“The Hollywood Column”

St. Joseph News-Press – Oct. 8, 1944

By: Danny Kaye

(…for Erskine Johnson)

Every time they call me an “overnight sensation” I burn to a crisp.

The persons who say it mean well. They never saw me and a lot of them never heard of me until I made “Up in Arms” for Samuel Goldwyn, for whom I am now making “The Wonder Man,” my second picture.

Mr. Goldwyn gambled a tub of blue chips – 2 million dollars – I hear tell, that I was going to click on my first time out. If Goldwyn had taken a poll he might have discovered that outside of the New York area most people didn’t know the difference between Sammy Kaye and Danny Kaye.

But should I be called an overnight sensation? The thing no one realizes is that I played every tank town in America, beat my brains out all over the world, worked in night clubs, cover charge cellars, vaudeville, summer camps, benefits, for 12 years before I became a movie star.

When I left Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, where I was born on January 18, 1913, in a section known as East New York, I hadn’t the vaguest notion of what the future held for me. Encouraged by my father and mother at parties, I had done imitations and songs and dances since the age of five—a showoff.

Got a Job—Then the Gate

My first job, though, was with an insurance company as a claim adjuster. I misjudged a problem of simple addition and cost the company either $4,000 or $40,000, I can’t remember which., Anyway, I lost the job.

Then I became an entertainer in the summer camps of the Catskills near New York. I waited on tables, took part in plays and musicals put on by a stock company.

I did this for five seasons, starting at $250 (room and board) and worked up to $1,000. During the winter, I lived, but barely, on what I made in the summer, and spent long hours resting outside production offices.

In my fourth camp season I met Dave Harvey and Kathleen Young, professional dancers who taught me how to use my feet (Dave, by the way, is now in a Japanese concentration camp in the Philippines.)

Dave, Kathleen and I made up an act, tried it out at camp, and it clicked. We played the act in a few break-in vaudeville dates and then joined an A. B. Marcus tab show headed for Tokyo.

We left San Francisco in February, 1934, and played Toyko, Shanghai, Hongkong, Canton, Singapore, Bangkok, and Osaka. Mostly it was good in Toyko, what with Jap musicians who couldn’t speak a word of English, but swung out like Benny Goodman.

My most vivid memory of Japan is a typhoon, when a man flew past my hotel window on a bicycle, still pedaling furiously.

The Japs even then were hiding something. They took all our cameras away when we entered a harbor or industrial section.

Owns a Sally Rand Fan

When I came back to New York in 1935, and tried Broadway again the answer was the same No. I toured with Sally Rand and still have an autographed fan to prove it. Then with Abe Lyman. I stooged for Nick Long, Jr., at the Casa Manana, played the Dorchester Hotel in London.

Romance and luck came in 1939. At a rehearsal for a Little Theater revue I met Sylvia Fine, a girl who had grown up right in my own neighborhood.

She was writing lyrics and music for “Straw Hat Revue,” and this show got me to Broadway.

She is now Mrs. Danny Kaye, and her songs and lyrics are among those I did in “Up in Arms” and which I am doing for “The Wonder Man.”

- Home -