Friday, October 19, 2007

"Son of a gun!": Death of "the Bish"

So we come to the end of the Rat Pack on this mortal coil. The last remaining member of the “Summit at the Sands” grouping has kicked off, and while that does leave Henry Silva as the last “Rat Pack satellite” survivor, the core group is now gone for good. Of course, Bishop was a relatively minor figure in the mythology, a comedian who was never indispensible, but did supply lines for his pallies — he reported that he had come up with Dean picking up Sammy and saying, “I’d like to thank the NAACP for this award….” (a gag that Jerry stole for the outtake reel of Smorgasbord, aka Cracking Up) He did have a pretty good run on TV for a Borscht Belt-type comic: a hit sitcom for a few years, a challenge-to-Johnny late-night talk show that toppled after a short run, but then he was allowed back on the The Tonight Show as a guest-host, which was extremely rare. He also continued to appear on game shows, variety shows, and talk shows throughout the '70s and part of the '80s (until all those outlets started to go off the air).

Bishop was cantankerous in his later years. A friend of mine, Jay Hopkins, attempted to interview him at various points by phone, and the old gent would talk rather amiably for minutes at a time, then suddenly wonder what he was doing on the phone answering questions, get sarcastic, and then hang up. The last TV appearance I saw was a tribute to Johnny on Larry King where Bishop kept trying to talk over the other guests — which was an impossibility, given that he was on one of those awfully stilted delay satellite feeds. He had wild hair at that point, and came across as a rambunctious old know-it-all: imagine Leonard Bernstein with an attitude and not much true knowledge. He had dubbed himself “a mouse in the Rat Pack,” and never did write the tell-all autobio that probably could’ve attracted him some latter-day attention. He essentially was a very lucky guy to hook up with Frank, Dean, and Sammy, and he knew it.

My tribute to him are three uploads I personally placed on the old ‘Tube:
First, he and his sidekick Regis Philbin on a 1968 episode of his late night talk show, chatting about their new Nehru jackets.


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Then a bit with the man who encouraged them to get said jackets, Sam the Man! Here Sam kids Joey and Reege, and also shows a roach clip on network television, without using that term (and pretending that it’s for tobacco cigarettes….).

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And last, the piece de resistance, Joey in full suck-up mode, on Johnny Carson’s 10th Anniversary on Tonight. I don’t know why this historic episode hasn’t been made available by the folks who hold the rights. It’s an historic show that obviously has survived the ages, if dubs of it have been offered through various “fan circuits.” Joey jokes about being put on “alphabetically” and it’s true — he comes after Jack Benny, and before George Burns. The show’s other guests were Don Rickles (he’s out of alphabetical order), Jerry Lewis, Rowan and Martin, and Dinah Shore (the latter two acts are cut off of the tape that circulates on the “underground,” most likely a copy of a ¾-inch tape of the first two-thirds of the show. For those who don’t know, ¾-inch tapes ran one hour exactly, and were distributed to the press for important TV specials that were taped ahead of time).


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Some YouTube finds I didn't uplaod:
Wobbly versions of other clips from the sublime Bishop Show episode, including a terrific "tap challenge" between Sammy, Sammy's dad, and Joey's brother Moishe, can be found here:

Tap-dance challenge, part one
Tap-dance challenge, part two
Joey's birthday! with b-day cake food fight

A classic little bit of shilling for Hai Karate by Joey and Regis:


Click here if the above doesn't work.

An ad for Joey's stint replacing Mickey Rooney in the Broadway show Sugar Babies:


Click here if the above doesn't work.

1 comment:

Jay Hopkins said...

What an honor to be mentioned in your blog! However, I wish to point out that Joey only actually hung up on me once. During all of my other conversations with the man he merely *threatened* hang up on me.
Great clips, Ed! The sequence from The Tonight Show is choice.