The Court Jester
I was always a big admirer of Danny Kaye, an amazing entertainer. I'm sure he was in something bad at some point but I can't recall what it might have been. He was funny. He could dance. He could sing. A lot of folks who worked with him didn't get along with the guy on a personal basis but even they acknowledged his talent and watched him as fans.
When I was around ten or so, my parents took me to see him perform one evening at the Hollywood Bowl. The place seats more than 17,000 people, it was pretty full that night…and from the seats we were in, Danny Kaye was about the size of a Rice Krispie. Still, he managed to make a personal connection with every single person in that amphitheater as he told stories and sang every single song for which he was ever known. We all came away dazzled.
In the sixties, he did four seasons of a variety show for CBS that I remember fondly. Some of them are coming out on DVD and the first release, which features two Christmas episodes, is now out. Click here to order one from Amazon.
The debut was celebrated tonight with an event at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills and I was there, courtesy of panel moderator Leonard Maltin. The panel consisted of Tony Charmoli (choreographer on Danny's CBS series), George Schlatter (producer of Laugh-In and other shows on which Danny appeared), Michele Lee (two-time guest on the series), Carl Reiner (occasional co-star) and Deena Kaye (Danny's daughter). Deena is spearheading and guiding the DVD project and others related to her father's legacy.
Good chat, followed by a nice party. My favorite moment of the party was congratulating Michele Lee on getting a better intro than she got the last time I saw her and us discussing what I wrote here about that night. I hope I made clear how good she was in that film. It was about as good as she's been in everything she's ever done, which is a pretty high bar. I also got to talk briefly to Julie Newmar and Vin Scully who were there and like Ms. Lee, handily defying age.
Also spoke with Karen and Kat Kramer. Karen is the widow of the great Stanley Kramer and we talked about a forthcoming deluxe DVD of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It's still being assembled and I've volunteered to help in any way I can. Kat is her daughter, a very talented singer who I raved about back in this message and this one. And I went there with a superb comedy writer friend, Ron Friedman, who among his many other credits was a writer on Danny's CBS series. I'm leaving a few other people out.
Getting back to the program, they showed some wonderful clips, including a powerful scene with Mr. Reiner and Mr. Kaye in the TV-Movie, Skokie. The closer was a duet with Louis Armstrong from the CBS series which I believe was so popular that they had Armstrong back on a season or two later so they could do it again.
I think what they showed at the museum last night was the first time they performed it and what I've embedded below is the second but it's still great. If you don't love this number, you'll never "get" Danny Kaye and there's no point in trying. If you enjoy it like I do, you're going to want the DVDs…