What Makes Danny Run?

The following is a five-part article series featured in The Milwaukee Journal. The reporter, Joseph N. Bell, followed the making of an episode of The Danny Kaye Show from its inception to its filming.

You can click the links below to be taken to a specific part or scroll down to read the articles in chronological order.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5

These articles have been transcribed from a newspaper.
As a result some portions of the newspaper were unreadable. It has been transcribed to the best of my ability.

Click Here to find out what the writer, Joseph N. Bell, had to say about this report.

Part I
“Casualness of Kaye’s TV Show Isn’t Just a Happy Coincidence”

The Milwaukee Journal – Dec. 7, 1964

By: Joseph N. Bell

What makes one television show highly successful when another fails? Is it the star, the writers, the production staff, the directors or what? The answer can be found in this firsthand account of how one of television’s top rated variety programs, “The Danny Kaye Show,” is put together.

On a recent Wednesday night some 30 million Americans watched Lucille Ball and Danny Kaye play all six parts in a slapstick television spoof of a British drawing room drama.

It looked remarkably easy and relaxed, like something cooked up on the spur of the moment by two immensely talented and good humored performers.

That’s the way it was supposed to look. Actually, the sketch represented four weeks of intensive work by several dozen people, including the stars, who were mauled, pushed and pummeled into near exhaustion by the rugged costume changes during the week the show was in rehearsal.

Yet this carefully contrived casualness is the trademark of “The Danny Kaye Show”—a trademark that has kept it consistently among the television winners, bucking a trend against variety shows that has wiped out a good many expected front runners.

Other Shows Failed

A year ago last September, three of hottest names in show business—Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis and Danny Kaye—went on the air with eagerly awaited well publicized variety shows. Within a few weeks, it was clear that the Kaye show was the only one that would prosper. Within a few months, it was the only one that survived.

Why? What has made Kaye’s weekly show what one well known critic recently called “TV’s finest variety hour?” Is it really as relaxed as it seems? What is involved in putting together 39 hours of first rate entertainment over a television season?
To answer these questions, I followed a Danny Kaye show—the one you saw Nov 4 with guest star Lucille Ball—through the week preceding its taping. The show is done at CBS Television City in Hollywood.

The normal work week for the Kaye cast starts on Tuesday morning and ends about 10 p.m. on Saturday, after the show has been done “live” before a studio audience. Within those strictures of time, a group of talented, hard working people must put together, week after week, a show of such consistent quality that it will hold and build its audience. This is especially tough with a variety show, because audience loyalty is tenuous, and one bad show may send viewers skittering to another station.

Show Never Perfect

Under such daily creative pressure, tension could become unbearable. It has on many high powered television shows. The Judy Garland catastrophe last year is one of the better examples. That it hasn’t on the Kaye show is due primarily to the versatility and complete professionalism of the star, the competence and confidence of the people involved in producing the show, and a working philosophy that keeps expectations within the bounds of possibility.

Producer Perry Lafferty, a bright, affable, relaxed and remarkably pragmatic man, put it this way: “We know we can’t get perfection in one week, so we do what we can. I hope we will never do a totally bad show and I know we’ll never do a totally good one. We go after over-all effect—the long pull.”

The over-all effect of casual good fun on the Kaye show is partly due to this relaxed attitude—but only partly. The rest comes from plain hard work. Here’s how Kaye explains it:

“I’ve been going to the same tailor for 20 years. I drive him crazy with detail, things that I want just so. He works long hard hours to achieve the effects I want in my suits. Then I put on my suit, wear it a few minutes, and it looks crumpled and casual and relaxed. But the care for detail is still there—every bit of it.”

Sensitive Writing

I watched this care for detail unfold during my week with the Kaye show. Its essence was summarized by choreographer Tony Charmoli when he said:

“The star sets the character of the show, and Danny’s versatility and taste permits us much more latitude in our work. He’s full as a human being—a completely tasteful man.”

This has probably shown up best in a half dozen comedy sketches that have evolved through sensitive writing and the magic of Kaye’s interpretations—into human vignettes of remarkable pathos, […unintelligible…] unusual on a comedy show.

The clerk who gets drunk and bares his timid soul at an office Christmas party, there’s a boy who tries to learn […unintelligible…], the Italian father proudly reading a letter he but dimly comprehends from his son who has gone to America (Kaye’s […unintelligible…] favorites, incidentally) have been small masterpieces of their kind—perhaps, according to one of Kaye’s associates because they “get pretty close to his real self.”

Herb Bonis, Kaye’s long-time friend and business manager puts it on a more pragmatic basis.

“The biggest reason this show works,” he says, “is that Danny puts in five full days every week, he’s available all the time, and he’s in on the show from its inception, in all phases.

“There are other important reasons, too. We have a high quality staff of seasoned professionals. And because of Danny’s versatility, there are no creative shackles on anyone here. He isn’t jealous of their talents, and he can do almost anything they write or choreograph.

“They have unlimited freedom with guest stars, too. Our people are not afraid to write for the guests, because no matter how good they are, they’re not going to be able to upstage Danny.”

If any guest star could bring this off, it would certainly be Lucille Ball, who was guest on the show I watched evolve. Yet, throughout the week, there was a sort of mutual admiration society between Kaye and Miss Ball, manifested in a running dialogue of jibes—most of them unprintable—that were frequently funnier than the lines they were supposed to be performing.

Part II

“Planning for Danny Kaye Show Starts With a Guest Star, Ideas”

The Milwaukee Journal – Dec. 8, 1964

By: Joseph N. Bell

The TV script is ready. Staff and stars huddle—scratching, adding, polishing. The writer of this series is there to learn what makes “The Danny Kaye Show” click. This is the second article of a five-part series.

The production team of the Danny Kaye television program is always working on four shows simultaneously.

In addition to the program I watching in rehearsal, there was one in the final stage of scenic design and casting, and another being written, and a third in the planning stage.

The Kaye show with Lucille Ball as a guest star had its beginnings four weeks earlier, when producer Perry Lafferty and director Bob Scheerer met separately with the writers and the musical planners.

Built From Scratch

“All we had at that point,” said Lafferty, “was the name of our guest star and a blank piece of paper. Of course, we also knew the form of the show, and, in general, the abilities of the guest. We start from there.”

Sketches and musical numbers are built from scratch, from ideas thrown out aground a conference table. The writers suggested a departure from the usual Lucy routine. Result: She and Kaye were put on stools to do a domestic sketch, faking the scenery and the props. The musical numbers were geared to Miss Ball’s limitations (She’s not a dancer, but she moves well.)

The next week the ideas, now in rough writing form, were offered up for Kaye’s reaction.

“He usually accepts about 90% of it,” says Lafferty. “But he absolutely rebels at anything in questionable taste. I remember there was a pretty funny one; joke about kids dropping out of school. Danny threw it out. He also has to see clearly the character he plays in a sketch. Otherwise, he can’t play it.”

Kaye didn’t feel that one of the musical numbers – a rather elaborate six minute affair – was right for Lucille Ball. He insisted that it be laid back for a future guest, possibly Gwen Verdon, and a new number written for Miss Ball.

Balloon Dance

The substitute, put together in some haste at this juncture, was a balloon dance for which Billy Barnes composed original music. Kaye approved of the other material and the writers started work on a finished script.

The third week is given over to technical matters. Performers needed to support the running cast and guest stars are auditioned and signed. (The Kaye show frequently holds open auditions.) Set designers make their sketches and carpenters start to build them. Financial people run an estimate on the show to see how closely it comes to budget (Kaye’s business manager, Herb Bonis, says: “We’ve never yet thrown out anything we really wanted to do because of money.”)

Then comes the week of the show when all the pieces are put together, the rough edges rounded and smoothed, and the script offered to the public.

Script Is Read

On Tuesday, the production staff meets with Kaye in his penthouse atop the CBS studios in a session which extends from morning through a 1 o’clock luncheon. The script is read in its entirety and thrown open to comment. Sketches that may look almost chaotic when they get on screen (the British skit in the Lucy show is a good example) are examined in great detail.

A half dozen times Miss Ball broke into the reading to ask “Why did you say that?” She turned up four rather subtle discrepancies in the story line that were corrected on the spot.

Kaye objected to a wild sketch at the beginning of the show and insisted on the insertion of a musical number at both beginning and end, because the activities in between were going to be pretty zany. He made specific, crisp objections to lines and to feelings conveyed by the characters.

“His instinct in such things—at least for Kaye—is impeccable,” says Lafferty. “I remember I once talked him into doing a sketch on the two richest people on Long Island. He said it didn’t feel right to him, but if I was that high on it, he’d do it. It was a very funny skit to read, but when we saw it performed in rehearsal, it was hopeless, so we had to pull it out at the last minute. Danny will try almost anything—but he didn’t feel this. And he was right.”

Separate Rehearsals

From Tuesday morning session, the show moves into a half dozen rehearsal rooms at CBS, and the various elements begin to take shape individually. The singers under choral director Earl Brown gather in one; the dancers under choreographer Tony Charmoli are in another. Guest singer John Gary, bass player Red Calendar (with whom Kaye performed a specialty show opener), and two comedy skits are all rehearsed separately. Kaye, meanwhile, shuttles between rehearsal halls like a bird in a badminton game.

This frenetic pace continues throughout Wednesday and Thursday, broken only by a technical conference on Thursday morning at which any really exacerbating problems are discussed and resolved.

The show I was following had two rather overpowering technical problems. The balloon dance required split second timing on the breaking of a number of balloons and massive preparations in setting them up, since each balloon was tied to a string anchored to a weight on the floor.

Quick Costume Changes

The British drawing room required Miss Ball and Kaye to make instant changes, and as the week progressed, the changes got steadily rougher.

Miss Ball demonstrated one of these changes, swinging over me like a bantamweight boxer. This is a […unintelligible…] woman – “one of […unintelligible…] completely honest people I know,” one of her fellow […unintelligible…] told me.

She’s brutally […unintelligible…] demonstrative, […unintelligible…] subtle in her humor, but […unintelligible…] friendly and outgoing […unintelligible…] relationships with the […unintelligible…] around her. She took a […unintelligible…] beating – and dished a […unintelligible…] too – during this week. It would have reduced an Olympic athlete to exhaustion. Yet she never held back, even during rehearsals.

Pulled Together

On Thursday at 5:30 p.m. the show was pulled together for the first time and rehearsed straight through. Kaye seemed a little introspective […unintelligible…] some of his asides during the rehearsal were more […unintelligible…] than funny. It was the first time I had seen all segments of the show, and I thought the skits were hilarious. Kaye later told me:

“It was a lousy rehearsal. I was down, so everything was down. What I feel inside is always reflected in the show.”

After the Thursday rehearsal, all the principals met […unintelligible…] and a creative […unintelligible…] session that lasted far into the night. The script was […unintelligible…] with clinical precision […unintelligible…] and nuance examined.

Parts Thrown Out

Two whole sections of Kaye’s dialogue were thrown out […unintelligible…] “cute,” the opening […unintelligible…] was reworked to […unintelligible…] warmth, it was decided that Gary’s numbers were too much alike and he was phoned and asked to bring in a […unintelligible…] the following morning.

When there was a difference of opinion, views were […unintelligible…] vigorously but without […unintelligible…]. On the few occasions when a consensus couldn’t be reached, Lafferty made the […unintelligible…] session finally broke at midnight, with a virtual […unintelligible…] and well honed script […unintelligible…] for its night work.

Part 3

“Kaye’s Mission Is To Entertain”

The Milwaukee Journal – Dec. 9, 1964

By: Joseph N. Bell

Production of “The Danny Kaye Show” goes into its final phases—the last rehearsals before it is to be filmed. The writer of this series is there to learn what has made the TV show a hit. This is the third article of a five part series.

Danny Kaye described the first run through of his recent television show with Lucille Ball as a lousy rehearsal, “I was down, so everybody was down,” he said.

If it was bad there was little evidence of it on Friday, the next day, when the show moved for the first time into the studio where it was to be filmed.

Here, the rehearsal started all over again, this time in the setting and against the actual backdrop to be used on Saturday night. All that was missing was the orchestra – scheduled to report for its first rehearsal on Friday evening.

Friday was a remarkably relaxed day for the performers. Producer Perry Lafferty was upstairs working on plans for the following week, and the current show was now in the hands of director Bob Scheerer, a former dancer who directs with tremendous gusto and every evidence of enjoyment.

“The whole essence of this business,” he told me, “is to entertain – so that’s what we’re doing. It’s not that serious a business. We know we can’t pin down every detail. A lot has to come, in the end, from instinct and taste.”

Improvise Dialog

Both Kaye and Miss Ball were in apparent good humor, and their improvised dialog during the skits was frequently funnier—and a great deal saltier—than the script. Kaye threw off one line that was later written into the script and got the biggest laugh in the show. And he convulsed the crew when a balloon fell accidentally from the rafters into the midst of the British skit and he engaged it with his cane.

This was a genuinely funny bit, and I asked Lafferty later why it hadn’t been incorporated into the show. He told me, “We’ve found that if something fouls up accidentally, Danny always turns it to his advantage and makes it work. But the spark just isn’t there if we try to ad lib on purpose.”

Late in the afternoon, Kaye went up to his penthouse to rehearse with the singers and invited me—by an imperious wave of his hand—to go along. He moves at a fast trot, and after surviving the sprint upstairs, I was glad to settle into a sofa in his living room and listen to the music.

Kaye rehearsed the choral number for that week’s show several times, giving directions in a no-nonsense manner and asking an occasional rhetorical question. That chore over, he trotted out a couple of his old records (“Can you believe that was made 22 years ago?”) and sang duets with himself.

Enjoys Himself

Then for almost an hour Kaye would start a song, the choral group would come along with him, and they would play with the arrangement. He was sunk deep in his chair, sucking on a pipe and apparently enjoying himself immensely. As the singers drifted off, he looked at me and said, “You can see what terrible tension there is around here.”

He mused a bit, “This is hard work, week in and week out, but believe it or not, I do a lot less work here than I do on a movie. The hardest work of all for me is to sit around. That’s the main reason I went into weekly television – because I wanted to put everything I had to work, and not just a piece of me. I’d been doing pretty much the same thing for too many years.

“Just before Moss Hart died, he told me: ‘You know, at some time in your life you have to take it by the scruff of the neck and shake it up.’ That hit home. I wasn’t doing enough to satisfy my natural creativity. So I went into weekly television.

“This show has to go on every week, and by virtue of that fact we’re forced to try new things, to experiment, to do our best and then move on. This is both a challenge and an opportunity that isn’t offered in any other medium. By the time we get to Saturday, we can do the show with real freedom.”

On Saturday came the first rehearsals with the full orchestra. The cast was on hand at noon. It was going to be a long day. For the first time Lucille Ball – smoking constantly, her wide, querulous eyes snapping – seemed to show some signs of tiring, but Kaye was as animated, omnipresent and restless as ever.

The changes of Thursday night had now been pretty well locked into place, and the rehearsals incorporated them smoothly. For the third time stagehands blew up several hundred balloons and put them in place for a song-dance number; this would have to be done two more times after the Saturday noon rehearsal.

The run through, in full costume and sets, was completed at 3:30 p.m. Then the cast assembled in the audience seats, facing Lafferty, who straddled a chair backward, and Scheerer, presiding from the elevation of his director’s stool.

Read Script Again

Everyone was present, including all the writers. The script was read once again in segments by Scheerer, then thrown open to comment. This was just two hours prior to the full scale dress rehearsal before a studio audience, yet several dozen last minute changes were made in the show. Although Scheerer was nominally in charge of this session, Lafferty – easy, unruffled, good natured – was the final arbiter of all disputes. Here’s how some of the dialog went:

Writer: “Lucy doesn’t say this line right. She should be more unctuous.”

Lucy: “I don’t know what ‘unctuous’ means.”

Makes No Notes

Scheerer: “You’ve got to come closer together. I can’t get you both in the camera the way you’ve been doing it.”

Kaye: “I’m afraid of her. She’s already kicked the hell out of me.”

When Scheerer got to the British skit, Lafferty cut off discussion. “We’re not even going to talk about this,” he said. “I liked it the way it is.”

No notes were made. Yet, when the dress rehearsal went on a few hours later, every direction that had been given was incorporated into the show. This is the mark of the professional – and professionals abound on the Kaye show.

Part 4
"Kaye Is Man of Great Charm; His Wit Cuts Others to Size”

The Milwaukee Journal – Dec. 10, 1964

By: Joseph N. Bell

In a week of watching the production of Danny Kaye’s television show, the writer had an opportunity to study Kaye as a person as well as a performer. This it the fourth article of a five part series.

Watching “The Danny Kaye Show” evolve through the week of rehearsals before it goes to the television public for judgment, one is constantly impressed by the essential role of the star, not just as a performer but as a human being, as well.

In simple justice, however, no entertainer of the stature of Kaye should be examined without first putting him in perspective.

These people simply don’t live in our world, and, therefore, it is difficult – and frequently unfair – to judge them by conventional standards. They live in an egocentered universe in which all things revolve around their moods, their caprices, their emotions, their tastes.

He’s a Genius

There is great latitude, of course, within this world, but it tends – to a rather large degree – to corrupt the decent impulses of a basically nice guy and to make absolutely massive the disagreeable qualities of an essentially agreeable person.

One of the people who has observed Kaye closely from outside the sinecure of his immediate creative family said of him:

“To understand Danny Kaye, you must understand that this man is completely self-centered. Everything he does, thinks, feels is in relationship to himself. He can be brutally, ruthlessly rude, and 10 seconds later completely charming.”

Thus, to say that Kaye is a nice guy – which he basically is most of the time – is to oversimplify so monstrously as to give no portrait of this complicated man at all.

An examination of Kaye must start from the point that, in the field of entertainment, he is a genius. He does all things well and some things superlatively. As a result, almost anyone who goes up against him—in repartee, in the quest for attention of an audience, even in ordinary conversation – is overmatched.

Instant Tantrum

This is essentially true of the people around him who can’t approach him at his level – and very few can. He can be very cruel to them without really seeming to mean to. But the effects are devastating.

At a closed rehearsal on Friday, three unfortunate women appeared in the front row of spectator seats. Kaye doesn’t like to have people around the set whom he doesn’t know; he wants all visitors cleared with him in advance. These women hadn’t been.

Kaye stopped in front of them and, with every evidence of good natured raillery, asked them where they were from. They were from Cleveland, were attending a convention of some kind, and had some very obscure relationship with Lucille Ball that apparently had gotten them into the rehearsal hall.

Kaye threw a carefully staged tantrum. He demanded loudly to know what had happened to “security around this place.”

A Perfectionist

After milking this line, he went back to the embarrassed women and told them they could stay, but he wanted them to know that the actors sometimes used “dirty words” during the rehearsal and they would just have to carry this picture back to Cleveland with them.

And then, with real comic genius and without ever flubbing a line or missing a cue, Kaye worked “Cleveland” into the skit he was rehearsing in a dozen different places. It was a hilarious and inspired performance, but an altogether devastating on to the women who fled in confusion after it was over.

It was all done tongue in cheek, but with such deadly lowering in on his target that the end result was more embarrassing than funny.

I saw this happen several other times, with people who were either incapable of matching wits with Kaye, were afraid of him, or were desperately uneasy as to whether or not he was serious. Most of the time he wasn’t, but his needing is so completely realistic, so perfectly honed that even his close acquaintances can’t always tell when he is or isn’t kidding.

Kaye is an absolute perfectionist and tends to be impatient with others who don’t share this near compulsion. He simply refuses to accept mediocrity in himself or anyone else—but particularly in himself.

When he gave up cigarette smoking last year, he took up a pipe, he went to the leading tobacconist in Beverly Hills and attended a “pipe smoking school” where he learned all about tobaccos, the woods used in pipe bowls and similar exotic information.

When he took up flying a few years ago, he refused to take his flight test at the conventional time because he wasn’t satisfied with his performance. When he did take it, his marks were close to perfect.

His business manager and close friend, Herb Bonis – who used to manage the Palace theater in New York – played table tennis with Kaye for amusement and exercise. Kaye played well, but so did Bonis, and the victories seesawed back and forth.

Then Kaye appeared at a Canadian exposition that also featured the world table tennis championships. Bonis came back to Kaye’s hotel suite and found the furniture pushed to the wall, a ping-pong table set up and a half dozen national champions, working in shifts teaching Kaye the fine art of table tennis. He worked at every spare moment until his play attained championship caliber.

One circumstance he couldn’t control as a youth was his strong desire to be a doctor. Although he couldn’t afford a medical education, this passion has never left him, and he is one of the few outsiders regularly invited to witness operations.

He reads medical books avidly and has become a remarkably accurate self-taught diagnostician. Bonis remembers an evening in a St. Louis motel when Kaye complained of a pain, finally sat down and diagnosed it as appendicitis, then flew to the Mayo clinic the next day where his diagnosis was confirmed.

This almost compulsive perfectionism in Kaye is made palatable to those around him by another, just as pervasive quality, Kaye’s professionalism. He never demands of others what he is unwillingly to do himself, and he never holds back professionally – even in the endless rehearsals for each of his television shows. He also respects professionalism in others – even when he doesn’t agree with them.

Harvey Korman the talented actor who works with Kaye in most of his skits, says of Danny, “He’s a remarkably sensitive instrument. He takes and he gives. He reacts almost intuitively. He has an ear that is absolutely uncanny in music, dialects, lines of dialogue, and he’s enormously perceptive.

“I remember a time I had once in a skit that he said didn’t sound right the way I delivered it. He didn’t tell me to change it, and I went ahead the way I’d been doing it. Then I heard it on the show, and it wasn’t right. I called him up and apologized. I knew how offensive it must have been to his ear every time we did the skit—yet he didn’t stop me.”

“When I managed the Palace,” recalls Bonis, “I’d start to get worried when some performers weren’t there an hour or two ahead of time. But not Danny. If he wasn’t there five minutes before he was due to go on, I wasn’t concerned. I knew he’d get there, and he always did. He used to slip out between shows and watch basketball games at Madison Square Garden. He’d stay as long as he could, but he was always back in time to do his show.”

His work with the United Nations international children’s emergency fund and the children of the world is well known. He is a fine amateur pilot and a near professional chef who thoroughly enjoys inviting a dozen people to his home on impulse and then cooking a Chinese dinner for them. (One such affair almost had disastrous consequences last year when he dumped a pan of scalding water on his foot and had to do his last four television shows from a wheelchair.)

Lately he has taken to conducting symphony orchestras throughout the country in benefits for those generally underpaid artists. The musicians […unintelligible…] capacity house and plenty of money in their frequently impoverished till. But they are invariably startled to find that Kaye means business when he mounts the podium.

“He can’t read a note of music,” says Bonis, “but he memorizes by ear whatever it is he’s going to conduct. Then he conducts the whole number from memory.”

Part V

“Once the Kaye Show Is Taped, Flubs Kept to Add Spontaneity”

The Milwaukee Journal – Dec. 11, 1964

By: Joseph N. Bell

Danny Kaye’s television show goes before the cameras. In the audience is a reporter who has watched everything leading up to this moment. This last of five articles concludes his report on why Kaye’s show has become one of the most successful variety programs on TV.

“The Danny Kaye Show” plays twice each week at CBS’ Television City in Hollywood. It is, as Kaye’s business agent, Herb Bonis, noted, “ a tough ticket.”

Tickets are free, of course, but there is a long waiting list both for the dress rehearsal which goes on at 6 p.m. and the final filming of the air show, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. every Saturday (The filmed show is telecast in Milwaukee the following Wednesday at 9 p.m.)

Those who have attended television shows and put up with the long queues outside, the pushing and mauling, the frustrations of trying to look around a camera at the live action, and the endless waiting around for performers who are late would find the Kaye show a pleasant surprise.

No Canned Laughter

The studio is designed so the spectators are virtually on the floor with the performers. Shows start precisely as advertised, finish on time, and run straight through—just as if they were being done live. There’s a good—and selfish—reason for this.

“We have to be aware of the restrictions of time,” says director Bob Scheerer. “When a child knows he has to be in bed at a certain time, he adjusts to it. One of the inherent weaknesses of filmed television is the opportunity to be too lavish with time. This is antiseptic. There’s no drive in it. As a result, there’s no sense of live television left.

“We like a reaction from the studio audience as near to a live show as possible. That’s why we make frantic costume changes during the commercials. If we let the audience sit, we’ve lost them. We try to realize that extra 20% it’s possible to get from a live performance. We try to come as close it as we can.”

The Kaye producers also spurn canned laugh tracks and the temptation to tinker with a product once it has been filmed.

“We never touch the tape,” says producer Perry Lafferty with finality. “Whatever happens, that’s it.”

Even the two tapings on Saturday (both the dress rehearsal and the air show are taped) are not free from last minute changes—some of them unintentional.

Kaye Was Chased

I watched the Kaye-Lucille Ball dress rehearsal from the control booth, where Scheerer and three assistants exert immediate and positive control over everything that takes place on the floor through an intercom arrangement.

Scheerer gives all the cues to the cameramen, production assistants and the musical director.

With one exception, things went rather smoothly during the dress rehearsal I watched. Miss Ball somehow managed to find the energy to chase Kaye up through the audience during the warmup before the taping started, a gambit she didn’t repeat for the air show.

The mixup occurred when Scheerer became so entranced in the balloon dance tha the completely forgot a music cue and the whole number ended in something of a shambles. It is doubtful if the audience noticed it, but shortly afterward the phone rang and a red faced Scheerer picked it up, then roared with laughter.

“Lafferty wants to know if this is the ‘Cinderella’ set,” he said happily (A new version of “Cinderella” was being filmed in an adjacent studio at the time.)

Miss Ball Was Tiring

The studio was cleared by 7:30 p.m. with the air show due to go on an hour later. But once again, as it had in the late afternoon, the entire company gathered in the spectator seats and went completely through the show. The session was shorter, changes tended to be minor and technical, the atmosphere was still cordial and generally relaxed, although it appeared to me that Miss Ball was finally running out of gas after a week that would have exhausted a professional athlete.

The air show seemed, to this observer, to be rather flat in contrast to some of the high moments of rehearsal during the week. This may have been simply a reaction from having seen the show so often. It played much faster than it ever had before—with the result that Kaye came up to his end spot with more time on his hands than had been anticipated.

Here, again, the versatility of Kaye, the performer, came across with powerful impact. He sat on his plastic stool, surrounded by his studio audience, told them he was tired from the rigors of the show and actually dozed on camera for a minute or two—while absolutely nothing else went on. There probably isn’t another performer in the world who could have pulled this off. Kaye’s audience apparently loved it.

Then the show was over, four weeks of concentrated work, now sealed in a celluloid can, to be consumed the next week in the voracious maw of network television, a piece of American folklore—for better or for worse—that will have one, maybe two exposures, then disappear forever.

The one thing that came through most emphatically to me after a week with the Danny Kaye show is that the people who are responsible for it are honest men, deadly serious about their craft, and determined to stand by their principles.

“We have to satisfy ourselves,” says Scheerer, with an air of finality. “We’ve had no pressure to touch this show,” added Lafferty, “and if it went down to a rating of 4, we wouldn’t alter a single basic concept.”

By 10 o’clock Saturday night, the sweepers had moved into the studio to cart off the carcasses of hundreds of balloons and the scenery was being moved into the hall, where it would be torn down, its usefulness ended. One by one, the lights were dimmed.

I walked by Kaye’s dressing room to say good-by. I never got the chance. Inside, Kaye was deep in animated conversation with Lafferty and Scheerer, doing a post-mortem on an hour of entertainment that was now beyond human reach. The cycle would start all over again the next Tuesday. But on Saturday night there was still services to be said over a warm corpse—and they were being said by next of kin who felt a real affection for the departed spirit.

© 1964, by United Features Syndicate, Inc.

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