Stardust in My Eyes: Column 5

steve-martinGetting the boot from a cruise ship and meeting a future star like Steve Martin was all part of my first time in Miami. The tropical breezes and swaying palm trees were magical. The full moon sinking into a picture perfect postcard of Miami Beach should have been entertainment enough.

Being young and starstruck back then, I didn’t know that I didn’t get it. And I most definitely could not realize that the backdrops of where you are, the songs that are playing, the scent of the saltwater on an ocean’s breeze is what gave the memories all their richness.

Larry and I spent several more nights in Miami checking out the entertainment scene. We stayed at a hotel by the airport and got to enjoy the music of “Impact of Brass” every night in the lounge—what an amazing band.


sammy-davis-jr-book-smallMy hand clutched tightly to my book by Sammy Davis, Jr., that I kept with me at all times. It was called, “Yes I can,” and I would read it whenever I needed a little stardust in my eyes; reading a few pages would always help. I liked to imagine that I was paying my dues and reading Sammy’s book would make me realize that the stuff I was going through on my showbiz journey was nothing to fret over. It was all part of it; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Cheering myself up was easy. If I wasn’t performing or rehearsing, I would take the chance to watch other performers entertain anytime I could. Watch them without analyzing at all—just to entertain myself. That is the way I learned, relaxed, and found inspiration.

So that is why those few days in Miami were wonderful. Back then Miami had a lot of comedy and music; famous for all the miles and miles of resorts and hotels; comedy acts like The Rhodes Brothers, Tubby Boots, Don Sebastian, Marsh and Adams, the list goes on and on.



This was 1974 and I had no idea then, that in the not so distant future, four years later I would be living in Ft. Lauderdale, close to Miami. I had always thought I’d end up living in Hollywood, California.

jay-lenoThe  year was 1978, I was finally getting known locally in Florida and was making a living performing in this sea of nightclubs—I booked Jay Leno on a gig at The After Dark Club. 

I had met Jay back in my street entertainment days and hanging out at The Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd. After our comedy gig,  I drove him back to his hotel at The Diplomat in Miami. Back then he impressed a lot of comics as one of the hardest working comedians out there, he was so funny. It still makes me laugh when I remember that he used to call me “Hefty bags”. He won over all the crowds.

Jay was working as an opening act for Ann Margret in Miami. Just one quick call to him about my Monday night comedy show was all I needed. He was happy to get out and do a gig on his day off. Like I said, this guy loved to perform.


I drove down to Miami to pick Jay up. It was great seeing him again, and during the drive back to his hotel he asked when I was coming back to Hollywood. I guess I didn’t seem too excited.

I was no longer a struggling street performer who hung out for stage time at The Comedy Store—I was happy with my little son and a wife.

I was happy here. Work was pretty regular so I didn’t see the rush about Hollywood as I did a few years earlier and then he told me, with much reassurance, that there is nothing wrong with being a big fish in a little pond. I guess I had told him I was happy being married and living on the Gold Coast of Florida.

Moving to Florida on my honeymoon with my artist wife was a dream for both of us. We felt by 1978 living here was a good move, Ft. Lauderdale was the bar capital of the world.

After a few years of showbiz ups and downs, we finally got a big break, at least I thought it was for both of us.

That year in South Florida, 13 newspapers voted from West Palm Beach to Miami. My wife Carol and I were surprised when I won the Mark Allen Critics Choice Award for the best comedy act on the Gold Coast.

I could not have done that without her support, she was someone I could run ideas by. She even helped me figure out the plan to stay put…instead of roaming everywhere.

norman_kentI also have to thank my manager at that time, Norman Elliot Kent.

I never thought I’d go from being a street performer in Hollywood to this. I never told my wife much about those years in Hollywood, some of it was just not stuff I’d want to tell anyone back then.

How I got to Florida’s Gold Coast was a long, long road trip.

That is the story I am writing about, so with that in mind, let’s go back to where this story left off. Back to 1974, when Larry and I got to Tampa from being in Miami.

odd-job-james-bondWe went to Clearwater Beach, and it was there I met this folk singer who wanted me to do some guest sets for her gig at the Japanese Steakhouse in Tampa on the Causeway. After my set, I noticed a familiar face in the audience watching the show. 

It was Harold Sakata, known as Odd Job from James Bond’s “Goldfinger” movie, and I got the chance to talk to him for quite a while. He was filming more of his famous commercials for Vicks Formula 44 cough medicine, I was a big  James Bond fan.

Soon I found myself boarding a plane in Tampa headed to Milwaukee, my uncle came down to Florida to bring me home. When I got back to Wisconsin, I was able to go back to the Playboy Club to watch shows. Carlo was still so kind and encouraging to me.

I was looking for any chance to do comedy and heard that Barbie Benton was searching for comedy writers for her new show. She held an afternoon meeting in the showroom atop the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. I showed up and so did a dozen other comedians and writers. She was very professional and joked with all of us in between her rehearsals.


Then we all submitted some jokes to her in that great looking showroom, on the top floor, with a view of the Milwaukee skyline.

That day, her boyfriend Hugh Hefner showed up. He was walking through the lobby with his famous pipe in hand and friends and bodyguards walking alongside.

NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1970s: Barbi Benton and Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Club circa 1970s in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – CIRCA 1970s: Barbi Benton and Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Club circa 1970s in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

I bumped into Melanie while walking through the hotel and talked to her for a moment, she was in town for a concert. Her song “Brand New Key” was a big hit then. 


If I was not in Milwaukee, I would go to Chicago whenever I could to get some stage time at the Pickle Barrel in Chicago.


The place was just that—stage time for up-and-coming performers, and what a list it was: Jimmy Wiggins, James Wesley Jackson, Tim Reid and Tom Dreeson, who not only ran this showcase but were also known as a comedy team—Tim and Tom. 


Jimmy Wiggins and James Wesley Jackson


There were many people back then realizing that two mics are better than one, so comedy teams were a big thing. Teams like Catchem and Holum, Ed Fiala and Ted Houm, Bohanon and Sanders, O’brien and Severa.


Ed Fiala and Ted Holum

That night, after my guest set,  Jimmy Wiggins told me I should always perform with two microphones. He said it would create a better illusion on stage making my Dummy look more real.

The idea he gave me stuck, and it was an idea from one of the brightest and funniest comedians ever.

Jimmy was a writer for years for TV shows like Captain and Tennille, and he was also a writer for George Carlin. Years later Jimmy would be known as “The Last Hippie in America,” and would place in the top finals for Last Comic Standing. He also appeared on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.



I know Jimmy’s gone now, but I hope he’s still making them laugh in heavenly places. He was someone I’d never forget, and I was fortunate to be able to work with him several times over the years.

Jimmy, just like Sammy Davis, Jr., was known as a huger!!! So looking at him or getting a hug from him always put stardust in my eyes.

The Impact of Brass-Fastbreak-Mike Lewis Producer Arranger. Video is overview of highlights of group’s career.

Comedian Tubby Boots performs in Ocean City MD (part 1 of 4). Obese, often tasseled and prone to streaking, Charles ‘Tubby’ Boots was a one man vaudevillian sexual revolution. The comedian stands alone as a wild eccentric who performed profane, occasionally hackneyed, and often very jiggly, physical comedy in after hours clubs, burlesque houses, state fairs, traveling road shows, cruise ships, race tracks and Coney Island. Adult Humor see… for more information.

Don Sebastian – Doz Were The Good Ole Days (In Brooklyn) Privately published Vinyl LP of unknown date. Probably 1970s Recorded live at the Aztec Hotel, Miami. No Copyright exists.

Lou Marsh and Tony Adams recorded live.

Jay Leno makes his first stand-up comedy appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1977. Watch more comedians

From a VHS tape recorded off TV 35 years ago; this is probably the best quality version out there until we can get a restored print. The movie as it currently exists runs only 80 minutes, so I think this longer version was put in to help fill out a two-hour time slot (the L.A. montage at the beginning ran longer too, but I don’t have that). Or maybe this was the version that played overseas?

Harold Sakata reprises his character, Oddjob, in this humorous VICK’s 44 Cough Medicine commercial from the mid 1960s. Oddjob was Goldfinger’s henchman with the razor-edged bowler hat.


Published on Jan 30, 2008

A 8mm film done by my sister while in high school for a class project in the 70’s with music by Melanie that I transferred to tape. Location Wichita, Kansas.

A classic Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen comedy routine. Read more about their new book at

Chicago comic Ed Fiala performs one of his last shows before his death.

The Old Guys Rule Comedy Show is a stand up comedy variety show featuring: Musical Comedian Gene Merola, Comedy Ventriloquist Peter Hefty, and Stand-Up Comedian Ted Holum.

Their first hit single was a cover of Neil Sedaka’s and Howard Greenfield’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”. The song went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart nine weeks after its debut in 1975, and it went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.