Monday, October 28, 2013

Danny Becomes an Indian Guru

A long-forgotten guru spoof was a staple of Danny Kaye's stage shows in the 1950s and 1960s.

Danny Kaye’s career first took off when he started performing the specialty songs of wife-to-be Sylvia Fine, in particular the “character numbers,” in which Danny played and sang the history or philosophy of an exotic personality, such as French hat designer “Anatole of Paris,” suffering acting teacher “Stanislavsky,” or ballet legend “Pavolva.”
Performances of most of these numbers have been preserved, either in Danny’s movies, his TV specials or series, his radio series, or his records. A few, alas, never were and, of those, the one he performed most frequently was a spoof of an Indian meditation master, “Yogi.” The song was written for Kaye’s stage act in the 1950s by Herbert Baker (possibly assisted by Fine, since she often teamed with Baker).

Imagine Danny with a Middle Eastern accent, singing:
I--------------am Yogi
From Cooch-Behar
Sing song in nasal voice
Accompanied by nasal catarah
Nya-nya-nya all night and all day
Like a bleating lamb
People think I’m Robert Goulet
And sometimes I am

(Talking) Permit me to introduce myself.
My name is Ocleoole (gibberish).
I must modestly tell you, I am
Number One Television Star in India.
India birthplace of television.
We have original cast of “Untouchables.”
I must also modestly tell you that my show is most popular in India.
All Yogis wait for my show on pins and needles.
Name of show, “Rawhide.”

(Singing) Every morning as the sun rises
I give Yogi exercises
On the tee-vee in my bee-vee
Dees and does that follow
My recommendation swallow
My sponsor’s creation
Made especially for men and wives
Who plan to lead at least seven lives.
The only product of its ilk,
Re-incarnation milk.

(Talking) What do Yogis recommend for pain of
Neuralgia, neuritis, misery, colds,
Headache, and nagging neckache?
Pain is good for you! Pain is just
Nature’s way of saying… OUCH!

First principle of Yogi—
Assume Lotus position.
First principle of Lotus position—
Do not cross legs till you come to them.

Second principle of Yogi.
Most difficult exercise of all.
Are you breathing more and enjoying it less?

Third principle of Yogi.
Eliminate bad habit. Bad habit very bad for you if habit bad… (continues on with this nonsense as long as he can milk it).

(Singing) Anything that’s habit bad for you they say
Breathing is a habit
Stop it right away

(Talking) You will find, ladies and gentlemen,
When you stop breathing how very simple
It is to give up smoking.
Final principle, most important of all.

(Singing) If you have a navel,
Sit and contemplate it.
I contemplate it, I hate it.
One day while contemplating navel
Happy as can be—
Suddenly I find my navel contemplating me

I----------am tired
Of being Yogi
Control, control,
I’m finished with control.
I sing, I’m gay,
I laugh all day.
I’m happy as a clam.
People think I’m Danny Kaye.
And sometimes I am.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Danny Kaye: The Saturday Morning Cartoon Series?

Kaye's work on Here Comes Peter Cottontail nearly led to his own animated TV series.

In the early 1970s, Danny almost hosted his own animated TV series. Almost.

A Saturday morning cartoon series focused on a classic movie comedian was nothing new. Hanna-Barbera produced a collection of Laurel and Hardy cartoons in 1966-1967, and an Abbott & Costello series in 1967-1968. In 1966, Filmation made an unsold pilot of a Marx Brothers cartoon series and a few years later produced Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down.

By this time in his career, Kaye was amenable to the idea of appearing in cartoons, but not the slapdash, limited-animation of Filmation. He preferred the slightly more refined look of TV specials like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Chuck Jones) and the stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Rankin-Bass). Unable to get his own Dr. Seuss show sold in the 1960s, Kaye finally agreed to Rankin-Bass’s offer of $12,500 to host Here Comes Peter Cottontail.

They were so happy with the Easter special, they began pitching a weekly animated series, starring Danny as the narrator, Hans Christian Andersen. The first season was to feature the likes of Rip Van Winkle, Rumplestiltskin, Treasure Island, Raggedy Ann, Jack Frost, Heidi’s Christmas, A Hans Christian Andersen Christmas, Gilbert & Sullivan, Marco Polo, Punch and Judy, Puss ’n Boots, The Road to Oz, The Little Juggler, Johnny Appleseed, World of Toys, and Marco Polo.

ABC was in, at least for the pilot, but demanded it be something intrinisically Andersen. So The Emperor’s New Clothes became the subject of the first episode of The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye. Unfortunately, due to its cost and moderate reception, it would be the final episode, as well.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sylvia Fine Kaye... Kaminsky

Danny wasn't the only Kaminsky in the family for his first three years of marriage.

When Sylvia Fine married Danny Kaye on January 3, 1940, she didn’t take the name “Kaye,” because legally his name was still David Daniel Kaminsky. So, she took the name Kaminsky—although, like Danny, she would never advertise it.

For three years, in fact, her legal name was Sylvia Kaminsky until, on January 22, 1943, Danny and Sylvia jointly submitted paperwork to change their names from Kaminsky to Kaye.

They were weeks away from heading for Hollywood, where his new life as movie star and international celebrity was about to begin.