Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Danny Kaye Show's Wish List

Jose Ferrer was one of the first guest stars targeted early on by the producer to appear on The Danny Kaye Show.

In the spring of 1963, when producer Perry Lafferty and his writers were trying to think up what a Danny Kaye variety show should be, they figured every episode should feature at least one high-profile guest star.

Laffery compiled a list of his top choices. “We are trying to secure the following people for guest appearances on the show,” the producer wrote in a May 27 memo to his staff. “Naturally, we won’t get them all, or even half of them, but, for various reasons which we have discused together, we feel that each one of them has something to offer us.”

The Stars Lafferty Got
Of the 24 stars the producer targeted early on, he was able to personally sign seven of them:

• Jose Ferrer (the actor who replaced Kaye on Broadway in Two by Two was an early yes, starring in show #2)

• Eileen Farrell (the soprano was a frequent soloist with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, and Danny wanted to perform an opera parody. She appeared on show #12.)

• Terry Thomas (gap-toothed English comedian, who appeared in show #18)

• Buddy Ebsen (his Beverly Hillbillies, just finishing its debut season, was the top-rated TV program for the year. But The Danny Kaye Show wanted him mostly because he could dance. He agreed to appear on show #24, but insisted he get to play his sitcom character, Jed Clampett. But Kaye’s writers thought that using the character would confine them to creating a standard sitcom sketch. Instead, they suggested casting him as Jed’s twin brother. Ebsen worked out so well, he came back for show #37 early in season two and show #69 early in season three, alongside his Davy Crockett co-star Fess Parker and Clint Eastwood.)

• Andy Griffith (although he initially declined, he did agree to a cameo in show #29 to support his Andy Griffith Show co-star Jim Nabors. He returned in a larger role in the fourth and final season, in show #96.)

• Dick Van Dyke—with or without Mary Tyler Moore (Moore clicked so well with Kaye in both sketches and musical numbers, that after appearing in show #6, she was asked back for shows #17, #30 and #41. And, she even consented to a cameo in show #16, starring Van Dyke.)

The Stars Lafferty’s Successors Got
Even after Lafferty left the show after the second season, his wish list remained and his successors were able to come though on a few:

• Caterina Valente (The Italian singer signed on for back-to-back shows early in the third season—#71 and #72—and again midway through the fourth—#103 and #104.)

• Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (Newman declined, but Woodward finally appeared in show #90, late in the third season.)

• Peter Ustinov (The actor finally agreed to appear in show #109, midway through the final season.)

The Stars The Danny Kaye Show Never Got
And then there were the hopefuls on Lafferty’s wish list that never appeared on the show:

• Fred Astaire (Although Lafferty could never book Astaire, he did sign the next best thing—Gene Kelly—for show #5)

• Guilletta Messina (Italian actress, famed from La Strada)

• Melina Mecouri (Greek actress)

• Jose Greco (flamenco dancer)

• Peter Sellers

• Leonard Bernstein

• Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses)

• Vivian Leigh

• Laurence Olivier

• Debbie Reynolds

• Anne Bancroft

• Janet Leigh (whose musical Bye Bye Birdie had just premiered)

(Lafferty also wanted to book Ann-Margaret, but had discovered she was unavailable before putting together his list.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Danny's Turn to Poke Fun at Fishel

After Phil “Fishel” Goldfarb profiled Danny in the White Roe program (see last week), Kaye insisted he be given the opportunity to write a fanciful bio for his buddy—getting payback for Fishel tweaking his love life and the size of his nose, while poking fun at his Yiddish and his novelty business.

Phil Goldfarb by Danny Kaye

Fishel Goldfarb was born in the little town of Minsk, right on the border of Galitzy, all in Merry Old England. This accounts for his Harvard accent. The event took place so long ago that he’s almost forgotten about it. It was, however, the first link in the chain of events which brought him to White Roe. Some people say that if he had not been born he never would have come here, but this is mere hearsay, and cannot be proven either way.

Overcoming all adolescent difficulties, our hero grew up to be a powerful, strapping man—all of 128 pounds. Realizing what he had to face in life, he put his nose to the grindstone. This accounts for the size of his nose now. You should have seen it before he put it to the grindstone! This wore him down to a drazzle, but he achieved a sharp edge and a keen brain. Boy, that’s cutting into it.

He went out into the cold, cold, world to decide on his chosen field, and what did he pick? Comebeck balls, wheestles, squawkiss, balloonis, all sorts of novelties. Fishel says the biggest novelty nowadays, is when he sells something.

Having established himself in this field, his doctor decided he needed a rest. It was a case of his working himself down to nervous breakout. So he decided to recuperate (among other things) at a summer resort. So he packed his satzel, and proceeded to White Roe. (Nothing like mentioning the place; it’s our paper, why shouldn’t we advertise in it?)

Meyer Weiner took one look at that Greeshun profile and said, “My boy, you are now our tsotsal director.” So Philip said, “Ho Kay Boss, provided everything you tell me is of-FICIAL.” This sounded very phoneteical—not phoney—phonetical to the ears of the Boss (lookit de kepital letter, Boss) so when he is summoned by the Boss he always calls O Fishel, and ever since that has been his name.

Fishel has been here seven years, they tell him, and has become quite a figure in this establishment. When he first came to White Roe he didn’t have a nickel. Now, through hard work, self sacrifice, thrift, and good judgment, he is the essence of pecuniary success. He now has  a nickel. All credit for this must go to Meyer Weiner. (I’m telling you, you can’t mention the place or the Boss too much.)

Most outstanding about Phil is his remarkable fast mind and nimble with, which is a hint not to become involved in any controversial matter with him. In odder woids, don’t swap de gags.

To proceed in a more seious vein and this is serious, Fishel is through with girls. He’s got himself a hoss. He loves dot noble beast, dot marwellos stelyun, dot fancy steed. His hoss to him is his life. Phil, we may add, is responsible for that touching phrase of affection.

With it all, Phil is a fine and conscientious worker, who has made a great many people permanently White Roe Conscious.

White Roe’s 1933 organizational chart: Owner Meyer Weiner (top left) oversaw art director Nat Lichtman, dramatic director Dick Diamond, dance director Dave Harvey, and social director Phil “Fishel” Goldfarb. Danny Kaye pictured at far right, on top.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Poking Fun at the Young Danny Kaye

White Roe’s 1933 organizational chart: Owner Meyer Weiner (top left) oversaw art director Nat Lichtman, dramatic director Dick Diamond, dance director Dave Harvey, and social director Phil “Fishel” Goldfarb. Danny Kaye pictured at far right, on top.

During his days in the Catskills in the early 1930s, Danny Kaye looked to Phil “Fishel” Goldfarb as his comic mentor. Goldfarb wasn’t a professional comedian—he was a successful businessman who, during a weeklong stay at the White Roe Resort in Livingston Manor, so entertained his fellow guests with his over-the-top stories, jokes and dialects, that owner Meyer Weiner begged him to stay longer for free—and return summer, after summer, after summer, as he lead comic and master of ceremonies.

Danny and Fishel became fast, lifelong friends, and especially enjoyed teasing each other. In 1933, Fishel asked if he could write the biography of Danny that would appear in the weekly show program. What he submitted was historically inaccurate, but did allow him to have fun with Danny’s reputation as the resort’s ladies man, Danny’s nose, Danny’s mooching, and the like.

Danny Kaye by Fishel

Danny Kaye is a self-made man, just an example of unskilled labor. His name is a byword at White Roe; people go by him without a word.

He was born David Kanin, in the town of Brownsville , E.N.Y. (a thriving metropolis bounded by Brooklyn, astounded by anything, and hounded by bill collectors). However, he changed his name, and now everything is Oh Kaye.

He really learned how to speak English at White Roe associating with Fishel. Before that, he had used slang and swore something awful all his life. Why, he even cursed the day he was born.

He has no moles on his left shoulder blade, or any other means of identification; he sleeps in the raw (a vegetarian); and he has all his clothes made to order on Fishel.

Danny came to White Roe three years ago, a robust individual of 92 pounds. Meyer Weiner looked at him and said, “Is this the funny fellow? He’ll scare the guests away.” However, Danny, undaunted, made twelve funny faces without moving his shnozzle, and the boss went into convulsions (he winked an eyelash).

Our little Kaye is not particularly fond of women, but he loves to wander around among the flowers. (Please draw your own conclusions.)

His secret ambition is to beat Fishel in something. So far he’s only ahead by a nose.

His most thrilling experience occurred last year. Danny and Fishel went up for an airplane ride in Livingston Manor. 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 permant display of scars—on Fishel’s thigh, together with a set of fingerprints that has never been duplicated (we trust).

But seriously, to give credit where credit is due, Danny is one of the finest fellows one can ever have the pleasure of meeting, and is really a theatrical genius. He seems to have been born for the show business, eats sleeps and thinks show business. He has a wonderful voice, is a very talented dancer, an accomplished and polished dramatic actor, and there is no need to extoll his ability as comedian.

He broke into vaudeville last fall, in Dave and Cathleene’s Revue, and in his one year on the stage has developed a keen sense of showmanship. At the end of the White Roe season, Danny, Cathleene, and Dave are booked solid thru the winter with their new act, which they have perfected at White Roe.

To conclude, White Roe “is to Danny his life,” and vice versa, Danny does add plenty of life to White Roe.

Danny took the mock bio all in fun, but he would have his revenge. When it was time to rewrite the bios for the next program, Kaye volunteered to profile Goldfarb.  Next week: Danny’s comic bio of Fishel.