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Is going to have Norton refuse.
Mr. Norton's cash today as Carol Channing star of the touring company of sugar babies. People ask musical revue now playing at the Colonial Theatre.
Good evening. It's good to be back again for the 23rd season of Elliot Norton reviews and particularly pleasant to begin with Carol Channing who is happily back again in Boston this time with sugar babies and by the way this is not the second company of sugar babies This is another company of sugar babies and better than the one on Broadway. Mr. Channing is almost unique in the theater today a star who is equally admired and loved in Salt Lake City and on Broadway everywhere from coast to coast and nowhere more than here where audiences are of course the most discriminating. We've admired her here and hello Dolly. And as Lara lively and I now were admiring her on the show changing her image from sweet demure and slightly sly to a bawdy Dame. This is a new Carol playing with Bobby Moss and what is essentially a glamorized burlesque show. Everybody is going to be delighted because it's very well done and very fun. Maybe some are going to be slightly shocked. I know I was once. You know he and I were on the right Carol and it took me wondered you how did you get into this room.
Do you know Mr. Norton. I was in London at the jury Lane Theater at the time. Then a call came in and I was supposed to do Lydia Thompson who was the first burlesque queen. Jerry Herman and I were working on a musical Jerry Herman was. And the staff of Hello Dolly and all the group and at the time you know Gower was alive. But but we it was it was to be the story of the first burlesque show in the United States which was around Abraham Lincoln's time. But Lydia Thompson had a life that didn't have any particular drama to it. She coming she assured in covered wagons with her burlesque show. But it was the first of it. Also she was English she was an American. And but Abraham Lincoln used to love to come and see her shows but she had a beef trust and all that. That was all that was exciting about her the other thing exciting thing was that there was a critic on the Chicago Tribune Ishita who called her ladies ladies of ill repute Richard can say anything about me if you want. So she went up to the second floor of the Chicago Tribune and horsewhip the critic. So he brought the thing and that was the days of horse and buggies you see. So she horsewhipped him and then they brought it into court. And you're well I'm way off the subject and the judge and all the jury were so sympathetic to Lydia that you have to grow it out in court.
But he was very careful what he said about her after there was the credit your mama. No I don't know Eugene Field because it sounds familiar. Would you.
You don't remember Eugene Field on our job but I've read all about the linea THOMPSON I don't remember her. You know I read about her she had a beef roast she had girls in tights.
Yes pink tights and they were a little overweight and I understand it is not a fashionable thing. Perhaps so but as she got older she would get what girls that were older than she was another she got thinner she get girls that were thinner than she was and so were you know she just she just saw to it that she it set her off well.
That's why your ground in Libya so there wasn't enough drama and there wasn't enough drama.
So but the material was wonderful the burlesque material and so all of the sudden I got a call from the producers of sugar baby saying they had a smash hit on Broadway would would I do They had to have somebody for the national company and so I said all of a sudden I realized that's nothing but the burlesque material that we were so crazy about. It's that we don't have to food lady is lying.
So I got into a little whereas you're living a life that you have some of those sketches was some of those old yesses that see their traditional bring their sketches. Yes well everybody had them nobody wrote them down at the time the skills they never Cammarata Yeah yeah they never did because Mxy Firman in our show one of the finest living burlesque comics keeps coming to see. Now look you say this as if you just. You give the time that I want you to go and then say the line and then face forward and that's the way you do it and that's the way it's been done and interestingly enough if you don't do it just that way it doesn't get the laugh. But there's a tradition too that the reason they don't write it down is it's the timing the attitude and the innocence I think of Maxie for I was so pleased in your review that you mentioned the other comics Billy Linton Jay Stewart and chairs changed because they had to stand there and read proles going to work with them is really something. It's quite a thrill. Yeah I mean that's exciting because they do they have a built in metronome that is American burlesque and it's our American rhythm. It comes out of minstrel shows it's an overarcing American rhythm or is he. I think burlesque was in Al Gore's Now you you are a historian better than I. But first there were minstrel shows and then burlesque and then as burlesque died as the Minsky's kill you told me that the Minsky's killed burlesque or the girl with the nudie girls. Yeah and they finally were playing to derelicts and windows. Then came vaudeville and then finally the great American musical comedy. Well it's an outgrowth of our mores our heredity. So burlesque was our stage at that time that's why I understand Abraham Lincoln is like at least the family unity.
And I once got shot I don't remember this was not of the New York company where you were the secretary of the police are trying to find out why the guy jumped out the window in the last of that I think is very funny. I do too. Also now that the timing on that you just spoke about timing and that is precise and extraordinary Do you have you learn every single line or does he have the same lines every time.
Yes every single time. You see if you get your laugh that's God given you've got lightning in a bottle. Any Only a fool would fool with with that once you get your left. Hold it right there and don't ever change your will how do you get a purse.
I mean if you change one word seem to me that sketch would evaporate.
Did you notice that. Do you know I have to go over that sketch all day long. My little brain is just smoked out. I go over it all day long to get it to go out. Just exactly the same each in each show and you do it quite right. Cirrhotic surged to the top all of that was that the director a whole Mexi firm used to tell it as one man telling a story about two people. The policeman the girl and the man that jumped out the window. Three people used to tell it and you and you know Max he is interesting he stammers something terrible offstage. I don't know. Yes and onstage he's powerful. He rattles along for I don't know where he's saying I mean when he tries to resurrect it so then I say he says I want to get he gave it to me it's like gold that he gave me and he gave us all here gave me that scared so he told you the story of the new developer who he did he took he had this sketch in his way he used to be a stand out in one and tell stories the winners of the show and it was one of the stories he told and he said he racked his brain has got to be sent here for Cal. It was where we got to go we're going to we're going to sketch for it. We're going to we're going to.
So he was thinking and thinking and he said we got to get a funny sketch for Carol they want to see women as you wrote the Sunday before we came in the Fanny Brice was the only female comic in burlesque and the women were just girls standing around on the street. So Maxie had to dig in. He said Well it maybe she could she could be the girl maybe she could be the girl and stand there and be that girl.
Well it was only a story that was told by many burlesque and I said Oh Maxie you've given me good he said well I was in the first one to tell what he said after all that's from way back it's traditional. I mean I stole it from somebody. So you might as well steal wood for me you said.
Then who did the actual drama I mean who figured which ones which lines Maxie and Ralph Allen together two of them together the two of them together when they got that down on paper you know exactly as they wrote it is that it or did you or just some of the lines yourself.
Oh well no because as I was saying it Mattie said no you've got to get in there. So I removed my dress you got to see it so I took the $100 so I did in that but no Mxy got in there it was finally written down a maxi looked at the paper he said That's right. Then he listened to and said That's wrong that's not the way it was done.
Other words but year by year and he listened to me do it. And he listened and he said no you got to say how much beat repeat how oh much for the Monday business and he said you've got to repeat it otherwise you don't get the laugh and I didn't get a laugh if I didn't repeat it. You have to see how much how much for the monkey business.
I mean another was he's not only a great practitioner but he's got an ear for us so he knows exactly where the laughs come and whether beats come where his he literally how they're feeling once he hears hears only God and even God doesn't know we're left.
But Maxine knows I mean I believe in magic all those comics and now Billy Linton is the policeman and he is he's the same one in the magic carpet and he's the timing he has on that. He builds it with me. Yes that's right.
I wait for the beat when I if he doesn't say yes we don't get the last of the two you know there is very precisely time he senses it and he feels it and then we keep it right there but it is precisely timed it's traditional. It has been done that way as I say since burlesque began. And that's the only way to do it.
Who figured out the one with the doves. That's an extraordinary thing to see if something I remember somebody having done before was that done a number of us go forward go buy some.
Yeah all your member who go was on the tip of my to Royce Rosita Roy all that's right Rosita Royce and you don't remember Rosie I remember her from vaudeville sure long from vaudeville where Rosita really had these birds now in the New York company.
They just having one of the chorus girls yeah the birds fly and I was a ghost but we all thought wouldn't it be better if Carol did that. So it took quite a bit of rehearsing and the birds are dear we have a rubber body stocking that I wear it's a turtle neck and it goes all the way down to my feet like a nighty night underneath that toe that we whip it off and throw it right in the laundromat. After every performance then the wig and the hat on it is also watchable I have to watch that every night. But I feel when I hear those laughs it's worth it.
It's absolutely right how did you learn to do that when I know how you do the knife for all I know you know that because I've seen that used to be and Berlusconi that was on Broadway too. It's beautifully done but after all it's a trick. And it's a very funny trick their way is good.
The birds I have no idea how you do the Bobby Morse was so brave in rehearsal the first time I did that I mean and I was scared to death because I know that I was going to come right there and really know where my mother was he had to step in the right places and yes he did it in the right place that's it. But you don't give away how we do it can you see from the front how we do it.
While I have seen that thing done many ways before I could see it.
Oh you could see why I don't think that takes away the fun. You mean I'm not doing it right. I don't think so I think you're doing it beautifully you're covering up what you're doing but it seems to me that that thing we're not supposed to take it for granted that you are a brilliant life after all we we recognize that you're a comedienne.
Oh I'm going from hoping you thought that I threw those names. Oh you didn't you mean it just doesn't look that way to print.
It looks funny it looks as though you were carrying the sketch a little bit but that doesn't make it any less funny.
And she oh dear. Well I thought I thought one reason they were laughing was they were scared to death for Bobby.
Well you're still worried about him because those things do you hear. They do appear to have to make sure there is a right way. How much time you're going to guess like that for example. Oh that took quite a while because I'm really working with the stage hand behind it. You know who you are you're not going to give it away. No I wouldn't do that.
But that took a while. That took about a month of getting that rehearsed. But we also it took changing the skirt many times.
Do you have any problem with learning something like that after all these years of working on these shows.
Well I haven't stopped working. You see that's the important thing for any human being I think they don't stop working if you just keep learning something all the time learning something it's like a an athlete's biceps are horrible. Yes your brain works just like a muscle.
You never done anything quite like this before you were George Burns on the VS George Burns had an I got it routine and that is it we called it the I got it routine.
George had this routine he had it with Gracie and he gave it to me see the honor of my life as a Gracie in the last two years of her life didn't know that she knew she was dying. But she said Look George has to work not that he needs the money. His metabolism needs it and she said Carol George told me that I could choose who he works with and I'd like to choose you. Well do you know it's as if I were knighted in Westminster Abbey. I mean for a comedian to have Gracie choose you to work with her George. And she would sit in the first row and laugh and clap and all she was able to watch all year the last two years are learning while George and I were together where there was routine the I got it routine and that's what ruined me that's why I have no taste left.
I'm not I am just the lowest type of comedy because what how are you on the low in the one scene with the judge that's the only one who did the fan kid. No the one the the judge the judge. He's at the end of what what was it that was where he comes from a little door. Mickey Rooney that was a little your hair too.
You mean that's where I say Oh judge it was just like this and then crossed my legs. There is that what did it. That was too much. Well I just did it on the show.
But the thing is you know it's the way he does it and I like him I like his performance very much. I think he's very very good I noticed you did in your review I was a most impressed I didn't think he was funny or that skillful. Rooney I don't like at all in New York when he does that because he to me is a dirty old man.
Only really you know he I just loved you know I knew I had thought that you your coming I went through it and laughed my head off and then I thought and I thought well where do I fit I don't know where I belong in this attack. So so I just I get it and then they said to me well no you see we have access to so many other sketches. Really it is. Half the show is less than half the same as New York.
Yeah I don't after all you do the Sophie Tucker you do the whole right from the beginning to the announcements they neither and Mickey do and but I thought they were fabulous didn't you think Mickey was like Santa Claus.
I thought he was terribly funny but I didn't think he was like Santa Claus know he to me as a dirty old man. Now I think he's funny. Don't make us understand I think he's very funny I have never had any idea he was that funny extremely funny but I think he like a little goat Maher don't think Bobby Morse conveys that. Bobby Moore so has the car you spoke about firm and being honest and I have the feeling Bobby was has a sense of being in a season voice cast about or away or start drawing all the dirty and I'm going to he even gets that you know what he is a fine pure wholesome he is that.
And Bobby is a well he's from Newton Massachusetts just got a Newton Massachusetts care nature and he just like his character. He's the backbone of the country comes from the east where they're holding the United States of America together. Absolutely yeah.
Hold on I was still doing it here in the hall already an awful lot about the tap dance you said something while you were tap dancing help you said something like Yeah.
And Miller Well my gosh I know you have to shout all the time. Yes I know tap dancer I mean what could I do. So I've never tapped before in my life. I danced a lot of good flamenco dancing ballet gigs I can get up on point did you know there are no. Yes to me it looks like the Bride of Frankenstein coming out you've got size 10 feet so it makes me 10 inches taller than I am which is six feet tall and he said this huge woman comes looming at you and he said it's he said finally you start to laugh it's so it's so terrible to see me on top.
Well you know famine could wait on others.
Yes well we were thinking about putting me on point as the Statue of Liberty in doing a nerve tap but it didn't project in those huge theaters we were playing in so they took it out.
I thought the tap dancing was quite charming.
Did you would you say you knew that I wasn't a tap dancer.
Now if you paid your money to see a tap dancer you say well what is that you know I know but that was one kind of cute number When the girls who got those girls were awful good but they are so round and cute aren't they rarely I mean speaking as a person not built that way they're just so they're very sweet girls and they're you know many yards too.
I do too in the realm of the all girl us closure all those girls were horrible horrible looking all day it was lousy and we were already Yeah yeah. But these girls aren't they're only 22 years old and are almost showing the.
This is not so much of shows as a kind of review.
Yes in the US you let loose the liberal arts material in your introduction to me just now.
You left out Linda near Charles gainers Linda Nero I had forgotten the years actually that was the first one was opened at the Wilbur we trying out here at the Wilbur before it was a smash hit New York and you reviewed it new with the first word on me. Yeah you see you were the first one to pick me up and you did work on my sketches.
Yes yes yes and that was the last review that I worked in because reviews went out of style. It seems that everybody said no they're doing them on television and so they don't need them on Broadway they're done to death on television and reviews you're dead. This this sugar babies is the first one that is dead that the review and suddenly everybody's doing a review. Now they're all back. People were hungry for them but they had the theory among Broadway people that they they were done to death on television. Isn't it ridiculous. So this is why Sugar Babies are such a turning point it turned the whole tirade.
It's a new upper house and when you are old First you want to. And Dallas was the opening night wasn't Yeah. Were you apprehensive or were you comfortable with the show. We were comfortable with the material.
I was surprised that they did that that Baptist ministers were sitting there with their collar on backwards and all and that they laughed There it is.
What I will say on all of us and what I'll say. But I didn't say there's a line in the you know about the chicken. We got chicken soup in pieces. Or should I go and say well I'm a waitress and now I get is that wonderful timing of Maxie's AJ Stewart has great time he's the straight man that good looking straight when he says he says. I think that are like a bowl of soup. And as it goes I like a bowl of soup. We got chicken soap and peach you see that's me. But you got to get their feet like a bowl of soup. We got chicken joke in case you have chicken soup. One Bo I checked. No I've changed my mind a one piece to.
Hold that chicken to make it pay be where the house came down it was Sunday matinee that we opened and of what industries were there and their children the whole family and we just howled. So then all of a sudden I was so surprised that it made the left bigger because I they tell me that the surprised look on my face made to laugh all the more so I realized suddenly what I really had say Ted. So then that but nobody seems to mind see it's American. I guess it's a part of our forbearers it's our own history.
And I think part of it is and not sketch of there's another one you do and what you tell jokes that are corny you know not chicken on the piece.
There's about 700 years old they were telling you after the horn and then Rome Well you were there when I was there when I was a little boy. Yeah well I mean I give day I didn't know that you know the mirror joke is that you know that's that's ice Cooley's or somebody wrote that Escalus masculist is that are you as well as I. Oh thank you.
We want every read I think that your reaction to the jokes when you tell one of those or corny ones and then you look in the hallway as much as to say did I actually say that. Are you conscious of doing that with two or three of those although you know this is one of the things that made me love having heard this 800 to about 700.
And you look up as much as you do that actually say that that's what makes it funny about Mr. Norton we've noticed that with everybody in the company and the older the joke the more the bigger the lie is that often reliever heard it and people who doubt it. I'm certainly glad I went to church just moanin and then they did.
They'd say they say isn't it nice to hear those old fashioned Joe us old fashioned jokes they're just filthy. It isn't ideal but you see it's because chairs change to suit your baby and and Billy Linton and they are pure of in heart. They're really sweet people there they have not. There's nothing there's no dirty old man in them anywhere I know them. They're absolutely innocent people and they were there for years as they hover around the drugs. We have very sweet little Jeanette she lands here on me you know Jeanette here and you know you always gotta listen employee hallway.
And a thread goes to the most she's awfully Fred and then we have a sugar bird sugar bird goes here but union lands here and Nelson is on my head you know Nelson your we know then backs up and puts one feather right over my right eye and that that makes the scene he's feeling his laugh I can sense it. Nelson is sensing his laugh. He's feeling but. But they go in they talk to these birds and you know that little Jeannette. When Nelson got his call in that wire we had to take him to the veterinarian to have a shot of chords are you solo and here is where they have a lead they wielders in a cage because the birds were flying away and they saw I was in a cage like a sideshow with the birds because it was outdoors and at the Nelson got his clock out so we had to take him to the vet to have his accordion put in it. Jeanette wouldn't let anybody touch Nelson. They'd been in love since we started this tour. She wouldn't let the vet touch him or anyone and finally we talked her into it it was only for Nelson's good and do you know that those four comics We were they were around in those sweet people saying Jeanette it's for his good leg here I have the record of talking to Jeanette so is we going to have that cortisone shot. Those sweet comics they just that's the way they are they're just sweet men. They're dear dear people and we got the chords and Jeanette finally allowed it. I think she could understand. And now he's well and fine.
Those birds from Rosita Roy's sore of you got to lose.
No pigeons are there they are two years old probably. But we can only really won't take a cortisone shot. What happens if we just talk him into it we just your semen find a limit I mean if there has to be a response that has to be a replacement and well that was easy for me. You see all the ones there as there are 8 on each other trying to locate another spot. It takes a while you seen when they were B I had to be there when they were being trained and then when they do they have to and they have to have a girl put a blonde wig on and she's about my size or else they don't and they know this was a made for rehearsals. Yes so you try them.
He had they ever been used in anything like this before all these dabs of pigeons that have never been used before in the cinema.
Oh no they're trying just for our show. Just for the show. Yes but while a trainer with you with a trainer I have they have it in New York too. So he trained those birds in New York. But then he leaves the show on these birds and you know he there's another whole set of birds see where he train them and then he goes away.
He goes away and you're left with the birds I mean those words there. Who handles on a wire.
Well there's another trainer here he has someone that works with him.
Ed do they make mistakes sometimes or every single time do they cause they make mistakes you never know what they're going to do.
You just don't know why. So in times Nielsen backs right down over my news sometimes Fred flies between my legs. I mean sometimes you never know you just don't know. How do you get you keep on singing the whole thing yes well it's true the amusement of the audience thank goodness. I mean no matter where they're going to stay if they make a mistake will sometimes you know they forget themselves in the ad live all over the place. Really. Oh yes. And so then there's that does to the great delight of the audience the audience just loves that.
Isn't that hard for our stuff. I know it is except that if it gets that much of a laugh it's worth it. Yeah.
How much time you have to spend with them would you have to go back to between shows and say you know look German locales some you know I don't know I know which ones they are what we rehearse every now and then.
So you see she she gets out of hand sometimes Jeanette she crawls up and hangs on up here somewhere up on the shore. She's got to stay there to keep me coverage of the show is still decent.
But you see the audience doesn't know I have a rubber flesh colored body stocking on.
They don't know that the audience is all for not continuing to saying what is a song I assume you mean with you so I'm in the mood.
And right there is it is in this. I'm so glad you like it. I just love this show.
It is the cheapest nosedived show views I've ever done I just adore it I do it and you know that many what Alfred Lunt told me that Burlesque is a great art and a science it is a science it's a you have a little girl it's just a ball he was in burlesque you adore I don't believe me well he's out of here on the council Square. He did when he was bored real wasn't it.
No that was stuck he was stuck got over remember him being involved it was a matter of fact they played one he was involved he was before I married Lenny.
I say Lady It sounds like sacrilege but but that's what she wants me to call her I'm so proud of my friendship. Should I talk to her just before coming here. And she said nice to Norton. I read your review to her and she said a most astute and penetrating mind a very if I critique. Yes.
And so apparently you gave them a total a good woman a good home. The words of a song I heard somewhere else almost to have you back where you belong.
Yes I do. I feel that way on the show. I think I've done six of these shows and I feel I'm who everyone has filed for us. For me it is just a joy to see you Mr. nor nice to have you. Yes I'm glad your behind you still there we get educated that. Yes that's right. Yes don't take it back. Carol sounds good. Have a good long ride. Thank you thank you we will because of you.
Eliot Norton reviews and conversation with Count shining star of the burlesque musical revue sugar babies now playing at Boston's Colonial Theater to Norton's drama critic of The Boston Herald a man I'm going to pass the courtesy of that newspaper. Mr. Martin is also a professor of dramatic George Boston University.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Ten O'Clock News
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- Ride along Blue Hill Avenue. Decrepit, boarded up and abandoned storefronts. Many defunct businesses. Vacant lot. Zion Apostolic and Immanuel Pentecostal Churches. Warren Street intersection. Bridge Free Medical Van. Houses on Supple Road. Prince Hall Masonic Lodge. Sign for the Mayor's Office of Housing. Street sweeping vehicle. Mayor Kevin White walks with Julian Bond through neighborhood with press entourage. White answers questions about his candidacy and housing policy decisions as mayor especially involving the Boston Housing Authority, and says urban revitalization will come to reality within 3-5 years but need more federal $$. White and Bond meet local business owners and community members.
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