Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Interview with Maynard Sloate - Part Two

Kliph Nesteroff: You booked Lenny Bruce at Strip City in 1953 and he stayed for a couple years. You booked him again at the Crescendo on the Sunset Strip a few years later. By then he had more notoriety. 

Maynard Sloate:  We were close at one time, but we didn't stay that way. The drug addict was not particularly fun to be with. I was closing the Avant Garde [nightclub in Hollywood]. I went broke there. Acts were calling - the Four Freshman and Ruth Olay - to tell me that they'd be happy to work for nothing so I wouldn't have to close down. That sort of thing. Lenny told me that he would play it for only $750. That was my friend Lenny!

Kliph Nesteroff: Who were some of the other comedians you were booking?

Maynard Sloate: Well, there was Lord Buckley. When Buckley was working for me at Jazz City there was a musician named Red Rodney. Red had come to Los Angeles from New York and was looking for work. So I gave him a night at Jazz City.

He wanted to draw on his Monday night pay and I said no. Shortly after that Lord Buckley came to the office. He called me Prince Maynard the Fox. Buckley comes in and he says, "Prince, I have some bad news. Sir Red of Rodney is living in his car. He has sold the wheels and the car is up on jacks. He's got his kids with him and they're living in the car. He has no money. If you would advance him the money for his Monday night's pay, you will be doing a wonderful thing for humanity and for Sir Red." For some reason I said okay. That night I was driving home after work and I started to laugh. It occurred to me that I was the only person in the world that would advance Red Rodney's salary on Lord Buckley's say-so.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about Buddy Hackett?

Maynard Sloate: He was always a good friend of Lenny's. He got Lenny work at Universal-International. Shecky was another one of Lenny's friends. When Lenny was sick or whatever, those guys would come in and work for him. I knew Buddy and always got along great with him, but he wasn't one of my close friends.

Kliph Nesteroff: Some other comedians associated with the Crescendo... Mort Sahl...

Maynard Sloate: He was playing the Crescendo before I got there. He was closer to Gene Norman.

Kliph Nesteroff: Shelley Berman played at the Avant Garde when you were running it.

Maynard Sloate: He certainly did. I had a bill of Shelley Berman, Ruth Olay and Matt Dennis. That was the only time I did good business at the Avant Garde. I played them for two or three months. They were just great. Shelley was impossible. I have learned to like him. But putting up with him? 

Kliph Nesteroff: That was very early in his career - before he even had a comedy record out.

Maynard Sloate: Yes. I told him, "Shelley, no matter how successful you get, you will never change. You're already the world's lowest, living human." Shelley was impossible and not easy to get along with. He was extremely temperamental. From the stage he'd yell, "Maynard! Maynard! What's that noise?" This goes on for his entire act. "Maynard! There it is again! Maynard! It's the refrigerator in the kitchen!" He was stopping his act to complain about the refrigerator. He was unbelievable. And then he worked for me in Las Vegas.  Putting up with him was very difficult and that temperament would cost him his career. You know the story about what happened with his career? A phone rang backstage while he was on. He flipped out. Went absolutely berserk when he came offstage. He was screaming and yelling at people. They told him, "Take that out. Don't use that in the special." He said no. He wanted them to see the suffering that comics have to go through. He decided  to leave it in. He said to me later, "You know, people have murdered and suffered less." It cost him his career.

Kliph Nesteroff: I've heard that many times, but it was just one television special. It's seems like a very exaggerated story, almost a scapegoat. Could it really have affected his entire career? 

Maynard Sloate: Yes. Yes. He blamed it and I agree it must have happened that way. He was soaring at that point, going like crazy - and that absolutely ended it! That was the end of it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Don Adams played the Avant Garde when he was a stand-up.

Maynard Sloate: Yes, I loved Don. Don was a true delight. Now, I've had people tell me that's not true. My relationship with him was wonderful. A typical day in Don Adams life when he was working for me... I think he was living at the Hollywood Roosevelt... He would get up in the morning and go to the races. Then he'd have dinner at work and do the show and then come to my house and play poker. A typical day was gambling from the time he got up until the moment he went to bed. Years later I would still run into him at the racetrack. We always had a wonderful time when we were together. He was just absolutely a doll and I have nothing bad to say about him. 

Kliph Nesteroff: How about the Vagabonds. I understand you managed them at one point.

Maynard Sloate: Yes, they're responsible for my being in Vegas. After I sold the Avant Garde I became a personal manager. They asked me to manage them. The Vagabonds were one of my acts. They were great. They were probably the first act to play a main room in Las Vegas and then eventually go to the lounges. They did it for good reason - and good money. That was steady work. They worked the lounges for big money.

Kliph Nesteroff: You were managing Jerry Colonna, Bob Hope's bug eyed sidekick, at the same time.

Maynard Sloate: He was doing a lounge act too so I managed it. 

Kliph Nesteroff: You managed Buddy Rich.

Maynard Sloate: Yes, he was phenomenal. We got along great.

Kliph Nesteroff: Some of the comedians who played the Tropicana under your reign - Jerry Lester...

Maynard Sloate: And later I got Jerry Lester hired as star of a show at the Plaza. He couldn't remember a line. Five days into rehearsal I had to go to him and say, "Jerry, we can't do this. You can't remember a line. Get a cane and we'll say you hurt your leg." Well, he decided to take me up on charges with the union for hurting his leg! Of course, that didn't work, but he thought it was a good idea.

Kliph Nesteroff: You were around for Shecky Greene's wild Vegas days.

Maynard Sloate: Yes, I but I have never seen Shecky drunk. When he gets drunk, apparently he turns. My good luck is I've never seen him in that shape. 

Kliph Nesteroff: How about a comedian who was booked in the Tropicana Blue Room once named Allan Drake.

Maynard Sloate: Yeah, Allan was a competent comedian. He got along well with everybody, I guess. He did fine.

Kliph Nesteroff: He had a tragic trajectory. His wife was killed by the mafia.

Maynard Sloate: Yeah, I know the story. He wasn't a brilliant comic, just an adequate comic. There was a comic here named Lenny Kent who was brilliant at one point. He wound up working as a host at Caesar's Palace. When something would happen to a comic, they'd put Lenny on. But he wasn't doing that well by then. Sometimes they lose it. It was just age. It can happen.

Kliph Nesteroff: You booked comedian Gene Baylos at the Tropicana with Vaughn Monroe.

Maynard Sloate: Ha! At the end of the engagement Vaughn Monroe gave me a set of gold cufflinks. I was kidding with Gene Baylos and said, "You see what a class act does? Look at these cuff links." They were expensive and beautiful. So the next night Gene Baylos hands me a wrapped gift. I open it up and it's cufflinks with a roulette wheel on them and a plastic top, which were available in the gift shop. I felt guilty. I felt terrible. It was awful. The next day, of course, I took them back. They said, "He didn't buy those here. He just asked us for the box." They were used cufflinks.

Kliph Nesteroff: What was the difference between when the Mob controlled Vegas and the shift that happened after Howard Hughes came to town?

Maynard Sloate: The Mob was here and then Howard Hughes came, but that's not the change that happened. The biggest change came after Howard Hughes left. The big, huge corporations took over. That's what happened to the city. The city changed a great deal. Howard Hughes didn't change the city that much other than getting rid of some of the Mob. Not all of the Mob, I don't think. They stuck around a little. He was quite influential, but he was running the same kind of casino as everybody else and the same kind of entertainment policy. He had Walter Kane and he just bought acts for huge periods of time. Wayne Newton. Juliet Prowse. Lengthy, lengthy contracts. 

Kliph Nesteroff: I had been under the impression that Howard Hughes was the first puncture in the Mob's stranglehold on Las Vegas.

Maynard Sloate: He probably was. He bought their casinos. Again, he didn't change the format that much. Fortunately, I worked at the Tropicana for the Houssels family. They had run El Cortez and the Showboat, then they took the Tropicana.

They weren't the Mob. When they sold it - they sold it to the Mob. I was replaced by a guy named Joe Agosto who became the producer of my show - the Follies Bergere. Frank Rosenthal was the entertainment director for the Stardust. They became entertainment directors because they didn't need licensing to be entertainment directors. So that was the job they took, but they ran the hotel. Joe Agosto ran the Tropicana and Frank Rosenthal ran the Desert Inn. There were hotels run by other people. Jackie Garn owned hotels. He was originally with the Mob at the Flamingo. Moe Dalitz was big at the Desert Inn. Those people did a pretty good job starting this town.

Kliph Nesteroff: Most comedians preferred the Mob years.

Maynard Sloate: Oh, yes, no question. The town was fine. You knew everybody in town and everybody knew you. Now you know nobody. I don't even know the names of the people buying entertainment. I have no idea. As far as this town is concerned, the gaming is no longer the source of income. It used to be that everything subsidized the gaming and they'd give away the rooms and food to get you to gamble. That's not true anymore. The biggest money makers are the nightclubs in the hotels - they're making millions of dollars with daytime clubs at the swimming pools.

Kliph Nesteroff: Why did that change? Less people gamble these days?

Maynard Sloate: The gaming of the old people - that has changed. The young people are what's here and they aren't gambling. Race horsing does nothing compared to what it used to. 

Kliph Nesteroff: You mentioned the Tropicana was sold in the seventies and it ended up being sold to a Mob entity. Who was it sold to?

Maynard Sloate: Originally they sold it to a guy name Carl Pohlad. The Housells sold out to Carl Pohlad. Carl Pohlad hired the Housells to run it. He was a banker from Minneapolis. Housells, the old man, got sick and he couldn't run the Trop anymore. Carl Pohlad owned the Minnesota Twins. For some reason, along with him came Deil O. Gustafson, a flunkie for Pohlad in Minneapolis. Gustafson became owner of the Tropicana, or ran it, and that brought the Mob guys. How all that happened, I have no idea. Then they found a poor woman named Mitzi Stauffer Briggs who was an heiress. She came to the Tropicana because she had the rights to the Ziegfeld Follies and wanted to sell it. Instead of buying the Ziegfeld Follies, they sold her a hunk of the Trop - and Joe Agosto ran her

Kliph Nesteroff: It was often very difficult to determine who owned what in the old Vegas. Who was legit and who was a front.

Maynard Sloate: I think it was well-known who they were. There was a lady they brought into the Stardust that they killed. The guy who was the owner of the Stardust, who apparently put in all the money, was a dentist from San Diego.

Kliph Nesteroff: You worked in Los Angeles in the late 1940s; corrupt and Mob controlled. Did you encounter Mickey Cohen?

Maynard Sloate: I knew people who knew him. All the bars and nightclubs, many of them, were owned by the Mob. The three of us who opened Strip City were an easy target. We were just kids. What did we know? I asked when I went to get a license, "Is there any objection to us calling the club Strip City?" The guy said, "Well, you'll probably get a lot of attention." We weren't doing anything against the law. Los Angeles in the 1950s was as corrupt as you could get. The cops used to give us cards with their name on it. On the back it would say something like, "This is our friend Maynard." If you got stopped for a driving infraction or something, you just showed them the card. That's how you took care of it. There was a catholic priest that we paid off.

Kliph Nesteroff: Do you remember anything about Billy Gray's Band Box?

Maynard Sloate: Absolutely. Billy Gray was great. He was a wonderful dialetician. He was an excellent comic and his partner was Sammy Lewis, who became the entertainment director at the Riviera. Sammy's wife was Patti Moore who did an act with a comic named Ben Lessy. They used to play the Band Box, but all the good comics played the Band Box. Buddy Hackett played it. That was the first place I ever saw him. Lenny Kent played it and everybody played it.

Kliph Nesteroff: It was almost like a comedy club before comedy clubs existed.

Maynard Sloate: Billy Gray and Sammy ran it and it had some great comics. It was the first place I ever saw Jackie Mason. Moore and Lessy were a popular act. Ben Lessy did The Danny Thomas Show.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about Jack Sheldon...

Maynard Sloate: I managed him. I got him a comedy record on Capitol Records. He's an idiot. He used to yell at me while in Dave Pell's band at the Crescendo, "Maynard! Book me!" He's an idiot. And a wonderfully talented idiot. He had a dope problem. And is extremely talented. Great comedy and great trumpet playing and I was responsible for him. He had his own television show when I had him - Run, Buddy, Run. He also did something called The Nut House. We got Run, Buddy, Run and I managed him during his most successful period. 

Kliph Nesteroff: He and Lenny Bruce friends.

Maynard Sloate: Yes, and Sheldon worked for me at Strip City, worked for me at the Crescendo, worked for me with Dave Pell. He apologized for having mistreated me when he was on drugs. I never saw anybody as stoned as Jack.

Kliph Nesteroff: When was the last time you saw Lenny Bruce?

Maynard Sloate: I don't remember. I imagine it would have probably been at a club, but I stopped going to see him because there was nothing happening there.

He was two different people. He was the guy who was my friend and then he was a drug addict. That does change you. We were really close in the beginning. When he had an argument with his wife, he would stay at my place. They had a baby and shortly after that I had a son. They gave me their crib for my son. We were close. When Sally Marr, his mother, came to town Lenny was playing the club with another comic. We used two.

On Monday nights I had another comic working the strip-a-thon. Sometimes one of the comics that was working would say, "Can I work the Monday? I need the money." So, the other comic asked if he could work the Monday night. He goes up on Monday night and he was doing Lenny's act! Now, Sally Marr comes to town. Lenny gives her his old act and says, "You can use it." She was going to work as a comic, which she did. There was a club called the Bamboo Room in the Valley. It turns out that the other comic working with her was the comic who was working for me at Strip City. So they played the Bamboo Room together and they both did Lenny's act! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

An Interview Slick Slavin - Part Two

Kliph Nesteroff: Did you play Strip City much? That was the strip joint at Pico and Western where Lenny Bruce came into his own.

Slick Slavin: Yes, I think I was there for a year. They used different emcees. Maynard Sloate ran it and was very important in my life. I met Maynard during a one nighter - a club date. We used to call them club dates. It was called the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles. He played good drums. Later on he became an agent. And so I ran into him again and he began to get me nightclubs. He booked me in Littleton, Colorado during the racing season, a place called the Wallhurst Saddle Club. That was big money. He eventually put me in the Crescendo.

He did another thing that was very important for me. I left stand-up and became a writer. I wrote This Is Your Life for Ralph Edwards. I became very good friends with Johnny Mercer and his family. Johnny had the big Phil Silvers musical - Top Banana. It played Broadway for about three years and made Phil Silvers a big star. But after Silvers - they tried it with Milton Berle - and they could not sell the damn thing. I was a partner of John [Mercer] Jr. and I saw the script in his drawer. He explained that he and his dad weren't able to do anything with it. I said, "Can I try?" They gave me their blessing to see what I could do. When I was in Vegas, Maynard was the entertainment director at the Tropicana and then at the Union Plaza where he played ex-Broadway shows.

I mentioned I had Top Banana. He said he would be very interested in it if I could get the Johnny Mercer songs. We did it for a few months and the write-ups were very good. Someone called me from HBO. He said, "We'd be interested in Top Banana if you could modernize it." I said, "Let me see what I can do." I put in twenty-six Johnny Mercer songs and wrote a whole new script, changed it completely, and called it Top Banana. We did a two-hour movie special called Top Banana with Jack Carter, Guy Marks and Edie Adams.

Kliph Nesteroff: February 1961 - you did a record called Hey, Mr. Kruschev that radio stations refused to play.

Slick Slavin: Yes, they were very uptight. We did an impersonation of John F. Kennedy. They were very uptight. They took it as a putdown of Kennedy, but it wasn't. It was, "Hey, Mr. Kruschev, we want to rock n' roll in peace." That was it. Everybody was uptight about it.

Kliph Nesteroff: July 1957 - you played the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. Jack Ruby's Carousel was nearby.

Slick Slavin: There was another place there too called Abe's Colony Club. At the Adolphus I did very well. They really loved me. When I was in New York I did an audition for the guy who handled the Ames Brothers. He had a showcase place on Sunday nights. I think it was called the Embassy Room. I went to the Embassy and it was class. I don't remember if it was Park Avenue or what, but it was class. I go in and I kill 'em! I'm telling you the truth. There was nothing that could follow me in those days. I would do impressions of Henry Fonda and John Garfield.

In those days, no one did Garfield, but I did and I'd kill 'em. I got a review that called me another Larry Storch. That was a big write-up. Sam Branson from William Morris was in the audience and the next morning they signed me. I played the top places in the East. I played hotels; the Mayfair in Boston, the Queen Elizabeth in Montreal and all that. New York, however, I just didn't feel it. I eventually decided to go back to Chicago... I think that was a big mistake. I just didn't like New York, I didn't feel it... but I would have been a major star.

Kliph Nesteroff: Eventually you were hired as the headwriter of Joey Bishop's late night talk show.

Slick Slavin: Yeah, up to that point I had never met him. I heard there was going to be a TV show with Joey Bishop. He used to do an act with two other guys called the Bishop Brothers. Mel Bishop was one of the brothers and he ended up being Joey's valet. He told me that the producer was going to be at the William Morris office in Beverly Hills. "Maybe you oughta try meet him." I had just written a record called the Disc Jockey Meeting. It was a funny record that was put out by Reprise, which was Frank Sinatra's company.

So I called this guy Paul Orr. He was producing Jack Paar in New York and he was going to come out here and to do the same thing for Joey. I call Paul Orr and he answers the phone, more courteous than anyone in Hollywood.

I told him Mel Bishop suggested I call him and that I was a writer - which I wasn't, even though I wrote the Disc Jockey Meeting. He gave me an appointment. He said, "Look, we've only got five spots for writers. But if you wish, you can send some material and I'll show it to Joey." I wasn't working at the time because all the nightclubs were gone. They'd all become coffeehouses. I had nothing else to do.

So I wrote some monologues and sent them to Joey. I didn't expect anything. One day I got a call from Paul Orr. He said, "Joey would like to meet you." He started rating the gags, "This is good. This is no good. This is okay. This is brilliant." He says, "Give me a gag about this. Give me a gag about that." My nightclub background saved me. I did. He looks at me for a long time and says, "Go down the hall. See Elliot and have him draw up a contract for you."

I changed my name to Trustin Howard. One day his manager and lawyer Ed Hookstratten asked the writers, "How long are you guys going to let Trustin carry you?" On the first pick up after thirteen weeks Mel Bishop said, "Trustin, I think they're going to let you go. It's between you and a guy named Jim Critchfield." He used to write for Bullwinkle, but he really never came up with any gags. Paul Orr loved Jim Critchfield. So there was really a big argument, but Joey took my side and I got a telegram telling me I was picked up. I was with The Joey Bishop Show for a full three years. I became headwriter.

Kliph Nesteroff: Regis Philbin was Joey's sidekick on the show, but who else was on staff? Pat McCormick was one of the writers?

Slick Slavin: Pat McCormick came in later and that was another battle. I had never given Joey any static, but one day he called me in the office and said, "I'm going to change the format." I said, "You can't change the format. We've just been picked up for a fourth year and people are used to what we do." He was getting antsy and tired of the same routine. I said, "What about Regis?" He said, "I'm moving him to just do announcing and Pat McCormick is going to be my second in command." I said, "If you do that we'll be off the air in three months." He got real mad at me. He said, "Fuck you, Trustin. I'm signed for another two years!" I pleaded with everyone. I pleaded with Eddie and the ABC guys. I said, "People get used to a certain type of format. If you change it - they can't take it." On the next pick-up it said my services would no longer be required. But forty-two days later he was off the air.

Kliph Nesteroff: They bought out his contract?

Slick Slavin: Yes, I think they paid him a million dollars. He ended up all right, but a hundred people were out of work!

Slick Slavin: Yes, he was one of the first five. Don was a writer-producer. One day Don came in the office and said to us. "Guess what! I got a gig in Vegas for two weeks!" He was thrilled. We said, "What do you do?" He said,"I'm a comic!" I told the guys, "If he goes to Vegas, he won't be with us for the next pick-up." Joey would dump his mother. Anyway, Don did Vegas and at the next pick-up he was gone.

Kliph Nesteroff: In general, how was Joey Bishop to work for?

Slick Slavin: Tough. Very, very tough. Regis and I used to hide when he was around. I never tried to be friends with him. For the last year of the show I wrote by myself. He hated every writer. Hated them. We were the first ones to give Jesse Jackson a national forum. He told the A&P stores in Chicago they had twenty-four hours [until a boycott was implemented] and scared everyone to death. But a lot of people wanted him to be a regular. It was really touch and go because there were a lot of political people around at that time. I hated that because I was an entertainer and I just wanted our show to be an entertaining hit. By far the best guest we had was Don Rickles. We loved him and every time he came on the ratings went up. And because he did so well, they gave him his own show. He got The Don Rickles Show, but he made the great mistake of hiring Pat McCormick and he was off the air in six weeks.

Kliph Nesteroff: Why was it a mistake to hire Pat McCormick?

Slick Slavin: He wasn't funny. Pat was six foot seven, the tallest white guy in the country, and never a team player. He always wanted to be the star of the show. His desire to upstage the star instead of just writing for them is what killed it. Pat McCormick killed The Don Rickles Show and he suckered Joey. I knew it was deadwood city.

Kliph Nesteroff: Totie Fields was on The Joey Bishop Show several times. She and Don Rickles had the same manager - Joe Scandore.

Slick Slavin: Yes, I met Joe Scandore. A nice man. I think Don was very loyal to those people. He stayed with Scandore all the way through. Totie I remember very well. My joke was that she was "a calender girl - Miss February and Miss March." We had everybody on. We caught Johnny Carson [in the ratings] everywhere but New York. We tried to get Joey to do the show in New York for a week, but he just wouldn't do it. I don't know if he was afraid or what the hell.

Kliph Nesteroff: His reluctance to go to New York was probably just deference to Johnny Carson. Johnny was still broadcasting from New York. Despite competing, there was still a friendliness between the two. 

Slick Slavin: Yes, because Joey later substituted for Johnny.

Kliph Nesteroff: Maynard Sloate mentioned a bunch of obscure comedians that were around Strip City same time as you... Gerry Moore... Dick Kimball...

Slick Slavin: He loved Dick Kimball. Dick Kimball was killed in an accident. It really affected Maynard because he really wanted to manage Dick. Dick was a good guy. Very slow paced, but clever. Very clever. I don't remember having the same fervor for Dick as Maynard, but he was good. Maynard saw something. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Strip City was a dive, but a happening dive...

Slick Slavin: All the celebrities came in. I remember one night Fredric March coming in (laughs) while I was doing my impersonations. I figured, I got to do Fredric March. So on the spur I did him from a movie where his palms were sweating. I pulled out my handkerchief and I wiped my hands like Frederic March. The first night he was there with his father and called me over. A couple weeks later he came in with his wife, "I felt she had to see you." Another guy that came in was Michael Wilding, an English actor married to Liz Taylor. The English loved strip joints. To them, that's real entertainment. Another guy came in that every comic hated. A fellow by the name of Marlon Brando. Cause when he came in, he disrupted everybody. Not courteous. I can tell you that - every comedian hated that man.

Kliph Nesteroff: This was at Strip City.

Slick Slavin: Yeah, well, he not only came to Strip City, but he made the rounds. We had to face him wherever he was at. He was crazy, he was nuts.

Kliph Nesteroff: You played a place called the Toddle House in Los Angeles...

Slick Slavin: Yes, one of the first places I played. I loved it. I played it repeatedly and that's where Errol Garner introduced his song Misty. It was a great place. A guy by the name of Johnny Toscano, a wonderful man, operated it right by MGM. That goes back to another situation. I was still fascinated by Hollywood celebrities and I was working the Toddle House with a guy by the name of Jack Mitchum, Robert Mitchum's brother. His big number was Guadalajara. He's not bad, but like so many he wants to be a singer. He gets by. One night we're getting ready to do our show. There weren't too many people. It was a weeknight. 

The door opens and in walk Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Keenan Wynn, Gloria DeHaven and Robert Mitchum. Think of that! You're working a joint and in walks MGM! They came in to hear Robert Mitchum's brother. I was the emcee and the comic and I closed the show. Jack did his act and I figured they'd all get up and head for the door, but they didn't. They stayed for my act and everybody was great. Keenan Wynn - a little spooky. But the others - Gene Kelly, a dynamite man. Frank Sinatra said to me, "I love that French song you do." A song called Stranger in Paris. I would sing it and do a little patter as a French detective like a Maurice Chevalier. It was a great night spot for Culver City. 

I got booked at the Tahoe-Biltmore Hotel. That was really top of the line in Lake Tahoe. The northside had a few spots like Cal-Neva, but the southside did not. I came out and the first person I saw was Frank Sinatra sitting ringside. I figured he didn't remember me, but after the show he came up and said, "I still love that French song you do. We're having a little party at Jim Stack's place." Jim Stack was like the honorary mayor of Tahoe. He was Robert Stack's brother. He had a year round home there and I became buddies with Frank. He loved comics. He wanted me to join him, but I figured I just could not make it with that crowd. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Maynard Sloate said that Los Angeles nightclubs and the State Equalization Board was very corrupt in those days. I was wondering if you ever encountered the little mobster of Los Angeles, Mickey Cohen.

Slick Slavin: Yes. We walked out one night from a place called Cherry's. Mickey was always between King's Restaurant and Cherry's. The joint was closing and we were all walking out single file and that's when they shot Mickey. He took the bullet, but we were all in the line of fire. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Wait...

Slick Slavin: Mickey Cohen was a rounder. They didn't roust him that much as far as I remember. He was in his own space and that was it, but there were pretty good hoodlums around at that time.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about an oddball comedy act from Billy Gray's Band Box - Ben Lessy and Patti Moore.

Slick Slavin: Ben Lessy was a very funny guy - and weird. It was a weird, weird act. Patti Moore would say, "Dance for mama!"And Lessy would twirl like a five year old. There was a regular singer that played Billy Gray's named Larry Stevens. Whenever Dennis Day took a day off, Larry Stevens would come and be the singer on The Jack Benny Program. Larry was a wonderful guy.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about the nightclub Charley Foy's...

Slick Slavin: Yeah, Charlie Foy's, Larry Potter's... those were the places in the valley.

Kliph Nesteroff: Peter Marshall told me Charlie Foy's was a hangout for old comedians like Cully Richards and Joe Frisco.

Slick Slavin: Yes, Joe Frisco was at Charlie Foy's quite a bit. When I was working San Francisco I worked a big opera house with a guy whose face was famous - Tom Dugan.  Joe Frisco came in to see him with Arthur Treacher. Tom Dugan, Joe Frisco and Arthur Treacher. What a trifecta. All I did was listen. It was really marvelous to be around those guys.

Kliph Nesteroff: What do you remember of Lord Buckley?

Slick Slavin: He was very, very big in Chicago walkathons. It was sort of like Dancing with the Stars where someone is eliminated and everyone feels sorry for them. The walkathons were really the only entertainment in the mid-1930s. It was cheap. Lord Buckley had two big, great dane dogs, he came on strong and he had a good following around Chicago walkathons. He was considered real hip and cool and a notch above those of us who just spoke showbiz.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about the Slate Brothers club...

Slick Slavin: Don Rickles was the one that really dominated that place. That's where he made it. He started that insult thing and he just caught on. The Slate Brothers wasn't a class place, it was just a room. Not big time. It didn't even have that nightclub feel, but with Rickles it didn't matter. I knew Rickles through Shecky Greene, but not well.

Kliph Nesteroff: You played the Crescendo in 1960. You did its upstairs room - the Interlude. Mort Sahl was the act downstairs.

Slick Slavin: The Interlude I played a couple of times. Gene Norman ran it and he seemed to like me. He gave me a lot of courtesy. I put together an act called Slick Slavin and the Mob. We were really on our way. I played a mobster in a dixieland band. I still have the reviews, it was unbelievable. I would say it was one of the best acts. I say that from afar. It was just dynamite. Spike Jones loved it. He came in almost every night. "Elliot Ness, you're a fink!" That kind of stuff. A year later some guy phoned Gene Norman and claimed it was his act. He threatened Gene Norman. Amid our success this guy scared the hell out of Gene Norman and he said,"I can't take a chance."

Kliph Nesteroff: Do you know who he was?

Slick Slavin: Yes, but I don't want to mention names. He killed the best act in the world on a lie. The guy had some mafia background.

Kliph Nesteroff: This guy was a stand-up comic?

Slick Slavin: He was... well... no... how... (silence). How do you know that?

Kliph Nesteroff: I'm asking.

Slick Slavin: I don't want to go into it.