Monday, January 30, 2017

Booksteve Reviews: Eddie Green by Elva Diane Green

As a kid, I remember my father talking about an old radio show called DUFFY'S TAVERN. He thought it was hilarious. "Hello, 'Duffy's Tavern, where de elite meet ta eat.' Archie da Manager speakin', Duffy ain't here. OH! Hullo, Duffy."

When a local radio station in Cincinnati started airing reruns of DUFFY'S TAVERN in the early 1980s, I shared some with my dad who was, by then, retired. Sometimes he and I would listen to them together and laugh at the corny antics and malapropisms of Archie, Miss Duffy, the Mad Russian, and Eddie, the waiter. Although I was already an adult by then, it was a definite bonding moment with my dad.

Sadly, Elva Green didn't have as many chances to bond with her dad. Her dad was Eddie Green, who played Eddie the waiter on Duffy's Tavern, and he died when she was just a toddler.

On the show, Eddie was the lone realist in a cast of dreamers, schemers, and low rent opportunists. His caustic barbs regularly cut through the bull tossed around by Archie in the same way Rochester could effortlessly cut down Jack Benny. Although laconic and laid back, Eddie was never in any way the stereotype of the subservient black character. He was treated equally to all the other characters on the show--better than some! And--again, like Rochester--he was a favorite of critics and fans alike.

And for 35 years, as far as I knew, that was all Eddie Green was ever known for.

Elva's book on her father works in several ways. As with any child's book about a parent, there's an obvious effort at re-connecting to them on multiple levels. In this case, though, she also states that she wants to acquaint readers with the fact that DUFFY'S TAVERN was far from all her father was known for!

I played Eddie the waiter once in a re-ceation of a DUFFY'S TAVERN script. Twenty years later, I played Archie the manager in a different script, opposite someone else playing Eddie. My first published short fiction in a book was a story featuring radio's Johnny Dollar visiting Duffy's Tavern. There were a couple of good dialogue scenes with Eddie that were quite well-received. I later tried my hand at updating DUFFY'S to a modern day setting, again with the bits with Eddie going over well. Finally, I worked behind the scenes on Martin Grams' thorough history of DUFFY'S TAVERN. So I knew DUFFY'S TAVERN. I just didn't know Eddie.
Turns out that Eddie Green managed to make quite a name for himself in various entertainment fields long before DUFFY'S TAVERN. As you read his biography, you get the sense that his daughter is discovering much of this history right along with you and you can at times feel her genuine excitement from the pages. 

Popular with white audiences as well as black, Eddie Green was a songwriter with many popular songs of the early 20th century under his belt. He performed in Vaudeville, in plays, very early television, at the 1939 World's Fair, on radio, and in movies. And not just any movies but rather movies he produced, directed, wrote, and starred in from his own production companies!

Not only was Duffy not there but neither was Archie. He did it all on his own, to generally great reviews. One white newspaper columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer insisted on a couple of occasions that he deserved his own spin-off as he was too good to be just a stooge to Ed Gardner.

The book delves into his professional life, analyzing step by step his path through times in which few black entertainers could reach the kind of success he had. There's also as much as possible about his personal life to give a sense of who and where he was while climbing the ladder to the Tavern.
Upon finishing the book, I felt I had just met a man whom I had seen around for a long time, but whose story I never knew. We are all of us so much more than one or two things we might be known for. Eddie certainly was, and I know that now. I listened to an episode of DUFFY'S TAVERN the other day with a whole new appreciation of Eddie--Eddie the waiter AND Eddie Green.

Thanks, Elva. You succeeded in your goal. 

Booksteve Recommends!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bob Holiday-R.I.P.

Bob Holiday passed at the beginning of the weekend. When I first read about him in early 1966, I wanted to see him as Superman but it was only on Broadway, and then not for very long. The show--IT'S A BIRD,  IT'S A PLANE, IT'S SUPERMAN gets a bad rep but it was critically well received at the time and based on the existing cast album the songs were pretty good. It was not a serious Superman nor campy in the way that year's BATMAN was campy. It was more an affectionate sendup of the character. But Bob played the character straight. During his time on Broadway, he also appeared on I'VE GOT A SECRET as well as in a TV commercial. He even took the show on the road briefly the year after it left Broadway.

You can find out much more about Bob Holiday, his career, and his passing, here:

Meet the Ploots

Somehow, I had never heard of this.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore and Jack Mendelsohn

You blink and there's two more obits. Jack Mendelsohn was mainly a behind the scenes guy but he was behind the scenes on many popular projects. Jack wrote many funny animal comics with Howie Post and also co-created the wonderful DC series, JIMMINY & THE MAGIC BOOK with Post. He also wrote for a number of late EC titles, mainly PANIC. His delightful and unique comic strip, JACKYS DIARY, debuted around the time I was born and many years later, I would receive payment from Jack for working on the Yoe Books collected version of it. After working on the King Features cartoons of the early '60s, he was a writer on the BEATLES network cartoon and then went from there to co-writing YELLOW SUBMARINE. On TV, he wrote for Carol Burnett and THREE'S COMPANY and LAUGH-IN and...well, lots of other stuff. R.I.P. Jack.

One show Jack didn't write for was MARY TYLER MOORE. Mary was a fixture on TV from the late 1950s through, well, today if one counts reruns. Best known for THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and her own self-titled sitcom, she was an early crush for myself and many others growing up in that era. Her comedic timing was never more brilliant than in the famous MTM episode, "Chuckles Bites the Dust," where she can't help but laugh at a funeral until she's told it's okay and then bawls like a baby. She could sin, she could dance, and she occasionally gave brilliant, award-nominated dramatic performances as in the feature ORDINARY PEOPLE. But at the end of the day, she was the TV Mary, who really could turn the world on with a smile. R.I.P.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Holly Tweets!

Kathy Coleman started her Twitter account back in 2012 but tweeted exactly one single tweet. Now she's back with an all-new updated Twitter page and promises cool pictures, information, and updates on the upcoming revised and updated version of her autobiography! 

Go here and follow her, please!

Monday, January 16, 2017

More Marlo

On my TV blog we once ran a photo collection on Marlo Thomas, star of my all-time favorite sitcom, THAT GIRL. Here are a few more vintage pics of her including a couple before she was THAT girl.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dick Gautier R.I.P.

I may have quickly given up on my 2017 obit site but that certainly has had no effect on the obits. Here's one I'm sorry to see. 

Dick Gautier has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. He first hit it big as the Elvis type singer in BYE BYE BIRDIE on stage.  

Television made him popular as Hymie the Robot on GET SMART.  

Where I first saw him, though, was as Hal, friend and boss to Stanley Beamish, the titular superhero of MISTER TERRIFIC. The joke, of course, was that HE looked like he should be the hero whereas Stanley certainly did not. For some reason, I have always remembered that that was the first time I had ever heard of the name, "Hal."

Although I didn't realize it was him until decades later, Dick was also Batman! In the early 1970s, a PSA turned up, usually in early morning spots locally, that featured the '60s Batman, Robin, and Batgirl making a point for equal pay for women. Clearly it was Burt Ward and clearly it was Yvonne Craig, but Adam West may have thought it too soon and didn't don the bat costume. So Dick Gautier was brought in to wear it.

He starred in other pilots, sitcoms, dramas and even a couple short-lived series

But then he got the role of Robin Hood in Mel Brooks' fondly remembered TV comedy WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN. Weirdly, Facebook has been suggesting the DVD set to me from Amazon for the past few days.

Dick was also a very talented artist and wrote books and taught classes on art.

In 1981, I traveled to Dayton, Ohio to see Dick Gautier in a performance of THE MUSIC MAN. The role of con man Professor Harold Hill was perfect for a handsome and capable actor with an always on smile and a musical theater background. 

Rest In Peace

Sunday, January 08, 2017


Well, here we are in 2017. If you're keeping up, you may have noticed that this is my first post of the Previously, I had posted a couple of times about my new blog, THE GHOSTS OF 2017. A few days into the year, I decided to delete that blog. My heart wasn't in it. Last year had just seen SO many icons pass, ending so tragically with both Carrie and her mother, Debbie. It all hit me hard at the end. I wanted to do something to memorialize those people whose lives meant something to me as they pass but it was too much. It all brings home the concepts of time and mortality.

Now, tomorrow is my birthday. I turn 58 years old. It's not ancient, and I feel much younger most of the time. But I have some health issues and 2017 is already looking to take away any hope of my keeping them under control. We all lost so much last year and stand to lose even more this year. I have to admit that I'm now closer to 60 than to 50 and while I sometimes still feel I have yet to hit my creative peak, realistically, I have to admit I may have passed it.

I've closed up shop on all my remaining blogs except for this one and FOUR COLOR SHADOWS. The rest will stay up for those who still discover them. I hope to start posting real posts again here in the next few days. Hopefully they won't ALL be obits this year.