Saturday, March 17, 2012


Not every classically funny performer is as well known as others. One of the best comedians in that category was dear Shemp Howard, brother of Moe of the incredible Three Stooges. I loved the Three Stooges when I was a kid. Not as much as Laurel and Hardy of course, but those guys were in a different league. Shemp resisted becoming one of the trio until dear Curly had a totally debilitating stroke. From 1939 onwards, Shemp appeared frequently in Columbia's two-reel comedies, co-starring with Columbia regulars Andy Clyde, The Glove Slingers, El Brendel, and Tom Kennedy. Dear Shemp was given his own starring series in 1944; he was working for Columbia in this capacity when his brother Curly was felled by a debilitating stroke on May 6, 1946. Shemp reluctantly replaced Curly in Columbia's popular Stooge shorts, knowing that Moe and Larry would be out of work if he refused. Initially, Shemp rejoined the Stooges on a temporary basis until poor Curly recovered, but as Curly's condition worsened, it became apparent that Shemp's association with the Stooges would be permanent. (Prior to replacing Curly on film, Shemp had substituted for his brother in some personal appearances in the early 1940s.) Shemp's take as the third Stooge was much different from Curly's. While he could still roll with the punches as the recipient of Moe's slapstick abuse, he was more of a laid-back dimwit versus Curly's energetic man-child persona. And unlike Curly, who had many distinct mannerisms, Shemp's most notable characteristic as a Stooge was a high-pitched "bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee!" sound, a sort of soft screech done by inhaling. This was rather multi-purpose, as Shemp uttered this sound when scared, sleeping (done as a form of snoring), overtly happy, or dazed. Shemp appeared with Moe and Larry in 73 short subjects and the feature film Gold Raiders. He also suffered a mild stroke in November 1952, though he recovered from it within weeks and without noticeable effect on his remaining films with the Stooges (largely remakes of earlier films that recycled footage to reduce costs). In September 1925, Shemp (age 30) married Gertrude Frank (age 28), a fellow New Yorker. They had one child, Morton (1926–1972). (U.S. Representative Barney Frank is the son of Gertrude's cousin, Sam Frank. Shemp used his somewhat homely appearance for comic effect, often mugging grotesquely or allowing his hair to fall in disarray. He even played along with a publicity stunt that named him "The Ugliest Man in Hollywood." ("I'm hideous," he explained to reporters.) Notoriously phobic, his fears included airplanes, automobiles, dogs and water. According to Moe's autobiography, Shemp was involved in a driving accident as a teenager and thus never obtained a driver's license. On November 22, 1955, while returning home by taxicab from attending a boxing match (one of Shemp's favorite pastimes), Shemp died of a heart attack. He was sixty years old. Shemp was lighting a cigar after telling a joke when he suddenly slumped over on his friend Al Winston's lap. Moe Howard's autobiography states that Shemp died on November 23, 1955 and most subsequent accounts point to that date because of Moe's book. But much of dear Moe's book was finished posthumously by his daughter and son-in-law Don Lamont and some specific details were confused as a result. The Los Angeles county coroner death certificate states that Shemp Howard died on Tuesday November 22, 1955 at 11:35 PST; confirming that, Shemp's obituary appeared in the November 23 afternoon editions of L.A. newspapers, establishing the night of November 22 as the date of death. He was entombed at Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, the same place his brother Curly was buried. Dear Shemp, remembering you this day. Thanks for the laughter. We loved it and we loved you!

Friday, March 16, 2012


Today is the 86th birthday of comedy legend Jerry Lewis. He was born on this day before Saint Patrick's Day in 1926. What an amazing talent and generous heart Jerry Lewis has always been. What he has done for Muscular Dystrophy alone over the years is absolutely staggering. Jerry Lewis initially gained fame with singer Dean Martin, who served as straight man to Lewis's zany antics in the Martin and Lewis comedy team. They distinguished themselves from the majority of comedy acts of the 1940s by relying on the interaction of the two comics instead of planned skits. In the late 1940s, they quickly rose to national prominence, first with their popular nightclub act, next as stars of their own radio program. Within a year of their first act together, they went from earning 150-175 dollars a week each at one club to $30,000.00 a week as a team at The Copacabana.They then made appearances on early live television, debuting first on the June 20, 1948 debut broadcast of Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan on the CBS TV Network (later the Ed Sullivan Show), followed on October 3, 1948 by an appearance on the NBC TV series Welcome Aboard then as the first of a series of hosts of The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1950. They began their Paramount film careers in 1949 as ensemble players in My Friend Irma, based on the popular radio series of the same name. This was followed by a sequel in 1950, My Friend Irma Goes West Starting with At War with the Army (1950), Martin and Lewis were the stars of their own vehicles, in fourteen additional titles at Paramount. Final was Hollywood or Bust (1956). All sixteen were produced by Hal Wallis.
However, as Martin's roles in their films became less important, the partnership became strained. Martin's diminished participation became an embarrassment in 1954, when Look magazine used a publicity photo of the team for the magazine cover, but cropped Martin out of the photo. The partnership finally ended on July 24, 1956. Attesting the team's popularity, DC Comics published the best-selling The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comic books from 1952 to 1957. The series continued a year after the team broke up as DC Comics then featured Lewis solo, until 1971, in The Adventures of Jerry Lewis comic books. In this latter series, Lewis was sometimes featured with Superman, Batman, and various other DC Comics heroes and villains. It inspired the Filmation cartoons production company to make, in 1970, a series called Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, with Jerry as the one character inspired by reality, beside other fictitious characters, including Jerry's fictitious relatives. Both Martin and Lewis went on to successful solo careers, but for years neither would comment on the split, nor consider a reunion. They made at least a couple of public appearances together between the breakup and 1961, but then were not seen together in public until a surprise appearance by Martin on Lewis's Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in 1976, arranged by Frank Sinatra. The pair eventually reconciled in the late 1980s after the death of Martin's son, Dean Paul Martin. The two men were seen together on stage in Las Vegas when Lewis pushed out Dean's birthday cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to him. In Lewis's 2005 book Dean and Me (A Love Story), Lewis wrote of his kinship with Martin, who died in 1995. After the split from Martin, Lewis remained at Paramount and became a major comedy star with his first film as a solo comic, The Delicate Delinquent (1957). Teaming with director Frank Tashlin, whose background as a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon director suited Lewis's brand of humor, he starred in five more films, and even appeared uncredited as Itchy McRabbitt in Li'l Abner (1959).Lewis tried his hand at releasing an album in the 1950s, having a chart hit with the song "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" (a song largely associated with Al Jolson and later re-popularized by Judy Garland) as well as the song, "It All Depends on You" in 1958. He eventually released his own album titled, Jerry Lewis Just Sings. By the end of his contract with producer Hal B. Wallis, Lewis had several productions of his own under his belt. His first three efforts, The Delicate Delinquent (1957), Rock-A-Bye Baby (1958) and The Geisha Boy (1958), were all efforts to move away from Wallis, who Lewis felt was hindering his comedy. In 1960, Lewis finished his contract with Wallis with Visit to a Small Planet (1960), and wrapped up work on his own production, Cinderfella Cinderfella was postponed for a Christmas 1960 release, and Paramount, needing a quickie feature film for its summer 1960 schedule, held Lewis to his contract to produce one. Lewis came up with The Bellboy. Using the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami as his setting—and on a small budget, with a very tight shooting schedule, and no script—Lewis shot the film by day and performed at the hotel in the evenings. Bill Richmond collaborated with him on the many sight gags. In a 2005 interview, Lewis revealed that Paramount were not happy financing a 'silent movie' and withdrew backing. Lewis used his own funds to cover the $950,000 budget. During production Lewis developed the technique of using video cameras and multiple closed circuit monitors, which allowed him to review his performance instantly. His techniques and methods, documented in his book and his USC class, enabled him to complete most of his films on time and under budget. Happy Birthday, sir comic genius! You're amazing

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Back in 1983, I wrote a musical called "The Invitation". It had come from a short story idea that I had been prompted to write at a local college's creative writing class back in the late 1970's. The teacher's name was Lanore Pearlman and bar none she was one of the best creative writing teachers I ever had. Danny Simon was the very best, but that's another story. The assignment was to actually begin a short story with a honest-to-god invitation. We also had an assignment to begin a short story with an actual radio broadcast. The radio broadcast idea went nowhere but "The Invitation" became a big part of my life. I figured what might be on an invitation sent suddenly to an old hobo whose life was now going nowhere fast. Maybe that hobo was once an important battlefield commander in a great civil war in a country much like England at the very close of the 19th century and maybe the community in which he lived just had never been the same since the end of the great civil war five years ago. What if nobody really believed in Christmas any more in this village. They were too impatient for it to arrive or simply were too selfish to observe it among themselves. Well there was a great story's start. Now if Christmas was in serious trouble in a community what might happen if the "Spirit of Christmas" came to rescue it? And maybe, because it's the very last week in December and the very last days of the 19th century, wouldn't be interesting if the Spirit of Christmas actually was training an ex-mortal teenage boy who had a near fatal accident to become the Spirit of Christmas for the 20th Century? The story became a musical with some of the best songs I have ever written with anyone. That writer is Randy Louis Ames: a brilliant composer. Together for this show, we wrote one of the most beautiful Christmas songs you will ever hear called "Christmas Belongs To You" and "Are You Real Or Make Believe" We added some unique elements to the story. The big conflict is how our protagonist, Mr. Robert Cromwell Carter made a decision to make peace with the enemy on Christmas Day and trade rations. Of course, there was to be a planned rendevoux with other forces and those forces seeing the evidence of a one day peace accord assumed the enemy had just wiped out the other side. And in they went like death on horseback causing an absolute massacre. That caused the poor battlefield commander (Carter) to bury as many men as he could and simply walk away from the rest. That caused Carter to be blamed for the entire tragedy and Carter has been a worthless hobo ever since. We won't give away the surprise ending here, but it is truly unique. We did a radio show of the musical which was broadcast over seventy-five public radio stations. It starred Joey D'Auria later to become Chicago's "Bozo, The Clown!" It was directed by our dear friend David Holmes. So now it's completely revamped and re-written and submitted to my manager Jimmy Chapel. You can sample it at our web site at It's a very unique and heart warming story that makes the poster on this page come alive. Read the words: they are very special and should be observed by everybody with a human heart.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


On Monday last, March 5th, I lost my own personal hero. He was a songwriter. He was however no ordinary songwriter. He was a master craftsman and musician and lyricist and together with his dear brother Richard he created some of the best songs in the entire world. He helped create words like "Fortuosity", "Fantasmagorical" "Toot Sweets" and so many others. Here he poses with his brother Richard and the famous Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Car that was the star of their great musical "Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang". I have admired the brothers work since I was a teenager when there were songs like "Pineapple Princess", "Tall Paul" and "Mister Piano Man". He was a gentleman and my friend. I represented his young son, Robby and while Robbie was songwriting full on his own, I went to his house many times. I can not begin to tell you how much influence he has had upon me as a songwriter, myself. He would give critiques that were so very helpful. So now with my partner I have written over nine hundred songs and without the Sherman's influence, I don't think I would have written one. He was a sweet gentle man who always gave you the most amazing encouragement and wisdom. After he moved to London, there was little communication except through Facebook and E mail, but it still remained. He and his brother were working on a new musical called "The Merry Go Round" which I am hoping is complete enough to go forward. Every lyric he wrote was so special. The three words a song must be Simple. Sincere and singable will long be in my head as absolute credo. He was an amazing man who was an absolute gift to his family and any one who ever had the chance to meet. God Bless You, dear, Robert. I can bet you and Walt will have much to talk about. Robert Sherman was both kind and brilliant: a shining light that will remain forever in my heart.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


At 11:59 pm late last night in Phoenix, Arizona the last Continental airline flight took off from it's airport there on a last journey to Cleveland. It will arrive in Cleveland as a United Airlines flight, the airline that bought them out two years ago. Imagine your last journey and you're going to Cleveland? Oh, dear! The Continental web site shut down at Two AM this morning (Saturday) How sad! Another icon gone the way of the do do bird. I used to fly this airline all the time. It was a Continental flight that flew out of Ontario that allowed me to go on with my Florida vacation back in 1992 when the Los Angeles riots closed International Airport. In order to get to Orlando, i had to fly first on a Continental flight to San Diego, then another Continental flight to Phoenix. From Phoenix, I had to take a plane to Dallas and from Dallas to Atlanta and finally Atlanta to Orlando. Was my luggage lost? Of course it was. But good old Continenatl's flight out of Orlando saved my vacation. Does anyone remember Continental's "Polynesian Pub?' As the guy who wrote a famous jingle for them way back when, it will indeed be sad to see old Continental Airlines go. They've been around for a long long time. In other news, John and I have finally finished the final polish on the libretto for an engaging musical comedy called "The Beautifully Bald Brooklyn Boys Choir!" This musical is so much fun. Imagine a group of all balding, once married (and then in the closet) gay men who (with one exception) are all broke paying alimony and/ or child support. these men have all formed a singing band called "The Prufrockers". Now for those of you who are scratching your head over that, the group name is inspired by the classic poem by T.S. Elliot called "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in which our main character utters the now famous line: "Do I dare? Do I dare? Descend the stair? With a bald spot in the middle of my hair!" The leader of the group is Joe Miller whose ex-wife could be the original "Wicked Witch of the West" without being green except with greed. They were married twelve years and had a son named Winston before Joe discovered he was gay and left when young Winston was only eleven. As the musical opens, the ex-wife has sent re-possessors to confiscate all of the band's instruments and studio equipment. With that disaster fulfilled , the ex wife delivers a certified letter to her ex-husband that looks to be more bad news. It's not. The document reveals that Joe has been willed his grandmother's house and property but must live in it seven continuous years before he will officially inherit it and the four acres of land upon which it sits. Tiffany Miller's confiscation forces the boys to form an all male a Capella choir. But good old greedy Tiffany wants Grandma's old house too even though logistically that's impossible. That doesn't the greed machine from action. All of the men in the group are ex altar boys and ex-Catholics for the most part all desiring a new relationship with a guy. The first to have a shot with that is Michael Wissomski, the gayest of the group and the only one who has never been married prior to a woman. Enter young college freshman Christopher Fitzgerald who is a young god that Michael instantly lusts for. Michael pretends to be a great painter when Christopher reveals that he models in the nude for pay. Michael promises God that he gets the boy in bed, he'll go back to church. Art has never suffered this great a blow and when Michael spikes the college kid's coffee and does get him into bed an angry Christopher punches Michael out for it. But all goes better for the boys with the intervention of their old pastor priest, Father Murphy who inspires Christopher to remember his own Catholicism and let bygones be bygones, but also forcing Michael to go to confession after almost twenty years. Joe's kid Winston comes calling to live with Joe to warm him of his mother's planned law suit barrage and asks to live with him. The confrontation between Joe and his ex- wife gets Winston delivered to Social Services from where he escapes. In the end, however: boy finds father, group wins a $100,000 dollar contest. ex-wife loses battle and Michael gets Christopher when the young eighteen year old Adonis stud finally comes out of the closet, himself. Winston and Christopher shave their heads to be part of the bald men's singing group and everybody lives happily ever after. It's a great script and now available from our publishing company: Creative Horizons at www.