Sunday, 6 May 2012

Durante’s Schnozz at 30

“Never changes his act,” is how an angry comic once berated Hearst columnist Jack O’Brian about Jimmy Durante. Mind you, O’Brian realised he couldn’t take the complaint seriously when it began with a praise of Milton Berle’s talents only to end with same comedian ripping into Berle for his lack of talent.

O’Brian’s column came out in June 1946, the same month when Durante was marking his show biz anniversary. Well, actually, it wasn’t really quite his idea, as you’ll see.

Newspaper columnists always seem to have written Durante quotes in dialect. Anyone who knows Durante can hear him speak the lines.

Jimmy Durante Celebrating
HOLLYWOOD, May 30.—Cucumber-nose Jimmy Durante is celebrating his 30th year in show business and everybody is getting into the act.
“I yam touched,” said the Schnoz. “People are sayin’ such nice t’ings about me. They’re even takin’ out ads in da trade papers.”
I found Jimmy in the madhouse which he calls a home. He said that next Wednesday will mark the 30th anniversary of his debut at the piano of a Harlem dive. Of course, had been playing at Coney Island and elsewhere before that time, but MGM “rearranged” the anniversary to coincide with the release of Jimmy's latest, “Two Sisters From Boston.”
Response to the stunt will be enthusiastic; Jimmy is one of the best-loved characters in the business.
“Dis is da most wonderful t’ing that has ever happened to me,” Jimmy confided. "When 1 think of it, I git goose pimples all over.”
The celebration will be climaxed by a violent night at what used to be the Silver Slipper in New York. There Jimmy and his partners, Eddie Jackson and Lou Clayton will put on an all-night show, just as they did in prohibition days. The management should be warned that the boys are going to do the “wood” number for the first time since 1931. The routine extols the virtues of wood with practical illustrations, such as matches, pianos, ladders, etc.
“We’ll tear da jernt apart,” Jimmy vowed.

Here’s what the United Press had to say on June 6th, the day after the big soirée.

Jimmy Durante Celebrates Anniversary of His Nose
NEW YORK. — (U.P.) — Jimmy Durante took a fanfare in stride as his just due, measured off two paces from the microphone to give himself nose room, looked around at the freeloaders and passed a hand ruefully across his sparsely inhabited scalp.
“There’s not much there,” he commented. One of those meaningful Durante pauses, then
the explosive kicker: “But every strand has a muscle.”
Back Where He Started.
And Jimmy was off to the races. Not the Jimmie of the movies or the radio, but Jimmy the well-dressed man, the guy Broadway can’t do without, the slambang, piano-wrecking Jimmy of the night clubs celebrating his 30th year in show business.
“After workin’ hard fer 30 years,” he said, “I wind up where I started from—workin’ fer nuttin’!”
The affair was in a basement room now called the Golden Slipper dance hall. But 18 years ago it was the Silver Slipper, one of the real hot spots of the prohibition era which employed the great comedy team of Clayton, Jackson and Durante. Last night it bore the temporary name of Club Durante and Lou Clayton, the former dancer, and Eddie Jackson, the strutting singer, were back with the master.
“I been lucky to havee a manager like Lou Clayton,” Jimmy said. “But tell me, folks, how much is 300 per cent?
“The Club Durante! What a joint! Why, I looked into a cuppa cawfee a while ago, and what ya t’ink I found? Cawfee!”
Back in prohibition days coffee cups were a disguise for more potent potions.
"Folks, I’m really an imposter, Jimmy confessed. “This is actually the anniversary of my nose. It was born first. I came along two weeks later. My father said when he saw me that he didn’t mind the country havin’ an eagle fer an emblem, but that didn’t mean he had to raise one.”
Big Names Present.
Clayton did some fast stepping and Durante commented: “Look at him! Hasn’t danced in 20 years and he still wears taps on his shoes. I have to do 12 guest shows a year to keep that Clayton in golf balls. Ah, this reminds me of the old days of the club Durant. The four of us—Clayton, Jackson and Durante—and an interpreter!”
There’s no use trying to name the people who attended the party for which M-G-M, Jimmy’s movie employer, picked up the check. Every big name along Broadway was there. Mayor William O’Dwyer showed up for a few minutes and slipped out a side entrance. Pretty soon a man who was stumbling over the 600 jampacked well-wishers collared a fellow who had a straw skimmer in custody under one arm. “The mayor wants his hat,” he said. "He’s up in the street.” The two of them escorted the headgear to his honor.

A vaudeville comedian was staying at a small-town boarding house where meals were included. “What are you serving tonight?” he asked. “Nothing but ham and corn,” said the owner. Replied the vaudevillian: “That’s funny, I serve the same thing.”

Durante could be accused of dishing out from the same menu. But he was such genuine, unassuming guy on stage, radio and, finally, TV that everybody loved him to the end.

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