Tag Archives: Marx

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.


Honestly, I was expecting far worse.

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

This is.


You Bet Your Afterlife

27 Jun

June 27, 2013

Alternate blog title: Six Satanic Degrees of Separation.

My pal Jimbo and I had a brief email discussion of the great Groucho Marx show, You Bet Your Life. Without giving it away, Jimbo has a very cool idea for using the program. Anyway, I’m a big fan of Groucho and Jimbo’s email encouraged me to do a little research into the show. I came across a list of notable folks who appeared on the show as contestants before they became famous. Here are just a few: Phyllis Diller, Ray Bradbury, and Jack LaLanne.

However, my favorite contestant story involved William Peter Blatty. Is it true? I found it on the ‘net so make up your own mind. If it is not true I want it to be true.

Blatty was a young author who had one book under his belt and not a lot of money. He was working as a public relations man in California and to promote his book he became a contestant on Groucho’s show, You Bet Your Life. (Guests on that show were carefully selected and often people were solicited to appear depending on how interesting it was felt Groucho would find them.) He came on the show dressed as an Arab sheik, which seemed to be his hobby at the time- I can’t explain it much better than that- and Groucho saw right through him. However, Blatty went on to win $10,000. The money was enough that he took a leave of absence from his job and wrote full time. And what did he write? Only a little book called… The Exorcist.

Yes, we have Captain Spaulding to thank for The Exorcist.


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