Las Vegas Sun

November 14, 2018

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Columnist Joe Delaney: Thank you, Milton Berle


MILTON BERLINGER was born July 12, 1908, in New York City. ... He began performing at age 5, 83 years ago. ... Young Milton attended the New York Professional Children's School. ... Buster Brown was the most popular name in children's shoes. ... As a model, Milton was the "Buster Brown Boy" before becoming a child actor in silent movies. ... His mother, Sandra, also had him working in vaudeville as "The Boy Wonder."

As Milton Berle, spurred on by his mother, a one-person claque, he developed a brash, rapid-fire style as a monologist, in addition to inserting himself into everyone else's act. ... He combined his cerebral brilliance with a flair for burlesque shtick.

Working as an emcee in Manhattan's Palace Theatre, circa 1931, was an early breakthrough, leading to bookings in nightclubs and theaters. ... He starred in a number of Broadway musicals.

And in films

There is one scene in the film "New Faces of 1937" with Milton in a stock broker's office, a customer whose shares go down when he buys then go back up when he sells, a classic that I treasure. ... Berle has appeared in many major films since, with his performance in the comedy "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963) one of his better outings.

Television in the late 1940s was Berle's biggest score. ... Tuesday nights belonged to Uncle Miltie. ... Film and stage theaters in New York were dark that night. ... "Closed on account of Milton Berle" signs were posted.

He became "Mr. Television." ... Would you believe that he was deposed in the mid-1950s by Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen? ... Milton later told us that it was because Sheen "had better writers: Peter, Paul, Matthew and the other apostles."

On Broadway

Lindy's Restaurant in midtown Manhattan was the comedian's after-hours hangout with the No. 1 table reserved for Milton, Henny Youngman and Jack E. Leonard. ... Milton, "The Thief of Bad Gags," dubbed Henny "King of the One-Liners" because "Henny couldn't remember two lines." Milton, Henny and Jack E. were LV regulars back in the star-policy days.

In Las Vegas, Berle featured two slapstick sketches: "Makeup," where Milton would get whacked by a big bag of flour every time he said the word; and, "That's Not Funny," which ended with Berle inflicting the damage rather than being the recipient.

Between the two, the late Jerry Collins would perform his classic "Frick and Frack" routine, a verbal tongue-twister. ... You might also recall Irving Benson as "Sidney Shpritzer," heckling Milton on the "Hollywood Palace" TV programs.

In conclusion

Berle belongs right there among the all-time comedic greats, with Jack Benny, George Burns, Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton. ... It is encouraging that at age 88, he is active and publishing a new slick magazine, "Milton." ... This is our personal "Thank you, good friend" for more than 60 years of laughs and warm memories. ... Reminder: Please support the SUN Summer Camp Fund. ... See you next Friday.