Now I’ll admit, when I first learned of the panel that had been assembled for the event—Dena Kaye, Carl Reiner, Michelle Lee, producer George Schlatter, choreographer/director Tony Charmoli—I was a little skeptical. With the exception of Charmoli, who was at Danny’s side on a daily basis for four years, in addition to individual projects in the early 1960s and into the 1980s, none of the others worked all that much with him. They obviously were chosen for their star power (or availability).
|The panel featured (left to right) Tony Charmoli, George Schlatter, Michelle Lee, Carl Reiner, Dena Kaye, and moderator Leonard Maltin. (The back of the reddish head in front of Reiner belongs to Vin Scully.)|
Certainly, there were others who could have provided deeper insights about his work, such as Danny Kaye Show director Bob Scheerer and writers Bernie Rothman and Paul Mazursky. In fact, another Kaye Show writer—Ron Friedman—was in the audience. I was fortunate enough to sit with Roz Memel, the daughter of Danny’s longtime pianist Sammy Prager, and Gloria Kaye, widow of his drummer, Sid Kaye.
Fortunately, all the panelists were great storytellers, and each had a few choice anecdotes to share. The reminisces were supplemented by mesmerizing clips from The Danny Kaye Show. Some of the snippets hadn’t been publicly aired since their original broadcast nearly 50 years ago. It made for a wonderful evening and hopefully the first of many events designed to restore the shine to Kaye’s star.
There were just two concerns that hopefully organizers will address with future festivities. The venue, with just 150 seats, was small and sold out quickly. Guests with tickets who arrived late were forced to sit in an overflow room and watch the proceedings televised.
“The Paley Center gave us 30 tickets to distribute to special guests, and we handed out all 57 of them,” said Robert Bader, who’s assisting Dena with the centennial celebrations. “When you get a call at the last minute that Peter O’Malley and Vin Scully want to attend, do you want to say no to Peter O’Malley and Vin Scully?”
Ideally, any future show will be booked into a significantly larger venue, exposing Kaye and his work to even larger audience.
More troubling, I don’t think I saw a single person in the audience under 30. Danny’s work, as proven by the laughs and tears sparked by the clips we viewed, is powerful and timeless, and will appeal to all audiences. The challenge of preserving Danny’s legacy is not so much successfully rattling the memory banks of us old-timers, but of introducing his talents to new eyes.
|Among the most personable celebrities at the post-show reception were Danny Kaye Show guest stars Julie “Catwoman” Newmar and Michelle Lee.|