Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On Your Marx

Little Douglas [May 25, 1974]: How do you feel tonight, Groucho?

Groucho Marx: I feel fine. I'm feeling her [Insane, abusive bitch Erin Fleming.] as a matter of fact. How do you feel?

LD: I feel absolutely lightheaded.

GM: Well, you look lightheaded

All right, that is not the best insult Groucho Marx ever dispensed. It's hardly on a level with "I've a good mind to join this club and beat you over the head with it." or "You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I'll bet he was glad to get rid of it." or "We're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did.", but it will always be a special insult to Little Douglas, as Groucho was insulting him! Hey, did Groucho ever insult you?

It's not like Little Douglas likes being insulted, of course. But Dougie worshipped Groucho Marx, pretty much beyond all else. He was and remains an atheist. To Dougie, Groucho was God, so this petty snipe is a comment he treasures.

Of course he took greater pride when, a year later, he encountered The Great Man in a Sav-On drugstore in Beverly Hills, and Groucho told him he had seen some of the Fright Night with Seymour TV shows Dougie had written, that he thought they were funny, and that he thought Dougie was a "Good Writer". That compliment from his greatest hero still can give Dougie a hard-on. Other men, when they find their manhood softening, think of me, or other lesser women, or men, to get back up to full steel. Dougie just remembers Groucho calling him a Good Writer.

Julius Henry Marx was born in New York City, the third of six sons (One of them, Babe-o, died in infancy. Sadly for all of us, he was The Funniest Marx Brother of Them All!), on October 2, 1890, which means that today would be his 117th Birthday. He later assumed the name Groucho. The source of the name has many stories, including my favorite; that he carried a "Grouch Bag" at all times. Please. The man was grouchy. Did that hairy female dwarf Grumpy get her name from carrying a "Grump Bag"? (If you're still laboring under the delusion that Grumpy was male, I refer you to my June 15th flogging, Feeling Grumpy, for the Truth about that cross-dressing dwarf.)

With his brothers, Leonard (Chico), Adolph (Later changed for no known reason in 1933 to Arthur - why would a Jewish man in 1933 not want to be named Adolph? - but known only as Harpo), Milton (Gummo), and Herbert (Zeppo), they became the greatest comedy act in history. Milton retired from performing before they hit the movies (Although his grandson Gregg Marx, one hell of a handsome hunk of Marxian talent and a friend of Little Dougie's, still acts, does voice-overs, and sings like a dream today.), but The Four Marx Brothers were the greatest comedy team in history, four men who all together, not only equalled, but actually slightly surpassed W.C. Fields.

After 5 movies for Paramount (The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, & Duck Soup), Zeppo retired from acting, becoming an agent along with Gummo (What a terrible fall from grace, from Great Comedian to an Agent! How low can a man sink?), and the Marx Brothers went to MGM, where they made two great movies, and a bunch of increasingly mediocre ones. The best of their MGM films was the magnificent A Night at the Opera. (In a still below, you can see my little-known cameo appearance in that film. That old Sousé Maggie Dumont can be seen trying to cadge a drink from me, like I'd give her my martini!) Eventually Groucho went out on his own, in movies and on TV with his game show You Bet Your Life, and was an even bigger success.

Julie, as I always called him during our many mad, torrid trysts, was a family man. Thrice married (What a piker! Three marriages is barely a start at matrimony.), he always said he preferred an evening at home with his children to a night out in Hollywood. This sounds insane to me, but maybe his kids were more interesting than mine.

Come to think of it, I can say for certain that Groucho's kids, or at least one of them (I've met Miriam, but only once, so I can't speak to how interesting she may have been, and I've never met Melinda at all.) is more interesting than my long-missing daughter. Groucho's son, Arthur (Not to be confused with his Uncle Arthur/Adolph/Harpo) is a friend of Little Douglas and myself, and treasures his autographed copy of My Lush Life. Arthur became a writer himself, and wrote movies, stage plays, and books. Among Arthur Marx's output are two Broadway plays, The Impossible Years (Also a movie. It doesn't hold up too well.) and Minnie's Boys, a musical about the early lives of the Marx Brothers which bears small resemblance to the truth, but is still great fun. (Fortunately for the Marx Brothers, Shelley Winters only played their mother on stage.) After writing books about his Dad and himself (Groucho and Me and Son of Groucho.) Arthur began writing biographies of show business acquaiti, including such subjects as Sam Goldwyn, Martin & Lewis, and Bob Hope. Arthur wrote four terrible movies for Bob Hope (After about 1955 or 1960, terrible movies were the only kind Bob made.), but has atoned for those sins by writing The Secret Life of Bob Hope, a rip-the-lid-off exposé of the ugly truth about Hope, written by a man who knew him all his life. If you want to know the truth about Bob Hope, read it. Here's a picture of Arthur relaxing in his lovely Bel-Air mansion, where I have enjoyed lovely meals (Well, meal. Arthur's wife Lois isn't as understanding as some. I wouldn't have damaged him, after all.)

Okay, Little Dougie asked me to include one more picture of Arthur. This is Lois & Arthur Marx, and Little Dougie, in November, 1972, sharing a laugh in Arthur's living room during an interview for the radio program Dougie had back then. Honestly Dougie, enough with the name-dropping. Isn't knowing me enough? (And Dougie, those sideburns, or perhaps I should say muttonchops: I know it was the 70s, but still. I'd snipe at your white turtleneck shirt also if Arthur wasn't wearing an identical one. Did you two often dress up alike?)

Groucho's last years included a major comeback, as he was embraced, sometimes literally, by Douglas's generation, and by Douglas himself, but it also included some ugly incidents, due to that insane, abusive bitch Erin Fleming, who got her mad hooks into Groucho so deep that his son had to take her to court to free his father from her. But Groucho went on to do sold-out one-man shows at Carnegie Hall and The Dorothy Music Chandler Pavilion Center. Little Douglas was in the audience for that latter show. In fact, in January 1977, Little Douglas was present at Groucho's last-ever public appearance, although Douglas's presence was not the reason for it being Groucho's last-ever appearance.

Groucho's body died the same week as Elvis, although for reasons surpassing my understanding, that mush-mouthed, drunken, fat, hillbilly junkie singer's death has always gotten more press. I don't see why. So that crazy old druggie finished the long process of destroying himself. So what? Groucho Marx was dead! The Sun was gone from the skies!

But Groucho's spirit lives on. Give the Caveman premiere a pass tonight (There might be a second episode broadcast, though not if we're lucky.), and slap a Marx Brothers movie into your DVD slot, and celebrate Groucho's birthday.

Cheers darlings.

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