Wednesday, October 21, 2009

KV Synchronicity: The People's Choice 5

Above, a portion of the census of 2860 Creston in 1920. Below what it looks like now. It was newly built in 1920 and it looks like the tenants who had moved there made it into more stable working class lives

Part of an amazon review of a recent Brecher biography
Brecher was one of those Hollywood denizens that got his start the classic way, as an usher in New York City. As a teenager he would send in gags on postcards to columnists Walter Winchell or Ed Sullivan who would credit him by name. He got a long-term assignment of writing gags for one of the most visible comedians in the business, Milton Berle, and this material brought him to the attention of Hollywood. Brecher was astonished to be working with stars he used to see in the Nickelodeon when he was a kid, including his idols, the Marx Brothers. Brecher helped punch up _The Wizard of Oz_. And then he was assigned to write the Marx picture _At the Circus_; with that and with the later _Go West_, he was the only writer to get sole credit on Marx movies. There are wonderful stories about the Marxes here, anecdotes any fan will adore. Brecher went on to write movies like _Meet Me in St. Louis_ and _Bye Bye Birdie_. While writing movies, he also wrote the radio sitcom _The Life of Riley_.

Brecher became a widower from one long-term marriage and then entered another. He does not seem to have used his wit against his wives but rather as a palliative during arguments. He remembers an argument with his first wife who was so upset she said, "That's it! I'm leaving you!" He gave her the reply, "That's OK with me. But if you go, I'm going with you." Looking back at that bit of dialogue forty years later, he remarks, "It worked." Brecher never really left show business, though he pays tribute over and over again to the comics he worked with whose funerals he had to attend. He was attending tributes through his last years and doing stand-up when just standing up was difficult. In fact, he would get to the podium with a walker; his wife called it "The Rolls". Asthma was a problem, too: "For about ten minutes I'm all right. And then I'm gasping. You can't ask the public to spend money to see an old Jew gasping. It's not nice." But his material was still good: "Yes, I did have eye surgery. I knew I needed it when the other morning, I woke up and my vision was so bad, I couldn't find my hearing aid." _The Wicked Wit of the West_ (the title comes from a designation Groucho had given him) is full of wonderful stories and laugh-out-loud jokes from a jubilant joke-maker. "OK, so maybe I don't look at the world through rose-colored implants", the elder Brecher observes, "In fact, I really like the world. It's the putzes in it! And I don't resolve to change. If I've said anything snide, I'm sorry. Unless it gets a laugh."

No comments: