Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Interview with Peter Marshall - Part One

Kliph Nesteroff: Most people know you solely as the host of Hollywood Squares and have no idea that you performed comedy in nightclubs long before that - for approximately fifteen years. One of your first gigs as a comedy team with Tommy Noonan was at Bill Gray's Band Box.

Peter Marshall: Yes, that was our second gig. Our very first was at a place called the Zambo Anga down on Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles. Polly Bergen caught us and she told Max Gold who owned Billy Gray's Band Box with Billy Gray. We went in for one night and we were a hit. It was really a very Jewish club and here we are, these two goyim, and they loved us. We stayed there for a long time and that was the beginning.

We got together on a lark and we never expected anything to come of it. Tommy Noonan was my brother in-law's brother. He was John Ireland's brother. John Ireland was then married to my sister. We got together. I owed a dental bill of sixty-seven dollars and Tommy had just been dropped from RKO. We were talking and put this silly act together and bang - it worked.

Kliph Nesteroff: What was the Band Box like and what was Billy Gray like?

Peter Marshall: Billy Gray was one of the funniest men I ever worked with. If you ever see the movie Some Like it Hot - he played the agent. He was very, very funny and he owned this little club that seated, I don't know, one hundred and thirty people, I guess. It was a tiny little bar, but they had a good clientele and they spent money. I worked with Leo Diamond, a famous harmonica player and Robert Maxwell, a harpist who wrote Ebb Tide and Shangri La. The show was very heavy and there was Tommy and myself, Frank Fontaine, Billy Gray and a girl singer. The shows would last for hours! It was a great place to start.

Kliph Nesteroff: Two names that always appear in tandem with Billy Gray are Ben Lessy and Patti Moore.

Peter Marshall: That was my favorite act. Ben Lessy was, along with Billy Gray, the funniest man I ever saw. Nobody remembers Ben Lessy. He was a cute little comic. He'd come out with a pocket full of stuff they use for packing, that [styrofoam] white stuff. He'd take those things out of his pocket, flip them into the air and try and catch them. It's hard for me to explain. He was like a mime or like a Ben Blue type. Benny Lessy and Patti Moore were wonderful. It's sad that we don't have film of that, although Lessy did do some films.

Kliph Nesteroff: I did see one sequence from their act... I can't remember where. Patti Moore is dancing and doing all the talking and Ben Lessy was sitting at the piano and playing it with one finger.

Peter Marshall: That's it, you got it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Their name - and also Ben Blue - these names come up a lot in association with Billy Gray. They were part of the same circle.

Peter Marshall: Yes, Billy Gray's and then there was Charley Foy's. We used to work it a lot. Charley Foy's was a very popular nightclub. When I came out to Los Angeles in 1943 it was out on Coldwater Canyon and Ventura. Then they moved up to Sherman Oaks, just west of Sepulveda. I worked with Ben Blue a lot.

We'd go in for three months a year to break in material. There would be four acts. Carl Ravazza was one. Not many people remember him. He used to open his act from the back of the room. He was very handsome. He'd sing from the back of the room and make his way to the stage. I would do sketches there with Ben Blue.

All the waiters at Charley Foy's were old vaudeville comics like Cully Richards and Sammy Wolfe. The bartender - what the heck was his name? He used to star at Jack White's club in New York. He's the guy who invented "And away we go!"

Kliph Nesteroff: Jackie Gleason?

Peter Marshall: No, Gleason stole that. He stole it from this guy. Frankie Hyers! That's the guy. "Away we go" was his thing and then Gleason took it. But he was the bartender at Charley Foy's.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, really?

Peter Marshall: Yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: The club in New York you're talking about is the Club 18.

Peter Marshall: Yes, the Club 18. Jack White's Club 18. This guy wound up as the bartender at Charley Foy's. Charley Foy was one of the Seven Little Foy's. His father was the famed Eddie Foy. He was the emcee and he would come out and he would tap dance. All the old vaudevillians used to hang out there. Gene Sheldon and people like that.

You know who else used to hang there? The guy that always stuttered. Joe Frisco. He wasn't working, he just hung out there. He always called me Bob. He could never remember my name. I'd say, "My name is not Bob!" I'd drive him home. He lived in a little hotel. He said, "K-k-k-k-k-kid, you don't look like a Pete. You look like a Bob." He was a big gambler and drinker.

There's the story about him being at the track with Crosby. He goes up to him, "Hey, Bing, can I borrow a hundred dollars?" Crosby gives him a hundred dollars. Frisco has a big day at the track and he wins thousands of dollars. He's sitting there with all his friends. He walks over to Crosby and hands him a hundred dollars and says, "Hey kid, sing me Melancholy Baby."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Peter Marshall: (laughs) Joe Frisco was a very famous vaudevillian as were most at Charley Foy's. All the waiters were old vaudevillians and the bartender was a vaudevillian. I mean, it was just filled with all these wonderful, colorful vaudevillians that I remembered from when I was a kid! I mean, what a way for a guy to grow up.

Kliph Nesteroff: Ben Blue also had his own club for a brief spell somewhere in Los Angeles.

Peter Marshall: Yes, I think he might have taken over the old Slapsy Maxie's. I'm not quite sure. He would come in for a couple of months and play Charley Foy's and then Carl Ravazza and then Noonan and Marshall. There were favorites. Of course, we were on the road all the time, so this was a chance to stay home and break in new material.

Kliph Nesteroff: You mentioned Cully Richards and Frankie Hyers. Did you ever frequent the Club 18 in New York? It sounds like such a fascinating place. It was an insult club. A nightclub where everyone onstage is an insult comic. That sounds so interesting.

Peter Marshall: No, I was too young. I was too young for Club 18. I remember hearing one story. Greta Garbo was in the club. She went to the ladies room. After she returned to her table Gleason somehow got the john seat. He came onstage to auction off the toilet seat. "Greta Garbo just sat here!"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Peter Marshall: (laughs) Yes, it was a great club as I understand.

Kliph Nesteroff: And this is interesting about Frankie Hyers and the catchphrase "Away we go!"

Peter Marshall: Yeah, and they all worked the Club 18. I can remember Cully Richards' byline. It was "Cully Richards - Just a Clever Guy." I just loved that - and he was. He was a clever guy. That whole era - nobody talks about it anymore. And nobody has ever written about it. It was a great time in New York and especially in Los Angeles. They all came out to L.A. early to get into film because vaudeville was over. They came out here for radio.

Kliph Nesteroff: Some Like it Hot, as you mention, had Billy Gray in it. Another comedian in that film that people don't remember - also a regular at the Band Box - is Dave Barry.

Peter Marshall: Yeah, Dave. I worked with Dave many times and he was wonderful. I worked Billy Gray's with Dave Barry and a lot of club dates. In those days you did a lot of club dates. If you were out of work you could just head to Chicago and you'd find three or four club dates to do a day.

That was the corporate headquarters before Vegas and before there were jets. So, all the corporate meetings were in Chicago and you would do all their club dates. I can remember performing at the Chicago Theater as part of Marshall and Farrell and you weren't allowed to do club dates. At the Chicago Theater we were doing four or five shows a day. So we changed our names to Matthews and Richards so we could go squeeze in some club dates.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Peter Marshall: (laughs) And we got caught! I must say they laughed and thought it was clever, but told us, "Don't do that anymore."

Kliph Nesteroff: Chicago Theater, May 1954 - you were playing there with the Four Knights.

Peter Marshall: Yes. You've got that down? Wow! Yes, that's when we did the club dates. That was with Marshall and Farrell, though. We did around four or five shows a day, but in those days you weren't doing an hour and half. You were on stage for about twenty minutes and then they'd have a dancer and a seal act, you know.

Kliph Nesteroff: I'm interested in the difference between each show in terms of the audience. Jack Carter told me that the first show of the day in these theaters - the audience was full of derelicts that had spent the night on the street and showed up to sleep in this warm theater during the first show of the day.

Peter Marshall: Oh, yes. That's right. We headlined the Palace, actually, with Marshall and Farrell, back when they were putting on five shows a day. The first show was at ten o'clock in the morning, but it wasn't derelicts at the Palace. The audience would be old vaudevillians. They would come in and see you and critique it. Later I did La Cage at the Palace in 1986. I was the last star ever to take a bow at the old Palace before they tore it up, refurbished it and built a thing above it. Anyway, Marshall and Farrell played the RKO Palace and all the old vaudevillians like Smith and Dale would come in.

Kliph Nesteroff: That was August 1956. Marshall and Farrell at the Palace with The Three Tapateers, Ross Wyse and June Adams and the Kal Kirby Orchestra.

Peter Marshall: (laughs) Oh my God.

Kliph Nesteroff: The show was booked by a guy named Danny Friendly.

Peter Marshall: Yeah, Danny Friendly. Good old Danny Friendly. Oh, Jesus. He was a booker and an agent. He might be related to [Fred] Friendly the news guy. 

Kliph Nesteroff: November 1950. Noonan and Marshall played La Martinique. That must have been a big deal for you guys.

Peter Marshall: It was a big deal. Abby Greshler, who handled Martin and Lewis, got if for us. They left him and so he handled us for about an hour and a half. We went in for two weeks and we stayed for sixteen weeks. The reviews were so-so, but we were a big hit. [Newspaperman] Lee Mortimer did a big thing on us and there was a lot of publicity. We were two really cute looking boys and I think I was twenty-three years old and Tommy was twenty-five. For a comic he was a cute looking guy. He was tall and I was very tall. Six-four and six-two - and they called him the short guy! Jane Harvey was our first opening act. Believe it or not, after she left they brought in Frances Faye and then the great Mistinguett. Do you know who Mistinguett is?

Kliph Nesteroff: No.

Peter Marshall: Mistinguett was the biggest star France ever had. Forget Maurice Chevalier, forget Edith Piaf, forget all that. If you go to art galleries you'll see posters of Mistinguett. She was in her seventies and I had no idea who she was, I was just a kid. As I reflect on it, I would have loved to have got a picture with Mistinguett. She was our opening act! She was very famous for her legs and a very famous theater performer in France. Peggy Fears, who was a society woman, and gay, and Patsy Kelly, who was gay - all the gay actresses came in to see her.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, interesting.

Peter Marshall: Yes. It was a time when "gay" was - you didn't talk about it. Except in show business we didn't care. We didn't give a shit what you were.

Kliph Nesteroff: Despite launching the career of Danny Thomas, I am under the impression that La Martinique was a very difficult room for comedians.

Peter Marshall: We did wonderfully. We were a big hit there. We really were. They had a big orchestra. Jackie Miles worked it and he was a big hit. In fact, Dick Haymes, my brother in-law at the time, opened for Jackie Miles there and it was his first big break. If you go back and look up the La Martinique that would have been around 1946 or 1947. Maybe even earlier than that. There were two great clubs for that kind of thing. There was The Copa - and it wasn't Entratter's Copa. The guy who opened the Copa was like my surrogate father and his name was Monte Proser.

Kliph Nesteroff: Sure.

Peter Marshall: I worked for Monte all my life and he was a wonderful man. No, I don't think La Martinique was bad for comics.

Kliph Nesteroff: You mentioned Abby Greshler. When Martin and Lewis dumped him he was scrambling to sign up the next big thing in comedy teams. He signed Noonan and Marshall, but he also signed up Gene Baylos who was trying to do a two-man act at the time with a guy named Johnny Johnston.

Peter Marshall: Johnny Johnston was a big star on Broadway. He starred on Broadway in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. He was married to Kathryn Grayson and he did a lot of movies at Metro and he was wonderful. He was very handsome and he played great guitar. Very talented guy, but he had an attitude. Johnny's problem was his attitude, but I really liked him very much and he was a terrific performer. Last time I saw him was when I was doing La Cage in Miami and he came backstage to see me.

I hadn't seen him in years and he was really a talented guy. He teamed with Gene Baylos and I'll tell you who put that act together. It was a guy by the name of Lenny Green. He is still alive. He's ninety-five, still alive and one of my closest friends. He put together that act but... the wives got in the way.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Peter Marshall: "My husband needs first billing!" "My husband deserves more money!" It was their wives that helped kill the act.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) That's hysterical.

Peter Marshall: Yes, well, it's true. They were fine, but it was the wives. Last time I saw Gene Baylos, it was also when I was doing La Cage Aux Folles and he came backstage to see me. I hadn't seen Gene in years. He said, "You know something? You were wonderful!" I said, "Thank you, Gene." He said, "For years I thought you were lousy."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Peter Marshall: He hated Noonan and Marshall - because it was a white bread act. It really was. We were Middle America. We were a white bread act and he hated that (laughs).

Monday, September 17, 2012

An Interview with Stanley Dean - Part One

Stanley Dean: None of the agents wanted to book me without seeing me work. I said, "Well, I can't get a job unless you book me." They said, "Well, you'll have to figure that out for yourself." I called a friend in Boston who apparently knew an agent. I went to Boston and when I got to the club - I forget the name - but it was actually a Nissen hut with a roof made from aluminum. There was nobody in the audience, just two people sitting at the bar. The bar was in the middle of the room about sixty feet away from the stage. There was no band or anything. I was the only one on the show. When I took to the stage it began to rain very heavily. Rain hitting a tin Nissen hut? It's unbelievable. You can't hear anything! After the first show the boss told me he wasn't too happy with me. I said, "Well, what the hell do you want? There's nobody here!" He said, "Well, you should have an act for when there's nobody in the place!"

I said, "Oh, really? Well, I guess I'll have to work on that!" I went back to Boston to see the agent that had booked me. I told him the story about how it was an impossible place to work. He said, "He gave you a bad review." I said, "Well, that boss doesn't know anything! He doesn't even know how to run a club! It's beside the point. Get me a job!" He said, "I can't. I won't be able to after the review I got from this guy. Forget it." So, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know a single person in Boston and I was next to broke. I'm walking up the street. All of a sudden from out of nowhere someone yells, "Stanley!" I turn around and there are three guys a half block away. They came running toward me. They were an acrobatic group I knew from Montreal. They did great acrobatics and one of them was a cripple. They used to do this act where they would miss landing all of their tricks... because the cripple couldn't make it.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Stanley Dean: Then at the last minute he'd make it and it'd bring the house down and everybody would go nuts. I told them the story about how I came down to Boston and about the gig and about how I couldn't get any work. They said, "Well, don't worry about it. Come down to Blinstrub's." You've heard of Blinstrub's?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, a huge supperclub.

Stanley Dean: Right. Johnnie Ray was on the bill with them and a fourteen piece orchestra. They said, "Come on down tonight. There will be a table for you and you can eat and drink as much as you want - it's on us." So I went. I sat there and it was a terrific show. At the end of the show, these three guys, these brothers, came on for a second time and closed the show. They did two spots. They used to do that kind of thing in vaudeville. They never let the star close the show.

So they did their thing where the cripple can't make it and then finally does and it brings down the house. They take a bow and they say, "We have a friend of ours in the audience who is a very, very funny guy. Why don't we bring him up to say a few words?" I'm sitting there wondering who the hell they're talking about - and it turns out it's me! I went up, did ten minutes, and they wouldn't let me off.

There was a guy sitting near my table and he was writing. It turns out he was one of the most respected reviewers in showbiz. He worked for a paper in New York, but he had returned to his home town. I went back to my hotel and at ten in the morning my phone rings. It was the agent that didn't want to book me. He said, "Stanley Dean? Where have you been?" I said, "What do you mean? I've been sleeping."

He says, "I mean where were you last night?" I said, "Oh, I bumped into a few friends of mine and they invited me to the Johnnie Ray show at Blinstrub's." He asks, "And what happened?" I said, "Nothing much. I did a few minutes." He said, "Go to a newsstand and buy the Globe and look in the theatrical section. If you like what you read - buy a bunch and bring them to me." I didn't know what he was getting at, but then I wondered... did I get a write-up? Is that possible?

I bought the paper and the first part of the column was about Johnnie Ray, but the last three quarters was about "A young comedian who came out of nowhere. He was called up from the audience and was the biggest hit of the night." After that review they couldn't give me enough work! It started my career!

Kliph Nesteroff: What year was that?

Stanley Dean: My God, what year? It could not have been any later than 1952.

Kliph Nesteroff: The earliest listings I could find were 1957 - The Chaudiere in Ottawa, September 1957 - The Crescendo in Houston, October 1957 - The Bellevue Casino near Montreal.

Stanley Dean: Those were within the first year of doing a team. First I did a solo act for a few years. When I came to New York an agent saw me. He said, "I'd like to team you up with somebody." I said, "No, I don't want to team up with anyone." He said, "Well, I won't be able to manage you if you're alone." He was managing Dick Shawn at the time. He said, "I manage Dick Shawn and I promised I wouldn't handle any other single. But if you get a team - we can do it."

I said, "Okay, if you can team me with someone and it works out... I'll try it for a little while and see where we go with it." So he found somebody whom I wish I had never met! It turned out that we did sensational for the first two or three years. But then he turned out to be one of the most voracious gamblers on the face of the earth. He was nasty. He didn't care what he did. One day I got a call that he was in jail. The cops had stopped him, searched his car and found a sawed-off shotgun in his golf bag.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) Wow.

Stanley Dean: I went and bailed him out. I said, "What were you doing with a sawed-off shotgun in your golf bag?" He said, "Well, I was thinking of holding up a bank." I said, "Okay, makes sense."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Stanley Dean: Show business isn't working out for you? Maybe knock-off a bank or two. I said to my manager, "Something is definitely wrong." After that we had nothing but problems. I said to my manager, "I can't handle this." And we did pretty good. We had done Ed Sullivan, we were making good money and everything.

Kliph Nesteroff: This was Harvey Norman who had the shotgun?

Stanley Dean: Yeah. Harvey Norman. Boy, was he a beauty. As it turned out, he finished out the rest of his life robbing people, holding people up and doing all sorts of stuff.

Kliph Nesteroff: Wow.

Stanley Dean: Yeah, isn't that something? He was a singer and he had been a nice kid. He was five years younger than me. I don't know. That's how that worked out.

Kliph Nesteroff: Incredible. What do you remember about some of these early gigs? The Bellevue Casino with Norman and Dean, Senor Cortez, Jack Williams and the Bel-Air Orchestra.

Stanley Dean: (laughs) It was a big club and there was nothing special about it. The shows were pretty good, but it wasn't the kind of club I enjoyed working. It was vast. Half the people that came only spoke French. It wasn't easy to work those jobs, but there was nothing special about any of them. The most special thing was doing the Sullivan show, which he did a half dozen times.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about the Americana in Miami Beach... Miami Beach was such an utter hotbed of show business in those days...

Stanley Dean: It was. That was a nice club for us and we worked there with a girl by the name of Sally Blair. She was a good looking woman... who liked women. She was a pretty good singer and a good performer. The reviews came in saying that we should have been the headliners. The guy who wrote it wasn't too crazy about her. So the boss did exactly that. He turned it around and made us close the show. 

Kliph Nesteroff: July 1958 - The Diamond Beach in Wildwood, New Jersey with Peggy King, Lou Monte, Hubert Castle and Daisey Mae and her Hepcats.

Stanley Dean: Ah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Peggy King. She was cute and a terrific singer. The drummer... who was the famous drummer... not Gene Krupa, but the other guy...

Kliph Nesteroff: Buddy Rich?

Stanley Dean: Buddy Rich, that's it. He was there. A few months after that gig I was walking down the street in New York and I saw him on the other side so I crossed. I said, "Hey, Buddy! How are ya! Remember me?" He said, "Yes!" So he crossed the street.

Kliph Nesteroff: When you were in New York in those days - were you spending time in the comedian hangouts like Hanson's Drugstore?

Stanley Dean: Definitely. Everybody did. You couldn't stay away from it. This is where you met everyone you were in the business with and it was always fun. It was fun to see people like Gene Baylos. He was a fun guy to hang out with and a silly son-of-a-gun.

There were a good number of others that hung out there. Joey Bishop would be hanging around. Shecky Greene. All the comics. They'd stand there and joke and laugh. It was always great hanging out with these guys. You could learn a lot hanging around there.

Kliph Nesteroff: Jackie Curtiss says you were responsible for getting Rodney Dangerfield - that is to say Jack Roy - back in show business.

Stanley Dean: Jack Roy (laughs). Yes. Jack Roy... let me tell you. When I first came to New York, a friend of mine who was a singer told me, "If you want to get some good comedy material written... I know a guy that lives out in Long Island and he is a terrific writer." I said, "What's his name?" He said, "Jack Roy." I said, "You got his phone number? Let's call him." We called him and we went out to see him. We drove out there and I asked him if he would write for me. And he said no.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Stanley Dean: I said, "Well, then why the hell did you make us come all the way out here!?" Rodney didn't want to write anything for me. He said, "I only write for myself." But years had gone by and he had barely performed anywhere. He was in the business for a year or something, but he couldn't make enough money. They don't pay you a helluva lot when you first get into this business.

He couldn't make any money and he had a wife and kids so he had to do something. I went out there with him one day when he was still doing roofs and whatever. He was taking orders, walking around buildings measuring and taking notes and all that kind of stuff. So I was there with him. Here's something interesting.

The comedian who gave you my name? Jackie Curtiss? When I first met Jackie Curtiss it was in Texas. They were following us, Norman and Dean, into a club. The next time I saw him was two or three years later in New York City. He was walking up Broadway, "Hey, Jackie Curtiss! Hey! Whoa! Hey!" We were having fun, you know? So, we spent some time together and then I never saw him again. My son in California met the daughter of Don Knotts.

She was talking about "this comedian Jackie Curtiss." He said, "My father was a comedian named Stanley Dean." She didn't recall the name, but she called Jackie Curtiss and he said, "Ah, Stanley Dean, sure, I know Stanley." So we reconnected. We hadn't talked in forty years. We talked no more than thirty seconds when he said to me, "You know, I made a star out of Rodney Dangerfield." Well, I nearly exploded!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Stanley Dean: I said, "What! You made a star out of Rodney Dangerfield? You wanna know something! You could have told that to anyone and everyone in the entire world and they would have believed you. I am the only guy who knows that you are a liar!"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Stanley Dean: He said, "Why do you say that?" I said, "Because I am the one that gave him his career! I'm the one who put him on the map!" He said, "Huh. No kidding. How? How?" He got all excited (laughs). I said, "Jackie Curtiss, I'm the last person in the world you should have said that to. I'm the only one in the world who could have called you on it."

Kliph Nesteroff: So, then what's the story?

Stanley Dean: Okay. So I told you I visited Jack Roy and he said he wouldn't write for me. Ten years go by. I'm in the Stage Delicatessen and there are a bunch of other stars sitting in there. In comes Jack Roy. I recognized him. Ten years had gone by. He was walking around. He was looking to connect with the show folk.

You could see he was wandering. He didn't know how to approach anyone. He was not a very nice character. He was not an easy person to like. In fact, you couldn't like him at all. He never gave you anything to like. He was a very, very difficult kind of guy. When I finished eating and walked out of the restaurant he was standing there.

He said, "Hey, I want to talk to you. Do you know an agent that will get me a club date?" I said, "You mean a one-night job you're looking for?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, go see the agents. Go talk to them. I can't go to them and say here's a guy looking for a job. You need to do it on your own." He says, "I went to all of them!" I said, "Well, what happened?" He said, "They wouldn't do anything for me." It was the way he approached people. He wasn't likable in the least.

I said, "Look. Okay. I might try and get you a job but... you gotta let me know what you do. I've never seen you perform." He said, "Okay. Can I come to your house?" I said, "Yeah, give me a call and come over." The following day he calls and he comes over. He starts doing his material for me and I'm listening to it thinking, "Boy, this is funny stuff."

He came back the next day and did another fifteen minutes. Every day - at least five days a week - for a month - he was at my house. He kept asking, "Can you give someone a call? Get me a club date?" I said to him, "I've heard your material and you do not want to start with a club date. Because you'll do well and then you'll end up with another club date. And another club date. They're only one-nighters and you're only going to be doing, at the most, two a week. You'll get nowhere. You won't be making much. That's not what you want.

You're doing very funny stuff. Stuff no one has heard before. It isn't copied from anyone." He wrote first-person, self-depricating... the best type of stand-up comedy there is. I said, after three months, "I can't be spending this much time with you. I've got my own problems. Here's what I'm gonna do. You pick up the other phone. Put your hand over the mouthpiece and listen in. I'm gonna call Nat Kalcheim at the William Morris office." I called him.

I said, "I have a guy who is a tremendous comedy talent. I think your office would do well to come and see him. I would like to arrange a meeting for you to meet him." He said, "Okay. How about two o'clock on Wednesday?" "Fine." That's what we did. I went there with Rodney and I said, "When we walk into the office - I want you to walk over to him, shake his hand and say, 'Pleasure to meet you,' and walk to the back of the office. I'll sit with him at his desk. Say hello and nothing else. Nothing else." Because this guy, Jack Roy, could destroy himself in a hurry.

You know? So, that's what happened. Nat Kalcheim said to me, "Where can we see him work?" I said, "A place in the Village." I was gonna get him a place where everybody used to work - Dick Cavett, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers - so I took him down there. It was run by a woman. A little club that seated twenty-five people at the most. I walked in there with Rodney. I said, "Sit down." I went up to her and I said, "You see that guy sitting over there? He is a very - funny - comedian. Would you let him do a few minutes? If you see him work you'll want him for a few weeks."

She said, "Stanley. He does not look like a comedian." I said, "You can't go by his looks! Take my word for it. You won't be sorry." "Okay. Five minutes. That's all." I went over to him. "Here's what you're going to do. You're gonna go up. Do five minutes. And get the hell off. That is all. Okay? That's it." He does... and they went nuts. When you saw him in this tiny little room - he looked like a giant. If you're a good performer in a small area - it's always better than a vast area. You have a better connection - you with them and they with you. It's always better. She loved him. She said to me, "I want him here for a couple weeks. I only pay forty dollars."

He said, "Don't worry, I'll drink it." He went to work there and the room suited him to a tee. He was an animal. To see him up close - it had a great effect and the jokes were sensational. Next week on a Wednesday I brought people from the Morris office down. Nat Kalcheim and six guys came down. They watched him and they turned to me and said, "He is very funny... but what do we do with him?" I said, "What do you mean what to do with him!? Take him to Ed Sullivan and have him perform during the Sunday run-through!"

When you did the Sullivan show they had a run-through on Sunday afternoon that started around ten in the morning. When I first did it I said, "Jesus, how many people are going to be on this show?" But as it turned out, what they would do is... they have half a dozen performers that were already booked [for the live show at night], but they also had several performers that were not booked. They would do the show in the afternoon so they could have a look at them. So I said, "If you put him on Sullivan - if he's a big hit in the afternoon... no one is taking any chances.

If he isn't a hit, he doesn't do the show. But if he is a hit... I tell you... he will be, I can sense it, I can see it, I can feel it. He is going to be a successful comedian and there is no telling to what extent. His material... without question... he is one of the top ten comedians I have ever heard. Material, jokes, delivery, freshness." As far as the person goes... well, there wasn't much to talk about. But as a performer! You could sense it.

I can understand to an extent why I had trouble with these agents. They're not sure of anything. Few days later Kalcheim called me. He said, "This coming Sunday... have Rodney be there at nine o'clock in the morning." I called Rodney to come over. I'm waiting for him and waiting for him. I was waiting forever. I go downstairs and there's a car double parked, running, and he's sitting in the driver's seat - asleep! I wake him up, "Jesus Christ, I've been waiting for you! Go park the car!"

I told him. "This coming Sunday - you're going to The Ed Sullivan Theater. You're gonna be nice. You're gonna say hello. They're gonna put you on in the afternoon. It's no guarantee you're gonna do the show at night - but I have a feeling you'll get on." That's exactly what happened. He did it. He was a hit. And he went on to do it many, many times. And everything started to happen for Rodney Dangerfield. Before that nobody even wanted to talk to him. He never could have done it alone.