suffering the pangs of the self-esteem problems of a comic. Jerry never evolved as a person. He just got old. Jerry is still brilliant, but... he has never evolved as a person. That's why nobody likes him. It's too bad because he was brilliant at what he did. Shirley, my wife, never liked his comedy. But when he was on top he changed the entire face of comedy the world over.