Tuesday, May 14, 2013

X-Ray Marks the Spot

Danny Kaye knocked the audience out, and nearly himself, during his memorable 1949 engagement at the London Palladium.

Danny Kaye's visit with playwright George Bernard Shaw on May 3, 1949 may have made the papers, but it was the ride back from Ayot St. Lawrence that generated the headlines.

Danny had to hurriedly rush back to London to perform two shows that evening at the Palladium. To get to the theater on time, Danny’s publicity manager, Eddie Dukoff, had to speed back along the narrow, winding road. As Dukoff rounded one curve, he collided with a second car, the impact driving Kaye’s elbow into his own ribs.

Danny telephoned the Palladium to report the accident and to make sure there would be a doctor waiting in his dressing room. When he arrived at the theater, his side was quickly bandaged and he wobbled on stage and little late and in sever pain. But, about fifteen minutes into his act, Kaye, sure his ribs were cracked, excused himself into the wings as the band struck up “God Save the Queen.” Nevertheless, he returned and uncomfortably completed his performance with his arms hanging stiffly at his sides.

After the show, Danny rushed to Middlesex Hospital, where X-rays revealed that he had collected no broken bones, but serious bruises. Kaye once again returned to the Palladium that evening, in time to make the 8:00 performance. Taking the stage, he pulled open his shirt to expose his strapped chest and explained, “They told me that it was nothing serious, and that I’d just fractured all my ribs.”

Danny did his act without a break, but did ask the crowd if he could perform for a while from a low stool. He stood up again at the finish, but was practically knocked back down by the deafening applause.

Pianist Sammy Prager recalled, “Next night he told the story to the audience and apologized for what happened the night before. Then he took out his X-ray plates and went down into the audience with them. He spent ten minutes handing the X-rays around for people to look at. He’ll do anything. He’s a gambler.”

Over the next few weeks, whenever someone in the audience inquired about Kaye’s health, he would pull out his X-rays.