Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Italian Who Couldn't Eat Italian Food

Jimmy Durante used to start off his radio show musically growling “Ya Gotta Start Out Each Day With a Song.” It’s an enthusiastic, optimistic song from an enthusiastic, optimistic guy.

There’s something about listening to Durante that makes you feel good. Other entertainers may not have got away with the happy hoke that poured out during Durante’s act, but he was so genuine and sincere on stage. He amused himself and that amused everyone else.

And there’s something about reading Durante that makes you feel good. Here’s the Associated Press’ Hollywood column that ran in papers starting on May 20, 1961. Durante somehow found himself in unique situations that made a good little story. In reading a bunch of these over the years, it seems pretty much mandatory that any time the press quoted Durante, he was quoted in Durante dialect.

Durante Counts The House(s)

AP Movie-TV Writer
HOLLYWOOD (AP) -- Has marriage changed Jimmy Durante?
No, I'm happy to report. He is still the same suave, lovable, gregarious self.
“I ain't changed none," he commented over breakfast. "I still do the same t'ings I useta. The only difference now is I got me two houses. Two houses! I must be outa my mind!”
This requires some explaining. When Jimmy married his long-time girlfriend Marge Little last December, he had a house and she had a house. Hers was a spanking modern up in the hills, his was a tile-roof traditional in the heart of Beverly Hills. They still have them: his and hers, each with a swimming pool.
“It's the only t'ing we argue about,” Jimmy lamented. “She don't wanna move outa her place. I can't move all my junk up dere. What am I goin' to do with all the plaques, all the photographs I got? I got no place to put 'em.”
As of this writing, it's a standoff. Every morning, Jimmy leaves the hilltop home for the 10-minute drive to the Beverly Drive house. The maid serves him breakfast and he conducts business from the house. After a day of appointments and rehearsals, he returns to the home on the hill.
“Sometimes I come down here for a shower,” Jimmy related. “That makes Marge mad. 'Why can't you take one here?' she sez. I happen to like the shower in this house. I'm useta it.”
Jimmy was in town briefly before leaving for a date at Harrah's Lake Tahoe. He has been traveling during most of his marriage thus far. He was on a night club tour and went to Italy for a cameo role in an Italian film, “The Last Judgment.”
“Marge went to Italy with me and to New York and Miami,” he said, “but the rest of the time she stays home. What's she gonna do in Cincinnati? And besides, when she's not here, that means we got two houses empty. Ridicalous!”
Jimmy was surprised to find himself recognized wherever he went in Italy—“An I ain't made a fillum in eight-nine years.”
The movie-making was quite an experience.
“I just worked t'ree days in the pitchuh,” he said. “I play a 'guy who goes around sayin' the world's goin' to come to an end.
“The director is this guy (Vittorio) DiSica an' he's great. The only trouble was everybody else was talkin' Italian. So there was a minute wait between when they finished their lines and I realized it was time for mine.”
Jimmy's experience with Italian food put him in the hospital here for a checkup. “The food is great, but I can't make it no more,” he said sadly.
He was breakfasting on a pill, prune juice, boiled eggs, toast and tea. That would suffice until dinner. Marge is a good cook, he said, but she gets little chance to display her ability. His dinner is a small steak or piece of chicken. Corn flakes at bedtime round out his frugal diet.
Despite this, he keeps going at full energy through the day and into the night. Even during breakfast, he answered a succession of phone calls. One of them was from Marge, up on the hill.
“She sez, 'git rid of da house,'” Jimmy reported.

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