Marvin Scott, Alan King and
Randie Levine-Miller

Alan King Tells How
It All Started For Him

By Jules Peimer

LAN KING, comedian, film and stage actor, author, producer, concert impresario, social and political activist, philanthropist, and abbot of the Friars Club was the perfect person to launch the Friars Centennial Luncheon Series, said producer Randie Levine-Miller to a packed house as the New York Friars Club celebrated its one hundredth year.

Senior correspondent of WB11 News at 10 Marvin Scott, acting as host, wondered how King’s career started.

“I was the youngest of a large family during the depression,” King related.  “I got a lot of love but no attention. I wanted to be heard so I acted like a clown.  Realizing I could make a living being funny, I decided to become a comedian.”

King’s 60-year career started with Major Bowes Amateur Hour and progressed to burlesque, the Catskill hotels and bungalow colonies, and finally the Ed Sullivan Show, which eventually led to stardom.

Milton Berle, Danny Thomas and of course Judy Garland were the most important influences on my career,” King said. “Berle was known as the thief of bad gags.  He did everyone’s act better than they did.”

Milton Berle, unable to do a benefit that he did every year for the Bowery Mission, asked King to go on for him.

“I didn’t have enough time to prepare so I do his act which got tremendous laughs. Milton comes in unexpectedly, forces me off the stage and does his act that I just did.  There’s no reaction from the audience. He couldn’t understand why he didn’t go over.  Later I told him why. He wouldn’t talk to me for six months.”

King was with Judy Garland on and off for seven years.

“She missed performances due to a drug problem.

“One day she says to me, ‘Alan how can you stay with me after what I put you through?’

“I said, ‘Because, there’s nobody in America that says, Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Garland will not appear tonight, better than I do.’

“I worked with Frank Sinatra. He was the best. Even if he wasn’t, who would dare say he wasn’t.  There were great singers during those times but they were just crooners. All of a sudden Frank comes along with a very limited education.  He brought a sense of drama to the lyrics.

“Boy did he drink.  I remember when I worked with him in Atlantic City.  I had jaw surgery.

“He called my room and my wife told him I wasn’t taking calls.  He told her to put the phone near my ear, then said, ‘You must take care of yourself.  No more smoking, no more drinking. As a youngster I studied ventriloquism and learned to throw my voice without moving my lips.’

 “Frank, how can you, living the life of a Kamikaze pilot, give me advice on how to behave.

“Frank says, ‘How can you talk? Didn’t you have a jaw operation?’

“Yes, but that’s nothing.  I’m drinking a glass of water while I’m talking to you.”

King was known to be quite liberal.  During a television show he said that America had the John Wayne mentality, up San Juan Hill, damn the torpedoes and so on.

King was in Acapulco having a few drinks in the cocktail lounge.  He looked up and there was John Wayne.

He said, “I hear you had a few things to say about me on television.”

“For a moment,” King recalled, “I was thinking of catching the next plane out, but he sat down and we proceeded to get bombed.”

King’s wife was upstairs waiting to go to a dinner party.  He phoned and she screamed, ‘Where are you?’

“ I’m in the cocktail lounge getting drunk with John Wayne.”

And she answered, “I’m here screwing Paul Newman.”

“I fell down laughing,” King related. “I couldn’t stop laughing.  I never knew my wife had a sense of humor.  I told Wayne what happened and he insisted upon meeting my wife.

“We went up to the suite and I asked her to come out of the bedroom and say hello to John Wayne.  She looked back into the bedroom and shouted, ‘Paul, let’s join them.’”

Randie Levine Miller, who has become a major force at the Friars Club, and executive director Jean Pierre Trebot lent their expertise and know-how to make the kick-off luncheon a highly entertaining and hilarious event.

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