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The Best of Milton Berle

Aired May 6, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, it's all about Uncle Miltie; highlights from our interviews with the man who had the highest Nielson rating ever. Milton Berle, next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. There was some very unwelcome news late last month. Milton Berle has a small cancerous tumor in his colon. His doctors have decided against surgery. His wife Lorna says he's doing well and in no pain. Mr. Berle, himself, told "the Globe" he's going to go on enjoying his life. He also said he plans to live to at least 100. The man known as Mr. Television, first appeared on this show 15 years ago, in April of '86. I was curious about a lot of things, included, why he dressed in drag so often.


MILTON BERLE, ENTERTAINER: I wanted to be a female impersonator until a guy ran me up an alley. But it doesn't stem from me, it stems from the mask and wig shows where the males dressed up as women. It stems from the great female impersonators back to Julie Nelson (ph), Francis Renault (ph), Carol Loma (ph). I wasn't the first one to do it. Maybe I was the first one to do it on television, but I didn't play it -- you know, I played it like a woman. And I guess, just because, instead of being called the King, I should have been called The Queen. Is that what you're trying to say?

KING: Why do you think, Miltie, we like that so much?

M. BERLE: I don't know. I think it looks kind of ridiculous, and I look kind of ugly. And when I go -- and all that stuff, you know what I mean?

KING: But you do that -- you may have been the champion of the drag impersonator. I mean, you had it down.

M. BERLE: Well, I had the expertise of doing it is to be playing in Vaudeville and places like Washington, where you are. And I wore drag in those days, too.

KING: We go to Ironton, Ohio with Milton Berle, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry, enjoy your show very much.

KING: Thank you. Are you the one? CALLER: Mr. Berle it's a great pleasure to be speaking with one of the greatest comedic talents and also admire your work in drama, also. You're a fine actor.

KING: Sure is Mr. Berle.

M. BERLE: Thank you very much.

CALLER: And my question is, you've gotten a lot of mileage out of the image of being a stealer of other people's material. And I'd like to know how that originated, and how you cultivated that over the years?

KING: Good question.

M. BERLE: Well that's really not the truth. I don't steel people's jokes.

KING: Yeah, but how did that start, that whole schtick?

M. BERLE: I want to say this, Larry, I don't steal people's -- I just find them before they're lost, that's it.

KING: No, how did that start?

M. BERLE: It started, it's kind of a long story. But Winchell (ph) was the one that gave me the name, "The Thief of Bad Gags". It started back in 1931, when we had a comedian around by the name of Richie Craig (ph) and he was very, very talented. And we were sitting in a restaurant and I had brought an overcoat. And I walked in, and I saw him sitting there wearing the same coat. And I said, gee, that son-of-a-gun, the tailor, Ben Rock, as I recall, said that this was an original. And he said, we're wearing the same. Next thing you know, you'll be taking my own material. And I said, hey, I've got an idea.

And at that time -- speak with this gentleman and to you, Larry -- there was a great feud between Fred Allen (ph) and Jack Benny on radio. And they were won between Walter Winshall (ph) and -- oh who -- Ben Bernie (ph). So I sat in the back of the restaurant, and I said, hey let's get some publicity. Let's say, I stole your jokes, you stole my jokes. And that's the way it happened.


M. BERLE: But we lost Richie (ph) and I was no where around to vindicate him, but it didn't hurt me, it helped me.

KING: Yeah, one more quick call, Lynchburg, Virginia, for Milton Berle, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Milt.

M. BERLE: Hello.

CALLER: How are you doing?

KING: What's the question, sir?

CALLER: Oh, the question is, I'd like to know what kind of cigars do you smoke?

M. BERLE: Now I could say a very suggestive joke, but I don't want to do it. I smoke fairly good ones. Not always, I didn't always smoke fairly good ones. I don't smoke Cuban cigars, because I would be getting them underground -- I can get them, but I won't smoke them.

KING: They are expensive.

M. BERLE: No, it isn't the expenditure, it's the -- I smoke Dunhills, you know, Montecruz. Once in a while an Upmann or a Monte Cristo. But any cigar that is given to me, I smoke.


KING: More with Milton Berle, coming up. This is LARRY KING WEEKEND, stay tuned.





KING: TV's Pioneer is one of the many titles Milton Berle has earned, but he got into show business long before Americans started turning on the tube. As he told us in 1993, he started when he was just five years old.


M. BERLE: Well, I started out as a child model.

KING: A child model.

M. BERLE: Yeah, you know, with the hats and sweaters and everything.

KING: You were a good-looking kid?

M. BERLE: Well, thank you.

KING: No, I mean, you must have been a...

M. BERLE: I was cute, if you like that type. Anyway I was the Buster Brown Boy when I was five years old. You know, my name is Buster Brown. I live in a shoe, this is my dog Tag, he lives here too. That was me, five years old, 1913.

KING: 1913.

M. BERLE: And then I did -- do you want me to do the whole schtick now?

KING: Tell me what happened, Miltie, we've got an hour.

M. BERLE: You've got an hour. A half-hour to see it, and a half-hour to grab it. But I want to say, about...

KING: So you were five?

M. BERLE: I was five years old, back in 1913 and 14, and we had a Charlie Chaplin contest. Everybody imitated Charlie Chaplin. So, I did the same thing. I put on -- I cut up my mother's fur muff and put mucilage. I used my father's hat. Of course I got the hell kicked out of me after that. But I paraded the streets up in the Bronx. And some man followed me and took me in, and said -- took me home, my mother thought I was being arrested. So she said, what's the trouble? And he said, well I represent a theater in Mount Vernon, and we're holding a Charlie Chaplin contest. Would you like to enter your son in this contest?

And my mother said, how much? No, no, she didn't say that. She said, be happy to. So, we went up to Mount Vernon. I won -- I took first prize, which was a 49 cent loving cup. Anyway, that was the beginning. And then I appeared ...

KING: That picture went to Chaplin, right?

M. BERLE: Ah, that's the whole thing. That picture showed I was -- is there an animal act in the show...

KING: What was your experience?

M. BERLE: Anyway, then I did the imitation. And Chaplin heard about me and got in touch, indirectly, to me...

KING: And he gave you your break?

M. BERLE: He gave me my break into silent pictures.


M. BERLE: As the first picture -- long picture that he made, feature picture -- called "Tillie's Punctured Romance".

KING: And you played a kid?

M. BERLE: Yeah, Maybelle Normal (ph) was in it, and Marie Dressler (ph). And I played...

KING: OK, now you can't remember that?

M. BERLE: Who can't?

KING: Because we only remember when we're five years old.

M. BERLE: You don't.

KING: I don't, not many people do. What did you do in that movie?

M. BERLE: But this King does.

KING: On, this king, sorry -- and were you then, did you know that early I want to do this?

M. BERLE: Well...

KING: You mean, you were a child star, you were in a Chaplin movie. Did you know somewhere, early, that I want to do this for a living?

M. BERLE: I didn't know it was going to be a living. But my mother, who at that time back in 1913 or 14 was one of the first women policemen. She was in New York Police Department, I don't know if you know that.

KING: I didn't know that. She was a cop?

M. BERLE: Yeah, she was ...

KING: A women cop in 1913?

M. BERLE: Oh yeah, sure. And she was a private investigator, and she also was a store detective and she was in Gimbals (ph) and Sachs (ph), and Wannemakers (ph). So she was driving because my father was always sick. He had trouble with his ticker, and he passed away in 19 -- when he was only 63. And so my mother really held the family together. I had three brothers, Phil, Frank, Jack, and my sister, Rosalind. And...

KING: Your mother pushed you into show business?

M. BERLE: Oh, well...

KING: Your mother was a show business mother, right?

M. BERLE: Well, let me put it this way, she made -- how should I -- Gypsy Rose Lee's mother look like Mary Poppins. In other words, with the strength that she was as a policewoman, not rough but she knew jujitsu, she knew how to handle everything. And she pushed me, she was a stage mother.

KING: I'll be back with Uncle Miltie on LARRY KING WEEKEND. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm you, from years ago. I'm Uncle Miltie...



M. BERLE: Come on folks laugh it up, laugh it up.


M. BERLE: Are you in here for entertainment or revenge?






PHIL SILVERS, ACTOR: What is the highest note you can sing? What is your high note?

M. BERLE: C; See I'll be using C -- Ceeeeeeee.

SILVERS: Take a breath, always breathe before you sing.

M. BERLE: C -- Ceeeee.

SILVERS: Not your nasal, from the head, loose.

M. BERLE: C -- Ceeee, Ahhhhhh, Errrrrrrr, Ceeeee...


KING: All that was live.

M. BERLE: You know ...

KING: There was no tape, folks, no Kinescope (ph), no nothing. It was live television every Tuesday night at 8:00.

M. BERLE: Absolutely. Yes, at 8:00 live.

KING: The "Texaco Star Theater."

M. BERLE: "Star Theater."

KING: And it was never the "Milton Berle Show"?

M. BERLE: Well, no.

KING: It was the "Texaco Star Theater" with...

M. BERLE: Starring Milton Berle. Yeah, with the exception of the "Ziegfeld Follies," which was before that, I was the only one -- this is a little hammy but I have to say it being as it is a little Berled ham -- but I was the only one ever starred over the title of the "Ziegfeld Follies." I don't know if you knew that.

KING: Didn't know that.

M. BERLE: Yeah, back in 1943. KING: Milton Berle in the "Ziegfeld Follies."

M. BERLE: But Phil Silvers was brilliant, all that stuff -- I noticed that the camera followed you -- nothing written. That was all ad-lib and improv. And he was one of the greatest.

KING: OK, do you hear things that make you laugh?

M. BERLE: Yes, I do.

KING: You do, you can -- you can be surprised? All the years, you've told jokes and heard jokes, and all the elements...

M. BERLE: I don't really laugh, Larry, at joke-jokes. Because I think I know the punch lines.

KING: Yeah, that's what I would guess. What makes you laugh?

M. BERLE: I laugh -- which is the definition between a comic and a comedian. And you know what it is. Ed Wynn said it; he said a comic is a guy who says funny thing and a comedian is a guy who says things funny.

KING: You're a comedian.

M. BERLE: Well I'm...

KING: Can be both.

M. BERLE: But when I watch somebody -- I laugh at their attitude and delivery. See there doesn't have to be a joke, it could be humorous. Like, if a guy like, we'll say Dick Cavett -- God Bless Him -- or even Jack Par just said something lightly ...

KING: Attitude.

M. BERLE: Attitude and style. If you haven't got the style, you're in bad shape. Audience have to go out of a place taking something with them. That's the fellow who...

KING: But a joke, you know where a joke is going, pretty much?

M. BERLE: Yes, usually.

KING: Because you...

M. BERLE: Why, you want to sell them?

KING: No, no, everything goes around, comes around, right? In other words there are seven switches...

M. BERLE: If you're doing jokes and you want to topicalize them, and instead of using Truman, you're going to use Bill Clinton...

KING: It's just a switch; you've heard it all before?

M. BERLE: Like the wonderful guy says, I never tell political jokes, because they usually get elected.

KING: I want to talk more about the shows. We've got a lot of time, but about this book?

M. BERLE: Oh, about my book? Well in this book...

KING: I can turn to any page and it's funny?

M. BERLE: Well, to you it's funny.

KING: To you it's not funny?

M. BERLE: Right, if you'll read it. But I want to hear you deliver it.

KING: Go ahead.

M. BERLE: And I'm going to give you a little instruction...

KING: I'll do it; go ahead...

M. BERLE: I'm laughing because I know what I'm going to say next. For example, these are some one-liners from the book, on the dusty. You read, but give me with the delivery...

KING: God created the earth in six days because he didn't have to wait for a legal opinion.

M. BERLE: No good, no good,

KING: I've got to believe...

M. BERLE: No, no, no, no good.

KING: I don't do one-liners. I do stories.

M. BERLE: No -- I know you do stories. I know -- I've heard them all. I heard all the stories about you in all the papers, but that's not the funny way. I'm talking about doing this. You've got to take your time. You've got to set the setting for the audience -- the image. Do you know that God created -- and really be serious and be honest and true as you are on your own show.

KING: Do you know that God created the earth in only six days.

M. BERLE: Really?

KING: Because he didn't have a legal opinion.

M. BERLE: Good, now give me the next line, and slow up, please, the beginning...

KING: Pour it out?

M. BERLE: No, no, slow at the beginning and then zing in the punch line a little faster. KING: My doctor believes in shock treatments. His bill.

M. BERLE: Good, good, very good. You know, I've been watching you for now, 63 years -- no, I've been watching you now for eight years...

KING: I'm going to let that slide.

M. BERLE: ... on CNN, right? And you are an original. Are you surprised? And you've got to have style and you've got to have a point of view. And your identification has never been done before as a spokesman or as -- and that's wearing suspenders. Oh, you don't wear a coat, you wear suspenders. And I want to ask you why. I know it's a joke. Why does a fireman wear suspenders? To keep his pants up -- I know that joke. But, your party -- last night was terrific, I enjoyed it. And Lorna and I loved it, and you're 60 years old. And I want to congratulate you.

But at the party, you were so proud and so many people. Everyone's raving, and kissing you. I mean not the women, but some of the men were kissing you. But we have a present for you. We have a little present for you and I put -- you're staring, see. Folks, back on the King, the real one.

This is for you. Now we've cut to him, and you open it.

KING: This is Saran wrap.

M. BERLE: No it's not a condom, it's not a condom.

KING: Oh...

M. BERLE: With an autograph on the back on the thing there. Isn't that lovely -- 12 cents.

KING: Where's the autograph?

M. BERLE: Right here. Want glasses, too?

KING: Happy Birthday; Milton Berle.

M. BERLE: And I love you, I really do.


KING: LARRY KING WEEKEND returns with more of Mr. Television right after this.








KING: This is LARRY KING WEEKEND, and we've got much more with the amazing Uncle Miltie. He joined us in January of '96 for a 100th birthday tribute to the legendary George Burns.


KING: How far to you -- you the great Milton Berle, the King of Television, you and George, give me a little history.

M. BERLE: First place, let me just say this: that George and I are celebrating our 100th anniversary -- yeah, him for his age and me for my act -- boom, boom, tympani (ph), rim shot.

KING: When did you meet George Burns?

M. BERLE: How long do I know him?

KING: How long do you know him?

M. BERLE: What are you shouting about, you got the job.


M. BERLE: How long do I -- I've known George over 70 years. First time I ever met him, I was 15 years old. We were in Vaudeville together. We didn't work together, because he only worked with animals and every teen that you could think of. Call a name, he worked with them.

KING: But you were doing a solo...

M. BERLE: Ohm I was doing a standup at that time...

KING: So George had no particular act, there was no Gracie then.

M. BERLE: No, he was just rambling around and trying to get a job here. But he was always funny, I'll tell you that. He was always funny.

KING: You knew he was a talent?

M. BERLE: Oh, I knew he was a talent then, but he just couldn't get any work. And he'll admit to that -- neither could I. But we played on different shows in big time places like...

KING: Where did you work?

M. BERLE: Oh, Rockmonis (ph), Illinois, places like that. And I remember we played one town, which was so small, the local hooker was a virgin. I'll never forget that. But, he smokes the worst cigars I ever -- but he knows that... KING: Cheap cigars?

M. BERLE: Cheap -- story?

KING: Story.

M. BERLE: It's true, it happened. We were at Hillcrest Country Club. This is about 50 years ago. And he's smoking his El Productos, which he gets for nothing -- don't lie, George, you do. And he was blowing this smoke, blowing the smoke toward -- he was sitting next to Groucho Marx. I'll never forget, Groucho was sitting there. And Groucho was still eating, right.

KING: Right, George is blowing the smoke in his face.

M. BERLE: Yeah, he was smoking, right, in front of Groucho. And finally Groucho said, "Hey, come on George. Will you please -- do me a favor -- inhale?" Burns said, "Not while I'm sitting next to you." That was strictly Burns. But you see, Burns was never a comedian- comedian.

KING: Yeah, how would we define -- what -- he was...

M. BERLE: Well, I would define George...

KING: George didn't do joke-jokes, right?

M. BERLE: No, no, no, no, he was originally a straight man. And for the late and great Gracie, and everybody he worked with. He worked with Burns and Gary, Burns and -- oh a million different, animal acts.

KING: There was never an act, just George Burns?

M. BERLE: Well, he'll tell you that personally. I don't have to tell you that. No there was never a single George Burns.


M. BERLE: He always carried...

KING: Did he always think he was a singer?

M. BERLE: Yeah; that was a pity -- the worst. He's the only man I know that could change keys in the middle of a note.

KING: But he could dance a little?

M. BERLE: Oh, he was a good dancer. He was a great dancer. I saw him this morning on -- they were showing some beautiful things...

M. BERLE: He puts the same steps.

KING: Yeah, that's right.

How do you account -- before we ask you -- we're going to have some great stories tonight about George the prankster. George and Miltie go back -- I mean to know somebody for 70 years...

M. BERLE: There's so many things to know about George, and George I'm going to tell them all about you, and the incidence, because you pull pranks on people. What you did to -- may he rest in peace -- to Jack Benny, oh boy. And what he did to me, I'll tell you.

KING: What did he do to you?

M. BERLE: You want to know? Well, I was playing out of town and he called me on the phone. And this was my late wife, Ruth Carrsgrove (ph). And they were very good friends, and he was always a gentlemen, George. And he called me on the phone, and he said, "You're in Philadelphia, Milton, would you mind if I took Ruth, your wife, to the benefit, be her escort?"

And I said, no, go right a head. So, but I said, George, I'm warning you. I know you with the women and everything. Just cool it and take it easy.

He said, "Hey, you're talking to Burns. I wouldn't do that, especially to you."

I said, well please, cool it. I'll take her back and forth, that's all. And he said, it's strange Milton, that you've asked me that. I said, why? He said, right at this moment, "Because I'm reading a book right now on people cheating on their wives," you know. And he said, "It's strange that you should talk about that subject matter. Just hold the wire, hold the line, I'll get the book and I'll read it to you, the passage."

So I held on to the phone. Held on for a minute, two -- silence. Silence, silence, silence, five minutes I held the phone. All of a sudden I heard this, a click, he hung up on me. He had me hanging there. That's the pranks that he used to do on me.

KING: So he set you up, you're worried about infidelity. He's got you with the wife, got your -- and he hangs up on the phone after telling you to hold on.

There's a genius in that, Miltie. Oh boy.






KING: On July 12 of 1996, Milton Berle turned 88 years old. To celebrate he came on our show. And Mr. Television was smoking.


KING: Most people don't smoke on television anymore, but we allow you to.

M. BERLE: Oh really?

KING: Yes.

M. BERLE: This is for nothing, of course.

KING: Eighty-eight years old.

M. BERLE: Yes I'm 88. What about it, baby?

KING: When did you begin smoking? How old were you when you lit your first cigar?

M. BERLE: Somebody lit it for me. I was 12 years old; 12 years old -- so how long am I smoking?

KING: Seventy-six years.

M. BERLE: Your right, that's the spirit.

KING: You never smoked cigarettes?

M. BERLE: Never smoked.

KING: Never, never took a drink?

M. BERLE: I'm a teetotaler. I don't know what beer tastes like.

KING: Why cigars?

M. BERLE: Why, because -- I don't know. I think, I'll tell you what happened. I went to Cuba on a cruise and they were selling cigars as we were going through the Nacional Hotel. And I had my mother with me. My mom had me by the hand. And they said, "Cigares, Cigares" and I took it and I lit it.

My mother grabbed it, and whacked me. I said, mom what are you doing? She said, how dare you. And I liked the taste of the cigar. And thank goodness, because, I never smoked a cigarette. I hate cigarettes, and they're not good for you because of the tar and all that.

KING: Cigars can't be great for you, it's tobacco.

M. BERLE: No, no, it's a different -- you don't inhale cigars. I'm not telling you to go to hale, I'm just saying...

KING: Well I don't want to warn you, Milton, but I'm telling you. I think if you smoke cigars, you will not live to a ripe old age. That's just -- I don't want to scare you...

M. BERLE: Nice try, nice try.

KING: Nice try.

M. BERLE: I want to say something. You know, where I live, unfortunately, I don't get your program.

KING: Where do you live?

M. BERLE: No, I see it, but I don't get it.

M. BERLE: What I'm trying to say is you're wishing me a happy birthday and I'm very, very happy to see you.

KING: I'm honored to be in your presence.

M. BERLE: And you're going to be at my party tonight.

KING: I'll be at your party. I'll do anything you want Milton -- well, within reason.

M. BERLE: What do you mean...

KING: Why is Steve and Edie showing -- what do you do at an 88th birthday party?

M. BERLE: I don't know.

KING: What you play, spin the bottle? What do they do?

M. BERLE: Did you interview me? Let me talk. Shut your big mouth would you please.

KING: All right. No, no.

M. BERLE: You're a pain. No you're not; I love you.

KING: I love you.

M. BERLE: And Steve and Edie are going to be the hosts of the party for me for my 88th because I've known them a long time. And it's going to be held at Alfred Dunhills.

KING: That's your tobacconist?

M. BERLE: Well, that's my tobacconist. Has been my tobacconist for 60 years. And it's going to be so cozy and wonderful.

KING: And you deserve it. Now let me ask you a question about cigars. Why are the Cuban cigars the best? A serious question.

M. BERLE: Well I think it's because of the planting of the fertilizer.

KING: Are they the best?

M. BERLE: I think they are. Unfortunately, you can't get them because of the ban.

KING: You can't get them?

M. BERLE: Oh, I can get them, but I don't want to. I won't get them. I'm an American. I will not...

KING: You will not smoke...

M. BERLE: Oh no, this is not a Cuban cigar. Oh, pardon me, I thought I was taller.

KING: It smells pretty good. I thought I was taller. Why does it smell so good?

M. BERLE: Because I'm smoking it that's why.

KING: You bid on your own thing. You gave John F. Kennedy -- I'm talking about a humidor -- see, it's a cigar transition.

M. BERLE: Oh, good -- good blend. Go ahead.

KING: You gave John F. Kennedy a humidor, which cost you what when you bought it?

M. BERLE: Nothing.

KING: Sic hundred dollars, right?

M. BERLE: Six, seven hundred dollars. I had it made.

KING: Had it made his initials on it and everything.

M. BERLE: Well, it's to JFK -- happy smoking, long life, Milton Berle and that was the date 1961. It was the year of the inauguration, it was '62 I think.

KING: Now 36 -- 35 years later you're bidding on it. After he has naturally passed away. You went up to what?

M. BERLE: I went up to a $160,000 for the Humidor to get it back. But when I was going to give it back to JFK the estate and return it to him. But I was out bid.

KING: What was it like to be bidding now, you know I ...

M. BERLE: I know what you mean after paying $600 for it. And it went for $595,000. I said, gee, maybe I should have kept it, I'm kidding. But no one ever knew that JFK smoked cigars. The only one that knew was me.

KING: Occasional picture of -- once in a boat in Hianisport, I think; but you never saw him smoke.

M. BERLE: I never saw him smoke.

KING: In our waning moments: to your millions of fans on your 88th day on this earth.

M. BERLE: Well, I just -- I have -- I'm usually asked this question. What is my wish on my 88th birthday. Well I only hope that I will keep healthy, keep people laughing. Which has been my bag for years. And one other thing which is very distance to this question. That we are in a world today of fury. And a mixed up world I only hope to live to see such things happening such as a more peaceful unity with the world. That's my one wish.

KING: Are you optimistic?

M. BERLE: Yes. I am optimistic. Because it's about time. And I think it's coming. And I think there's going to be a lot of harmony.

KING: Milton what does 88 feel like? I mean we all hope to make it. Everyone prays that they would -- anyone would take 88 and...

M. BERLE: Well I never felt better than I do today. Because I'm happy, I'm relieved of all the turmoil and strife and hard work that I put in before -- during my career. But I lived to laugh and I laughed to live. I've never felt better in my life.

KING: And you still keep on keeping on right, I mean, you're still...

M. BERLE: Oh, there's no retiring. I said to George Burns -- remember I said to George Burns when are you going to retire? He looked at me and he said, to what? The same thing with me. Where am I going?

KING: What troubles you at 88. Does anything worry you? What's your biggest worry? I mean other than world events and stuff. What's your biggest personal worry?

M. BERLE: I really have no personal worries. Really I've got everything that I need. Everything that I want. I have good friends. A friend like you. And I mean that sincerely without any schtick here. And I like to be among people that like to laugh, like to have fun and want to be themselves. And why shouldn't they be.

KING: We'll be right back with Uncle Miltie after this.






KING: Good news: He's still with us, Milton Berle, 88 years young -- we kid him, the guy's going to go on forever, passing his friend George Burns, who made it to 100. Will you make it to 100?

M. BERLE: I think I can.

KING: Because you've been on a health kick a long time. You know that people don't know this. You were a vegetarian when? M. BERLE: Oh, back in the '40s, early '40s.

KING: Well I mean, who ever thought of it then?

M. BERLE: I did.

KING: Obviously. You look great too by the way. You are married to a much younger woman. Larna is after all 37 years younger than you.

M. BERLE: Add that up.

KING: Fifty one from 88 is 37.

M. BERLE: She's 51.

KING: What makes it a successful marriage.

M. BERLE: Well, she's very devoted and I'm very devoted to her. And I adore her and she does everything she can to make me happy. And it happens. And while we're talking about Larna my beautiful, my wonderful, she's a grandmother. Did you ever know that. She has six grandchildren. And I have three grandchildren. And I'll get this thing right from the last program. And I know their names.

KING: Because the last time you didn't mention their names.

M. BERLE: They don't know what I'm talking about.

KING: I'll explain.

M. BERLE: You don't have to you have no time. And I've become a great grandfather through my daughter Vicky who is coming in from Seattle to the party. And my son Billy will be here too.

KING: You and Larna known each other a long time?

M. BERLE: Well we have an anniversary coming up which is December 25.

KING: You got married on Christmas day?

M. BERLE: Well the 26th I think. December 26. And the funny thing we got married and that's also the day of her birthday. So she said to me, you screwed me out of two presents, an extra present. But we've been very happy. And she's really a terrific woman. And I'll never forget our honeymoon night.

Would you like to hear about it.

KING: Tell us about it.

M. BERLE: OK I will. I said to her, I said Larna this is honeymoon night bring something black and sexy. So she brought Sidney Portier.

But at my age -- I'm 88 and she's 51 or something. But you believe or not we make love almost every day in the week.

Almost Monday, almost Tuesday, almost Wednesday... I'll tell you about three months ago, Larry, look at me when I'm talking to you. Three months ago, believe it or not we made love one night for an hour and three minutes.

KING: How did you time that?

M. BERLE: Well, that was the night they turned the clocks back.


M. BERLE: Rim shot.

KING: You're on a roll. Now, I want to ask you something that we've never discussed. Yet it's worthy of discussion. Your prose as a lover is very famous in Hollywood. It's been talked about via Sinatra. Were you and are you a great lover? Were all these stories true?

M. BERLE: Put the was first. I was. I don't know if I am or not I make her very happy.

KING: OK. In the hey day...

M. BERLE: While I'm in the hay during the day?

KING: Oh, back there then when you was and we wasn't, were you...

M. BERLE: Did I accomplish quite a lot? I lived a very big long life.

KING: Were you the Valentino of your time in a sense?

M. BERLE: Well, while you're talking about Valentino -- well you know about Paula Negra don't you?

KING: She was -- that was his wife right? Or his lover?

M. BERLE: Lover. I don't know if you know that I went with her for about a year after he died.

KING: You went with the lover of Bruno Valentio (ph)?


KING: Well, did she tell you about Valentio?


KING: Did she compare you and him?

M. BERLE: I don't think she had to.

KING: How do you mean that Milton? M. BERLE: I'm not telling.

KING: We'll be back with more of Milton Berle. He's 88 years young today. And starting a revolution. Don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALES: And now, ladies and gentlemen, introducing America's No. 1 television star...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who just returned from Washington after paying his income tax...



KING: Our most recent TV talk with Milton Berle was in July of '98, about a week before his 90th birthday. Some of his best buddies were on hand to roast him and toast him.


KING: What is it like to be 90?

M. BERLE:: Well, I don't feel 90.

KING: You don't look 90.

M. BERLE:: I don't feel it.

KING: How old do you feel?

M. BERLE:: I feel like a 20-year-old, but there's never one around.

KING: Is it funny feeling to say...

M. BERLE:: No, I don't feel my age. I've kept busy all the time, exercise, not that much, but I do -- no, I feel wonderful.

KING: So you don't say to yourself "nine-oh."

M. BERLE:: No, I don't go by the numbers.

KING: How old are you, Sid?


KING: Now, to him -- this is an old man to you or what?

CAESAR: No. Milton...

M. BERLE:: That reminds me -- when he said 75 -- I was with George Burns, may he rest in peace, right, about a month before he passed away, and we had dinner together with my lovely wife Lorna, and he looked at me, and he said to me, "Milton, how old are you?" and I said, "I don't know, about 84 or something." He said -- what do you think he said to me? "Get me a glass of water, kid." That was George Burns.

STEVE ALLEN, ENTERTAINER: At least he didn't say I've got ties older than that, which is a nice thing for...

KING: How old you, Steve?

ALLEN: Seventy-six; that's the spirit.

M. BERLE:: That's the spirit.

KING: What would you say was Berle's greatness?

CAESAR: The greatness is -- is he does it. He gets out and does it. Y'know, there's a lot of people who talk it, but there's a big difference between talking and doing, because when you do something, it's the way -- it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it. And doing it is your style.

KING: That program, the Texaco Star Theater and the Berle thing, owned television.

CAESAR: Oh, sure, that was it. That was the first really -- he showed that it could be done...

KING: That you could do live variety.

CAESAR: ... that you could do a variety every week, every week, because the network didn't -- they didn't believe, you know, they thought well, "If you got to be a radio show, you've nothing to worry about. What do you do? This and that." But here, this is live, you know, and it's -- you can't take it back.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Never mind, darling. Never mind, darling.

M. BERLE:: Yes, dear. What is it to you, what is it, darling?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I am trying to get back to the script. Darling.

M. BERLE:: Send you back to Lux if you don't watch out.


KING: Steve, what was his -- the greatness of him in that show to you?

ALLEN: Well, there are many factors to Milton. First of all, his tremendous energy -- even now at this age he has it. But he had -- we all had more of it when we were younger. And he didn't just enter; he burst onstage like a crazy animal let out of a cage. And you couldn't take your eyes on him. And when he was in the scene with other people, you watched Milton. And in fact, Milton was often, even on the air, on the stage, directing them during show as well as in the rehearsal.

KING: He took command.

ALLEN: Yes, he did. Sometimes people have criticized Milton for saying -- well, he's telling the lighting men what to do and the trombone player. He's usually right, so the lighting men and the trombone player should listen to his opinions.

KING: Now, did that show click right away? Was the next day -- were there people talking about it?

M. BERLE:: It was surprising. It was really surprising.

KING: Because you were selling TV sets right? You're known as the man who sold more TV...

M. BERLE:: Well, that's the great joke that they do, "Berle helped sell millions of sets 'cause when he was on my uncle sold his, my aunt sold hers" which, is a standard joke now. But it took off like a thunderbolt.

KING: Do you remember it, Sid?

CAESAR: Yes, it was -- it was an innovation, y'know, because everybody -- when -- bowling was the big -- that was it.

KING: Bowling and wrestling.

CAESAR: Bowling and wrestling.

ALLEN: And Charlie Chan.

KING: Charlie Chan.

M. BERLE:: No, no, no, no. Before that, Gorgeous George.

KING: Gorgeous George.

M. BERLE:: Wrestling, and I was gorgeous and he was George.

KING: But that show -- the impact, Steve, was no one was home -- I mean, no one was out...

ALLEN: Yeah, that's true.

KING: ... 8:00 Tuesday night, the streets were deserted.

ALLEN: There was a glamour to television itself then which can never be recaptured. If you got Jesus Christ back and he went on TV, even that, believe it or not...

KING: They'd compare him to Berle. ALLEN: No, but seriously, no matter what you did -- in fact, the glamour splashed all over to the benefit of even people who were lousy, people who had no talent. If they were on television they were the object of wonder.

M. BERLE:: Exposed.

ALLEN: Yeah, they were exposed. And in those days you could do a rotten show and walk down the street. People would yell at you on the street. That never happens anymore.

KING: Does it make you feel funny because of the way you worked compared to the way they're working now?

M. BERLE:: Let me just give you one example, I was doing a "Texaco Show" -- there was such a censorship. You know about censorship on -- this was for NBC. And you couldn't say "hell" or "damn." If you recall when Desi and Lucy went on they made them sleep in twin beds. Do you remember that?

KING: That's right.

M. BERLE:: Then when she got pregnant, they...

KING: How do you explain it to them?

M. BERLE:: How do you explain it? But I'll tell you what happened, one week -- a little incident, I came back from Vegas because I took a hiatus for two weeks and I played in Vegas -- I didn't play there. I had some fun there and I came back and I did my show for the "Texaco Show." I knew what the don'ts were, what the censorship was. So, I opened my monologue by saying I am very happy to be here. I had some crazy outfit on with blacked-out teeth.

I looked ridiculous, but they laughed. Anyway I come out and I said, "It's good to be back here, I just come in from Las Vegas. And while I was there, I visited Hoover darn." And I looked at the camera, and I went "I can't say the other word." Just for spite, I did this. Then I went on and I said -- and I...

KING: Hoover darn.

M. BERLE:: ... I flew in from Newark to here on a "heckacopter."


M. BERLE: Then I went like this "I can't say this"

KING: That's a great line. Sid and Steve and Art, thank you so much for joining us on this tribute to Milton on his 90th birthday coming Sunday, July 12th.

We will meet the lovely Lorna Berle in our remaining moments right after this word.



M. BERLE:: You listen to me, I'm Berle!




M. BERLE:: Berle!









KING: Do you ever think when Sinatra goes -- you were a great friend of his. Everybody here knew him, you were a great friend.

M. BERLE:: Sad day.

KING: Do you start to say, as Frank said to me once: everybody I know is dying?

M. BERLE:: Do I ever say what?

KING: That to yourself: all of my friends are gone?

M. BERLE:: Well, I see them go. And I have lost quite a few friends. I have said it quite often.

KING: Does it bring you down, though? It brought him down.

M. BERLE:: It brought Frank down, yeah, when he lost Jilly (ph) and all his friends.

KING: Dean died.

M. BERLE:: Deano and everybody. I have -- she'll be on in a minute, I hope, Lorna, and as long as I have got Lorna with me and the rest of my family and the rest of her family and I'm at ease with myself of thinking how long I am going to live.




KING: We thought it appropriate to close this tribute to Milton Berle on his 90th birthday -- we'll do it again in 10 years again for his hundredth -- by having Lorna Berle, his lovely wife, join us. Look at this. How did you get this lucky? You're a grandmother?

LORNA BERLE, MILTON BERLE'S WIFE: I have six grandchildren. Yeah.

KING: How did you meet Milton?

L. M. BERLE: How did we meet? Actually, we met at a restaurant, and he walked in with a friend, and I called the waiter over and I said, "We'd like to buy Milton Berle and his friend a drink." And the waiter came over and said, "They don't drink." And I said, "Then we'll buy them desert." The lady came back a second time and said, "They don't want desert, but they'd like to join you at your table."

He came to the table, sat down, we went to my place, I was with a girlfriend, and he was with his former manager. And they eventually left and Milton and I sat and talked until 3:00 in the morning. And we have been together pretty much ever since. He was easy to talk to, he was charming, he was funny, he was...

KING: How did you deal with the age difference?

L. M. BERLE: Well, I met Milton when he was 82. And I could not believe I was dating a -- I mean, what am I doing -- excuse me.

M. BERLE:: Shall I tell him what?

L. M. BERLE: It was: what am I doing with a 82-year-old man? When I was with him, I had the best time. He made me laugh. He made me feel young. He made me feel good. This is a tough town for a woman of a certain age, so I found the love of my life in a 82-year- old man. I am totally blessed, and if you have a second I would like to tell you how we got married.

Milton had planned -- in 1981, Milton had planned a birthday party for me at Chaseon's (ph), and he had invited a couple of hundred people, and he said to me -- this is about five days before the birthday party -- he said, "I want you to have something really special. What would you like for your birthday?" I said, "All I really want is you." And he said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "I want to get married for my birthday." He said, "We can't do that. That's in five days." And I said, "We can do it."

We got married at home; there was about a dozen people there, mostly family. Then we got in the car, we drove over to Chaseon's, everybody sang "Happy Birthday" to me. Milton got up and told the microphone and said, "I want you to meet Mrs. Milton Berle, and then they wheeled out the wedding cake. It was romantic and fun and easy.

KING: You're real good. We're going to have you back. Miltie, this is a special girl. We've only got a minute left.

M. BERLE:: She's the greatest.

KING: She helped keep you going, too?

M. BERLE:: Without her, I couldn't go on.

KING: So love can happen anytime anywhere.

M. BERLE:: As old as you get.


KING: That's it for this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Our best to Uncle Miltie; we look forward to celebrating his 93rd birthday in July. Thanks for watching; good night.






4:30pm ET, 4/16

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