Wednesday 5 December 2012

Alan Sues Remembered

Alan Sues of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” died a year ago and I posted a couple of old newspaper interviews he did while the show was in its heyday. Alan was far from the star of the show but he certainly was a prolific talker. And he seems even funnier than the broad characters he ended up playing all the time on “Laugh In.” Let me post a couple more wire services columns from his early days on the show.

Here’s an Associated Press column from 1969.

Alan Sues Is Success After Much Knocking
NEW YORK, June 22 (AP) — Alan Sues, the blond guy who is the paranoid sportscaster, Big Al, on NBC’s “Laugh-in” is still another of those overnight successes who has been around knocking on doors for years.
Sues, in fact, was a member of the 1957 Broadway cast of “Tea and Sympathy,” and in spite of engagements at such anvils of comedy as the Blue Angel in New York and the hungry I in San Francisco, nothing much happened.
“I met George Schlatter producer and creator of ‘Laugh-In’ when he was producing Edie Adams’ act in Las Vegas,” Sues said. “I was working with Larry Tuck and Paul Muzursky [sic]—he later wrote “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas”—doing impressions. We got fired after two days, and they brought in Rowan and Martin That was four or five years ago.”
Sues then got a job in “Mod Show,” [sic] a Los Angeles revue that was similar in form and pace to “Laugh-In,” and moved on to New York with the East Coast version.
“I ran into George on Madison Avenue one day and he asked me if I’d like to appear in his show. I went to the coast to do three shows, was picked up for 15—and wound up doing all 26.”
Now one of the series’ resident madmen, Sues is touring the profitable summer fair circuit with Rowan and Martin, Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson and Dave Madden.
The “Big Al” feature, which caught on with TV audiences, was developed from material
he worked out with his former wife. But like all the other cast members, Alan is all over the show, much of the time disguised with mustaches, wigs and strange costumes.
“That show is not for beginners,” he said with a shake of his head. “We have a 243-page script and our average shooting time is two days. The pace is so fast that most of us have to be our own directors—the director is pretty well occupied just setting up camera angles.”
Sues, whose comedy style is unique, appears to have been born a comedian. He is as entertaining off-stage as on. He comes from a substantial upper middle-class family—his father until retirement recently was the Southern California distributor for a large electronic equipment company.
Alan has a tendency to get caught in unusual crises.
When he arrived in Hollywood for his first “Laugh-In,” he sublet a second-floor apartment and was admitted by the superintendent.
“Something happened to the lock, and I was trapped inside one Saturday night,” he recalled. “I couldn’t climb out and we couldn’t get a locksmith until Monday. I spent Sunday with nothing to do but start and stop the garbage disposal unit—there wasn’t even a magazine in the place.”
At the moment, Sues, like the other “Laugh-In” comedians, is very hot and like the others, he is eager to take advantage of the exposure to build up his career. He is eager to pick up some of that beautiful money doing commercials and, like every other performer, get started in feature movies.
Sues also writes. One of the funniest sketches, on ABC’s “Hollywood Palace” this past season, was one of Alan wrote for Ruth Buzzi and himself. He has also written a movie—a silent film with elaborate background music.
In New York on a short holiday to see shows and old friends, Sues was pleased to be recognized by “Laugh-In” fans and was busily counting his blessings.
“I have never worked so hard and I’ve never had so much money,” he said. “I play tennis to keep in shape. I write when I think of something that interests me. I just want it all to keep going.”

And Alan repeated bits of his life story for the National Enterprise Association’s Hollywood reporter in 1970.

From sublime to Alan Sues
By Dick Kleiner
HOLLYWOOD, July 7 [1970] (NEA) — Remember Bob Burns? The Arkansas comic used to get most of his laughs talking about his family and all their crazy shenanigans.
Alan Sues, “Laugh-In’s” resident frant (a frant is somebody who is always frantic), gets most of his off-screen laughs when he launches into details of his family life. Only difference between Burns and Sues is that Sues swears his stories are true.
It all starts with Sues’ father. The point was, Alan said, that his father was now living in San Rafael, north of San Francisco. It was the 63rd place he had lived.
“I’ve always thought,” Alan said, “that my father was cut out to be a gypsy, but he was too square to wear an earring.”
There was no basic reason behind his movingitis. He just liked to move. He’d buy a house, settle in, tell everybody that this was where he intended to spend the rest of his life — and a few months later he’d up and move again.
He could afford it. He did nicely, as the distributor for some big-name appliance brands on the West Coast.
For Alan and his brother, the problem with all these moves was an almost-constant changing of schools. It was upsetting for a boy.
“I was always the new kid in school,” Alan says. "I was the boy who only got one Valentine card. The near-sighted bucktoothed kid in front of me would have a mound of Valentines, but they didn't know me so I’d only get one.”
His father wanted him to go into his business, but Alan was always interested in acting. His father wanted his brother to be a veterinarian, but Alan’s brother wound up owning a restaurant.
“He was always a food freak,” Alan says. “He loves all kinds of food. So he opened a gourmet restaurant. Only trouble is he opened it up in San Luis Obispo. The people in San Luis Obispo aren’t gourmets. They only want to eat steak. It’s very frustrating for my brother.”
Anyhow, poor Alan wanted to be an actor, not a refrigerator-and-washing machine distributor. At one point, he found himself living in Pasadena (that was home No. 48, he thinks) and so he went to the Pasadena Playhouse.
“I was studying to be a serious actor,” he says. “That’s what I always wanted to be. Then one day I did ‘Hamlet’ in class and I got all tangled up in my cape and everybody laughed. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to do anything serious.”
He’s progressed up the acting trail — some stock, some Broadway, some revues — until he was tapped by George Schlatter to be a Laugh-Insaniac. But the urge to act is still there — not “Hamlet,” necessarily, but something.
This summer, he’ll be out on the road for many weeks with Carl Reiner’s nutty play, “Something Different.” He hopes to play the part when — and if — it’s made into a movie.

There’s a memorial site for Alan I discovered when hunting around the net. If you enjoyed his work, or enjoyed the early seasons of “Laugh In” like I did when I was young, you’ll want to click here.

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