Groucho Marx

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Before the village became global, husband-and-wife explorers Carveth and Zetta Wells used new media and old-fashioned derring-do to make the world a little smaller.

The microphone- and camera-ready couple were lecturers and media personalities in between jaunts to exotic locales, with Zetta even hosting a weekly NBC show in 1946-47, in which she introduced 16mm home movies of their travels. It was an intoxicating time of visiting boat builders living inside volcanoes, watching fish climb trees and chaperoning Raffles the Mynah bird to an appearance on You Bet Your Life.

Below are two Brooklyn Daily Eagle articles about the peripatetic pair and the aforementioned 1957 video of Groucho Marx getting the business from a boid.

From July 18, 1929.



From August 12, 1945,


At the 6:50 mark.

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Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and writer William Peter Blatty, collaborators on the 1973 horror classic of The Exorcist, reunited for some unknown reason in 1984 for Good Morning America. According to legend, Blatty pretended to be an Arabian prince in the 1950s to get booked on the game show You Bet Your Life. He didn’t fool Groucho but did win $10,000, which helped him jump-start his writing career. I’ve never seen the footage online.

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The late Robert “Gypsy Boots” Bootzin was a beatnik and a hippie and a commune member and a vegetarian and a health-food salesman and a fitness expert long before those things were part of mainstream American culture. In essence, he seemed eccentric because he was right and in the minority. Here he is in the 1955 (at the 15:35 mark) amusing Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life.

From his 2004 obituary in the San Diego Union-Tribune:Los Angeles – Gypsy Boots, a California fitness icon, author and health guru who paved the way for generations of beatniks, hippies and health-food junkies, has died at age 89.

Boots, born Robert Bootzin, died early Sunday at a convalescent home in Camarillo after a brief illness, said his son, Daniel Bootzin.

Born Aug. 19, 1915, in San Francisco to Jewish immigrant parents, Boots defined what it meant to live close to nature decades before the nation’s current obsession with organic foods, yoga and exercise.

During his life, he tried a number of careers, from author to entertainer to hay baler to trendy restaurateur – but never shed his long hair and thick beard or his passion for natural foods and a near-Spartan existence.

‘What people have a hard time understanding is that in the early 1960s, there were no hippies and nobody had long hair, nobody had a beard,’ said Daniel Bootzin. ‘He really was that way way before anybody had that look. As a child, I was painfully aware that he was extremely different than anybody else.'”

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Groucho, seemingly oblivious, sasses Ray Bradbury on You Bet Your Life, 1955.

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Befuddled dowager Margaret Dumont’s final appearance–hello, she must be going–was fittingly made with longtime tormentor Groucho Marx in 1965. She died three days after this ancient piece from Animal Crackers was taped. And speaking of ancient pieces, ladies and gentlemen, Margaret Dumont.

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From 1967.

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“There are bullets all over the side of this building.”

Before he became famous worldwide for the Roots phenomenon, Alex Haley was a journalist known for some of Playboy magazine’s finest interviews. Haley, who had conducted Q&As with Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Miles Davis and numerous other larger-than-life characters, really outdid himself with his 1966 session with American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell. Since Rockwell was unaware that Haley was African-American when he agreed to the interview, he decided to keep a firearm at the ready during the talk, just in case the journalist decided to assassinate him.

Rockwell’s parents were vaudeville comedians who knew Groucho Marx, and the reviled bigot was considered a class clown when he first entered Brown in 1938. But it was during those college years that he began to speak out against racial equality, a path that would lead him to being a full-blown hatemonger. Rockwell’s fears of being killed were realized the year after Haley’s piece ran, when his calls for racial violence were silenced by bullets. An excerpt from the interview’s blood-chilling opening:

Playboy: Before we begin, Commander, I wonder if you’d mind telling me why you’re keeping that pistol there at your elbow, and this armed bodyguard between us.

Rockwell: Just a precaution. You may not be aware of the fact that I have received literally thousands of threats against my life. Most of them are from cranks, but some of them haven’t been; there are bullet holes all over the out side of this building. Just last week, two gallon jugs of flaming gasoline were flung against the house right under my window. I keep this gun within reach and a guard beside me during interviews because I’ve been attacked too many times to take any chances. I haven’t yet been jumped by an impostor, but it wasn’t long ago that 17 guys claiming to be from a university came here to ‘interview’ me; nothing untoward happened, but we later found out they were armed and planned to tear down the flag, burn the joint and beat me up. Only the fact that we were ready for that kind of rough stuff kept it from happening.

We’ve never yet had to hurt anybody, but only because I think they all know we’re ready to fight anytime. If you’re who you claim to be, you have nothing to fear.”

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Groucho Marx, perhaps the greatest comedian of them all, sat down with Playboy in March 1974 for a wide-ranging Q&A. Groucho, who was 83 at the time, recalled everything from going to brothels with a young Charlie Chaplin to encountering anti-Semitism at country clubs. The following are a few excerpts.



There’s a rumor that you and Harpo once went to a party naked.

Groucho Marx:

It was when we were playing in I’ll Say She Is and we were invited to a bachelor party for a friend of ours who was getting married. So Harpo and I got into the elevator and took off all our clothes and put them in suitcases. We were stark-naked. But we got off at the wrong floor, where the bride was having a party for her friends. So we ran around naked until a waiter finally came with a couple of dish towels—or, in my case, a bath towel.



Have you ever been a victim of anti-Semitism?

Groucho Marx:

Oh, sure. Years ago, I decided to join a beach club on Long Island and we drove out to a place called the Sands Point Bath and Sun Club. I filled out the application and the head cheese of the place came over and told me we couldn’t join because I was Jewish. So I said, “My son’s only half Jewish. Would it be all right if he went in the water up to his knees?”



The Marx Brothers have also had a number of literary friends. Didn’t you correspond with T. S. Eliot?

Groucho Marx:

He wrote to me first. He said he was an admirer of mine and he would like a picture of me. So I sent him a picture. And he sent it back. He said, “I want a picture of you smoking a cigar.” So I sent him one. Later he told me there were only three people he cared about: William Butler Yeats, Paul Valéry and Groucho Marx. He had those three pictures in his private office. When I went to visit him. I thought he wanted to talk about all those fancy books he had written, like Murder in the Cathedral. But he wanted to talk about the Marx Brothers. So naturally we became close friends and had a lot of correspondence. I spoke at his funeral.



How did you and Chaplin first meet?

Groucho Marx:

I took a walk and I passed this dump theater, the Sullivan-Considine. I heard the most tremendous roar of laughter, and I paid my ten cents and went in and there was a little guy on the stage, and he was walking around kinda funny. It was Chaplin. It was the greatest act I’d ever seen. All pantomime.

Then the following week, I went backstage to visit him and tell him how wonderful he was, and that’s how we got acquainted. Each week we would be in the same towns in Canada; I can’t remember all the towns; this was a hell of a long time ago. We used to go to the whorehouses together, because there was no place for an actor to go in those towns, except if you were lucky, maybe you’d pick up a girl, but as a rule, you’d have to go to a hook shop. And then Chaplin and I got very well acquainted. Not together! I mean, I wasn’t with him! I was with him, but not with a girl, I mean….•

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I once recorded a radio segment that ended up in the garbage. How it got in the garbage, I don't know. (Image by Ralph F. Stitt.)

Rare Early Radio Comedy Discs Uncovered (Upper West Side)

A rare find of radio show segments featuring many of the great comedians of the 20th century has been uncovered. Dozens of legendary comedians and lesser-known comedians are represented on these plastic, homemade discs with handwritten labels. There is Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Martin-Lewis, Arthur Godfrey, Groucho Marx, Fred Allen, Jimmy Durante, Jack Paar, Eddie Cantor, Danny Thomas, Danny Kaye, Edgar Bergen, Myron Cohen, 3 Stooges, Victor Borge, Morey Amsterdam, Henry Morgan, Mel Blanc and so many more. Also on disc–Sinatra, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Bea Lillie, Sophie Tucker, Bette Davis, Gus Van, Hildegarde, Ethel Merman et al. There is even a speech given by Winston Churchill (not in good condition).

Bing Crosby and Al Jolson do a Rip Van Winkle skit; Danny Kaye performs Begin the Beguine (label notes “off-key”); Morey Amsterdam performs a Monkey Poem; one of Milton Berle’s contributions is “Gas Station”; Jack Carter does his Piccadilly Song.

Other comedians include Phil Foster, Henny Youngman, Al Bernie, Lenny Kent, Peter Donald, Irwin Corey, Myron Cohen, Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healey, Garry Moore, Billy DeWolfe, Joe Besser, Abe Burrows and Doodles Weaver. Some discs contain a few women comedians or comedy actresses. There is much more.
These recordings probably have never been issued commercially.

There are more than 230 of these rarities. Some are on 7″ discs and most on 10″ discs that play at 33 1/3 rpm. They are all in sleeves and look good and the ones that I have played seem to play well. Many of them look like they have never been played.

They are being offered for sale as a collection.

If interested please call me. If you know of anyone else that might be interested kindly advise.

New York Post–Sunday May 31, 2009 P.6