Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why Victoria Clammed Up

Not quite 4 years old, Victoria Paige Meyerink rejuvenated The Danny Kaye Show in its 1964-1965 second season.

It was my great joy yesterday to finally meet Victoria Paige Meyerink, the little girl who captivated Danny Kaye—and Danny Kaye Show audiences—back in the mid-1960s.

As Victoria tells the story, the series was slumping in its sophomore season and looking for a ratings boost. When she—a week shy of her fourth birthday—hit it off with Danny during an interchange at the end of the annual Christmas show, fan mail poured in. The producers quickly called her back again, and again, and again.

But after about a half-dozen appearances, Victoria started to clam up. The magic was gone. The producers tried everything to get her talking again—clearing out the audience for her bit with Danny, creating a whole “Vickie’s Room” set—but nothing worked.

For my book Danny Kaye: King of Jesters, producer Perry Laffery speculated on a possible cause:  “I don’t know whether her mother was pushing the kid or what.”

Victoria, drawing upon a photographic memory, insists her mother was nothing but supportive. The problem, she says, was Danny.

Kaye, as I can attest others have shared with me, had a tendency of occasionally needling co-workers, just to see if he could push their buttons. Victoria says Danny liked to call her “Vickie,” knowing she hated to be called that. He even had songwriter Billy Barnes write a song about her (and also about singer Vikki Carr) called “Vickie.”

Kaye supposedly also knew that she disliked the color yellow. But the Vickie’s Room was set done all up in yellow. And, during one fateful episode, Danny asked her what color her gold necklace was. She replied, “Gold.” Danny corrected her, “No, it’s yellow.” The audience laughed. But Victoria was confused, convinced that her buddy Danny had turned on her and was encouraging the audience to laugh at her.

After seven appearances, the producers cancelled her contract for the remainder of season two. She would return for a Christmas-themed show in season three and for seven episodes in season four, now a grizzled show biz pro at age 6. She would remain close friends with Danny for the rest of his life, working with him one last time: as a co-presenter at the 1983 Emmy Awards.

To hear more of her tales of life with Danny, download Victoria and my 2.5-hour appearance on Stu’s Show (it’s a 99-cent download—program 307—from www.stusshow.com/archives.php). Victoria is also set to return to Stu’s in the near future to talk about her work post-Kaye:  as a regular on Green Acres, appearing with Elvis in Speedway, twice turning down the lead in The Exorcist, and more!

2 comments:

  1. Can't wait to listen to the interview! I'm reading "King of Jesters" right now and LOVING it!

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  2. Thank you, Lisa!
    It was a thrill meeting little Victoria. It's nearly 50 years later, but she still looks the same!

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