Sunday, December 8, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

An Interview with Frankie Man - Part Two



Kliph Nesteroff: When did you first meet Lenny Bruce?

Frankie Man: Boy, I met him when I was eighteen years old. Many, many years ago. He was just doing club dates. He did impressions. I take credit for turning him into a hipper person along with Joe Ancis. I was funny offstage and onstage, so I had one up on Joe. I hipped Lenny to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. We became good friends.


I teamed up with Jack Eagle and Lenny came to see our act. He thought it was great. He said, "Boy, you guys are unbelievable. Stay in the business long enough and you'll become stars." When he became big I wanted to see him when he was playing New York. He said, "No, I don't give out any free passes. I know too many people. I wouldn't get a salary if I did that because I take the door." That was a pretty common thing. When you became famous then all your friends wanna come see you for nothing. 


I was a musician up in the Catskills. I was the leader of the showband at the Raleigh Hotel in South Fallsburg. Buddy Hackett would come and do his act. Then I would go over to the Concord with him and Alan King. Everyone would hang out at the swimming pool. I'd show up all dressed in a nice tie. Buddy Hackett used to call me, "The Little Man." "Here comes the Little Man in his tie. Isn't he cute?"


My real name is Frank Schreiber - and Buddy Hackett changed it to Frank Man from always calling me "The Little Man." I was like his mascot. We had a secret handshake. The cops stopped him once. They searched him, patted him down. He took a package out of his coat pocket and said, "Officer, would you do me a favor and hold this?" It had his pot in it! The cop never knew it, gave it back to him, and let him drive away. 



I told Buddy that I was starting to do an act and was in need of material. He said, "Anything of mine you do will not affect my career. You're going to be doing a lot of small joints when you start out." So he gave me the Chinese Waiter and a couple other things. I pieced it together with my "trumpet impressions." I can imitate almost any famous trumpet player on my trumpet and sound exactly like them.


Clyde McCoy, Henry Busse, Harry James, Al Hirt... my favorite was doing Satchmo Louis Armstrong because I could play, sing and sound exactly like him. So that was my act. I was looking for a job and Buddy told me, "You need an agent. Go see Billy Claire in New York City and tell him I sent you." I went and saw him. He said, "Buddy Hackett sent you? Okay, where are you working?"


I said, "I'm not working. I'm looking for a job." He said, "Well, if you're not working I can't see you, so how can I book you? Come back when you're working somewhere." Couple weeks later I was working at the Boulevard in Queens in what was like a society band and I was playing trumpet. All of a sudden it was Friday night and the comedian didn't show up. His name was Frankie Keenan.


Frankie Keenan got drunk, got in an accident and didn't show up. They all said, "Well, put Frankie Man on while the audience is waiting!" So they introduced me from the orchestra and I did about forty minutes. It went over terrific! The boss said, "I want to hire you for tomorrow night." I hired a trumpet player to replace me so this time I could enter from behind the curtain - like a big star! (laughs)


On Monday I went in to see Billy Claire and he said, "Oh, you again? Where you working?" I said, "I just closed the show at the Boulevard." He said, "The Boulevard!?" It was like the Queens version of the Copa. He said, "Well, I can get you a lot of work!" And he did get me a lot of work. I never went back to being a musician again. That's how I became a comedian.


Kliph Nesteroff: What was the Boulevard like? I had heard it was owned by Morris Levy.

Frankie Man: Could be, could be. When we worked the 500 Club in Atlantic City, that was supposedly Mafia owned.

Kliph Nesteroff: Skinny D'Amato.

Frankie Man: Skinny D'Amato. I did it as Eagle and Man. Jack Eagle and I. We worked with Nat King Cole... it was the only time we worked with him. We didn't know that when you work with a star you're supposed to do fifteen minutes. We didn't know.


We opened for him and we went out and did our hour! Nobody said anything until later. Then they told us they were replacing us with a comedy team called Allen and DeWood. That was the end of our experience with Nat King Cole. We were new. We didn't know. 


We would end the act playing the Saints Go Marching In. Both playing the trumpet, we'd march through the audience and go out the back door and march back in through the front door. It was a smash. So we did that with Nat King Cole and his people weren't too happy about it. Okay. So now we're on The Ed Sullivan Show. Bob Leslie was part of a comedy team called the Leslie Brothers and they were the hottest team before Martin and Lewis. They were the hottest thing in the Catskills.


They were a tummel team long before Martin and Lewis and just as funny. They'd get up in the morning and put on their tuxedos because they'd always get a call immediately to do a club date. That's how busy they were. When they broke up, Bob Leslie became a good friend of mine and he was writing material for us. He'd make suggestions. He told us to do the Saints Go Marching In and walk through the audience on Ed Sullivan.


Our manager at that time was Willie Weber who managed Don Rickles, Henny Youngman, Phil Foster, you name it. Willie Weber would say, "I made all these big stars!" And he'd show you pictures of Phil Foster, Gene Baylos, Sonny Sands, Jackie Mason - all these people are up on the wall. When I was getting ready to sign the contract with him I looked up at the photos on the wall and they were all looking back shaking their heads at me, "No. No. Don't do it. No."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)



Frankie Man: Anyway, we were on The Ed Sullivan Show and we had this thing where Jack Eagle dressed in Bermuda shorts and I dressed in a tuxedo. I said something about them and he says, "They're not Bermuda shorts!" I say, "What are they?" He says, "They're Kosher kilts!" They told us, "You have to cut that line from your act. It's too dirty."


Kosher is too dirty (laughs). They made it like we were talking about circumcising pants. So we were at dress rehearsal and Jack had this big trunk where he takes out different hats. One was like Napoleon and he put his hand in his vest and says, "Oh, have I got heartburn." Ed Sullivan came over while we were rehearsing. He said, "Wait you guys. Put that heartburn in the beginning. Take the other bit and put it here and the other bit here." Jack said, "Mr. Sullivan, we have it all rehearsed for a certain sequence and one is supposed to follow the other." Sullivan looked us and said, "What are you guys? Actor's Studio?"


So we had to change it. Willie Weber said, "Forget about what Bob Leslie told you. You can't march through the audience on a television show! They're not going to turn the cameras around for you!" So we cut out our closing, which hurt us. Of course they can turn the cameras around. I think Marty Allen and Mitch DeWood did it, where they turned the cameras around.


Kliph Nesteroff: And they always had cameras on the crowd anyway for when Sullivan asked a celebrity to stand up and take a bow. When did you first meet Joe Ancis?

Frankie Man: Joe Ancis went one way and I went another way and we didn't actually meet. I didn't ever see him at the B&G or Hanson's.

Kliph Nesteroff: Everybody credits Joe Ancis with hipping Lenny Bruce to smoking pot and listening to jazz. You're saying that you were just as much an influence on Lenny Bruce...

Frankie Man: I certainly had quite a bit of influence on him.

Kliph Nesteroff: Who else was part of that circle? You mentioned Buddy Hackett, Lenny Bruce..

Frankie Man: Marvin Worth. He went on to produce Lenny and The Rose with Bette Midler. Buddy Hackett got him in with us because he didn't actually have that much talent. He was kind of like a follower. I don't think he ever said anything funny. He had terrible breath.



You had to stay away from him a little bit, but Buddy got him into Hollywood somehow. He wasn't a stand-up comic, he was just a friend of Buddy's and he'd hang around with us and smoke pot. It was me, Lenny, Buddy, Marvin Worth and Bob Leslie in that clique. Bob Leslie wrote for Alan King.


He wrote him several bits, but Bob's problem was he was an alcoholic. But he could stay up and write all those Garry Moore shots for Alan King. Bob Leslie changed Alan King's image even to the point of the cigar and putting the fingers in the vest and walking around with a tough voice. Bob wrote him things about health foods. "You go to a health food restaurant and yell out, 'Hey, waiter!' and he brings it."


Kliph Nesteroff: Alan King started out doing a record act, but Jack Carter told me that his initial stand-up was just a bunch of old Sam Levenson routines.

Frankie Man: Well, Bob Leslie changed his image. Took him away from wife jokes to attacking different situations. He once said to Alan, "You know, it's Christmastime coming round. I know you're paying me $750 for each bit, but is there anyway you can give me a little raise so I can get something extra for the kids?" Alan said, "I'll get another writer."


So that was that. Bob went out and got drunk. So I always had it in for Alan King because of that. "I'll get another writer." Alan King also had a drinking problem. My God. It wasn't a problem for him. Before the show he would down a pint of scotch and never seem drunk until after the show. Nobody ever knew he drank.

Kliph Nesteroff: What about Jack Roy... the original Rodney Dangerfield.


Frankie Man: Jack Roy, yeah, he didn't make it with that. He had a little guy that was managing him named Roy Duke. Somehow they figured he should change his name to Rodney Dangerfield. I always told Roy Duke that he could be famous if he changed his. "Change your name to Donald - then you'll be Donald Duke!" But he never did - and Rodney got rid of him.


Roy Duke was with Rodney all the way in the beginning, driving him everywhere and doing everything nice for him and then when he became a bigger star he left him for a bigger agent. We weren't pals, but we knew each other. I lived across the street from him at 110 W. 86th Street. I would see him at night sometimes after my club date and we would just bullshit.


Kliph Nesteroff: How about Jackie Mason?

Frankie Man: I've been imitating Jackie Mason for close to forty years. I was probably one of the first people that imitated him. Now everybody and his brother does a bad impression of Jackie Mason. The agents wanted Jackie Mason to get speech lessons when he started out. Bob Leslie talked him out of it. He said, "Keep the accent. That's going to help make you. When you have a voice people can imitate, it will help make you famous."


I was in a taxi cab. The cab driver told me, "I meet so many famous people in this cab. I met Morey Amsterdam. I met Henny Youngman." I'm talking to him and I start talking like Jackie Mason, "Well, I'll have you know I'm a very famous comedian and you don't even know who I am." So, I thought I'd trick him into saying I'm Jackie Mason. I say to him, "So, who do you think I am?" The cab driver said, "You're the one who plays the trumpet and works with that fat guy."


Kliph Nesteroff: Did you get along with Jackie Mason?

Frankie Man: Well, he came to my place in the Grove. We were casual friends. He knew that I imitated him. I even quote him in my bio. He once said, "Frankie looks more like me than I do." Ginger Reiter, the mother of Sheba Mason, called me up. They had been together a long time. She said, "Sheba is seven years old and Jackie won't help her. I have to go to court to get the alimony. He just doesn't want to help her in any way. Can you possibly put Sheba into your act? She wants to sing, act, dance and be in show business. Not the Fountainbleu or the Diplomat. Just some small shows you do."


So I coached her and we figured out fifteen minutes for Jackie Mason's daughter. You know, he had this daughter he wouldn't acknowledge. This was in all the papers, by the way. 


I would introduce her and say, "Sheba, a lot of people are wondering - are you really Jackie Mason's daughter?" She would say, [in Jackie Mason voice], "To tell you the truth - with a face like this - who else could I be?" Which got a cute laugh.

Kliph Nesteroff: July 1956, your comedy team Eagle and Man played the Gatineau Club outside Ottawa with the Hamp-Tones.

Frankie Man: Yes and we did the Cave in Vancouver. When we were there Oscar Peterson came to see our show. We went to say hello and he told us the only reason he came in was because he saw the marquee and thought we were a bird act.

Kliph Nesteroff: You knew the comedian Jackie Vernon...


Frankie Man: Jackie Vernon was originally a Jack E. Leonard type of comedian. He would attack the audience. He was a rough guy. I once fought with him, naturally. Danny Davis was a pretty good mimic and a pretty good comedy writer who used to hang out at Hanson's, but when he got onstage he wasn't funny.


He could only write funny stuff for other people. "You want fifty jokes or a hundred?" I remember one day he shaved his head and he looked like Yul Brynner. Anyway, he wrote this act for Jackie Vernon where he comes out and says, "You'd never know by looking at me that I used to be a real dull guy."


Vernon went from being like a Jack E. Leonard imitator to being a dull guy. And that became his act. I only saw him after he changed his act. I saw him at the Playboy Clubs. He did the Playboy circuit and so did Eagle and Man. There were about six that we would do. We'd go from one to the other to the other. I saw him do the dull guy and I told him, "You know, you're not going over." He said, "I know, but I'm sticking with this character. I'm going to make it with this character. You'll see."


He bombed, he bombed, he bombed, he bombed. Now, he was working - it could have been the Cave in Vancouver - and Steve Allen was in the audience. Steve was in town rehearsing for some show. They were sitting way in the back at the Cave and they were the only people there for the second show. Jackie Vernon came on stage and his opening line was, "Y'know, you'd never think it from looking at me that I was ever a dull guy." Steve fell off his chair! He thought that was so funny that he booked him on his show and that changed Jackie Vernon's career. He made it. I never thought he would ever go anywhere.


Kliph Nesteroff: You played the Elmwood Casino in Windsor, Ontario.

Frankie Man: Oh, yeah, we always played that. That was a big thing for us. It had a line of girls. When I was there I was going with one of the chorus girls and she was the emcee's girlfriend, but we were making it together and he didn't know. One night I was up in her room and there was a knock on the door. He says, "It's me. It's Jimmy. Hey, it's me! Sue! Didn't you hear! There's a fire downstairs!" I laughed. I said, "There's no fire, Sue. It's a trick." Pretty soon we see smoke. It's a real fire!


So I ran down with my trumpet and started playing I Don't Wanna Set the World on Fire. They took a picture of me with all the firemen around. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Let's get back to Lenny Bruce...

Frankie Man: I once got a call from Sally Marr. She said, "I recommended you to do the voice of Lenny Bruce. Can you send me a tape of you doing Lenny?" I sent her a tape and she played it for Steve Allen and Pat McCormick. They said, "Boy, Sally. Your son was really funny." She says, "That's not my son." They said, "What do you mean he isn't your son?"


I did the prison break or one of those routines and it sounded exactly like him. It's one of my best impressions. She told them, "It's Frankie Man - the Little Man. He does Lenny." They were going to do this show - Lenny Bruce Returns - with Jackie Gayle, Pat McCormick and some other people. They hired me to do the voice of Lenny Bruce. They wrote this story where Lenny Bruce comes back and he's in a taxi cab. Pat McCormick is the taxi driver. They were filming this and the cops pulled over the shoot because they didn't have a permit. I was in the back and in Lenny's voice I go, "Lookit this! I've been dead four years and they're still busting me!" It was for television and they paid me well.



Kliph Nesteroff: Do you remember the last time you saw Lenny Bruce?

Frankie Man: Yeah, it was in New York at the trial. Dorothy Kilgallen was on the stand and they asked her, "Where do you think the social comment is in shtupping a chicken?" That was the last time I saw Lenny.

Kliph Nesteroff: Did you and Lenny remain close?


Frankie Man: Whenever I was in town I would see him. We'd hang out or go to his room. He wanted me to try dilaudid. I said, "No, I don't use it." He said, "No, man, you just skimp off it." I said, "I'm not going to skimp off it! Give me a couple pills and I'll take em." I took a couple pills and went to sleep and that was it.


If I had taken a hit, I might have become addicted because whenever a new pill came out, I would try it, whether it was DMT or STP or LSD. But I never really got hooked on anything even though I smoked for about fifty years. Then I went to NA and I was clean for fifteen. Then I went off for a couple months and found it wasn't doing it for me either. So I went to NA again and I got two years clean coming up. I don't drink or do any drugs. I live a healthy life now and play tennis four times a week. I'll be ninety soon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Interview with Howard Storm - Part Three


Howard Storm: When I started working for Jack Rollins, I got booked at Mister Kelly's in Chicago and the Hungry i in San Francisco - where I stayed seven weeks. I went in for three and wound up staying seven or eight weeks. I loved the owner and the owner loved me, Enrico Banducci. He was great. I worked the Hungry i about three times.


Kliph Nesteroff: Was Jack Rollins responsible for getting you on The Untouchables?

Howard Storm: No, I didn't know him then. The Untouchables came when I was under contract to Desilu. Lucille Ball had that group. Oddly enough, the director of that show was a guy named John Peyser. He came in to see somebody else that they had recommended. I guess he saw me do something. I got a call an hour later from his office saying he'd like me to do this role. I had never been on television as an actor. It was great. I loved it.


Kliph Nesteroff: They placed an ad in Variety for it. "Storm Warning. Be on the look out for Howie Storm on the Untouchables tonight at 9:30."

Howard Storm: Really? I don't remember that. I wonder who planted that. I didn't do it.

Kliph Nesteroff: It says at the bottom - representation Idabelle Levine.

Howie Storm: Idabelle Levine? I don't even know who... oh... yes. Yes, yes, yes. There was a woman, a very nice woman, who lived in Panorama City... she was a nice woman and she worked very hard, but couldn't do much. After that thing I couldn't get anything. It was very exciting because I was working with Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack.


Kliph Nesteroff: May 1956, you were playing Andre's Tic-Toc Club

Howard Storm: In Syracuse, New York. Yes. There were two of them. One of them was in town and one of them was out on the road. I worked both of them. The one in town was run by the DeJohn brothers. They were kind of "connected." Mike DeJohn was a heavyweight fighter who had fought in the days of Floyd Patterson. The other brother was the best fighter of all of them, Joey DeJohn, but he was a hoodlum and wound up in jail. He was a middleweight. The third one was Ralph, who was a light heavyweight. He was retired and was the bartender at the club. He and I got friendly. He would teach me little moves because I loved boxing. We'd go backstage after the shows were over and he'd show me some moves. Andre's Tic-Toc.



Kliph Nesteroff: November 1956, you were playing John M's Safari Club

Howard Storm: Oh, yes. The Safari Club was in a little area, College Point, Long Island. It had zebra booths. I don't know where they came up with it. It was a little joint. The guy didn't even know where Africa was let alone anything do with a safari...

Kliph Nesteroff: It was you and a singer named Bob Manning...


Howard Storm: I also worked the Rustic Cabin with Bob Manning. He was a guy about six foot five with a beautiful voice. He had a recording at the time that was a hit. It was a song that Jackie Gleason wrote. Manning came from Philadelphia and he sounded somewhat like Dick Haymes.

Kliph Nesteroff: We talked about how you played the Paddock Club in Miami Beach, but September 1958 you played a place called the Club Paddock in Yonkers.

Howard Storm: That was in the Bronx. That was actually a club in the Bronx. All those clubs were just all over the place. 


Kliph Nesteroff: You were enlisted in the Desilu Revue. Were you under contract as part of a kinda company of players that Lucille Ball was training?

Howard Storm: Yes and I did nothing. Lucy didn't like me. She kept using the other actors in comedy sketches. I kept saying, "Lucy! I'm a comedian! Why aren't you putting me in any of the comedy sketches?" She said, "Don't be an ingrate." She was very strange. I loved Desi, but Lucy I found difficult. She would come up to direct you and she would want you to be like Lucy. I said to her, "Lucy, that's what you do. I don't do that." Anyway, that was Desilu.

Kliph Nesteroff: And there was a television special that featured this whole Desilu stock company that she created...


Howard Storm: Yeah, but I just walk through it in something. There's nothing that I do on the special, really. My ex-wife sang on it. Her name was Marilyn Lovell. She had a beautiful voice.

Kliph Nesteroff: One of the other people that was part of this Desilu Revue crew was Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies fame.



Howard Storm: That's right. Yes. Robert Osborne was an actor at that time and his lover was a guy named Dick Kallman who was the most evil human being I ever met. Obnoxious and mean. He always had Lucy's ear. He and Osborne were always together. For instance, we'd be rehearsing and something wouldn't work. You'd say, "I don't know if this stuff is going to work." And within two minutes Lucy was walking in through the back saying, "What do you mean it doesn't work!"


Kallman would get on the phone and call her and tell her that I was complaining about the material. What we were doing was going through the regular rehearsal process. But it was bizarre. Dick Kallman was killed in his apartment in New York. They never found the killer. He was shot. When I said to Roger Perry, who had been one of the Desilu Players... I ran into him years later... I said, "Did you hear about Dick Kallman? He was killed." Roger said, "Yeah!" With a big smile.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)


Howard Storm: And then Paul Kent. He was in the Desilu Players too. I mentioned it to Paul and he gave me a big smile and said, "Yeah, I heard he was shot to death!" I mean it was just... he was obnoxious.

Kliph Nesteroff: Dick Kallman was briefly popular. He had his own sitcom for a season.

Howard Storm: Yes. He was talented, but he was also a pain in the ass. He was mean spirited and he had Lucy's ear for a while. "He said that, she said this." Anything that was said he would report back to her. Finally, he made the mistake of telling somebody that he was screwing Lucy... which would never have happened because he was gay. It got back to Lucy and he was banned from the lot! So that was nice. I liked that.


Kliph Nesteroff: 1960 - you were attacked outside the Whalen's Drugstore at 50th and 7th Street and beat up by two men.

Howard Storm: Yeah! How do you know that?

Kliph Nesteroff: Came across it when I was running a search on your name.

Howard Storm: Really? Isn't that weird? No kidding. Wow. Yeah, two guys... it was weird. The guy said, "What are you looking at?" I said, "Nothing." And he said, "Yeah?" Out of left field he threw a punch at me and the other guy threw a punch. One of them had keys in his hands so I got cut above the eyebrow. I don't even know why that happened or what it was all about.


Kliph Nesteroff: That would have been right near Hanson's Drugstore too, right?

Howard Storm: About four blocks from there.

Kliph Nesteroff: The Hanson's Drugstore world... Joe Ancis and Jack Roy... did you ever see Rodney Dangerfield's act when he was still known as Jack Roy?

Howard Storm: No, he stopped doing that act in his twenties, I think. He went to work selling siding and made a lot of money at it. He then decided to try a comeback and he was forty-two at the time.

Kliph Nesteroff: I'm working on a section of my manuscript right now about the whole Rodney Dangerfield siding business... It was actually a big scam and he didn't do the work he was contracted to...


Howard Storm: Well, it's not that they didn't do any work. They did the work. As far as I know the work was done, but they were charging three or four times what it was worth. They would always go into poor neighborhoods. Middle class or upper class neighborhoods wouldn't buy it. But they would go into the neighborhoods where people were really struggling. The interesting thing... I did that for about a week or two because I was broke and I needed the money.


I remember stopping at a gas station and I had no money. I said to the guy, "I'll leave my wallet here. Can you give me two dollars worth of gas? I'll come back and pay, but I'll leave my wallet here." He said, "Leave your wallet and your jacket." I did and I got two dollars of gas to get home and borrow some money. It was a very rough time. So, I remember I made nine hundred and seventy dollars in one week [doing home repair] in 1958. I hated it because the people you were selling to were so gullible and wanting so much.


In those days they had what was called a jacuzzi but the tub wasn't a jacuzzi - it was a machine you put into the tub. Every house we went into had one, a barker lounge and a color TV. They would buy everything. If you asked, "Is this paid for?" They would say yes. When you checked the records, you found it wasn't paid for. They were still paying for it, but they wanted to buy the siding.

Kliph Nesteroff: So were you aware about this story about Rodney scamming people?


Howard Storm: Well, we were all scamming people. Everybody was doing it. Including me at the time. I hated doing it and I quit after the first week. They kept calling me to come back. I said, "No, if I need money I'll come back. But once I make my sale I want my money immediately. I don't want to do it on a regular basis." But I never had to. Things turned around a little bit.

Kliph Nesteroff: You mentioned Joe Ancis and he was of course associated with Lenny Bruce. Did you know Lenny?

Howard Storm: Yes. Yes, I did know Lenny. As a matter of fact, I knew his mother, Sally Marr, very well. Sally was a lovely lady and she managed different performers. She would call me when I was successful. She would call me and ask if I could help one of these kids that needed his rent money.


So I would send her a hundred, two hundred. She would never call herself. She would call Shecky. "Shecky? Sally." And he would say, "How much?" So, when Sally was broke - I don't know if you know this story - Sam Kinison was a big fan of Lenny's, so he wanted to do something for Sally. He was at Carnegie Hall for a few nights and he gave her the entire proceeds of the Saturday night show, which was a hundred thousand dollars. She pissed it away in four months. 


There was a woman living with her named Drenda, an actress. They shared the apartment. When Sally was getting sick, Drenda took care of her. I asked her, "Sally, what happened to the money? What did you do with it?" She said, "I don't know. Everybody I knew needed a new transmission." She gave it away. Dennis Klein, a successful writer, was sending her a thousand dollars a month. Jackie Gayle was giving her money every month. But she was broke. Drenda said to me, "She doesn't have any money." So I did a benefit for her. Budd Friedman gave us the Improv. We did a benefit for her, me and a guy named Bob Weide, who directed the Woody Allen documentary. Bob also directed some Larry David shows.


So, we put on a show and collected twenty-two thousand dollars - but we didn't give it to her. We had Drenda call us when she needed to have her hair done, groceries, a new dress and we would write a check for that. When she died there was about twelve thousand left. The granddaughter wanted a big funeral, so that cost nine thousand and there was a couple thousand left I gave to Drenda. But I knew Lenny Bruce from the business. I met him in 1958 when I was with Desilu. He had a little apartment, like a cottage, on Gower across from Desilu and Paramount. So, I'd go by there.

Kliph Nesteroff: When did you first meet Shecky Greene?


Howard Storm: I met Shecky in New York in 1954. He was drinking then and he was getting into trouble. You know, every once in a while we would run into each other.

Kliph Nesteroff: And what was his act like back then?

Howard Storm: Oh, it was great because you never knew what he was going to do. He would just talk about his day and what had happened that day. He was the best lounge act ever. He was getting a hundred thousand dollars a week! One of the hotels, I think it was the Sands, they gave him two points. He basically saved Las Vegas at that time.


Kliph Nesteroff: How about Buddy Hackett... 

Howard Storm: I knew Buddy quite well. I never liked Buddy because he could be very mean. I was working a club with Rusty Draper. It was a club out in Jersey near Cherry Hill. I was onstage. Buddy came in because he was friendly with Rusty Draper. Instead of just going to sit down he wound through all the tables and said hello to every customer while I was working and just destroyed my act. A year later he came into the Duplex. He came up to me and said, "You know something? You got better." I said, "Yeah, well, you didn't," and walked away.


I got friendly with him later because we would have lunch at Hamburger Hamlet in Brentwood. It would be me, Harvey Korman, Pat Harrington, Sam Denoff and Louis Nye who always brought Buddy. We would tell jokes at the table and all of a sudden Buddy had a new found respect for me because I was good at telling these jokes. He also called me and asked if I could help his daughter who wanted to be in television. I saw him every two months or so at a lunch. By then I gave up being angry with him.

Kliph Nesteroff: How about Jack Carter?


Howard Storm: I didn't know Jack until I came out here to Hollywood. We also did a television show called Touched By an Angel. It was a bunch of comics and I played his agent. I got to know Jack there. I'd see him often through Jan Murray, who I liked very much. Jan was a lovely man. I like Jack. He's crazy, but I like him.

Kliph Nesteroff: March 1962 - you were playing Bill Castle's in Bridgeport.

Howard Storm: Oh yeah, that was great. The owner was a gay guy and a lovely man who loved performers. Barbra Streisand worked it, Cavett worked it, Woody worked it. He would give you a cake after the show to take home with you. He was great and it was a great place to work. He would come out and introduce the show and tell everyone they weren't allowed to go to the bathroom while the show was on. While I was working a woman in the crowd fainted. She didn't tell anybody. Afterward someone said, "Why didn't you tell us?" She said, "I was afraid Bill would yell at me."


Kliph Nesteroff: You worked it with a guy named Skippy Cunningham.

Howard Storm: Skip Cunningham, yeah. He was a dancer. A tap dancer and singer like a Sammy Davis sorta thing and a lovely guy. We remained friends for a while out here. He called me cause he was broke and he needed his rent. I wrote a check to him. For the longest time I didn't hear from him. A year and a half went by and I called him. He said, "I'm embarrassed, I don't have the money." I said, "Yeah, but it's a friendship. All you gotta do is say I don't have it and whatever." He finally paid it back but somehow or other we drifted apart. My brother always said, "Don't lend a friend money. Give it to him." I think he's right. My lending the money kind of ended the friendship.


Kliph Nesteroff: You did a show called On Broadway Tonight. Sorta like a Talent Scouts type show.

Howard Storm: It was for people doing their first TV appearance. I think Hugh Downs introduced me. I went out and I did very well. I was coming off and Jackie Vernon was going to go on. He said, "You pulled all the laughs out." I said, "Nah, I just warmed them up for you." And I did. Because he went out and he killed 'em. He got the Sullivan show out of that. And I got nothing!


Jackie was a friend. He was a very sweet guy. Very soft-spoken, sweet man and a very talented guy. His problem, I believe, was that he always played the character of a boring guy. That was great for five or six minutes on a TV spot. When he did the Tonight Show or any of those shows - he hit big. When he got out onstage in Vegas... and you're doing forty-five minutes of the boring guy - it is boring. I think that was his problem, in my opinion.

Kliph Nesteroff: You did several episodes of The Merv Griffin Show, but one had Phil Spector on the panel, May 1965.




Howard Storm: Yes and I remember Merv gave us all longhair wigs. We put them on and then they introduced Phil Spector and he came out and, of course, had the same hair. He didn't think it was funny (laughs). I'm glad he didn't have his gun with him! But he did not think it was funny. He was annoyed (laughs). I thought it was very funny. I also did the show with Liberace. My wife was opening for Liberace on the road at the time and he was just the nicest man. A lovely man. He would always invite us for dinner at a restaurant called Villa Capri, which was Frank Sinatra's favorite.


Kliph Nesteroff: I watched an outtake reel from the sitcom that you directed starring Don Rickles and Richard Lewis.

Howard Storm: Yes, Daddy Dearest.

Kliph Nesteroff: What was your relationship like with Don Rickles? Did you know him back when you were doing stand-up?

Howard Storm: I did. I knew him way back, but during the show it was great fun. Richard was the executive producer. We would be rehearsing and Don would be getting laughs that Richard didn't realize. Richard kept saying, "I'm Bud Abbott! I've become Bud Abbott!" The show didn't last, but we laughed a lot.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, I watched the outtake reel and it's over an hour long.



Howard Storm: Yes and it's hilarious, isn't it? Don, on Halloween, we were doing a Halloween show. Don always wore those running suits with the zip up jacket and the pants. So he's standing there and the whole crew is there. He says, "Richard! Come over here! I want you to say hello to Eddie!" And he pulls his pants down. "Come say hello to Eddie. I dressed him up for Halloween!" And Richard wouldn't go near him. Wouldn't move. Blinking his eyes and getting nervous. Now Don's gotta find somebody. "Howie! Howie! Come take a look at Eddie. I dressed him up for Halloween!" He pulls his pants down, the whole crew is standing there. And I said, "Don! How'd you find such a small hat?" He says, "Okay! That's it!" From then on he called me the little dwarf Jew director.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Howard Storm: "Where's that dwarf Jew director!?"