“Kaye, Suave TV Entertainer, Brings Charm to Press Session”

Youngstown Vindicator – Apr. 20, 1978

By: Adrian Slifka (Vindicator TV-Radio Editor)

Danny Kaye, the world-renowned entertainer who is one of my favorite television performers, came to Cleveland earlier this week and treated the press to a most engaging interview involving his upcoming May 14 appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Kaye is scheduled to conduct the orchestra in an evening of music and comedy. This concert, for which the many-faceted entertainer is donating his services, is a benefit performance for the musicians’ pension fund. Though Kaye has been guest-conducting symphony orchestras all over the world in similar benefit performances, this engagement will mark his first appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Early in the interview at the Hollenden House, Kaye was asked if he had any plans to return to television.

Referring to the four-year run of his variety-music-comedy hour on CBS, David Daniel Kaminsky, the son of an immigrant Ukrainian tailor, answered: “The only way in which I return to television would be if someone came up with a totally different and exciting format than the one I used from 1963 through 1967. I left TV then because I decided it was time to shake up my life again and move on to other things.

“I feel the same way about going back to the Broadway stage or to making another movie. It is no great challenge to me to do something that I have done before,” Kaye continued. “My philosophy today is to only do things that excite me, interest me or that are slightly dangerous. By dangerous, I mean accepting a role that I classify as strange because I never did anything like it before.”

Kaye’s visit to Cleveland gave him the opportunity to comment on his financial interest in the Seattle Mariners’ baseball team, one of the expansion clubs in the American League.

“I’m coming back here for my team’s games with your Cleveland Indians on May 9 and 10,” Danny said. “If we lose both games I might get right on the plane and fly back to Seattle and there won’t be any May 14 concert,” he added in his charming, humorous style.

During the past 20 years, Kaye has raised more than $5 million for the benefit of musicians’ pension funds. He has conducted symphony orchestras all over the world, but has never accepted a fee for these services.

Kaye’s conducting of symphony orchestras began at the suggestion and request of Eugene Ormandy, the famous conductor and musical director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“At that time, nearly 25 years ago, I was doing a vaudeville engagement in Philadelphia,” Kaye recalled. “When Ormandy asked me to do the concert as a benefit for the Red Cross, I only knew two selections, the ‘Trish Trash Polka’ and ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’”

Now, he explained, he has a repertoire of more than 200 selections which include the great classical composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Mahler, Johann Strauss and Mahler.

All of the reporters at the press session were quite surprised when Kaye revealed that he cannot read music and does not play an instrument.

“I’ve learned all of the numbers I do by listening,” Kaye explained. “I do all of my conducting from memory. I’m not a musician. But I think I can sing all of the musical entrances of favorite operas and the introductory portions of most great overtures.”

The well-known entertainer plans to rehearse with the Cleveland Orchestra at three-hour rehearsals on two-days preceding the May 14 concert.

“I sing the various passages to convey to the musicians how I want the score to be played,” Kaye said. “Also, let me assure you it will be a very serious and strenuous rehearsal. The timing is very important as I build the two-hour concert. There are places where I talk to the audience. But when I turn around to the orchestra there must be split-second response when I give the downbeat.

“Of course, my concert is not a symphonic evening,” Kaye continued. “It is a night packed with a lot of joy, life and amusement in classical music. The first 20 minutes of the concert is unpredictable. That’s why the orchestra’s management warns the patrons it assumes no responsibility for my portion of the program.”

Kaye devoted one portion of his interview to hailing the excellence of the symphony orchestras in this country.

“There are more good orchestras per square mile in the United States than anywhere in the world,” the great entertainer emphasized. “It seems a shame that orchestras in this country have to exist on the generosity of a particular segment of the public. Of all the cultures in the world, this government gives the smallest percentage of its budget to the performing arts. We must find a way to get our government to endow the arts more lavishly.”

Since Kaye came to the interview dressed like a typical golfer on his way to the course, it was expected that some reporter would ask about the “space shoes” he was wearing.

In his homespun style, Kaye told the writers that he is addicted to being comfortable and dresses in casual clothes. The brown shoes, he said, are custom-made by a New York leather artisan from molds of Danny’s feet. They are of soft leather, laceless and, he claims, the ultimate in comfort.

“They have one drawback,” Kaye grinned, “they cost me my place on the annual best dressed list.”

Danny closed the press session by reflecting on his extensive career in television, the theater and motion pictures with this observation: “It would be a dull life if it was only made up of successes. I’ve learned more from my failures than successes.”

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