Friday, January 23, 2015

An Interview Art Metrano - Part Two

Art Metrano: This singer Danny Winchell and I played a lot of Playboy clubs and we played New York. At the Living Room on 3rd Avenue, a very popular nightclub spot for dining and shows, we were the opening act for George Carlin. He had just split from his comedy partner Jack Burns. George was doing his first single and he was quite good. You could see where he was headed. Very intellectual, very smart comedy. And of course, without a doubt, one of the greatest stand-ups to ever live. It was beyond belief how good he was.

Kliph Nesteroff: Where else did you play other than The Living Room? 

Art Metrano: Most of the jobs we got - other than the Living Room - were very low paying. We were just getting onstage so we could perform and find our way and hopefully put together an act that meant something. We never really did. Although Danny and I remained close throughout our lives until his passing a couple years back.

It wasn't until I went to California and started on my own that I got one show after another. I did Bewitched for this guy Bill Asher, the director, who was married to Elizabeth Montgomery. He really liked me and he kept bringing me back as different people. I would say, "Bill, will you let me know when the show airs so I can tell my mother?" He would actually send me a card saying, "You're on this night." Even though I only had two lines! My mom would watch and say, "I watched the whole show and you weren't on it." I said, "Ma, I was the garbage man with no lines!" It led me to a very large role on Bewitched where I played the manager of Boyce and Hart. That was a very big show for me, actually. Most of the show is about me managing the boys.

Kliph Nesteroff: The first time I ever saw your dah-duh-dah-dah act was on an episode of Norm Crosby's Comedy Shop.

Art Metrano: Ah, yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember about that one?

Art Metrano: Well, Bernie Brillstein was a fan of mine. Bernie really ran entertainment - literally - both in television and in movies. He had the best client list imaginable. Norm Crosby was his client. He put me on there a number of times and one night he asked me if I had something new. I said, "Yeah, I got this funny idea I've been working on - 'Imagine if I was Black and not white.' He said, "Let me hear it." I did and he said, "You're on tonight." It was very advanced stuff. Nobody was doing what I was doing or even saying things that I was saying. People thought I had big balls, but it went over very well. "A lot of people don't realize it was a Black woman that invented the hockey puck. Mother Pucker." The audience was stunned, but they were laughing. Bernie thought it was good and I became very friendly with Norm Crosby. Norm was one of the best guys going.

Kliph Nesteroff: You're in the Mel Brooks film A History of the World Part I. Did that come through your Rudy DeLuca connections?

Art Metrano: Here's the true story. I had just finished doing a Carson show and the next day I had an audition at 20th Century Fox. I was walking and literally out of the bushes jumps Mel Brooks! He's doing, "Dah-duh-dah-dah, Dah-duh-da-da!" I thought, "Holy shit, it's Mel Brooks and he's doing my routine." And he's going crazy and he's going and he's going and finally looks at me. "That's it, Metrano! Keep going! Never stop! Every time you think you've gone far enough - go a little further! It's so funny and we all appreciate it! I'm going to use you in a film one day!" And sure enough he did.

Kliph Nesteroff: You became a regular on the short-lived television program The Chicago Teddy Bears. It had a great cast of character actors. Marvin Kaplan, Huntz Hall...

Art Metrano: I became friendly with Huntz Hall because we both smoked pot. I was such a fan of Huntz Hall and the East Side Kids when I was growing up. I was, of course, in awe of Huntz because he was such a funny guy. Huntz was known to have a very large penis. He would be looking for girls around the lot. He told me Leo Gorcey was the smartest of the Bowery Boys. He was the one who made up all the contracts. He could add up contracts in his head like it was nothing. He was the only one who remained very rich after all the films were over.

Huntz was something special, boy. Dean Jones was great. What a nice man. I remember I got a call from Wally Amos to go to CBS to audition for this show Chicago Teddy Bears. They told me to show up three hours early because they wanted to put me in costume. So I studied this particular script and I got to CBS wardrobe and there were eight other guys dressed the same obviously reading for the same part.

I had memorized everything because I felt that was the only way to audition. I read with Dean. Hy Averback was the director, a very prominent guy in the business. He was a little pissed off that I was there because he had already made his mind up about five other guys he wanted. Suddenly Fred Silverman the head of CBS said, "I want you to read this guy." I was the last guy to read and I heard from the boom up above, "Come through that door and read your lines." I didn't read my lines - I knew them. And I just blew Dean Jones away. He stared at me like, "Who the fuck is that guy?"

Hy Averback said, "Can you do that again please?" I did. They said thank you and I left. I went to the toilet and I'm taking a leak and in walks Hy Averyback. He looks at me and goes, "You're very good. Where did you learn to act?" I said, "I studied in New York with Cassavetes and Stella Adler." He said, "Oh, you're a real actor." I said, "Yeah, I hope so." A couple days later I got a call from my manager saying I got the part. I thought that show was going to go because the pilot had incredible reviews. Madison Avenue thought we were going to be the hit of the season. After getting picked up for thirteen episodes, they fired this guy Hy Averback who really had a handle on the show. They hired a guy named Jerry Thorpe who had been a director on The Untouchables. They thought since this was a show about prohibition, even though it was a comedy, they thought he could direct it. His hand was so heavy that he just didn't get it. He personally fucked up that show. Badly. The actors we had besides Huntz Hall were Jamie Farr, Marvin Kaplan, John Banner, Mike Mazurki... and some great guest stars like George Raft.

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember of George Raft?

Art Metrano: It was just crazy to see him on that set wearing the same clothes that he always wore in every movie I had ever seen. He was so still in his performance. He didn't even act. That one day that I shot with him, watching him work, I learned a lot about the camera. He did very little and looked nowhere else other than the other actor. He didn't act. He just stood, said his lines and had this incredible voice.

Kliph Nesteroff: Mike Mazurki.

Art Metrano: We became so friendly. Because of the show we ended up doing a bunch of commercials for Dr. Pepper. I didn't realize I had seen him in all these movies, that he had this body of work. I thought he was just a wrestler! But he was a movie actor who did some of the best film noir ever made. He was just a pleasure to hang around.

Kliph Nesteroff: You appeared in the classic film The Heartbreak Kid.

Art Metrano: Yeah, it was a nothing thing. Elaine May liked the idea of me doing a magic act in one scene. All I did was my dah-duh-dah-dah thing and the characters don't like it. So it wasn't very complimentary.

Kliph Nesteroff: Were you often asked to do that routine in movies?

Art Metrano: No, that was the only movie where I did that.

Kliph Nesteroff: I thought I saw some kind of Israeli film in which you do that bit...

Art Metrano: Ah, I did a movie in Israel called Prisoner in the Middle with David Janssen and many Israeli actors. I used to fool around on the set and they heard me do that routine and they went crazy. They took me to this comedy nightclub that was pretty underground with a lot of Israelis and I didn't think they'd understand a word I had to say, but they did. I got up and did this bit and they loved it. Those people I met back in 1970 - today they are so involved with the Rabbinical part of Israel. One guy is called Rabbi Orasorwa, who at the time was a stand-up comedian who smoked hash! He's now one of the heavyweight rabbis in Israel along with Poop Armoun. Poop meaning small. I call him a dancing Jew because he wears the fur hat with the curls and the beard. They dance and sing and never shower.

Kliph Nesteroff: You were involved in a big lawsuit concerning the Family Guy a few years ago... Did you see it when it aired? Did someone tell you about it?

Art Metrano: My cousin's son saw this show The Family Guy. He told me, "They're doing your routine in this Family Guy." He sent it to me and there was Jesus on the mount with a congregation breaking into thirty seconds of "Dah-dah-duh-dah-dah," every one of my things. So I call a friend of mine and talked to my manager. I said, "What do you think of this?" He said, "I'm not sure. I have a lawyer, but I don't think he'll take this one because I'm not sure you have a case."

So I said, "Well, give me his number." I was living in Florida and I called him in Los Angeles. I called. "Is Paul Middleman there?" He said, "Who's calling?" I said, "Art Metrano." He went, "Dah-duh-dah-dah, dah-duh-dah-dah!" I said, "Paul, that's why I'm calling." I explained it and he looked into it. He e-mailed me and he said, "It's interesting. Carol Burnett has a six million dollar lawsuit that is going to court any day now for their using her likeness in an episode of Family Guy." Eventually that suit was dropped. The court said that anyone who is famous, if they use their likeness in a parody - it's okay. I said to my attorney, "Does that mean we have a good case?" He said, "Absolutely. They didn't parody you, they used Jesus Christ. Nobody knows it's you except for the people who used your routine." A lot of these kids didn't know who I was. So we went to court and we had a very, very nice settlement.


KING OF JAZZ said...

In case it wasn't pointed out, the "duh duh duh duh" music is "Fine and Dandy," a 1930 song by Kay Swift.

Caprice said...

Kay should have sued Metrano.

Bill S. said...

So nice to read this. Back in the 60s and 70s, when there was no internet and all I had to figure out TV from was next week's TV GUIDE, I used to actively seek out Art Metrano's appearances on TV. I'd see anything he was in and was always satisfied. He was always hip with his comedy and always excellent as an actor.

wordsmith said...

Jesus should have sued Seth McFarlane.

Anonymous said...

To Art Metrano. I grew up watching your routine on TV and always remembered you all these years. My 6 children grew up with me doing your routine for them while they were growing up. I only remembered the circled fingers. Last night I turned on Police Academy 2 with you falling head first into the cave dangling on a rope. I looked up your name and learned about your accident and thought it was ironic that I watched that scene. I am so glad you are able to walk. I was able to watch the whole routine on YouTube for the first time. My grandchildren will know you and your routine. God Bless You. Jimmy