Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Catskills Farewell

Welcome to my new Danny Kaye blog, designed to contain the latest Danny Kaye news and even more fascinating tales and rare images than could be held in my new book Danny Kaye: King of Jesters. (The mere existence of this blog does not imply that the book isn't exhaustively comprehensive. The stories about Danny are endless; the book is not. It's 304 pages of sheer joy. Trust me. Check it out.)

But to kick off this new blog, let’s go back to the very end of the very beginning:  Danny’s final days as a “tummler.”

He spent six summers at White Roe Lake Resort in Livingston Manor, N.Y., entertaining the summer campers from sun-up till the wee hours of the morning. Although Danny grew to hate the unstructured, “social” requirements of his job (the constant “pepping up” of the guests, the impromptu “porch sessions,” the mandatory romancing of all the single women), he did seem to enjoy the more professional aspects of appearing in plays, concerts and revues.

Come September 1, 1935, he was determined to make it his final appearance at White Roe. The final revue of the season, called “Curtain Calls,” contained the best numbers of the year, and Danny was featured on the cover of the program. He began the show with his popular number “Black Coffee,” appeared in several other sketches and solos, and starred in the ambitious show-closing production number “Song of the Miners.” Danny’s biggest concern was performing well for his father, Jacob, who came up to the camp for the weekend.

As Danny recounted days later in a letter to his girlfriend, showgirl Holly Fine:

“My Dearest Baby-Doll,
Well, it’s all over and the summer is ended officially, although there are still a few people left.
My father was here over the weekend and he said he wouldn’t have taken a $1000 for the good time he had.

Every time he walked by, someone would say, that’s Danny Kaye’s father, and boy did he feel proud.
We did some marvelous shows over Labor Day and all the single numbers like “Black Coffee,” “Cheder,” and “Miners” and a new Russian song went over tremendously, and the shows as a whole, killed ‘em. I was really glad everything went well because he felt very proud of me.

There was a dramatic coach up here named John Hutchins who coached Ginger Rogers and a lot of other big people. He was very much impressed by my work in Accent on Youth, and he asked me to come and see him in the city. He said he wanted to talk to me…”

Danny, as always, had high hopes as the summer ended. He was determined never to return to the White Roe stage. He assembled a nightclub act, but two years later, he was back in the Borscht Belt, albeit playing master of ceremonies at the Presidents Hotel. He did lay down the lay: he would not tummle.


  1. I find Danny a fascinating person and I'm really interested in the times in which he lived. I really look forward to reading your book.

  2. Thank you! I know you'll enjoy the book; Danny was one of a kind.

  3. What a wonderful find! I'm writing a children's picture book about Danny Kaye. I bought another book that did not celebrate his life the way I'd hoped. Off to look for yours!

    1. Megan, that's awesome! Please notify me when your book is completed.