Berle has finally made me laugh

Monday, May 26, 2014

Berle has finally made me laugh

Movie poster

My introduction to Milton Berle was right after Thanks­giving in 1949 in a movie entitled "Al­ways Leave Them Laugh­ing" but which had the com­pletely opposite effect on my parents.

We were several years away from the family's first TV set, so had zero exposure to Berle and his hugely popular Texaco Star Theater which was pulling 80% of the view­ing audience on Tuesday nights.

We piled into the family Packard and made the six mile trip from Burien down to Des Moines because my father was a big fan of Burt Lahr...

"You children loved him as 'The Cowardly Lion'...."

...but the problem was there was too little Lahr and too much Milty, and if there was anything my father despised it was "mugging," and pulling faces was Berle's forte.

"Milton Berle" was thereafter a dirty word in our house, so dire an effect had that experience had on my father!

(I think the next time I saw him was at Southampton High School in one of those Roy Radin vaudeville shows along with George Jessel and barely upright Donald O'Conner, circa 1976. Berle was in drag and wasn't funny then, either!)

The only time anything Berle-esque had invoked mirth in me was while reading Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live in which SNL writer/producer Alan Zweibel hilariously related his encounter with the per­former's storied penis.

But that wasn't Berle, only about him... what finally scored came while researching something on the 'Net and com­ing across the fact that the man was married four times, but twice to the same woman, Joyce Mathews, first in 1941 and the second time in 1949, 21 months following their initial divorce.

Asked why he married Mathews a second time, he said:

"She reminded me of my first wife."

Now that's funny!

Addendum

Apropos of nothing save the foregoing, multiple marriages between the same couples are not that unusual... among her seven trips down the aisle Joyce Mathews was also twice married to famed New York impresario Billy Rose.

Other high profile examples include Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor, Don Johnson/Melanie Griffith, Marie Osmond/Steph­en Craig, and Gloria DeHaven/Richard Fincher.

But the kings of the "multiples" has to be one of the funniest men ever: Richard Pryor with seven (or eight) marriages, twice each to Jennifer Lee (#4 and #7) and Flynn BeLaine (#5 and #6).

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