Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mon Oncle

BELOW: It was a groove to find these clips from a 1969 "Playboy After Dark" appearance of my late great Uncle Milton...Milt Kamen. This is 1 of 2 parts available for viewing on YouTube.

Milton was my mother Dorothy's brother (one of 5 brothers and 2 sisters) They grew up pooor in Brooklyn and in fact, in an old Esquire magazine article written about the great comedian Harry Ritz, my uncle and Harry were talking about Milton Berle's legendary practice of stealing jokes to which my Uncle says "I was at a cocktail party last week and telling someone about my family, being raised in poverty etc...and I see Berle standing there listening to me...well, the following evening I go to another party and there I overhear Berle telling the same story word for word!...Berle didn't steal my jokes...he stole my whole life!"

BELOW: A couple of great shots courtesy of my pal and Game Show Book author Fred Wostbrock of Milt with guests from the old "Pantomime Quiz" TV show circa mid-fifties. We can see a twenty-something Carol Burnett in the mix, but I can't make out the rest of the folks. Post it in the comments if you know.
BELOW: another clip from 1976 when he was a panelist on "The Gong Show" although he doesn't say a word, it just feels good to see him if Jaye P. Morgan had been my Uncle we'd have something here.

He was also a talented and classically trained musician who played the French Horn (in Carnegie Hall at one time) and also hung out with some pretty heavy cats like Brando, Wally Cox, Lenny Bruce, Oscar Levant and Dizzy Gillespie (he can be seen doin' some "freeform dance expression" while Dizzy blows the horn on the 1959 debut of "Playboy After Dark"...then titled "Playboy's Penthouse") and was frequent guest on Merv Griffin's show. Merv loved Uncle Milton, and used to have him do his own wacky movie reviews. One I remember in particular was of the 1933 King Kong film: "Here he comes to the greatest city in the world, immediately picks up this gorgeous blonde broad, and what does he do? he takes her to the Empire State Building like any about no imagination!"

Milt was a clean comedian, but then I've had in the past, both George Carlin and Redd Foxx tell me stories about how much they loved and dug him. He did a play in Vegas with Redd that was written by our old next door neighbor Sam Bobrick called "Norman, Is That You?" Sam was also the "Mad Man" who was responsible for that Mad Magazine cardboard 45 record called "It's a Gas" remember that one?

He did one comedy album on Capitol Records in 1964 which can be downloaded here. Thanks to Kliph Nesteroff for this one -

The album was produced by Mel Brooks and the back liner notes are written by some other funny guy named Groucho.

Legend has it that Uncle Milton dug a kid he saw doing stand-up in the Catskills and brought him in to meet Sid Caesar to see if he could get him a job writing for the show "Fellas, this kid's a young Larry Gelbart!" to which a young Gelbart (in the room at the time) said "I thought I was a young Larry Gelbart?!" Well, they ended up hiring him. The kid's name was Woody Allen.

Man, I guess what was only gonna be a few sentences and a couple of clips of my Uncle is turning into an authorized biography here! There's plenty more showbiz stories there, not to mention his "friendship" with Shelly Winters (I told you not to mention it!) but maybe some other time. Thanks for your mouse.

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