Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Paar-Backus Feud

Jack Paar was a jerk. I’m being polite.

Need evidence? Check out these syndicated columns by Hal Humphrey, published in December 1959. Paar, for reasons known only to him, publicly put down Jim Backus. Backus fought back. Paar responded by blaming everyone but himself for the situation. Paar spent his career doing that.

As a side note, his complaint against comedians ranting about TV censorship is particularly ironic, as it came two months before he walked off his show because NBC dared to censor one of his jokes.

The first column ran December 7, 1959, the last on December 18th.

Filmtown Accepts Paar Challenge

HOLLYWOOD — Things never are quite the same in this overgrown village after Jack Paar visits us. The last time he was here Jack rapped our movie-TV stars for being poor sports and lousy adlibbers. They wouldn't go on his NBC late-night-free-for-all.
This time many of the town's elite are accepting the Paar challenge, but with such torrid results that network executives are turning grey. For the past few days NBC has been flying its "Seal of Good Practice" at half-mast.
Paar must be congratulated on one count. he has gotten us off the subject of crooked quiz shows and sullied disc jockeys.
The question is, do jokes with Jerry Lewis about perverts and aimless repartee with a "half smashed" Mickey Rooney constitute an improvement?
Through all of this the compulsive and controversial king remains relatively calm—if not too rational. He doesn't give out many interviews but was kind enough to cut up a few touches with me. I'll try to put them in a semblance of order.
“YOU KNOW, I shouldn’t say this, but the greatest disservice I do myself is making the show too easy. These little comics sit around Lindy’s and say ‘Where’d he come from?’ But just let them try to do this show,” Paar challenges.
“Jim Backus is one of them. He may be a funny man at a party, but he lost his radio show. Do you know that Backus and Reginald Gardiner were two guys I had to cancel, simply because they weren’t capable of doing this kind of show.
“I love these guys. When they can’t make it themselves they spend all of their time giving out interviews.”
The irrepressible Paar takes violent exception to those comedians who constantly rant about their wits being dulled by TV’s oppressive censorship.
“I feel no censorship. My only guides are my mother, my conscience and Billy Graham. NBC is either afraid of me or very wonderful—or maybe they don't watch my show!”
FOR THE PAST six months the Paar show has been pre-taped, except when he is away from New York At no time, according to Paar, have NBC's watchdogs previewed his tapes or made any move toward editing them.
“The taping of the show has saved me, I get home at a decent hour now and so does my staff. I wouldn’t be doing it now if they hadn't let me tape it,” Paar says, flatly.
He has been pleased and flattered by the number of stars who have volunteered to go on his Hollywood telecasts.
“Red Skelton wanted to know if I had room for him. Imagine that! He's just simply great. Jack Benny called and wanted to put on a wig and appear as a mystery relative. Is that funny?
“I have senators call me now, and a representative from Vice-President Nixon's office called the other day. Sure. I've got enemies, but I never get involved in politics.
PAAR'S latest analysis of why his show is the big success it is (sponsors pay $9,000 per minute) comes out like this:
“People keep watching because they wonder when the balloon will go up.”
He might have added that in Hollywood it never comes down.

Backus Scores Paar For Rough Discourse

(Editor's Note: Following Hal Humphrey’s interview here last week with Jack Paar, comic Jim Backus now requests "equal time.")
“Dear Hal:
“I would like to reply to the unwarranted attack leveled at me by Jack Paar which appeared in your column Monday, strangely enough on Pearl Harbor Day.
“First of all, he says I am a little comic who sits around Lindy’s. For the record, I have never set foot in that restaurant, though I confess they have my footprints in chicken fat in front of Nate and Al’s delicatessen.
"Also, though I have appeared in over 40 motion pictures only two roles could be called even faintly humorous. Unless, of course, you consider low comedy the part of Jimmy Dean's father in 'Rebel Without a Cause.' I wouldn't expect Mr. Paar to be aware of this as he admittedly spends his time in a cultural thermos bottle.
“AS FOR BEING canceled off the Jack Paar show, this is a bald-faced lie. In order to be canceled, you have to be first contracted for a show and then notified not to appear. Well, I was contracted for the Jack Paar show on seven separate occasions and appeared on those seven shows . . . Believe me, Jack Paar should really know the meaning of the word canceled, because, as even he will admit, he holds the all-time record.
"Jack Paar says, and I quote, ‘I love these guys . . . they can't make it themselves . . . they spent all their time giving out interviews.’ As for making, it for myself I would like to challenge Mr. Paar to a duel of canceled checks.
“Furthermore, I am about to start my own TV series, a comedy, if Mr. Paar will excuse the expression, the reruns of which I hope will bolster his morale when he returns to his natural habitat, the unemployment office.
“IN ANY INTERVIEW I have, ever given. I have been more than kind to our Jack. I am a big fan of his show and have said in his defense that he possesses one of the quickest wits in our business, an ability to bring out the best in people and. above all, he ‘listens funny.’
“Maybe he took umbrage at something I once said in discussing his program and his unique talent. I said, ‘You know, Jack would make a lousy guest on his own show.’ A pretty good observation, if I do say so myself.
“Please have your secretary send me a copy of this column 10 years from now, so that after a round of golf with Mickey Rooney, when he asks me, ‘Who was that balding Tom Duggan who gave me such a bad time back in '59?’ I won't answer, ‘I'm not sure. I think his name was Henry Morgan.’” JIM BACKUS

Indomitable Paar Is Full of Surprises

That indomitable fellow Jack Paar is full of surprises. On the airwaves he has great fun ambushing many of his guests with squelching bon mots. After each strike, he has a habit of looking innocently at his audience, as if to say, “Now can I help it if this poor chump wants to walk into a left hook?”
The crowd generally roars with glee, because all of us at one time or another enjoy watching our fellow man get skewered by a city slicker, or better yet, just a country boy who loves his home and family.
That's why I was so surprised to open my mail yesterday and find in it a wounded cry from the man who makes a good living by directing his rapier wit at those who willingly get themselves snaffled onto his show.
So, herewith, I give you Jack Paar, without stint:
“You may use this letter in your column, if you wish but only if you use it in its entirety.
“As I told you, I promised my wife I would never give another interview to the press, because you can't win an interview. I broke that promise to my wife to see you, because you were an old friend.
“I enjoyed having lunch with you that day, Hal, but I do not think the editing and putting together of what I said over the two-hour interview constituted accurate reporting in your column, and I state that while you did not misquote me, you used the provocative, controversial things I said to make me look like an egotistical and ungentlemanly person. I'm very sorry if this is the only impression you received.
“As for the Mickey Rooney incident, may I remind you and the readers of your column that I never started the affair? I was prepared to treat him, a man I had never met, with the same courtesy and respect I have shown other greats in show business.
“I'm sure you will recall you brought up the name of Jim Backus. I hope you will also recall that during my last visit here, you printed an entire column by Backus about me and that I never replied to it.
“JIM BACKUS IS an excellent actor. His narrations in the Magoo character are classics. I have nothing but respect for Jim's work. Since he chose to criticize our show and since you did seek my reply, I must point out, however, that Jim has not 'made it' in show business as a solo personality, and that, as you know, is the most difficult of all roles.
“Perhaps I am wrong, but I like to think of myself as a man of peace. I have had many feuds on this show, but I never started any. I would prefer to avoid them, but they have a habit of find me. I seem to spend wasted time fighting on other people's playing fields and by their own rules.
“As for Hollywood, our show has never been treated better than on this trip. Not that anyone in Hollywood owes us anything, but we have always been quick to all of the decent people here.
“I have been, and am now, eager and willing to spread the word that show business is an honorable profession of many honorable people, and that Hollywood is one of its logical centers.
“I regret, Hal, that we had to meet this time on your field by your rules.
My best to you,


  1. Jim Backus used a have a commercial for Za-Rex liquid drink mix, and hinted at his role as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island on it; also, too bad Za-Rex probably was a local product, otherwise a Wacky Packages sticker could be imagined for Saur-Rex, drink syrup for dinosaurs, with a black-and-color striped tyrannosaurus on the label.

  2. Paar-Backus Twitter fued would have been hilarious to read !