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Salute to Jackie Gleason, 'The Honeymooners'

Aired May 3, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a salute to "The Honeymooners." A half-century after its TV debut, this classic still packs a huge comedy punch.

Joining us, Marilyn Gleason, widow of the legendary Jackie Gleason. Was he a real-life Kramden? Also hear long-time Gleason buddy, former talk show host Mike Douglas. "The Honeymooners'" original Trixie, actress Joyce Randolph. Boy, does she have some behind the scenes stories. And the actress who played Trixie when "The Honeymooners" went to color, Jane Kean, another Gleason friend.

Plus, one of the original writers for "The Honeymooners," Leonard Stern. And the executive producer of 15 years of "The Honeymooners," Paul Brownstein. A very entertaining hour is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We have a wonderful show in store for you tonight. And on a personal note, I feel very involved, because the man we're paying tribute to is someone I considered a friend and a mentor, Jackie Gleason. This Monday night, May 6, on CBS, a special will air at 10:00 Eastern, called "The Honeymooners 50th Anniversary Celebration." Tonight, we have a tribute to the great one, the one and only Jackie Gleason.

And we begin with his widow, Marilyn Gleason. They married in 1975. She was once a June Taylor dancer on the Gleason show. Is that how you met?


KING: How have things been, Marilyn? How is life going?

M. GLEASON: Quiet -- quieter. Fine. I live in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Sold the house after Jackie died, because it was too big for one person. And I'm a cliff dweller. I still miss him. But we're still here.

KING: He died 15 years ago.

M. GLEASON: That's right.

KING: Of stomach cancer?

M. GLEASON: That's correct.

KING: Did he know he was going to die?

M. GLEASON: Oh, yes. Yes, he knew.

KING: How did he handle those days at the end? Because talking to him, it was one of the things he always thought about was death, fearing it, wondering what would happen, what would happen after. How did he handle?

M. GLEASON: He was always curious about the beyond. That was one of his greatest quests. His library was filled with all of those books.

KING: I know. He didn't read novels. What was it like for you, though? I mean, he had been married a couple times. He was so flamboyant, I mean, Jackie lived right out there, right? What was it like to be married to him?

M. GLEASON: Very public and very private and very quiet. Jackie was -- had many facets. And he could perform. He could perform for three or four people in a small arena.

KING: Was he tough to live with?

M. GLEASON: Not tough. Surprising sometimes.

KING: Like?

M. GLEASON: You never knew when something was going to upset him. And he'd be angry about it. Let him get angry. He'll get over it.

KING: You mention that after he died, when you went through the house, you realized that he lived in every room in the house, right?

M. GLEASON: That's right.

KING: You had an 18-room house. Jackie knew every room.

M. GLEASON: Definitely. One end of the -- I guess originally it had been built as servant's quarters, his radio room. He used to love to go in the middle of the night and turn and listen to the short wave, and get all excited that something was happening someplace and he could hear the fire engines or the police. He enjoyed it.

KING: Larger than life, in some sense.

M. GLEASON: In a sense, larger than life. And sometimes quieter than a sleeping baby.

KING: Let's discuss some myths, or if they are myths that have arisen. That the writers were the ones who created "The Honeymooners"?

M. GLEASON: Some people have given that impression or said that. And that hurt Jackie in later years.

KING: Because he created it?

M. GLEASON: He definitely did. He didn't write it. He had great writers. They came up with ideas and scenarios. But he always knew the characters, whether they would do something or wouldn't do it. And that's funny, fellows, but it's not what Ralph would do.

KING: He would attend writers meetings -- he was the boss.

M. GLEASON: In many ways, yes, he loved being boss.

KING: But the ratings slipped after the format changed?

M. GLEASON: The ratings slipped, but it was because the first three years, yeah -- that's the three years -- it was live. And everyone in America, television, everything really was live in '52, '53, '54. And when he went to the half-hour filmed "Honeymooners," it was just too laid back and quiet. And you knew it was going to turn -- when it was live, it was exciting. Besides, he was doing other characters and he was throughout the whole hour show. And Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey had the stage show, which was a variety show.

KING: They did the summer show.

M. GLEASON: No, they started -- they did a summer show, but then they carried it all through the season while the half-hour filmed "Honeymooners." The famous 39, they weren't as great as they had been when it was live. The spontaneity is what everyone loved about Jackie. So at the end of that year, it's almost as though the train had left the station. Now new things had come along. And he never quite in the '50s regained what had been lost by film. No one knew that those 39 were going to live forever.

KING: He also had tremendous -- I mean, he went off with more people than now watch television in a night watching him. I mean, he went off with like 30 million viewers.

M. GLEASON: Yes. Yes.

KING: And also the skewing old, as they said. There were other reports that I know that bother you, that he often consumed vast quantities of food. He had a good appetite, but he wasn't...

M. GLEASON: Oh, he had a tremendous appetite.

KING: ... he wasn't voluminous.

M. GLEASON: Of course not. But his eyes -- you go into a restaurant, oh, clams are -- oh, they have -- this is great here. A dozen and a half clams. Now. Then he would order the rest of the meal. And of course, he'd eat the dozen and a half clams and he'd never get too far into the steak or anything else. But waiters and everybody always said, oh, the night he was here, this is what he ate, not what he ordered.

KING: Marilyn Gleason will be joined in a moment by Mike Douglas, Joyce Randolph, Leonard Stern and Jane Kean in our tribute to Jackie Gleason. The special airs on CBS Monday May 6. Don't go away.


JACKIE GLEASON, ACTOR: All right. Give me that.




J. GLEASON: Would you make a little toast that is appropriate for the occasion?

ART CARNEY, ACTOR; I think I have one. Down the hatch.


KING: We're back on a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Personal for me, too, because he was my friend. Monday night, "The Honeymooners 50th Anniversary Special" will air on CBS at 10:00 Eastern. Marilyn Gleason, his widow, remains with us. And joining us: In Palm Beach, Mike Douglas, longtime friend, guest on the Gleason show -- and Jackie co-hosted the "Mike Douglas Show" several times. In New York is Joyce Randolph. A very familiar face. She played Trixie in the original "Honeymooners" show. Back here in Los Angeles is Leonard Stern, an original "Honeymooners" writer. And also Jane Kean, co-star, close friend of Jackie's, and she played Trixie when "The Honeymooners" show went to color from 1966 through to 1970.

How, Mike, did you first meet Jackie?

MIKE DOUGLAS, GOOD FRIEND OF JACKIE GLEASON: I met Jackie through a comedian named Woody Woodbury (ph). Called me for a golf game one day, and I said, "where are we going?" And he said, "we're going to play with Gleason." And I said, "where?" And he said, "the country club in Miami." And I was in Miami taping at the time.

And I was so in awe of this man, I must tell you, just seeing him on the practice tee, the way he was dressed, in those beautiful clothes. And I was terribly intimidated. And he beat the socks off of me. And had me about -- beat me 12 ways, I'll be very honest. And when we went into the locker room, he announced to everybody, you know how Jackie would say, "well, pal, you lost 12 ways." I mean, loud.

KING: Joyce, how did you get the part as the original Trixie?

JOYCE RANDOLPH, ACTRESS: Oh, quite a long story. We were back at Channel 5. And I was called by Joe Kates (ph) to do a Clorox (ph) commercial. And I did that. A few weeks later, he called me again, to repeat the Clorox (ph) commercial, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). A few weeks later, he called me and said Jackie had written a serious sketch with the writers and would I come in and audition and try to look older.

I did that. Harry Crane (ph) hired me. I did this serious skit with Jackie. It was very strange, but we did it. And a few weeks later, Joe Kates (ph) was on the phone again, asking me had I seen "The Honeymooners" ever. And I said, "no." I didn't even have a television set. He said, "well, we've finally written in a wife for Art Carney, who -- he's the sewer worker, and she's called Trixie. And Mr. Gleason said to me, get me that serious actress." So that's how I fell into the part.

KING: And Jane, how did you get to be the later Trixie?

JANE KEAN, ACTRESS: Well, I knew -- I worked with Jackie in the past. As a matter of fact, we both -- I hate to say how long ago it was -- but we were doing one-nighters, the Loews Pitkin, Loews Melba (ph).

KING: With you and your sister?


KING: Just you?

KEAN: I was the singer on the bill and he was the comic. And we were getting $50 a show. And then we did summer stock together, the showoff and "Along 5th Avenue" on Broadway.

KING: So when we went down to Miami to do "The Honeymooners," did he call you?

KEAN: I had run into an agent when I went to see "The Odd Couple" with Art Carney. And I was with my husband. And we drove back to California, and when I got back there, the agent called. He wasn't really my agent, but he knew they were looking for a Trixie. So he said, you're not going to believe this, but you're going to be Trixie Norton. And it's going to be a musical and you're going to be able to sing and dance and do the whole number.

KING: Those were great years. And Leonard, how did you get to write for Jackie Gleason?

LEONARD STERN, ORIGINAL "HONEYMOONERS" WRITER: Oh, Jackie and I were friends. And he was -- I was in California, and the movie business had folded. It was a time...

KING: He didn't do well in early movies.

STERN: No. He hadn't established himself, they hadn't found a character for him. "The Life of Riley" helped.

KING: Television.

STERN: Yeah, the television show helped him develop a skill that he only improved upon each and every year, that of reacting. He was a phenomenal reactor.

Well, anyway, I was out in California. And Cy Fisher (ph), who was my agent, knew that if I came, he could get me work on "The Jackie Gleason Show," subject to Jackie's approval. Cy negotiated, and finally called back and he said, "OK, I got you the $1,000 for four weeks, but Jackie wants to speak to you." And Jackie was in the office. He said, "hello, Leonard. I'm paying you $1,000 a week, but don't expect us to be friends anymore." Of course, there was no longevity in that thing.

KING: Now, Marilyn, you danced on that show, right?

M. GLEASON: I was assistant choreographer. Sure. I was a sister to June Taylor.

KING: Those opening great shots. He'd come down through the middle.

M. GLEASON: Right. Oh, yes.

KING: Did you have a kind of fondness for him before you dated?

M. GLEASON: You say come down the middle. I had been on the show two years on (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the cavalcade of stars, before we went to CBS. And we were friends.

KING: But no chemistry clicking?

M. GLEASON: No, no, no. It was never mentioned.

KING: Mike, he had so many facets. And let's discuss some of them. What in your opinion was his greatness?

DOUGLAS: I think his greatness was that he was such a great actor. And as Leonard pointed out, a great reactor, but acting is reacting, as far as I'm concerned. He was so special.

And you know, when you worked with him, I don't know if anybody brought this up, but they put a script in front of each person. The first day, there would be scripts in front of everyone. The second day there would be scripts in front of everyone except Mr. Gleason. He had it all committed to memory. He knew your lines, her lines. It was unbelievable, the mind this man had.

And the fascinating thing about him in watching him, and he insisted that I'd be in his dressing room, because somehow we hit it off. I don't think he had that many friends, but -- so I'm very happy about that. But he would not be there -- and all of these people will substantiate this -- he would not be there for the dress rehearsal. He had someone walking through his part. And I asked him about that, and I never forgot the answer. He said, "it's only funny once, pal." But I said, you've only got stage hands up there. He said, "They'll never laugh the second time."

He didn't want to be out there. He wanted to do it and keep it fresh, is what he said.

KING: Joyce, why didn't you go down to Florida?

RANDOLPH: Oh, I was busy being a wife and a mother, and I wasn't asked anyway. But it didn't matter.

KING: Other than that. We'll take a break and we'll be right back.

He was born Herbert John Gleason in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. His mother always called him Jackie. He had a rocky childhood. Father ran away from home. Early signs of talent. Yes, Herbert John Gleason. Did he ever call himself Herbert? Never.

M. GLEASON: Never.

KING: We'll be right back with more on the incredible Jackie after this.


GLEASON: Bang, zoom. Oh, oh. Bang, zoom. Bang, zoom. Bang, zoom. Bang zoom.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish that somebody would invent a household utensil that would do the work of all of these. Am I coming through out there?

Wake up. Who are you?


KING: He probably invented comedy on television. Oh, that's good news. Reggie Van Gleason III. You had to love Jackie. Was he difficult, Leonard, to write for? Was he demanding?

STERN: No. He had standards, but he was the most trusting of comedians. Remember, we never finished a script earlier than the night before the show and the morning of the show. So he really virtually had to do what we wrote. And that's enormous faith in the writing staff. There were stories about we were forced to slip the script under his door because he wouldn't associate with writers. Totally untrue. The only time...

KING: You saw him go to writers meetings. He went to writers meetings.

STERN: Well, he was very involved but very supportive. Like most comedians are at war with writers and maybe writers are equally combative. You write against somebody. He'll never do this. They won't like this. And I guess, the comedian hates the total dependency upon writers. He can replace everyone else. Nepotism never extended to writers.

KING: Why, Marilyn, did he not fly? M. GLEASON: Well, he did fly for years.

KING: Then he stopped, and then at the end he flew to work with Olivier in London.

M. GLEASON: Oh, yes, we flew over for that. He never confessed to being afraid to fly, but he was very happy in a private plane, which I went in one with him and found out it was like flying in a small bus. I'm claustrophobic. I said, I'll meet you there. You take the small plane.

KING: But he had that great train trip from New York to Miami. And that's where I met him, on that train.

M. GLEASON: And the fact that you're talking about it is one of the reasons he did it, that the flight, everybody could have flown down. But doing the train was his way of doing something different.

KING: He always thought that way, didn't he, Mike, larger than life? He knew how to get attention.

DOUGLAS: Absolutely larger than life. And I'll tell you something, there was a restaurant in Miami where we went to eat one evening after the show called Yaddi's (ph). And as you walked in the door, there was a table, a long table and then a partition, then the rest of the restaurant. He sat in that seat facing the door because, I'm sure, he wanted to be seen by everyone. I mean, who could miss him?

KING: He loved, Jane, walking into the room, right?

KEAN: Yes. He was great -- I was thinking Marilyn talked him into taking a trip to Europe. And when someone asked him, how did you like Europe? He said, just different bartenders.

KING: He told me also once that he told Elvis Presley very early in his career, he says, you're going to be a big star, kid. Don't hide. Go out. Go eat out. Don't remove yourself from the public. You'll be very lonely. He never did that did he, Leonard? He went out.

STERN: No. Jackie created -- he created as many roles off the stage as they did on the stage. And he went out and that was a party play.

KING: Let's all discuss this -- but, hold on, Marilyn. What?

M. GLEASON: He had his own privacy, by the same token. For every evening he was out, there were four or five he was at home quiet.

KING: Would "The Honeymooners," as it is, Joyce, we'll start with you, make it today with the "Alice, you're going to the moon?"

RANDOLPH: Well, times are different today. I don't know. People loved the show so and say, oh, we wish we could have shows like that again. But perhaps we couldn't say things like that nowadays.

KING: You think so, Jane?

KEAN: I think it would be tough because of the women's lib movement.

KING: Politically correct.

KEAN: Right.

KING: But he loved her so much and every show ended with him kissing her, right?

KEAN: That was the best part. And I think that Archie Bunker was absolutely, you know...

KING: A takeoff on him.

KEAN: Of course. But you see...

KING: But Carroll, he told Gleason that he aped Bunker after Jackie.

KEAN: But Jackie would never say some of the things that Archie said.

KING: He didn't like that.

KEAN: No. He was puritanical when he he'd look at that script and would say, you can't say that.

KING: Mike, you told me that Jackie that he did not like "All In The Family." He didn't like the putdown of races. He thought that was poor taste, comedy. Do you think it would play today, Mike, "The Honeymooners?"

DOUGLAS: Oh, I think it would. I never -- you know something? That show never gets tired, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, I can quote some of the lines. And when his boss invited him to play golf, that was an absolute classic. And Art Carney, when he said address the ball and Art Carney took his hat off and said, hello ball. I've never forgotten that and I know what's coming and I still laugh.


KING: ... the threats, the pow, Leonard?

STERN: Well, I think part of the answer is in the fact that it works today. The show is a success in reruns and young people like it. And I don't think Jackie would have tolerated...


STERN: No, I don't think he would have tolerated the interference. He might have changed moon to mars because it is more warlike, but other than that, I believe he would have fought for it. (CROSSTALK)

KING: The strength of that couple was that he loved her, right?

M. GLEASON: That was the strength, the underlying, of course. Chauvinism was not a point at that time. How many men were not chauvinistic in the '40s, the '50s, which is where Jackie came from.

KING: He also gave writers challenges. Marvin Marks told me once "The Honeymooners" didn't have a phone. Therefore, you couldn't introduce laughs on the phone. Phones get you laughs.

STERN: Jackie also felt that all the exposition was usually on the phone. He wanted it to be acted out.

KING: So you had to come to the door.

STERN: Right. We had more Western Union messages than any individual could ever receive in a lifetime.

KEAN: I think it was funny. The first day of reading, he would take the script like this. He'd like weigh it. He says, pal, we're 10 minutes over.


He'll say, Jackie, no. Marvin would say, we've timed it. We've got everything. You're 10 minutes over. Whenever he would introduce people at the end, that's because he was under and the writers were right.

KING: Joyce, what was Art Carney like to work with?

RANDOLPH: Oh, Art was a dream. He's a such a wonderful, sweet, talented man. And he's nothing like Ed Norton, of course.

KING: There's a great actor too, right, Leonard? We had two great actors working off each other.

STERN: The company, the ensemble was brilliant. I think they're as much a contribution to the longevity as the writing certainly.

KING: When he co-hosted with you, Mike, was he fun? Did he take over?

DOUGLAS: No, he did not take over. As a matter of fact, he was kind of difficult to reach at times. And apropo of what you said moments ago about his not liking to fly, I said, why don't you fly? He said, I tried it once. He said the plane landed in a cornfield in Iowa and that wasn't where I was going. And to this day, I don't know if he meant that or not, but I think he did.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't forget the special airs Monday night May 6 on CBS. It's called "The Honeymooners 50th Anniversary." Where did it all go? We'll be right back.


J. GLEASON: Hardy har har.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Har, har, hardy, har, har.

Ralph, how could you do such a thing?



KING: A tribute to the great one, Jackie Gleason, with "The Honeymooners 50th Anniversary" celebration. By the way, included in tonight's show is a rare home video you're seeing provided by Joan Richmond Canal (ph), who was a production assistant on "The Honeymooners," and took videos. And we've been fortunate enough to have them tonight. I guess they're through Marilyn Gleason's efforts.

M. GLEASON: I remember the day she was there with her little 8- millimeter, little windup thing. I can pick out the dancers. Yes.

KING: To be straight and honest about it, because we are always attempting that on this show, he did drink too much, did he not, Leonard?

STERN: I think he had drinking pals and talking pals. And I think I was a talking pal. I seldom saw Jackie drink.

KING: I saw him only once drink, but he drank, didn't he?

M. GLEASON: He could drink, yes.


KING: I'll get you in a minute, Mike.

KEAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) go for 15 minutes and come out sober. He could lie down. Isn't that right, Marilyn?

M. GLEASON: That is correct.

KING: You mean he would be drunk, go in and lie down and sober in 15 minutes?

KEAN: Or eat.

KING: Joyce, did have you any experiences with him where he drank a lot?

RANDOLPH: Oh, absolutely not.

KING: Not?

RANDOLPH: I went to some parties that he gave in the upstairs part of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and he had a few drinks, of course. But he certainly never drank on the show, to my knowledge. KING: Was some of it a bit, Leonard?

STERN: Most assuredly.

KING: And there was tea in the cup?

STERN: Yes, or he could play drunk if he decided to. He didn't need drink to be drunk and people bought into that. Audrey used to get incensed when there were stories about his drinking on the show. She said, I would know if he drank.

KING: He never drank on the show, right??

STERN: She said, no. And I would know. I kissed him every week, she'd say.

KING: Mike, what are your memories in that regard?

DOUGLAS: Well, I was in his dressing room once and he was drinking champagne. And he had a little swizzle stick they'd call it. He'd pour it in and he do this and take all the bubbles out. And then they'd say, you're wanted on the set, Mr. Gleason. Righto, and he'd down it, would be gone. And he consumed that night, two quarts of champagne.

KING: No kidding?

DOUGLAS: And then we went to dinner and I couldn't wait to see what he was going to eat and what he ate. And when they finally brought the dinner, he'd been drinking double JBs on the rocks. And we were waiting and waiting and waiting for this dinner. And there was a priest at his right and I was on his left. And they were discussing the ecumenical council. Actually, Jackie was well versed, more well versed than the priest was. I was so taken by this conversation. And he was just brilliant. Somebody said he was an insomniac. Marilyn can say. He read about 15 books a week on an average.

KING: He was always reading.

M. GLEASON: Always reading.

KING: And as you said, he was underrated intellectually, what was the term?

STERN: I said he was a closet intellect. He did it for many people, but remarkable. He fell in love with "A Tale of Two Cities." But I mean, it was a passionate love. Do you remember?

M. GLEASON: Yes, oh.

STERN: And he decided that he was going to write a score to it and he was going to record the total book. And believe it or not, he did it. He hired a company of actors. They disappeared for several weeks and they recorded the book. I think it was 59 records, vinyl records. It was a hernia (ph) collection. M. GLEASON: It was donated to the University of Miami. In later years, he ran into an actor that was still around and said, I was in -- I did your talking book, he had called them. I record for the blind at Ft. Lauderdale. I've been doing it for 25 years, once a week. And I think that Jackie is the one that came up with the first idea. Nothing happened with it. It never sold. They record today word for word. He edited "Tale of Two Cities."

KING: You know, Jane, just thinking about him and all of the incredible things he could do with his body. Even though he was generally overweight, he was extraordinarily light on his feet, right? He moved across the stage.

KEAN: This show, the showoff in summer stock. You know what those barn theaters are. A spider came down in the middle between -- a very serious scene between my sister and Jack, and he couldn't resist it. He said, that's the last show you'll see for nothing.

KING: He won a Tony for "Take Me Along."


KING: He was -- Academy award nomination for "The Hustler."

M. GLEASON: Which he should have won.

KING: He was great in "The Hustler." "Requiem For a Heavyweight" and "Gigo." One of the great movies. He never spoke a word.

STERN: Total injustice, not a single Emmy award and not even a nomination.

KING: How do you explain that, Joyce? Not even an Emmy nomination for Jackie Gleason?

RANDOLPH: I don't know. It's so weird. I mean, he should have been right up there getting all sorts of awards, and it just didn't happen. I don't know why.

KING: Did it bother him, Marilyn?

M. GLEASON: He never let on. I'm sure it did. It would have bothered me if I had been in his position.

KING: How do you explain it, Mike? You're the television veteran here. How did they overlook him?

DOUGLAS: I can't imagine how they did that. But I remember one time they called me in Philadelphia and said, will you come down and host the Emmy Awards, the local Emmy Awards in Miami. They're going to give a special award to Jackie Gleason. I didn't hesitate to come right down, gave him the award. But he was -- this man, there were so many facets in this man. He was such an unusual man. If he said to me one time, he said it a thousand times, because I don't drink, you realize, pal, that's as good as you're going to feel all day. And I was Irish and he kept saying, are you sure you're Irish? You don't drink. He couldn't figure that out.

KING: That's right. But he loved to help people. He was just great to me. You know, he would come on my show and he would do promos. When I switched television stations, he did the promo. And we did a big event in the Orange Bowl together. Remember the decency rally?


I hosted it and Jackie came in in this like caravan float. Jackie Gleason, one in a million. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Said if I turned it on, he'd hit me.

She turned it on. Hit her.




J. GLEASON: Would you do me a favor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what is it?

J. GLEASON: Teach me to mambo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sure. It will be a pleasure.

Well, now, you just watch me and do exactly as I do.

J. GLEASON: Yes, sir.


KING: We're back. Don't forget this airs Monday night, May 6, at 10:00 on CBS.

Jackie went to Hollywood, the first time, Jane, they didn't treat him well, right? He had a Warner Brothers contract. They sort of didn't even use him.

KEAN: But he was good, though, in a couple of things he did. He was very much influenced by Jack Okie. They were very close.

KING: They were great pals, right?

KEAN: Very close. Great pals, yes. And did a lot of the same shtick in a way. You know?

KING: He also told me once, Leonard, he didn't like challenges. He said, "I like doing what I know." Also, he didn't read a note of music, right?

STERN: No, he didn't.

KING: But he had a great ear. He knew when you were off.

STERN: Yeah, the paradox. It was amazing.

KING: Music for lovers only.

M. GLEASON: He invented...

KING: Capitol Records.

M. GLEASON: He invented music for.

KING: Music for, right?

KEAN: Music for lovers.

M. GLEASON: He was the first one.

STERN: Also in film, he was sometimes too thin for the Jackie that audiences would laugh at. Because he's a handsome man.

KING: Very.

M. GLEASON: He was.

KING: Beautiful eyes.

KEAN: Do you remember in New York where he was at La Parisienne or one of those clubs, with the orchestra just conducting it, like the orchestra from those records? But we were at the Copacabana, he brought the whole orchestra right in the middle of our act, walked across the floor, conducted the whole thing.

KING: Now, Mike, you're a singer. That musical thing of his was extraordinary, wasn't it?

DOUGLAS: Oh, it was amazing. And I was told the whole story about that by a fellow I know in New York and have been a part of my life for many years, a guy named Bobby Brenner (ph), who was telling me how that whole thing happened and that they had taken it everywhere. And when they finally took it to Capitol, Capitol had already heard it the second time Jackie went in. But he said, "don't tell them that we've been here." And they bought it. And it was a huge, a huge seller. Just number one for a couple of years.

M. GLEASON: And when they've recorded it the first time, and Bullets was his partner.

KING: Bullets Durgan.

M. GLEASON: Bullets Durgan his manager. And he went home and listened to what they had done that night. It only cost $5,000 to do the recording, that first one. He said, no, it's not right. It's not perfect. We're going to go back tomorrow night, or whatever. Bullets said, hold it. Wait a minute. Count me out. He said, "Very good, I'll buy you out. It will be all mine." Bullets for years, for years -- Jackie knew what he wanted. He could hear it. Yeah.

KING: Also people, Joyce, stayed with him a long time, didn't they?

RANDOLPH: Yes, of course. Writers.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), writers stayed with him. He didn't fire people, did he?


RANDOLPH: Everybody loved working for him. And he was the boss. He ran everything. We all deferred to him for any question.

KING: Was he difficult, Joyce, at times? He was a perfectionist, was he not?

RANDOLPH: Yes, he was a perfectionist. And perhaps once in a while he'd come in in black Irish humor and be a little bit difficult, but that wasn't often. He was generally wonderful.

KING: Did you find him easy to work with, Jane?

KEAN: Oh, yes.

KING: Really?

KEAN: Really.

KING: Because there were stories too, that he could be tough.

KEAN: Well I -- well, Leonard would know more, but I always thought he was tougher on the writers than on the actors. If he wasn't pleased with something, I know Marvin Marks (ph), his wife would bake him a case, anything, to please get some wonderful encouragement out of Jackie, one kind word, you know? Because it was -- but to actors, I thought he was wonderful.

KING: He was not a great friend of Art Carney's, was he?

STERN: No, they went their separate ways. He was closer to Audrey in the company. They had rapport.

M. GLEASON: They loved each other, but they didn't spend time together. They didn't do the same things.

KING: He respected Carney.

STERN: Enormously. He was proud of him.

KING: You mentioned, Mike, about playing off people. Jackie once told me that he wanted to do "The Odd Couple." And I said, boy, you'd be a great Oscar. And He said, "no, I want to be Felix. Felix gets more laughs."

DOUGLAS: How about that? That's a surprise to me.

KING: You can -- I can work off Oscar, but...

DOUGLAS: He could work off of anyone. He was amazing.

KING: Well said. Leonard?

STERN: It was interesting. Very often, I became the spokesperson for the group of writers because I knew Jackie and I'd have to go to him at the end of a writing session and say, "this current script, you don't have many jokes." And he'd say...

KING: For him?

STERN: Yeah, many jokes, you don't have many of the punch lines. He said, "do I have things to react to?" I'd say yes. He said, "OK, I'll take care of myself."

KING: For example, he would get great laughs off every funny line you wrote for Art Carney. His reaction to Carney was hysterical.

STERN: I was going to say, they made contact with the audience. He represented their point of view.

KING: How did you not break up, Jane?

KEAN: It wasn't easy. It wasn't easy. But unlike when you work with Red Skelton, Red would want you to break up. And Jackie, he wouldn't get mad, but, you know, it would be better if you didn't.

KING: We're going to take a break and when we come back, we'll be joined by Paul Brownstein, the executive producer of 50 years of "The Honeymooners," which will air Monday night May 6 at 10:00 on CBS. Don't go away.


CARNEY: Let me have it.





J. GLEASON: And if I ever become president of that bus company, I'm going to put in some improvements that they've been needing for a long time. First of all, I'm going to have pretty stewardesses on each bus. I'm going to have electric outlets for electric shavers. I'm going to have long straps for short people. And you know -- you know, how everybody just misses the bus in the morning? Well, I'm going to fix that, too. I'm going to make a schedule out so all the buses leave a minute later.


KING: We're back. The CBS special airs Monday night, May 6. And we welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, joining our panel is Paul Brownstein, who, along with Jeff Margolis, the co-executive producers. How did you come to get this gig, Paul?

PAUL BROWNSTEIN, EXEC. PRODUCER, "50 YEARS OF THE HONEYMOONERS": I represent the Gleasons on some of the American Scene magazine and the color "Honeymooners." I distribute programs for artists who own their own copy copyrights off network shows.

KING: "American Scene."

BROWNSTEIN: "The Jackie Gleason Show" from '62 to '66. And as part of that of working with the Gleasons, I realized it's the 50th anniversary coming up, and Jeff and I went and pitched the show to CBS and it worked.

KING: So it was all done outside of CBS, they didn't control anything.

BROWNSTEIN: We were working with CBS, because they own the classic 39.

KING: So what will we see on Monday night?

BROWNSTEIN: You're going to see footage -- lost footage. You've never -- we thought you have seen lost "Honeymooners." Well, we went searching. We found Audrey's first appearances as Alice was on the first "Jackie Gleason Show" on CBS that's never been rerun and never been part of the lost "Honeymooners." That particular kinescope was lost. We found the show from '73 with Sheila McRae. CBS didn't have it. The Gleason vault didn't have it. We found it at the Museum of Television and Radio. So we've really been scouring to find them.

KING: Do you keep a lot of Gleason stuff?

M. GLEASON: Oh, I have everything in vaults.

KING: Do you?

M. GLEASON: My son has put everything on computer.

KING: You have the bus driver's uniform?

M. GLEASON: Yes, and hat.

KING: His interest in the occult. We discussed it a little earlier. He believed, but didn't believe, you know what I mean? He was very skeptical.

M. GLEASON: He was always looking. He wanted -- you say put something down, go ahead and make it move. He wanted to see it happen. He wanted to. Nothing. KING: He wrote music, too, right, Leonard?

STERN: I believe he dictated it to someone.

KING: He'd have to dictate it; he didn't write it. How do you explain that, Mike, that musical ability without knowing a note?

DOUGLAS: Well, I heard he wrote "Melancholy Serenade," the theme. Did he write that?

M. GLEASON: Oh, definitely.

DOUGLAS: Well, he was -- and his taste in music, as far as musicianship was concerned, the absolute best. Many people like Bobby Hackett in that orchestra. All the best musicians.

M. GLEASON: He knew who to get to make it good. And he wrote "My Greatest Love."

KEAN: He spent more time with the orchestra, with the overture in the beginning of the show than the whole block of the show. Remember?

KING: Who hosts the special?

BROWNSTEIN: Kevin James. And one of the things you're going to be seeing is newly remastered from the 35 millimeter negatives, the classic 39 "Honeymooners." Just completed, 39. Brand new, digital mastered.

KING: Are they still playing, "The Honeymooners"?

BROWNSTEIN: "The Honeymooners" still play on TV Land and in syndication. As a matter of fact, WPIX in New York has had the show running continuously since 1957. It has never not been on the air in New York City.

KING: Do you ever watch it, Joyce?

RANDOLPH: Yes, of course, I do. It is great fun.

KING: How do you explain something, Joyce, that we can watch them 100 times and laugh the 101st time?

RANDOLPH: Because they're so funny. They're wonderful.

KING: I know, but, Mike, we know what's coming. You were supposed to be surprised.

DOUGLAS: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, it's like watching the old "Laurel and Hardy" things that you know where all the laughs are, but you never tire of seeing those two people. Jackie and Art have that kind of a rapport. It was just absolutely one-of-a-kind. It was just so good.

KING: You watch them, Leonard?

STERN: Oh, most assuredly.

KING: Do you know what's coming?

STERN: I do know what's coming.

KING: You probably wrote some of what's coming?

STERN: I think I did, and I'm willing to rewrite it now. You know, it's interesting, I always say they call them the classic 39, and I feel if we had known they were going to be called classics, we would have written them better.

KING: Do you have a favorite Gleason episode? Marilyn, a "Honeymooners" episode?

M. GLEASON: No. I love them all.

STERN: I have one, because it won an award and we loved it. It was included in the book -- and I always remember the critic, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), why has this play been selected for this book. I love that preface. It was the $99,000 answer show.

KING: The best, when he misses that first question.

BROWNSTEIN: That was my answer.

KING: Also how about when he went on television to sell the chopper? The lettuce chopper. The chef of the future. Magic chef.


BROWNSTEIN: These are the only sitcom characters who we saw develop over three decades. Ralph Kramden and Norton, we saw them in the '50s, we saw them in the '60s in color, and we saw them in the '70s again in specials. And that's an important point.

KING: Do you have a favorite episode, Joyce?

RANDOLPH: Oh, I love them all, but I love the sleep walking one. And oh, any show in which I had more than six or seven lines I really loved.

KING: Mike, do you have one?

DOUGLAS: Oh, the one where Art Carney knocked on the door and couldn't get open and came through the window. For some reason. I'm glad they didn't change that. They kept it as is. It was absolutely wonderful.

KING: I thank you all, thank you all very much for a delightful hour. Thank you so much for doing this. Paul Brownstein, along with Jeff Margolies, he's the co-executive producer. Marilyn Gleason, Mike Douglas, Joyce Randolph, Leonard Stern and Jane Kean, the guests. And the special will air Sunday night, May 6, at 10:00 Eastern on CBS, "50 Years of "The Honeymooners." Jackie Gleason, may he never go away. Good night. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Gracie was a great light comedian...

GEORGE BURNS, ACTOR: Gracie was a great actress. Gracie, the whole world thought Gracie was dumb, but not Gracie. Gracie thought she was smart. When Gracie said these strange things, you didn't understand them, and she felt sorry for you. And Gracie never told a joke, she explained it for you. Like, I came home, I said, "What are we having for dinner?" She says, "Roast beef -- I just put two roasts in the oven, a big one and a little one." I said, why? She says, "why? Because when the little one burns, that means the big one is done."


BURNS: Gracie was great.





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