Archive | tribute RSS feed for this section

1976: Groucho Marx Visits Welcome Back Kotter and Makes Everyone Sad

13 Mar

March 13, 2018

I wrote a frankly excellent post back in 2010 about Groucho Marx and his cultural impact in the 1970s. It is possibly my favorite post and it is constantly being reblogged and linked. 

Briefly, it is the story of a man whose famous past has outlived him, and the sorry way he was treated in the fast-declining years of his life. One of the saddest, but true, stories is about a visit Groucho made (or was forced to make) to the set of Welcome Back Kotter for a guest spot. Everyone was shocked at his fragile body and mental deterioration. He was such a shell of himself that some people in both the cast and audience shed tears. Groucho was unable to do the part, the spot was canceled, and even the publicity photos were never released.

Now flash ahead to 2018.

I was listening to the truly laugh out loud funny Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, episode 191 with guest Mark Evanier. It was hysterical, and right in my wheelhouse because Evanier knows everyone in comedy from Jack Benny to Sergio Aragones, and guys like Jack Kirby as well. During the show, he told an extended version of Groucho’s visit to the Welcome Back Kotter set. Mark was there, and saw it all, first hand. He worked on the show. Here’s his account from his blog, and it fleshes out my version, which I am happy to say is verified as accurate.

There are big points revealed in his post and his podcast appearance.

First, that the whole reason the guest appearance came about was apparently so Erin Fleming could wrangle a guest spot in a future episode. Poor Groucho should not have even left his house in the shape he was in.

Second, he was in such poor, confused shape that he was not able to talk and they first changed his guest spot to a silent cameo, then finally canceled it altogether.

Third, and even more interesting, the photos were not only never released but they were claimed to have been destroyed.

But at least two weren’t. Someone sent them to Mark and they can be found online now. They weren’t there in 2010 when I first searched.

grouchokotter01

Honestly, I was expecting far worse.

But this is not the way to remember this great man.

This is.

 

Advertisements

Happy Hanukkah, Jack Kirby and Ben Grimm!

13 Dec

Updated December 13, 2017

from December 23, 2016
and December 15, 2012

The 1976 Jack Kirby family Hanukkah card

The 1976 Jack Kirby family Hanukkah card

I am a big fan of The Fantastic Four and of them, I am first and foremost a fan of The Thing. He is easily in my top five, possibly top three comic book characters. And speaking of the First Family of Marvel Comics, Ben Grimm was created by two men who surely were members of the First Family of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

thinggreatest1

And while many of the legends of the comic industry, like Superman creators Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster, Will Eisner, Stan Lee and Jack “King” Kirby were Jewish, it doesn’t necessarily follow that their famous creations are Jewish. Superman is not Jewish, The Spirit is not Jewish (though many of Will Eisner’s contemporary creators contend that Eisner always implied that he was. So maybe…)

But Benjamin Jacob Grimm is undoubtedly Jewish.

And here's his bar mitzvah to prove it.

And here’s his bar mitzvah to prove it.

From wikipedia, oy vey!:

In keeping with an early taboo in the comic superhero world against revealing a character’s religion, the fact that Grimm was Jewish was not explicitly revealed until four decades after his creation, in the story, “Remembrance of Things Past” (in Fantastic Four, vol. 3, #56, August 2002). In this story, Grimm returns to his old neighborhood to find Mr. Sheckerberg, a pawn shop owner he had known as a child. Flashbacks during this story reveal Grimm’s Jewish heritage, and he even recites the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer often recited over the dead and dying, over the dying Sheckerberg, who eventually recovers. In a later story, Grimm even agrees to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah, since it has been 13 years (the age a Jewish boy celebrates his Bar Mitzvah) since he began his “second life” as the Thing. To celebrate the ceremony, Grimm organizes a poker tournament for every available superhero in the Marvel Universe.

It is a fact that The Thing is in many ways just Jack Kirby writing himself on the page. While The Spirit may be what Will Eisner wished to be, in many was The Thing is who Jack Kirby really was.

jimmyolsen134

Remind you of anyone?

 

Some personality traits of the cantankerously lovable, occasionally cigar-smoking, Jewish native of the Lower East Side are popularly recognized as having been inspired by those of co-creator Jack Kirby, who in interviews has said he intended Grimm to be an alter ego of himself.

So as we approach The Festival of Light, it is only appropriate to wish both Ben Grimm and Jack Kirby a very

hanukkah_happy

thing-chanuakh-e1448920247567

This has been

cropped-sat-com-logo.jpg

 

.

%d bloggers like this: