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Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla: An All-Time Turkey

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Our story begins in November of 1950, when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were making one of their appearances on the popular weekly variety show The Colgate Comedy Hour. At the end of one of their comedy sketches on the show, a 16-year-old kid named Sammy Petrillo made an appearance as a baby Jerry Lewis, in a crib. Sammy was paid "around $600" for the gig -easy money- he had no lines. A few weeks later, Sammy made another guest appearance as a Jerry Lewis clone on Eddie Cantor's Colgate Comedy Hour turn (the show featured rotating guest hosts).

Actually, our story began 16 years earlier, when Sammy Petrillo was born in the Bronx, in 1934. Like Jerry Lewis, Sammy was born into a show business family. And also like Jerry, Sammy began performing at a very early age and would sometimes join his father onstage when he was performing in the Catskills.

Already bitten by the show biz bug, as a teenager, Sammy enrolled in the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. The turning point of Sammy Petrillo's life occurred one innocent day- when he was getting a haircut.

Sammy: “One day I went down to the Annex at the High School of Performing Arts. The Annex was a trade school and they had people who were learning how to cut hair. And so I got a freebie haircut and the guy cut my hair and he started to laugh. And I said, 'Whatta ya laughing at?' and he said, 'You look just like that Jerry Lewis!' And I said, 'Get outta here!' And everywhere I walked, people laughed and asked me if I was Jerry Lewis, it was unbelievable. And Jerry Lewis at the time, I guess, had made his second motion picture, My Friend Irma Goes West. I really didn't know that much about him. I kinda caught some glimpses of the movie and I saw he went, 'Ack! Ack! Ack!' And he talked kinda high... And I said, 'Gee, maybe I do resemble that guy and I can do that kind of a laugh, I could do that kind of a voice."

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"Can't Buy Me Love" by the Beatles

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

In January of 1964, the Beatles were in Paris, staying at the five-star hotel, the famous Georges V. They were staying there during the 18 days of concerts they were giving at Paris' Olympia Theater. This was to be the last concert residency of the Beatles before they made their legendary first trip to America to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show in early February.

John and Paul had an upright piano sent up to their room for them compose new songs on. In these early days of Beatlemania, John and Paul still pretty much composed together. "Eyeball to eyeball, nose to nose"-type composing, as John would later call it.

But the new song the two composers came up with was not to be the usual Lennon-McCartney collaboration. This was no joint effort, this song was Paul's baby. It would also become one of the first McCartney "classics." It was to be very rare in the early canon of Beatle records, in that it is completely sung by just one person- none of the legendary "Beatle harmonies" or any background vocals whatsoever. No, this one was Paul's and Paul's alone.

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Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

The talkie revolution had been steadily rising in motion pictures since the late 1920's. Charlie Chaplin, the world's most famous and beloved movie figure, had resisted joining the growing revolution with his most recent film City Lights in 1931.

Chaplin's follow-up film, Modern Times, was originally planned and scheduled to be Chaplin's first full-length talkie. Charlie had written an entire sound script and it looked like Chaplin's world famous persona, "the little tramp," would finally be speaking in a movie, in this, Chaplin's 77th motion picture. But after giving the idea second thoughts, Chaplin shifted gears and decided to go back to the idea of a silent film. The little tramp, he reasoned, was a universal figure, and with the first words he spoke, he would lose much of his worldwide audience.

Production on Modern Times (the film's working title was The Masses) began on October 11, 1934. Modern Times would tell the story of Chaplin's tramp being caught up in the ever-growing industrial world and how he coped with it.

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Thelma and Louise: The First Female Buddy Picture

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Callie Khouri, a 30-year-old music-video line producer, was driving home to her apartment in Santa Monica on a spring day in Los Angeles in 1988. She didn't realize it at the time, but during this seemingly routine drive back to her home, Callie was about to experience an epiphany. The words came to her and hit her like a bolt from the blue: Two women go on a crime spree.

"That one sentence!" Callie recalled, "I felt the character arcs- I saw the whole movie."

Unlike so many others in Hollywood, Callie had never even tried to write a screenplay before, but thoughts and ideas kept flooding into her mind. "I saw, in a flash, where those two women started and where they ended up. Through a series of accidents, they would go from being invisible to being too big for their world to contain," she added.

Furiously inspired, Callie began writing, in longhand, and kept going, adding more whenever she had spare time, for the next six months. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, more and more of the story came together for her. She would write whenever possible, at odd, free hours, then type out what she had written on her office computer.

The story gradually fleshed out- two women from Arkansas, one older than the other, one a waitress, one a housewife, both in mediocre relationships, one married, one not. The two women want to escape and go off to a borrowed fishing cabin, have some fun, a few laughs, and maybe find a little adventure and excitement to spice up their fairly tedious, drab lives. On the drive to the cabin they decide to stop off at a roadside cafe and have a drink or two.

But things go off the rails at the cafe, one of the women has a few drinks and a guy she had been innocently dancing with tries to rape her. In what would quickly become a nightmare scenario, her friend sees the attempt and fatally shoots the man. The planned fun but innocent weekend escalates into full scale getaway from increasing numbers of various and sundry lovers, strangers, police and G-men.

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An Acid Trip with Groucho Marx

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

In 1968, Groucho Marx signed on for the final movie role in his legendary career. Groucho agreed to play a mobster called "God" in a terrible movie called Skidoo, directed by famed director Otto Preminger. The film starred Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing.

It also featured an all-star (and eclectic) cast including Mickey Rooney, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Peter Lawford, George Raft, and Frankie Avalon. The fact of Gorshin, Romero, and Meredith all appearing  would indicate some kind of Batman love by either the film's writer or someone behind the scenes. The three actors had famously played the three most popular guest villains on the show i.e. the Riddler, the Joker and the Penguin. That, plus the fact that Otto Preminger himself had played Mr. Freeze on the series, too.

With such an intriguing cast, all systems were go for the filming on location in San Francisco (Interestingly, John Wayne had donated the use of his personal yacht to be used as Groucho's yacht in the film.)

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Jerry Lewis in The Bellboy

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

 Jerry Lewis had just wrapped up filming his latest movie Cinderfella in December of 1959. Everything was fine and dandy until Paramount executives informed Jerry that they wanted Cinderfella to be Jerry's annual summer release. Jerry disagreed and wanted Cinderfella, a fantasy film based on Jerry Lewis playing a male version of cinderella, to be put on hold. Jerry figured Cinderfella was more a film for the holiday season and wanted it released at Christmas time.

Fair enough, said Paramount, but we still will need our Jerry Lewis summer film to placate the kids who are out of school. Jerry promised Paramount head Barney Balaban that he would deliver a replacement film for Cinderfella, a film that would be all ready for the kiddies to view during the summer months.

Jerry was performing at the Fontainbleau Hotel in Miami at the time. While performing two shows a night, Jerry still managed to churn out a whopper of a script. The original script, which Jerry called The Bellboy, was 165 pages (enough for a two hour movie). It took Jerry eight days to write.

The filming would take place while Jerry was performing his two shows nightly at the Fontainbleu. Jerry (God only knows how) would perform nightly and shoot The Bellboy during the daytime hours. No word on just how he managed to get sleep, or how much sleep Jerry got, during this must-have-been-hectic period.

Perhaps to cut costs, or maybe because of the time factor, most of the other actors in the film were actually performers who happened to be appearing in Miami at the same time as Jerry. The Bellboy began production on February 8, 1960.

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Queen of the Extras: The Bess Flowers Story

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Bess Flowers was born in Sherman, Texas, on November 23, 1898. While growing up, her father was extremely strict. When Bess dated boys, her father would always bawl them out, much to Bess's consternation. She finally grew tired of her dad's boorish behavior, and "borrowing" the extra money her mother kept stashed in the family sugar bowl, she decided to leave home and head for New York. "I was going to New York because I wanted to be an actress," she was to recall.

But at the train station, Bess spotted a poster with oranges on it, advertising another destination. "What the devil," she impulsively decided, "I'll go to California and get into pictures." Little did she know that not only would she "get into pictures," she would become the most prolific actress (or actor, for that matter) in the history of motion pictures.

Bess actually could never remember the name of the first movie she appeared in, but she did recall it was at Metro in 1922. "I got a job the first day I went on an interview," she remembered. In 1923, Bess made her first known and documented movie appearance, as an un-credited extra in the silent film Hollywood. She appeared in two more films in 1923, then took the next two years off (for whatever unknown reason) before beginning her amazing career as an extra in earnest.



For the next 38 years, beginning in 1926, Bess Flowers was to be an "uncredited extra" in over 350 feature films, not counting many comedy shorts. She is generally accepted by most sources as the performer who appeared in the most movies.

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The Beatles Go To Hamburg

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

"I was born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg"

-John Lennon

In August of 1960, a young and struggling group of teenage musicians from Liverpool often hung out, and played occasional gigs, at a club called the Jacaranda. By this time, after many changes, the group had finally decided to call themselves "the Beatles." The Jacaranda was run by a small-time promoter and hustler named Allan Williams. The Jac, as it was known, was actually the hangout of several Liverpool bands, all hanging around, waiting for their "big break."

In the early months of 1960, Williams had sent one of these local bands to Hamburg, Germany, to play. This first group was Derry and the Seniors, one of the hundreds of Liverpool bands which existed at the time. This experiment had proven successful and now, an "entrepreneur" in Hamburg, Bruno Koschmider, was asking for a second band to come over and play for his nightclub customers.
 
Williams's first choice was a top-rate local band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, which featured a flashy drummer named Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey. But Rory and his boys were booked up, at the time committed to playing the summer at Butlin's Holiday Camp. Williams also tried to get Gerry and the Pacemakers, but they too declined.

Hard up to find a group, Williams next asked the Beatles, who happily accepted.

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Horse Feathers: the Marx Brothers at Their Best

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Who doesn't love the Marx Brothers? These four (and later, three) masters of mirth gave us 13 classic comedies, each one hilarious- to varying degrees.

Although their fourth film Horse Feathers (1932) is unbelievably hilarious on the funny meter, other Marx Brothers outings are usually cited by critics and film aficionados as either their best or superior. Interestingly and oddly, each of the three main Marx Brothers had their own particular favorite of their films, and none chose Horse Feathers.

The film has certainly held up well and stood the test of time. In 2000, the American Film Institute chose Horse Feathers as number 65 on their prestigious list of the 100 Funniest American Comedy Films of all-time ("100 years... 100 laughs"). Whatever.

Norman Z. McLeod, a rare directing survivor of two Marx Brothers movies (he had also directed the boys' previous effort, 1931's Monkey Business), was at the helm.

Basic scenario: Groucho plays Quincey Adams Wagstaff, the president of Huxley College (Thomas Henry Huxley had been an ardent and well-known advocate of Darwin's theory of evolution). Harpo is Pinky, the local dog catcher, and Chico is Baravelli, a resident deliverer of bootleg liquor. Zeppo plays Frank Wagstaff, Groucho's son.

Blonde bombshell Thelma Todd, playing Connie Bailey, the "college widow," is the ostensible love interest of all four Marxes. Although "college widow" is now, these eighty-odd years later, an archaic descriptive expression, at the time it was a slightly derogatory term, meaning a woman of loose morals who lived near a college so she could be close to the male students (ahem).

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Does Eating Turkey Really Make You Sleepy at Thanksgiving?

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

"Turkey makes you sleepy" is a commonly accepted, although false belief that usually crops up most commonly during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This is one I bought into for many years. I even had a girl tell me that eating some turkey before I go to bed would help cure my insomnia. We hear these "commonly accepted" theories, beliefs, or myths and because most of us are trusting or we hear them from "reliable sources," we swallow them (no pun intended). No real harm is done, just that we absorb a little more false data into our lives and our knowledge. Nowadays, we call it "fake news."

(Image credit: Tony Alter)

Okay, the story is that turkey makes you sleepy because it contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid, a protein which is very necessary to human bodies. And true, tryptophan, in certain amounts, can make you sleepy or drowsy. But the fact is that chicken and ground beef each contain almost as much tryptophan as turkey. Cheese and pork actually contain significantly more.

So why does turkey "seem" to make us sleep, especially during the holidays?

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Russell Johnson: More Than "the Professor"

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Russell Johnson Jr. was born on November 10, 1924 to Russell and Minnie Johnson in Ashley, Pennsylvania. Russell was the second oldest of six children (three brothers and two sisters). His father, Russell Johnson Sr., died in December of 1932, when Russell was just eight. Sadly, his little brother, Paul Wesley Johnson, died shortly thereafter. Minnie was to re-marry, to a man named Thomas L. Lewis.

As a teenager, Russell attended Girard College, a private school for fatherless boys in Philadelphia. After graduating, Russell enlisted in the US Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. After finishing his training, Russell was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Russell flew 44 combat missions in the Pacific theater during World War II, as a combat bombardier in B-25 twin-engined medium bombers. On March 4, 1945, while flying with the 100th bombardment squadron, his B-25 and two others were shot down during a low-level bombing and strafing run against Japanese military targets in the Philippine Islands. Russell broke both ankles in the landing and one of his fellow pilots was killed.

He received a Purple Heart for his injuries, as well as an air medal, the Atlantic-Pacific medal with 3 campaign stars, the Philippine Celebration Medal with one campaign star, and the World War II victory medal. After Japan's surrender, he was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant in November 1945. He joined the Air Force Reserves and used the G.I. Bill to study acting at the actor's lab in Hollywood.

He met his second wife, Kay Cousins, there and married her in 1949. (He had previously been married to Edith Cahoon for five years, 1943-1948.)

Russell began his diverse and eclectic career as a young actor with an appearance on a short-lived TV series called Fireside Theater in 1950, playing the role of a sailor. He made his first "notable" appearance on TV in The Adventures of Superman (filmed in 1951, broadcast in January 1953) in an episode called "The Runaway Robot," playing a gangster called "Chopper."

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The Music Box: Laurel and Hardy's Oscar-Winning Short

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

 In the minds of countless millions of moviegoers the world over, certain celluloid images are indelible. There's Clark Gable looking dashing in his Rhett Butler garb, telling Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." There's Judy Garland dancing down the yellow brick road with her three companions, Humphrey Bogart in his Casablanca trench coat, Charlie Chaplin waddling down the road with cane in hand, and Harold Lloyd hanging from that big clock on that tall building.

Which brings us to the movie with the world's most beloved comic duo trying to push a piano up a seemingly insurmountable flight of stairs.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy filmed The Music Box during an 11-day span, from December 7th through December 17th, in 1931. Although they may not have realized it during those 11 days, they were filming not only their most enduring cinematic image and their single most beloved short, but their only film in the over 100 they worked on together to be awarded an Academy Award.

Some original titles for the The Music Box were Top Heavy, Words and Music and The Up and Up. One has to wonder if they hadn't ultimately decided on the much catchier The Music Box, would this short have achieved it's "classic" status and immortality.

The plot is simple enough: two dimwits (Stan and Ollie) are assigned to deliver a piano to a home on top of a huge flight of stairs. Various perils, mistakes, confusions mess-ups and angry encounters occur along the way (as if you didn't suspect). As in any Laurel and Hardy film, the boys are inept and incompetent due to three major factors: other's interference, the laws of nature, but most of all their own stupidity.

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The Dating Game

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Long before we watched The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, in a land far, far away... (Sorry to be so snarky.) On December 20, 1965, a new and different game show called The Dating Game came on the air.

The usual concept was an attractive bachelorette questioning three bachelors, as they were hidden behind a big screen, so the bachelorette couldn't see them. She would ask the guys several questions, then choose one to go on a date, all the while never seeing what the guy looked like.

Sometimes the concept would be reversed and there would be a bachelor grilling three bachelorettes, but the three guys idea was much more prevalent. I always liked the three bachelorettes concept better. Heck, three cute girls to look at instead of one!

All female guests on the show, whether the questioning bachelorette or one of the three questioned bachelorettes, always wore an obligatory miniskirt (the better to attract male viewers).

Although kind of similar to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, The Dating Game was more like a blind date, albeit one where you could hear your potential partner and even grill them a little before an ultimate meet took place.

According to the show's creator, Chuck Barris, although The Dating Game was taped in the relatively tame '60's and '70's, some of the male guests answers to the girl's questions were incredibly lewd and raunchy. All tapes of the show were carefully censored by the suits at ABC to make sure nothing too suggestive got through to shock or offend the home viewers.

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Ty Cobb and the Strangest Batting Race Ever

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie

The 1910 American League batting race would be classified as, unequivocally, the most bizarre in the history of baseball. The race was a two-man battle between two baseball dichotomies. These two divergent hitters were both incredibly talented batsmen and would both end up enshrined in the baseball hall of fame. But, as men, they inhabited two opposite polar extremes.

Napoleon “Nap" Lajoie was a gentle, good-natured, friendly second baseman for the Cleveland team. Because of Lajoie's great popularity and in his honor, the Cleveland team actually changed their name to the Cleveland “Naps". By 1910, Lajoie, besides being beloved by both his teammates and the fans, had already won four batting titles.

On the opposite pole, Ty Cobb, by 1910, was already the most hated and reviled player in all of baseball. A notorious racist, misogynist, bully, bigot, and all around misanthrope, Cobb was hated, not only around the rest of the league, but by many of his own teammates. Nonetheless. Cobb was widely respected as a great hitter, having won the AL batting crown in 1907, '08, and '09.

To spice up the race, Hugh Chalmers of the Chalmers Motor Car Company was offering a brand new Chalmers Model 30 automobile to the eventual winner.



Lajoie had almost a 30 point lead in the race by mid-July and looked like a good bet to win the new auto. But by early September, Cobb had whittled the lead down to eight points.

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Popeye and the Great Spinach Myth

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Everyone knows Popeye the sailor. And everyone knows his secret. Whenever the cartoon sailor is on the verge of a fight, he squeezes open a can of spinach, pours the greens down his throat, and uses his muscles to pummel his opponent (almost inevitably fellow sailor Bluto, his arch-enemy.)

As an interesting sidebar, in the classic Popeye animated cartoons, it wasn't always Popeye who eats the spinach. In one Popeye cartoon, he actually forces the spinach down Bluto's throat, so Bluto will work him over and he'll get sympathy from his dream girl, Olive Oyl.

Even Olive Oyl eats her spinach in one rare Popeye cartoon. A Mae West-like competitor is flirting a little too intimately with Popeye in a gym and Olive gets fed up, downs some spinach, and proceeds to beat the crap out of her competition.

Few people know that the U.S. government is directly responsible for Popeye's dependence on the canned green vegetable.

In the 1930's, America was mired in the Great Depression. The U.S. government was looking for a way to promote iron-rich spinach as a meat substitute. To help spread the word, they decided to hire one of America's favorite celebrities, Popeye the Sailor Man.

It was a smart plan. And it worked like a charm.

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