Friday, April 1, 2011

An Interview with Micki Marlo - Part Two

Kliph Nesteroff: You worked a bunch with cigar chomping comedian Alan King. How did you first get to know Alan King and what do you recall about working with him?

Micki Marlo: We did a lot of club dates together through the William Morris Agency. I opened for him. He always chose the person he would work with and he very often chose me. I worked with him a lot. He paid for the opening act and he paid well. That's what I know about Alan King other than the fact that he loved strippers. He loved strippers. And he was an exquisitely dressed man. He dressed so beautifully, so very well tailored. That's what I remember about him. He wasn't terribly chatty, but he was a good man.

Kliph Nesteroff: And it sounds like you also had a pleasant relationship with Joey Bishop, but he was known for being quite moody.

Micki Marlo: He loved exotic dancers. The word got around the room, by the room I mean the waitresses and the waiters and the inside people, that he loved exotic dancers with dirty feet. Why I don't know. Never figured that out. Maybe I shouldn't be telling you these things! But he was a good man and I didn't know any other side of him.

Kliph Nesteroff: There's a great photo of you hanging out with a bunch of well-known comedians. In the shot is Henny Youngman...

Micki Marlo: Henny was my first husband's closest friend. Henny Youngman was very generous and he would always tip the agent. Henny knew the right things to do. He was a schmeer. A pay-off. A slide. Joe Wolfson was my main agent at William Morris and then Lee Solomon started to blossom and became a threat. Joe Wolfson didn't like my marrying Lee, but that's that.

Kliph Nesteroff: Woody Woodbury was with Joe Wolfson.

Micki Marlo: Oh, yes. He opened for me at The Vagabond Club. I worked with The Vagabonds also and they beat me for seven hundred and fifty dollars and they beat Tony Bennett for fifteen hundred. They said, "Don't cash the cheque now. Cash it when you get home!" They did the same thing to Tony Bennett (laughs).

Kliph Nesteroff: Was their club doing so poorly that they couldn't afford to pay the performers or were they simply shady hucksters?

Micki Marlo: I think their money was being used in other ways. The club was packed every night for the two weeks I worked there. It was jammed. I'm sure it was just as jammed for Tony Bennett and it was a hot club at the time and I think they used their money in other ways. They were users and abusers and we didn't get paid. I guess they chose who they would pay. I don't know, I'm just guessing.

Kliph Nesteroff: The Vagabond Club was the one with The Arthur Godfrey Room.

Micki Marlo: Yes, Arthur Godfrey was either behind them or picked them up from that room. He used them quite a lot and they got enough money to open up a club or something like that.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about Milton Berle?

Micki Marlo: Milton was great. Milton was very welcoming, very kind, wanted me to work with him for less money than everyone else was paying. He was a schnorrer. But it was understandable after reading some of his books, he had hard times coming up. He was a little tight-fisted as far as I was concerned. My husband Bobby Mayo, God rest him, did about twenty-five shows with Milton Berle. He did forty-seven shows for Ed Sullivan. He was one of the very first acts to do The Ed Sullivan Show. The show was on CBS. He did it forty-seven times. Ed used The Mayo Brothers all the time and came to see us work. And Milton got into everybody's act.

He loved The Mayo Brothers and used them often. They were known for dancing on tables. They could dance anywhere in the world - even on the sand. On one of the last shows that they did with Milton... Milton got on and he shoved my husband and his brother. My husband didn't like it. Milton had hurt him by shoving his elbow in his thigh. So he shoved Milton back and knocked him off of something and they went to black and that was the end of them on Milton Berle. But after that Milton would still invite us out to dinner and would make a big fuss over us.

Kliph Nesteroff: You performed at The Copacabana. What was it like working for Jules Podell?

Micki Marlo: Yes, well, I never really had much to say to him. He was standing there when I came from the dressing room to do my spot. I had little or nothing to say to him. My girlfriend married one of his bouncers, Vincent Lombardo. She's Meyer Lansky's daughter. Sandy Lansky. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Now, someone that did have a lot to do with Jules Podell and The Copacabana was Paul Anka. How did you go from Capitol Records to ABC Paramount where Paul Anka was the young hotshot writing and producing and in charge of so much?

Micki Marlo: I left Capitol Records for various reasons. One of which was that I was going to do a Broadway show, The Ziegfeld Follies of 1957. ABC Paramount wanted to sign me. They had just opened their recording company and they wanted me as their first artist. They signed me and brought me in for a meeting to discuss which songs I would record. They brought Paul Anka in to write a couple of my songs and to produce the singles. He was fifteen years old at the time. He was a very talented man. I had their first hit. A semi-hit. It was Paul's first hit record. He became the big star that he is and he's a most talented writer. I sat there and listened to him and answered the questions put to me. "Uh huh. Yes. That's right. Okay." He wrote one song called Okay, That's It and the other side was That's Right. Whatever I said in response he made a song out of it! That was kind of cute. I also did a Ray Charles recording of Ain't That Love. I had a hit with that song and Ray Charles didn't.

Kliph Nesteroff: The same photo that has you and Henny Youngman also features comedian Al Kelly, the king of double talk.

Micki Marlo: Yeah, he was great and he was a good friend of Lee Solomon. Every night after the show we'd go to Lindy's. There was a big center table and a man named Jager would be the waiter. All the comedians would sit there and I would be one of the few females that would sit at the table with all the comedians. Al Kelly would always address me in double talk. I guess the comics liked me because I was a great laugher. I loved to laugh and I loved comedy. I would double over half the time. When I stood up I was taller than Al Kelly.

Kliph Nesteroff: Also in the photo is Red Buttons.

Micki Marlo: Red was great. I loved Red. I wanted to date him. I begged Jan [Murray] to please fix us up. Jan said, "No way! He's a cheapskate. You'll never be happy with him."

Micki Marlo: Yes, with Jan Murray. That was one of their best episodes and when they play Car 54 Where Are You, they always show that one.

Kliph Nesteroff: This is the episode where Jan Murray goes crazy because they keep singing the same song over and over.

Micki Marlo: Yes. "Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom." Something like that.

Kliph Nesteroff: What was your role?

Micki Marlo: Not much. I just brought some papers out and nodded and smiled. I never dressed sexually except onstage, when I would wear low cut gowns. Had a tiny waistline. But I always wore high necks and longsleeves. My mother would always say, "Why you always wearing high necks and longsleeves? You look like Kate Smith." That's the way I dressed. I was a fashion model and worked for Anne Fogarty who created some of the greatest designs of her time; high necked, long sleeves and very full blossomy skirts. So that was my look and that's what I wore on Car 54, Where Are You.

Kliph Nesteroff: You appeared with Tennessee Ernie Ford on his show. How did that come about?

Micki Marlo: That was very nice. They wanted to know if I wanted to be paid with a cheque or with RCA [products]. My folks didn't have a television set. So I chose a television set. Molly Bee was a favorite female on the show and I was on a couple of times to replace Molly Bee.

Kliph Nesteroff: You appeared on What's My Line as a mystery guest?

Micki Marlo: Yes. I did one appearance and nobody guessed me (laughs). I remember little or nothing about it. I was very unhappy that nobody knew who I was.

Kliph Nesteroff: I've never seen that segment, but most episodes survive... it must be out there somewhere.

Micki Marlo: Steve Allen was so unhappy that all of his shows had been erased. Some young man came in to do some copy work I guess and he erased all of Steve Allen's shows. That was his biggest heartbreak.

Kliph Nesteroff: There isn't too much of Jan Murray's Charge Account that survives either - is there?

Micki Marlo: No and Jan owned the show, funnily enough. That was such a great show to work on because I sang on it and I did the warm-up. I remember once the microphones went out and Jan said, "You don't need it! You can sing without it." It was always great fun. Jan was great and his wife Toni was a great gal also.

Kliph Nesteroff: Was Charge Account done live?

Micki Marlo: No, it was not done live. It was live on tape. We taped five shows a day on Saturday and Sunday for two weeks and then we would do club dates the rest of the time. We worked The Concord a lot in the mountains. That's where I met Johnnie Ray. My girlfriend, Marilyn Morrison, her father owned The Mocambo, she married Johnnie Ray. We used to go out together when Johnnie was working New York. He was the sweetest, most lovingest, guy in the world.

Kliph Nesteroff: He had a relationship with Dorothy Kilgallen.

Micki Marlo: I didn't know about that, but I knew that Dorothy's husband came into a shoe store where I was and bought high heels for himself.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) Dick Kollmar.

Micki Marlo: Yes, they were high-heeled shoes with rhinestones all over the vamp and the heels.

Kliph Nesteroff: The announcer on Charge Account was Bill Wendell.

Micki Marlo: Yes, Bill Wendell and my husband became great friends. They used to play cards between the shows. He taught Bill how to golf. Bill was six foot four and Bobby taught him how to play golf. They were fast friends for many, many years and he lived in Yonkers as well.

Kliph Nesteroff: Milton Delugg was the musical director.

Micki Marlo: Yes, the greatest. He was very good. He used to call his fingers bananas. He had very long fingers, but he was slight in build, not much taller than I. Milton did a recording session for me. He partnered with Bud Granoff for many years in the publishing business. He put up the money for me for the recording session. Bud was married to Kitty Kallen who sang Little Things Mean a Lot. He was very good-hearted and did all the arrangements for me. He's still around and he has four sides that he did with me that were never released. I would love to get my hands on them so I could re-release them!

Kliph Nesteroff: The name of someone else that appeared on Charge Account was Maureen Arthur.

Micki Marlo: Maureen Arthur was Jan's first sidekick. She left to do "bigger and better things" and I only ever saw her on one episode of a television show and that was all we ever saw of her.

Kliph Nesteroff: You were her replacement?

Micki Marlo: Yes.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about Morgan Schmitter?

Micki Marlo: Oh, Dean Schmitter. He was the man whom they asked if the answers to the questions were right or not. He was like the professor. They called him Dean as he acted as a Dean, a know-it-all. Very sweet. He always used to ask me to sing "I'm Getting Married in the Morning! Ding Dong the Bells Are Gonna Chime!"

Kliph Nesteroff: We talked about Johnny Carson last time and how he came to see you backstage. Later on you did his Tonight Show...

Micki Marlo: We went to dinner a few times together. He, Ed McMahon and I. He was sweet. He was good. He was a very big drinker and I'm sure everyone knows about that. We went out with a group of people. Vaughn Meader was one of the eight or nine people we went out with one night. We went to Jilly's. Jilly's had a nightclub. You know Jilly's? Vaughn Meader tried to hypnotize everybody. Well, he couldn't hypnotize me cause I'm a strong-minded Capricorn. He tried to hypnotize Johnny. Johnny was already... not half in the bag, but right in the bag! He sat there like a mummy, stiff, straight as a board and Vaughn couldn't get through to him either. Johnny used to like to eat at The South Pacific Restaurant and Sardi's, of course, where my picture hung for a while. And that's about it.

Kliph Nesteroff: You got to know Frank Sinatra as well.

Micki Marlo: Yes. Frank and I went on a publicity date to a nightclub where Mary Healy and, I forget her husband's name, were performing.

Kliph Nesteroff: Peter Lind Hayes.

Micki Marlo: Peter Lind Hayes, yes, thank you. Been a long time since I have heard his name. So we're sitting ringside and there was a quiet moment in their act and Frank says, "Ring-a-ding-ding!" I turned to him and I said, "Would you be quiet? You're embarrassing me!" He stayed quiet after that. He introduced me from the stage at The Copacabana on his opening night and did not introduce a lot of other people. There were great stars in the audience that evening.

Kliph Nesteroff: And you were one of 'em.


Michael Powers said...

Very interesting woman, and she was absolutely as drop-dead gorgeous as she could possibly be. Can't say I recall hearing of her and don't understand how that can be, especially given that unusual name, although I have a feeling that maybe something will come back to me. Extremely interesting interview. I'm going straight to Part 1 right now, which I haven't read yet.

MattReid58 said...

WOW! Micki Marlo has always been one of my favorite female vocalists so this interview really is a great thrill to read. I was curious tho about something. Have you ever considered possibly talking with Eydie Gorme? She was of course a big star during the classic age of television. And I've never read an interview where she really went in-depth about her solo career. It would be another charming & entertaining interview especially with your knowledge and questions. Plus I'm sure her stories would be priceless!

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