Wednesday, August 28, 2013

An Interview with Lou Marsh - Part Two

Kliph Nesteroff: There was a small time comedian who was an emcee at Jack Ruby's Carousel Club in Dallas - Wally Weston.

Lou Marsh: Well, Wally Weston wasn't a small timer - he was just a comedian. We loved him. He used to introduce the strippers and do a line about them before he brought them on. He did a funny job. We went a couple times to see him. He was very funny. I'm trying to remember this correctly. 

We sat with him after one of the shows. We said, "Why do you hang around this place? You're so funny." He said (morosely), "Yeah. Yeah, I know." He meant something by that, but I don't know what. Like he wanted to get out of there, but they would not let him go.

Kliph Nesteroff: One place notorious for Mob connections was the Cal-Neva Lodge, which Marsh and Adams played... 

Lou Marsh: Cal-Neva Lodge was run by Sam [Giancana]. Frank Sinatra had a lot to do with it. That's where we met Joe DiMaggio for the first time. We did a show with Joe called Amateur Time, forget who put it on, and we enjoyed being with him. We did a show with him in San Francisco for his fiftieth birthday at a club called Bimbo's. 

We were brought into Cal-Neva by the agent and we stayed there for a little while. We did a helluva job and had a lot of fun at the Cal-Neva - but you would see people come in and out and you would mind your own business. Know what I mean? You know what I mean (laughs). The Cal-Neva Lodge was owned by a few people that, at the time, had a lot of connections. That's all I can say about that. 

Kliph Nesteroff: What can you tell me about the manager of Marsh and Adams - Billy J. Creedon? 

Lou Marsh: Billy was an entertainer himself. He had been in a dance team with his wife. Here's the interesting thing about Billy. Billy entertained Hitler. Do you hear this! 

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah. 

Lou Marsh: Billy was in Germany before the War. He entertained for Hitler and they treated them like a king, but he got out of there just in time, I guess. 

Kliph Nesteroff: How about this movie you did called The Godmothers? 

Lou Marsh: Oh, geez, yeah. We did a spoof of The Godfather. It starred Frank Fontaine, Tony Adams, myself and a couple of local entertainers. The movie never came out. The Godmothers. We got to see it, they screened it for us one night, but it never came out. I don't know why. 

I guess somebody got p.o.'d with the situation because it was a take-off on The Godfather, some legal thing, so it never came out. It's still in the can somewhere. If you can find a copy, call me and I'll buy it from you. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Jerry Lester was in it. 

Lou Marsh: Jerry Lester, myself, my partner, Frank Fontaine, Billy Barty - and Mickey Rooney too! Billy Barty had a way of breaking us up. He'd walk up to us. "You big guys think you're funny, but you're not. You're not." And he'd walk away. He would always do that. He'd walk up. "What's wrong with you? You're not funny! Why don't you give up the business?" And then he'd walk away.

Kliph Nesteroff: Were you friendly with Jerry Lester? 

Lou Marsh: Very friendly. Jerry, my partner, and I used to golf at least twice a week. Jerry would always say, "Well, I got a call from so and so. I'm gonna have to go do a movie, sorry, I'll have to leave you guys." And he never went anywhere.  

Kliph Nesteroff: What can you tell me about the relationship between he and his brother Buddy Lester. 

Lou Marsh: I don't... I don't really know. We golfed with Buddy Lester once. Jerry Lewis loved him. 

Kliph Nesteroff: I had heard that Buddy and Jerry Lester didn't get along.

Lou Marsh: Well, you didn't hear me say that, but y'know... we were all in a movie together called Hardly Working. Buddy, Jerry, my partner and I. And whenever you saw Buddy and Jerry Lester off in a corner talking with each other... you sure wondered what it was they were talking about. 

Kliph Nesteroff: How about a pair of Miami Beach comics - BS Pully and HS Gump? 

Lou Marsh: I didn't have too much to do with him. I would go and see him. He did things that, at that time, my partner and I would be afraid to do. He was off-color long before that kind of thing was around. We didn't want to do that kind of an act, so we never got friendly with BS.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about Belle Barth? 

Lou Marsh: Phewf. That was a delightful human being, but - again - used material that you would never think of doing - at that time. Today it would be nothing. She did what she did and she got knocked for it. But everywhere she would go she packed the hotels, packed the nightclubs. She did great in nightclubs, but she couldn't spread into TV or movies. 

We were very close. We'd have dinner together, our families would get together. But it was the wrong time for Belle. She was so funny she should have been on top of the world. She'd be like Joan Rivers today. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Do you remember a comedian named Bert Stone? 

Lou Marsh: Bert Stone and his partner Eddie Shine. Eddie Shine was the first person to introduce my partner and I to one of the biggest agents in New York - Willie Weber. Shine was the guy who said, "Lou and Tony, you guys are funny enough to be with one of the best agents." So he called Willie Weber, "I got two kids here in Boston that I think will do great for you." 

That's how we got with Willie Weber and he turned out to be a great agent. He was the first one to get us on television and the first one to get us into a major nightclub. In the middle of all this, he died. We were just left hanging there with his son. He was a nice kid too, but he didn't have the pull his dad had. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Stu Weber. 

Lou Marsh: Stu Weber (laughs). Jesus Christ. Where you getting these names! This keeps coming up! How long have you been writing these things? 

Kliph Nesteroff: Three years. 

Lou Marsh: You know everybody! There must have been something you did before three years that you know all these guys. Jesus Christ, I tell you, you got them pretty good. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Willie Weber sued Don Rickles for breach of contract. Don Rickles left Willie Weber for Joe Scandore. 

Lou Marsh: You didn't fool around with Scandore. You just... Scandore... I mean, I'm not saying anything but... Joe had a way of doing things... he had some nice... connections... but... I don't want to... I'm a little surprised at these questions...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Interview with Lou Marsh - Part One

Lou Adams: Tony Marsh and Lou Adams grew up in the same neighborhood in Boston. We went to see a friend of ours in a nightclub and he was terrible. Tony said, "Jesus, is he terrible." The guy sitting at the table next to us was the brother of the comic onstage. He said with an attitude, "If you guys think he's so bad, then why don't you try it?" I looked at Tony and said, "Let's do it. Let's bet the guy ten dollars." There was an amateur night at this nightclub. We bought some records, a couple books and used a broomstick as a microphone and put together an act.

We looked at Martin and Lewis to see what they were doing and started bouncing off each other. In the audience was an old time comic. He said, "I'll help you guys out. You got a funny lookin' face and your partner is a good lookin' boy." So we got together with this comic and went to a little cellar in Boston and started working on it. He booked us into a pizza joint for a Friday and Saturday and I figured we'd get ten or fifteen dollars. 

The guy said he'd give us sixty a piece. "Holy cow, sixty dollars, we're going to be rich!" He booked us and we stayed for twenty weeks. That's how it started. Then we got a manager. His name was Harry Adler. That started it. We started to do our own TV show down here in Miami Beach. We were down here for nine years at one club in the Barcelona Hotel and then we went to the Fontainebleau for three years. 

Every big club in Miami Beach was part of our life. Then we opened our own comedy club called the Comedy Box in Miami Beach. We went back on the road and we got lucky. They put us with Sammy Davis Jr. and Lola Falana and Bobby Goldsboro. We did charity shows with Frank Sinatra and we did the Jerry Lewis telethon from down here. We got very friendly with Jerry and did three movies with him. My partner got sick later in life and we slowed down. We took jobs periodically and my partner passed away and that was the end of Marsh and Adams.

Kliph Nesteroff: What was the name of that old time comic who encouraged you guys?

Lou Marsh: I can never forget. The guy's name was Jack Black. He was an old timer and a funny man. There was another guy down here in Hollywood, Florida who did a lot for us named Harry 'Lefty' Lewis. He was the greatest ad-libber in the world. The greatest. We had a lot of friends who decided to help - but it was Jack Black who started us off.

Kliph Nesteroff: Marsh and Adams worked with comedy emcee Frank Keenan.

Lou Marsh: Frankie Keenan was a guy who looked like Jackie Gleason. We used him as the emcee at the Comedy Box and Jackie Gleason used to come in at least twice a month. He'd sit there, watch us, and then put us on his show. We did a movie with him - How Do I Love Thee. Frankie  Keenan looked so much like Jackie it was frightening and he put him on his show when Jackie wasn't there, which was funny. Frankie had a lot of ability too. He was in the business long before we got into it.

Kliph Nesteroff: There was another comedian who was a regular at the Comedy Box named Leon Fields.

Lou Marsh: Leon was a very funny man. He was just a comic that we liked. We used to have two or three comics on the bill with us at the Comedy Box. We did it for a long time. When we first came to Miami Beach we were booked in an ice revue. The first couple weeks we kept slipping on the ice.

Kliph Nesteroff: February 1960 you played the Tower Club in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Lou Marsh: Oh, how could I forget Hot Springs, Arkansas. That was one of the thrills of our life. Jesus, how did I forget that. We went there for two weeks and stayed there four months. Hot Springs, Arkansas. Wherever we went we'd sit down and have dinner. "Send us the bill." "No bill, no bill." We ate for nothing, slept for nothing and played the horses like we owned them. In fact, while we were there they named a horse Marsh and Adams. Tony and I would go down there at three in the morning with our trumpets and serenade our horse. Boy, we were kings at that time.

Kliph Nesteroff: April 1960, you guys played the number one club in your hometown - Blinstrub's in Boston.

Lou Marsh: Blinstrub's was the club that every act with any kind of name would work. It took us a long time to get it because we were Boston kids. Finally the owner caught us at one of the pizza joints and said, "They're not bad. Let's put them on with Nat King Cole." We were with him at Blinstrub's and then he took us with him to Syracuse, New York.

Kliph Nesteroff: The Three Rivers Inn.

Lou Marsh: Three Rivers Inn, yeah! So we did that with Nat King Cole and he said, "I'm playing Syracuse, would you join me?" "Will we join you! Anything you want we'll do!" So we did that for three weeks with Nat King Cole. Not to be too braggadocios - but whatever we did was great. Now you're saying, well, why didn't we become bigger stars? Well, we screwed it up by wanting to be at home instead of in Las Vegas. In Vegas everyone was coming to see us - producers, directors, but we wanted to be home with our kids. It was the turning point of our life. Had we stayed in Vegas, I have no doubt we would have been stars - and I hate to say this but - we were as funny as anyone who was funny.

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember about working with Marie MacDonald at the Tradewinds in Chicago?

Lou Marsh: She was a sweetheart. She was a very delightful lady. The first night we opened she said, "Tell the boys to do twenty minutes." We usually did forty-five minutes. Anyway, I said to Tony, "Well, let's see if we can do it. Let's do twenty." We went on and did a great job as usual. She had a little problem with her first couple numbers. We got along with her, but we never went back with her. Our manager said, "No, if people are telling you to cut your act then forget them. Do your forty-five minutes."

Kliph Nesteroff: And the comedian who followed you guys in was Allan Drake.

Lou Marsh: Allan Drake was a... very funny... as a matter of fact... Redd Foxx. Redd Foxx and Allan Drake. Redd Foxx was working a little place in Vegas across the street from the Sands. Small club, brand new. We stayed there for a couple months and that's where we met Jerry Lewis. We became very friendly with Jerry.

Kliph Nesteroff: You were Miami Beach comics. How come Jerry Lewis didn't use you guys in his film The Bellboy?

Lou Marsh: Ah, during The Bellboy we were out of town. When they did The Bellboy at the Fontainebleau we were out of town. Most of the guys in the area were in it. Jerry told us many times, "You should have been in The Bellboy." I said, "Well, you should have waited till we came back!" Every one of them was in it. Leon Fields, who you mentioned was one. Harry Lefty Lewis, who I mentioned, was one. 

There was another man named Eddie Schaeffer - he was one. Between all of that we roasted a lot of big names at our club the Footlighters; Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Milton Berle, a gang of 'em. Anyone you name we roasted. The Footlighters got up to five hundred members.

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember of Don Rickles in that era?

Lou Marsh: We never got friendly with Don. Don's mother used to come in and see us at the Comedy Box. We ran into Don one time and he said, "How's my act doing?" Because we had stolen a lot of material from him.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about a place called Eddy's in Kansas City?

Lou Marsh: Eddy's (laughs). There were three clubs that if you played them - you were on the road to success. The Copacabana in New York, Eddy's in Kansas City and the Elmwood Casino in Windsor. If you worked those three clubs you were on the way. We worked them three times.

Kliph Nesteroff: I had heard that Eddy's was notorious for its managers, three short brothers that were all Mob guys...

Lou Marsh: Well, Eddy's... (laughs)... that's the guy who shot the kid that killed Kennedy. Jack Ruby. He never showed up there, but he had a piece of Eddy's. Everybody knew he had a piece of the action. 

Kliph Nesteroff: We never finished talking about Allan Drake.

Lou Marsh: Allan Drake was just a comic, a funny man and... I'd rather not talk about the rest of it.