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The Celebrity Archaeology Podcast


May 20, 2018

Buddy Hackett was an American comedian and actor. His best remembered roles include Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man (1962), Benjy Benjamin in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Tennessee Steinmetz in The Love Bug (1968), and Scuttle in The Little Mermaid (1989). Hackett was born in Brooklyn, New York to Anna and Philip Hacker, an upholsterer and part-time inventor. He grew up on 54th and 14th Ave in Borough Park, Brooklyn, across from Public School 103. He graduated from New Utrecht High School in 1942. While still a student, he began performing in nightclubs in the Catskills Borscht Belt resorts as "Butch Hacker". He appeared first at the Golden Hotel in Hurleyville, New York, and he claimed he did not get one single laugh. He enlisted in the United States Army during World War II and served for three years in an anti-aircraft battery. Hackett's first job after the war was at the Pink Elephant, a Brooklyn club. It was here that he changed his name from Leonard Hacker to Buddy Hackett. He made appearances in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and continued to perform in the Catskills. He acted on Broadway, in Lunatics and Lovers, where Max Liebman saw him and put him in two television specials. Hackett's movie career began in 1950 with a 10-minute "World of Sports" reel for Columbia Pictures called King of the Pins. The film demonstrated championship bowling techniques, with expert Joe Wilman demonstrating the right way and Hackett (in pantomime) exemplifying the wrong way. Hackett would not return to movies until 1953, after one of his nightclub routines attracted attention. With a rubber band around his head to slant his eyes, Hackett's "The Chinese Waiter" lampooned the heavy dialect, frustration, and communication problems encountered by a busy waiter in a Chinese restaurant: "No, we no have sprit-pea soup ... We gotta wonton, we got eh-roll ... No orda for her, juss orda for you!" The routine was such a hit that Hackett made a recording of it, and was hired to reprise it in the Universal-International musical Walking My Baby Back Home (1953), in which he was third-billed under Donald O'Connor and Janet Leigh. Hackett was an emergency replacement for the similarly built Lou Costello in 1954. Abbott and Costello were set to make a feature-length comedy Fireman, Save My Child, featuring Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Several scenes had been shot with stunt doubles when Lou Costello was forced to withdraw due to illness. Universal-International salvaged the project by hiring Hugh O'Brian and Hackett to take over the Abbott and Costello roles, using already shot footage of the comedy duo in some long shots; Jones and his band became the main attraction. [caption id="attachment_1069" align="alignright" width="226"] Buddy Hackett in Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)[/caption] Hackett became known to a wider audience when he appeared on television in the 1950s and '60s as a frequent guest on variety talk shows hosted by Jack Paar and Arthur Godfrey, telling brash, often off-color jokes, and mugging at the camera. Hackett was a frequent guest on both the Jack Paar and the Johnny Carson versions of The Tonight Show. According to the board game Trivial Pursuit, Hackett has the distinction of making the most guest appearances in the history of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. During this time, he also appeared as a panelist and mystery guest on CBS-TV's What's My Line? and filled in as emcee for the game show Treasure Hunt. He made fifteen guest appearances on NBC-TV's The Perry Como Show between 1955 and 1961. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World "Smiler" Grogan (Jimmy Durante), an ex-convict wanted by police in a tuna factory robbery fifteen years ago and currently on the run, careens his car off twisting, mountainous State Highway 74 near Palm Desert, California and crashes. Five motorists stop to help him: Melville Crump (Sid Caesar), a dentist; Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters), a furniture mover; Dingy Bell (Mickey Rooney) and Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett), two friends on their way to Las Vegas; and J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle), an entrepreneur who owns the Pacific Edible Seaweed Company in Fresno. Just before he dies (literally kicking a bucket), Grogan tells the five men about $350,000 buried in Santa Rosita State Park near the Mexican border under "… a big W". Everyone experiences multiple setbacks on their way to find the money. In the role of a lifetime, Benjamin (Hackett-above far right) charters a modern plane at an aviation club with MIckey Rooney, but when their wealthy alcoholic pilot (Jim Backus) knocks himself out drunk, Rooney and Hackett are forced to fly and land the plane themselves. Buddy Hackett's penchant for lampooning is over the top in the scene of Rooney and Hackett trying to fly a twin engine private plane. Hackett died on June 30, 2003, at his beach house in Malibu, California, at the age of 78. His son, comedian Sandy Hackett, said his father had been suffering from diabetes for several years and suffered a stroke nearly a week before his death which may have contributed to his demise. Two days later, on July 2, 2003, he was cremated and his ashes were given to family and friends. Ernest Borgnine Ernest Borgnine born Ermes Effron Borgnino was an American actor whose career spanned over six decades. He was noted for his gruff but calm voice, Machiavellian eyebrows, and gap-toothed Cheshire Cat grin. A popular performer, he had also appeared as a guest on numerous talk shows and as a panelist on several game shows. Borgnine's film career began in 1951, and included supporting roles in China Corsair (1951), From Here to Eternity (1953), Vera Cruz (1954), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) and The Wild Bunch (1969). He also played the unconventional lead in many films, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for Marty (1955). He achieved continuing success in the sitcom McHale's Navy (1962–1966), in which he played the title character, and co-starred as Dominic Santini in the action series Airwolf (1984–1986), in addition to a wide variety of other roles. Borgnine earned his third Primetime Emmy Award nomination at age 92 for his work on the 2009 series finale of ER. He was known as the voice of Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants from 1999 until his death in 2012. He had earlier replaced the late Vic Tayback as the voice of the villainous Carface in both All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996) and All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series (1996–1998). Early life Borgnine was born on January 24, 1917, in Hamden, Connecticut, the son of Italian immigrants. Borgnine's parents separated when he was two years old, and he then lived with his mother in Italy for about four and a half years. By 1923, his parents had reconciled, the family name was changed from Borgnino to Borgnine, and his father changed his first name to Charles. Borgnine had a younger sister, Evelyn Borgnine Velardi (1925–2013). The family settled in New Haven, Connecticut, where Borgnine graduated from James Hillhouse High School. He took to sports while growing up, but showed no interest in acting. He studied acting at the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, then moved to Virginia, where he became a member of the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.[18] It had been named for the director's allowing audiences to barter produce for admission during the cash-lean years of the Great Depression. In 1947, Borgnine landed his first stage role in State of the Union. Although it was a short role, he won over the audience. His next role was as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. In 1949, Borgnine went to New York, where he had his Broadway debut in the role of a nurse in the play Harvey. More roles on stage led him to being cast for decades as a character actor. McHale's Navy Borgnine as Lieutenant Commander McHale in McHale's Navy in 1963 In 1962, Borgnine signed a contract with Universal Studios for the lead role as the gruff but lovable skipper, Quinton McHale, in what began as a serious one-hour 1962 episode called Seven Against the Sea for Alcoa Premiere, and later reworked to a comedy called McHale's Navy, a World War II sitcom, which also co-starred unfamiliar comedians Joe Flynn as Capt. Wally Binghamton and Tim Conway as Ens. Charles Parker. The insubordinate crew of PT-73 helped the show become an overnight success during its first season, landing in the Top 30 in 1963. Like the McHale character, Borgnine was a longtime navy man in real life. He thrived on the adulation from fans for their favorite navy man, and in 1963 received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. At the end of the fourth season, in 1966 low ratings and repetitive storylines brought McHale's Navy to an end. Tim Conway said about the sitcom: "You know, we were all guys, it was about the war, and about men, so, there weren't many women working on the show, so we can spit, talk, swear, and everything—smoke? Gosh. So, it was male oriented." Conway once referred to Borgnine making new friends off of the Universal set, "It was the beginning of the trams, going through Universal. Ernie was probably one of the few people at Universal, who would stop the trams and say, 'Hello, how are you?' He would talk to everybody at the tram." While the show McHale's Navy was going strong, Tim had also said of Borgnine's short-lived marriage to Ethel Merman, "Ernie is volatile. I mean, there's no question about that; and Ethel was a very strong lady. So, you put 2 bombs in a room, something is going to explode, and I guess it probably did." He also said about the cancellation of McHale's Navy was, "We had gone from the South Pacific to Italy, and then, once in a while, we got to New York or something. The storylines were beginning to duplicate themselves. So, they actually said, 'Maybe, they had its run!'". Conway kept in touch with Borgnine for more than 40 years, while living not too far from one another. In 1999, the duo reunited to guest-voice in several episodes of the popular 2000s animated comedy, SpongeBob SquarePants. Katy Jurado's death in 2002 drew Borgnine and Conway much closer, as Tim had heard so much of the actress's death. He said he heard his resisting friend once referred to one of his ex-wives, "Beautiful, but a tiger." After Conway lost his TV captain, he later said, if Borgnine was more than likely to have died an Italian count, had it not been for Mussolini, "I can't envision him as a count," Tim had also said about McHale's Navy debuted, a half a century ago, boosting both ABC and the Navy fortunes: "But maybe as a king---certainly not a count." The last thing he said about his acting mentor's long career: "There were no limits to Ernie," said Conway, "When you look at his career---Fatso Judson to Marty, that's about as varied as you get in characters and he handled both of them with equal delicacy and got the most out of those characters. Borgnine died of kidney failure on July 8, 2012 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, with his family at his side. He was 95 years old.   Links: The Book: https://amzn.to/2HrXUUS The Podcast on iTunes: https://apple.co/2HGtPQZ The Podcast on Anchor: https://anchor.fm/celebrity-archaeology-podcast The podcast on Google Play: http://celebrityarchaeologypodcast.com/gpm The site: http://CelebrityArchaeology.com