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.


  1. 1. OMG, this is hilarious ! Loved reading Fishel's description of Danny... :)
    2. Where did you get that fabulous org chart?
    These are fascinating historical wonders what became of all those other talented people in the shows?
    3. I wish David would write a second book about Danny Kaye and his early life at the summer camps such as White Roe Lake and Camp Tamiment where Danny performed along with all those other entertainers in the variety shows. They were a great American art form that we know little about...
    Wish those shows had been recorded for posterity.. are the scripts still available ?

  2. Thank you, DKFF.
    The org chart ran in White Roe's weekly variety show program during 1933. My thanks to Johnny Weiner for blessing me with several copies.

    Johnny has several scripts from the White Roe days (I reprinted the "Rusty and the Doctor" sketch in DANNY KAYE: KING OF JESTERS.). There are also scripts for Tamiment sketches in the Kaye/Fine collection at Library of Congress (a few were scanned and appear on their website) and in the Camp Tamiment collection at NYU.

    For more stories about (and the full history of) Camp Tamiment, track down a copy of Martha LoMonaco's terrific book EVERY WEEK A BROADWAY REVIEW.