Monday, May 26, 2008

No More Dick!

First off darlings, my apologies for not posting for so long. I posted a piece on the TV broadcast of a live production of CAMELOT two weeks ago, but some sort of horrid computer glitch caused it to completely screw up my flog layout, and I had to delete it to get my page back to normal, and then flogger was utterly glitched up and refusing to let me post at all. It only just cleared up today, in time for me to post this short, very sad piece. I hope to repost the Camelot piece later on this evening, if Little Dougie can stay awake long enough. It's dated now, but it contained some material that was very personal to Dougie, so he'll try to put it up again.

The horrible-sounding title of this entry certainly expresses my feelings, for sweet, wonderful, funny comic genius Dick Martin has died, and there's nothing funny about that. Longtime readers of this flog know that often, when people die, I post their picture with a circle with a diagonal line across it, the "NO" symbol, slapped across their faces. I just couldn't bring myself to do that to Dick's picture, because I loved him just too much.

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were one of the greatest comedy teams ever! Dan was a world-class straight man (in every possible sense), and Dick was an inspired comic, a naturally funny man, with flawless timing. And of course, 40 years ago, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In utterly revolutionized TV comedy. It's been 20 years since Dan died. (The man was never without a cigarette!), and now, with Dick's passing, the team is gone forever.

When he was 18 years old, Little Dougie had a real privilege. His friend and mentor, "Sweet Dick" Whittington, was added to the cast of
Laugh-In, then the number one show on television. In the cast picture above, that's Sweet Dick at the top of the ladder and the picture. As Whittington's guest, Little Dougie got to come down to NBC in Beautiful Downtown Burbank, and hang out on stage 4, where Laugh-In was shot, every Wednesday and watch the show being shot. Here's a picture of Little Dougie with Sweet Dick in 1972, when they invaded and conquered Santa Catalina Island, Dougie's sole military service.

There was no real studio audience (Shooting was slow, and often lasted well into the night.), just guests who stayed for as long or as short as they cared to. Dougie always stayed until the bitter end, as there was no where else on earth he would rather have been. He was soaking up knowledge, and hanging out with the funniest and most famous folk in show business. He got to see such guests as Jack Benny (or as Dougie sometimes called him, "God"), Laurence Harvey, Sammy Davis Jr., Victor Borge, Flip Wilson, Sonny & Cher, Paul Winchell, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gina Lollobrigida, and many, many others shoot guest spots.

And he got to hang with the Laugh-In cast. On the rare occasions when he got up the nerve to speak to Dick Martin, he found him approachable, affable, friendly, charming, and funny, funny, funny. Anyone who ever saw him perform knows that he was a consummate comedian. And Dougie has never forgotten his kindness and generosity to the star-stuck 18 year old comedy groupie that Dougie was then.

After the completely amicable break-up of Rowan & Martin in 1977, Dick Martin made the game show guest star rounds, but quickly found that boring to his far more creative mind, so he went into directing. Check out his directing resumé: 17 episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, episodes of House Calls, Flo, Archie Bunker's Place, Family ties, Mama's Family, The Redd Foxx Show, Brothers, Newhart, Sledge Hammer, Bob, In the Heat of the Night. He was a comedy powerhouse.

And he didn't stop performing, doing many guest shots on many different shows. Little Dougie has a close friend who spent five years on the writing staff of The Nanny. (There's 5 years in Hell!) When Dick Martin shot a guest role on that show, Fran "The Harridan" Dresher ignored the "Has-Been," when she should have been sitting at his feet, absorbing anything he had to say. Dick Martin forgot more about comedy than Fran ever has or ever will know. Dougie's friend understood the unique privilege of working around Dick Martin, and soaked up all she could from him.

And if his work as a comedian, comedy writer, and TV director weren't enough, do you know what his job was before he became a comic? He was a bartender! This wasn't a man. This was a God! It was realized that he was a gifted comic when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis played the club where he bartended, and Dick behind the bar was getting more laughs than Martin & Lewis, not that there's much difficulty being funnier than Jerry Lewis. Naturally Jerry wanted him fired, but Dean, a far more generous and selfless man than Jerry "World's Biggeest Ego With World's Smallest Justification" Lewis, helped him connect with a partner and launch a career.

I realize that Dick was 86, but so what? I will be 111 on Thursday (Address your gift bottles of vodka to "Tallulah Morehead, Morehead Heights, Los Angeles, California."), and you don't see me dying do you? Dick has had only one functioning lung since he was a teenager. Organs are like that. Do you have any idea how many livers I've gone through? When Robert Altman had his heart transplant some years back, I got his cast-off one! Dick did just fine with one lung until the last few years, when the one he had left began giving out. Finally, day before yesterday, he took his last breath. Well, it's only fair I guess. I've long ago lost count of how many times he made me laugh so hard I could not breathe.

So now, one last time, let us "Say Goodnight Dick." You were one hell of a funny man.

Cheers darlings.

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