The Last Time I Looked: (Stories, Real and Unreal) -

THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER
June 3, 2013

A number of years ago, I was coming out of my apartment building on Central Park West. A woman who was walking by, suddenly stopped and did that thing…you know…pointed her finger in my face, waggled it, looked questioningly at me and said, “You’re…You’re…oh never mind. Just laugh for me.”
I wasn’t surprised or remotely offended. It had happened to me so many times, over the years, especially when I was smack dab in the middle of tons of talk shows on TV. I don’t know why, but it stuck in people’s minds.


Mike Douglas Show. Mike Douglas, Moms Mabley, PN


Well, I can’t produce my laugh on demand, it has never been faked or forced. Sometimes it’s an expression of nerves or fear, rather than mirth.

When my husband and I were courting, (yes courting, deal with it) on one of our first dates he said, “You make me think of a quote from the book SCARAMOUCHE, by Raphael Sabatini.” ”You have the gift of laughter and the sense that the world is mad.” (How that man could talk.) Now that I’m in the twilight zone of my life, whatever that means, I know, I know I’m lucky to have an outrageous sense of humor and a hyper passionate appreciation of really funny people and their work. That combination has seen me through many years of woes and wows.

Lately the woes are way ahead. I miss my live-in eccentric funny wow.

The other night there was a wonderful “American Masters” TV special about Mel Brooks.


Well gang, I put on my best almost matching hoodie “at home” outfit. Nestled the oversized bag of Cape Cod potato chips very close to me, and settled on top of my bed for the 3,465th evening of solo home grown entertainment.

From the very first shot of his being interviewed interspersed with clips of those brilliant, original hysterical films I was transported into that boundaryless world of real humor. Oh, that’s such a good place to be. I lost twenty-two pounds, and felt like a hot 35-year-old.

I was surprised to see a quick shot of hubs. Mel was the producer of the movie MY FAVORITE YEAR and cast Adolph in it. We didn’t see too much of him socially, but his wit and irrepressibility were priceless.

One night hubs and I were walking out of the wonderful restaurant and theatre hang out, ORSO. Mel’s show THE PRODUCERS had just opened and was the hit of hits. Adolph’s vision was almost gone by that time, so as we passed Mel’s table, I just nodded my head. Mel sized up the situation, jumped to his feet and in the middle of the restaurant bent Adolph backwards and planted a wet juicy one on his lips. He yelled and I mean yelled "MY STAR, MY GREAT STAR…YOU KNOW, I DISCOVERED YOU." The whole restaurant laughed with us. It gave us both a high.

I think, I’m pressing this point to death, but to laugh and to make people laugh seems very important and powerful.

When I was a teenager, I missed out on some really cute guys because I was more interested in being funny, than being quiet and adoring and featuring my physical goodies. It surprised me, but didn’t seem to stop me.

I’ve been so lucky, through all my years of working in the show business…I’ve gotten to know and interact with great wits, or just supremely silly people. The list is too long That’s a whole other chapter…but…but…a big favorite (well, of course) was Groucho Marx. So different from Mel and, I guess that these geniuses inhabit their own countries. Does that make sense? No. But do you sort of get it?


Then there was the planet Milton Berle...with whom I did a tour of THE LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS written by another one of the Supremes - Neil Simon. We worked in huge tents, like Westbury here in the east. Uncle Miltie was a caution, as nobody says any more. If he didn’t like where I was standing, he’d take me by the shoulders and move me. I mean, during the show in front of the thousand or more paying customers. If I, or one of the other actresses was getting laughs just a little too big, he’d move or do a spit take. But he was funny and the audiences ate it up. But they came to see him and his madness, and boy did he deliver.


Milton Berle, PN


So, my friends, I think some antidotes to the aloneness of it all…is search out the funnies, embrace the absurdities, make a fool of yourself. Try it, you might like it.

 * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * *
 

*In honor of the Tony’s, my daughter Amanda, and the whole award season, I offer an opening number for a new award show called THE NIGHT OF NIGHTS. I will be pitching it to cable as soon as it’s less humid. Sing along.


GOOD EVENING
GOOD EVENING
HEY AMERICA, WE’RE TALKING TO YOU
WE WANT TO INTERRUPT YOUR LIVES
SO GET UP AND CLIMB OFF YOUR WIVES
CLIMB OFF YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS TOO

HAVE WE GOT A SHOW FOR YOU?
ONLY THE BEST
SECOND BEST WASN’T ALLOWED
THE ACTORS WERE FATTENED
THE JUDGES WERE STARVED
TO THRILL TONIGHT’S BLOOD THIRSTY CROWD

THE WINNERS WILL SHRIEK, THEN CRY
THE LOSERS WILL SMILE, THEN DIE
IN BETWEEN MUSICAL TREATS

IT’S THE SHOW OF SHOWS
IT’S THE NIGHT OF NIGHTS
IT’S THE DO OF DO’S
IT’S THE FIGHT OF FIGHTS
AND EVERYBODY WHO’S ANYBODY
THAT’S EVERYBODY - COMPETES


By the way, good luck to everyone!
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3 comments
Loved your commentary....you are a joy to know and to receive your blog notes adds zest to my life....and to many others
1:46pm 06/07/2013
david yarnell
Dear Phyllis., it is definite to the soul with the laughing. I love your stories and anecdotes about fun times. Bringing back the memories of the GREATS provides wonderful grins and gut laughs. .Thanks for that. The wonder of the theater, film, radio and tv was created by these greats who made us laugh. Thanks again for your real stories of your life and times.
11:05am 06/04/2013
Jim
Thank YOU, Miss Phyllis for years of joy. (I have Berle story! I was a little kid, probably ten or eleven when Berle's TV show was the hot ticket in town. My folks dropped my friend and I at the Center Theater and told us where they would be waiting when the show was over. They were NOT Berle fans. There was a sweaty, grubby guy sitting in back of us. Much like the guy at the premiere of THE DUELLING CAVALIER who screams out, "Lina! Oh, Lina." You get the picture. An usher was walking up and down the aisle seating people when Mr. Boor stopped her, pointed to her left breast where the word "usher" was written and said, "What's the other one's name?" My first dirty joke! Funny, I remember nothing of the Berle show, but in all these years, I have never forgotten that man.
7:10pm 06/03/2013
Jeff Laffel