Thursday, January 3, 2013

Danny and the Plane Crash

Not long after Danny Kaye's first ride in an aiplane, disaster struck.

Although Danny himself would become an accomplished pilot, his first recorded ride on an airplane came during the summer of 1932, when he was 21 years old. His Borscht Belt mentor, Phil “Fishel” Goldfarb, convinced Kaye to join him on a short private plane trip around Livingston Manor, home base of their Catskills resort, the White Roe Lake House.

White Roe’s newsletter remembered the flight as Danny’s “most thrilling experience... He hasn’t been the same since. For all we know, he may still be up in the air. And was he scared stiff? Ask him. Upon request, he will show a permanent display of scars—on Fishel’s thigh, together with a set of fingerprints that has never been duplicated.”

Not long after, on July 19, 1932, Danny wasn’t on board when White Roe hired the private plane to fly staffers overhead to shoot publicity photos of the resort. Going up were Morris “Moishe” Weiner (19-year-old son of White Roe proprietor Meyer Weiner), cousin Joey Frumkes (the resort’s 21-year-old riding master), and 24-year-old pilot Douglas North, who unfortunately had little more experience in the air than did Danny.

About 6 p.m., the novice pilot began flying extremely low—so his companions could take better photos—when he crashed into a tree in front of the Trojan Lake Lodge, two miles away from White Roe. North was killed instantly, and his passengers were seriously injured.

That’s when Danny stepped in. Ever the one to comfort his friends when they were hurting, Danny organized a parade and party to celebrate Weiner and Frumkes’ return from the hospital.

I have to wonder if the 1932 plane crash played in Danny’s mind 27 years later, when Merry Andrew director Michael Kidd brought him up in his plane—and Kaye decided he, too, would learn to fly. Or maybe back in 1949, when Kaye was returning to New York from Ireland when one of the jet’s four engines caught fire over the Atlantic. The pilot quickly changed direction and headed back, 640 miles, to Ireland, losing a propeller along the way.

Kaye (in dark jacket with arm around woman) joins White Roe co-workers at the crash site.

As noted in the White Roe-Stir newsletter of July 22, 1933: "Airplane Crash Party: The Grill Room of the Casino was the scene, on Monday evening, July 17, of a party to commemorate the first anniversrary of the airplane crash from which Moishe Weiner and Joey Frumkes so miraculously escaped with their lives.
"It was an evening of stories. First Moishe and Joey recounted their recollection of what had happened. These were supplemented by accounts from Danny Kaye and Johnny Weiner.
"Stories were followed by refreshments and dancing, and a good time was had by all."

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating story, David. I especially like the White Roe newspaper...what a rarity. Thanks for posting !