I have been in show business a long time, and remember being in the presence of Milton Berle, who had his own very privileged parking space at the Friar’s Club in Beverly Hills, where you wouldn’t dare park even if you knew full well he was not coming out that night. He was a rather tall man and jovial in his way. At the time I knew him, he had achieved a near god-like status, a living deity unparalleled in his grandeur, as far uplifted as a human being could be, particularly within the plushly lined banquet rooms of the friar’s club. I never smoked cigars in there, but there was the constant warm aroma of unlit tobacco reminding me that this was always a possibility.
Uncle Milty, or Mr. Television, would arrive with his equally tall, honeyed blond wife, glamorous as a showgirl in the middle of the day, dripping with diamonds and an actual mink stole (!), both looking 1957 when it was really more like 1990.
The Friar’s Club had good food I remember, the cobb salad positively dripping with ranch dressing, as if the greens were merely an idea, a nod to the name ‘salad’, but just in passing. There was a fairly good crab something or other, perhaps with tiny segments of Clementine and avocado. The Atkins Diet had been popular and gone through many names including ‘the drinking man’s diet’. This was the kind of food that allowed you to still drain a pitcher of martinis but remain slim in your suits.
I attended a few events at the friar’s club, sat on the deus during an early roast, ate meals and surprised many of the older gents with my comedic ability. Alan King was impressed, as was Charles Grodin. Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows were always good for a laugh, and Barbara Eden’s sterling silver beauty never tarnished.
Comedians and comic actors in general have an eternal appeal. Hollywood doesn’t necessarily blame us for aging or bulging or sagging, which is the inevitable end to all of us, as the years drag on. If you do comedy, and you are good at it, and you continue to be good and love it and try and try, you will be rewarded. Perhaps it’s because the ability is rare, and the desire to toil in the trenches of this genre is rarer still, so we are good and solid in our specialness and rarity. We exist on a plane that ravages young beauties and banishes those who have been overplayed. There’s enough time in us and on us that we can afford to have clubs, call ourselves friar’s, even though we are the most profane souls.
I couldn’t say I am a friar now, although I have been invited to a million events, they’ve never been convenient or possible for me to attend. Perhaps when I am old – or, uh, should I say, older.