“Laugh ‘em Into Orbit—He’s A O-Kaye”

The Salt Lake Tribune – Sep. 30, 1962

By: Dial Torgeson (Associated Press Writer)

Marked in red are extra portions of the article that The Salt Lake Tribune did not include.
These new portions are from the Ogden Standard Examiner's article: "And What Drives Danny? He Loves to Be Loved!"

HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 29—It was eight minutes to curtain time and Danny Kaye, tired from a day’s work on a movie lot, was relaxing in his dressing room at the Greek Theater.

Outside in the open air arena in the Hollywood Hills 4,400 fans waited in the cool summer night to be amused by the polished blend of patter and songs, stuff and nonsense that is his trademark.

Why, a reporter asked, did he work eight hours a day in films and then turn out each night for two weeks to play to live audiences?

Does it fill some psychological need?

Kaye’s mild, blue eyes narrowed and the soft voice grew edgy.

“Psychological need,” he repeated.

Then he threw back his head and gestured grandly.

“You want to know why I do this?” he asked, in a big stage voice. “I do this because I need the love that the audience gives me.” (He touched his heart when he said "love.")

“I do this because I feel rejected if I don’t get the roars of applause from all those people out there in the audience. . .”

His voice dropped back to normal tones. “That’s a lot of horse manure,” he said. “I’ll tell you why I do this,” he said, this time with sincerity. “I do this because I like it. Why does anybody do anything? You think I’d do all this work if I didn’t like it?”

He walked toward the curtain, where the orchestra was playing his introduction. He drew up to his full six feet, and out rolled the stentorian tones of the old trouper once again:

“I’ll tell you why I do this,” he said, poking the reporter in the chest with his forefinger. “Because it makes me a very wealthy man.”

Then he was on stage and the audience was roaring its applause.

One reviewer called a Kaye audience “a unit, a jolly community unembarrassed to utter nonsense in concert.” And there they were, five minutes after Kaye walked on stage, shouting nonsense.

The left side of the audience was chanting “Zum, zum, zum,” the center was whispering “Shok, shok, shok” and the right side was shouting “Hau, hau, hau”—because Kaye had turned them into a gypsy chorus in his own, zany version of a community sing. “How can I do a gheep-see song,” he said, “weethout a gheep-see chorus?”

Artie Dunhill, a dancer with Kaye’s vaudeville troupe, was watching from the wings. “Look,” he said. “He’s got them eating right out of his hand. He’s the greatest.”

Artie's brother, Jerry, joined him in the wings as they waited for their cue to go on.

"We were standing like this, watching Danny work, at the London Palladium in 1949," Artie said. "We weren't even really dressed, and he called us on for a little impromptu dance routine. It went over so good he made it part of his act. Watch how he goes into it. That's just the way it really started."

Artie's wife was ill and he and Jerry's wife, Lila, were watching Artie's girl, Marda, 3 1/2. They perched her on a high stool. She giggled quietly when Kaye looked at them and stopped the song he was singing.

"Fellas," he said, "Do you have to stand there? Can't you go some place else and watch?"

He finally ordered them onstage for what looked like a spontaneous tap-dance routine--one where Kaye, pretending to be the amateur, showed as much talent as the two pros. (Kaye learned to dance one season, 20 years ago, when a pair of dancers needed a partner on New York's "Borscht Circuit" of the summer resorts.)

As they clattered past her side of the stage Kaye gave a big smile to Dunhill's little girl. "Hi, Marda," he said. It was the only spontaneous part of the routine. (The audience missed it.)

“A lot of it looks spontaneous,” said Dave Bines, Kaye’s light man, as he stood between the stage and the electrician’s cubbyhole. “But it’s worked out to a T. He’s a real perfectionist, Danny. He wants it just so.”

What’s he like as a boss?

“I’ve been with him more than 10 years,” said Bines. “I’ll tell you, show business is good business with every night a full house.”

Kaye makes between $500,000 and $750,000 a year, much of it from shows like his two-week stint at the Greek Theater.

Bines raised his hand, palm upward. The electrician threw a master switch and the stage was flooded with light. Kaye began singing "Minnie the Moocher."

Kaye is known for his git-gat-gittle jive talk, but he can also sing serious ballads, tell droll stories (not jokes—but charmingly told tales), do imitations, accents, pantomime, pratfalls, and carefully contrived bits of nonsense audiences assume to be the moment’s improvisation.

“He doesn’t like to be called a comedian,” said his employee and admirer, Artie Dunhill. “He thinks of himself as an entertainer.”

A sample routine: The audience seems unappreciative of a line of a song. He pretends to be a small child, wheedling for applause, then, in the manner of a 5-year-old, tells of going to the zoo.

"An' I saw the rhinososcerous," he says. "I mean rhinosaurosus. Rhosonoscerous. Rhinonosaurous . . ."

As he sees the right word, he changes from a child to a rostrum-pounding campaign orator, ending with "this rhinoceros of the Democratic party."
His wife, Sylvia Fine, writes much of his material as she has since they were married in 1940 in New York.

Kaye actually is much less wealthy than he could be because he does what he wants to, and no more. A team of rhinoceroses couldn’t drag him to a television studio for a weekly show, and he’d rather be a traveling man than a full time movie actor.

The family home is in Beverly Hills, but his wife and daughter, Dena, 15, don't seem him there for months at a stretch. He spent a good part of 1953-57 touring the world on behalf of the United Nations' International Children's Fund. (A television showing of films made on the tour was termed "one of TV's finest 90 minutes" by one reviewer.)

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