Danny Kaye : A Nasty man?

A Nasty man?

I have not read a book on Danny Kaye as of yet, but I have heard in book reviews that he was a cold man and nobody had anything nice to say about him at all. It dosen't bother me because I still think he was one of the greats but could someone please fill me in on what he did to people.

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I have not read the book you are referring to -- I remembering hearing something similar years ago about rumors of him being a cold/perfectionistic jerk. However, my father built Mr. Kaye's swimming pool at his home in Beverly Hills in the 1960s and my dad to this day speaks of Mr. Kaye as one of the kindest, gentlest, sincere human beings he has ever met. Mr. Kaye would even personally cook Chinese lunches for my father and his workmen -- going so far as to serve them personally as well! My Dad has worked for many celebrities in his 45-year career and Danny Kaye is always the one he has the highest admiration for.

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I'm not so sure about that. I remember a People magazine feature two decades ago in which the writer was invited to accompany Kaye on a goodwill mission. The thing that stood out about the story was Kaye's mistreatment of people. It was quite shocking at the time.

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...if you are prepared to believe anything in that rag.

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The man worked tirelessly for UNICEF, how nasty could he have been? My parents remember him being hailed as a very warm and gentle person. Also, another thing I have noted about actors...when they are in life mean and nasty and cold people, it shows in their work. Bing Crosby is a very good example of this. Jerry Lewis wrote that Crosby's work reflected his cold, wooden nature. Dean Martin was the same, actually. Watch him closely in White Ch 16d0 ristmas, you'll see what I mean. Danny Kaye on the other hand, so warm and endearing in ALL of his characters (even the somewhat serious Phil Davis in White Christmas) is always remembered by the older generation as being a genuinely nice man. Kirstie Alley is a modern example of what I mean. She is a genuinely nice, funny, and smart-as-a-whip person, and always plays such in her work. The man who played BJ Hunnicut on MASH, Mike Farrell, is another example. Mike Farrell, like BJ, is a warm pacifist who works for Greenpeace. Jerry Lewis, always the funny, lovable monkey, works tirelessly at the MDA telethons. Granted, you can argue the point that there are plenty of celebrities who play nasty people and are actually very nice (i.e. Margaret Hamilton from the Wizard of Oz), and vice versa, or that personal bias may taint how you view the character, but I'm just saying that the nature of actors always, always shows through in their work, whether they want it to or not.

However, I would like to point out that it was a very good question that you asked, and I'm glad that you ASKED the question rather than just going off on "What a mean, horrible man, etc, etc." Thank you for being so fair.

One last point: Anyone who can twist his tongue like Danny Kaye cannot afford to be anything less than a perfectionist. Party on.

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Yes you got too at least ask about something and ponder it before you make up your mind about something. In any case Mr. Kaye was human and made mistakes like us we can't be perfect. Thanks for your time.

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Amen! You hear all kinds of things about celebrities and you really need to think about how much you want to believe. Probably 10 percent is really true.

I haven't read anything about Danny Kaye, but I happen to be watching a rerun of the Cosby show that he did about a year before he died, which is how I came to this site. Watching him b68 with the kids, it's hard to believe that this was a cold man. They clearly love him and are having a great time. He did a lot of work with children and they always seemed to respond to him very positively. I think that says a lot. I usually go by gut feeling when it comes to evaluating people and my gut feeling about Danny Kaye has always been positive. I've seen him moved to tears on a couple of occasions. He never ever struck me as cold or nasty. Perfectionism can be difficult to deal with, both for the perfectionist and the people around him. But I don't think it equates to nasty, even though some people might interpret it that way.

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That's true. For years most people had been saying similair things about Judy Garland, that she was tempremental, and cruel. Then later I find out that the stories are not true at all, maybe the same can be said of Kaye.

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Danny Kaye is my favorite actor. I think the man could do about anything. However, I currently work with a set designer who worked with Kaye on more than one occasion and he continually tells me what a dismissive and rude man he was. Knowing that is his experience doesn't detract from the talent I see on the screen though. I couldn't possibly pick a favorite Kaye performance, but my favorite movie of his is The Five Pennies, which shocks people when I tell them that rather than something like The Court Jester.

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Even if it is true about Kaye don't let it ruin it. Some of my other fave's are talked about as being nasty in real life too like Rex Harrison and Al Jolson but I still like them (as entertainers).

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Well, Harlin Ellison did mention in his commentary on the 80's Twilight Zone episode "Paladin of the Last Hour" that Danny Kaye was a jerk.

If I can mix Code Lyoko, Marvel and DC together.

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Danny Kaye might have alternated between niceness and nastiness.

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Well, Harlin Ellison did mention in his commentary on the 80's Twilight Zone episode "Paladin of the Last Hour" that Danny Kaye was a jerk.

If I can mix Code Lyoko, Marvel and DC together.



Harlan Ellison knows all about jerks. He's the biggest one I know!!!


"Suck my ectoplasmic........." ;)

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Well, Harlin Ellison did mention in his commentary on the 80's Twilight Zone episode "Paladin of the Last Hour" that Danny Kaye was a jerk.

Yeah, well Harlin is a very weird man, and known for his tantrums.

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Mr Kaye for what I've read was a bit difficult too much energies and funny fellow... He did jokes to his won family all the time. Many I read find him hard to work with, and he wanted his own way, which is normal for everybody when we think of it. There is another thing to keep in mind, poeple will expect any comic actor to be as comic and funny in normal life all the time. If this person is just serious well they say he is rude etc... I heard it so many times, ut I think in his all day life an actor can be himself and not always joking and be a wonderful person... Especially when we think of all Mr Kaye had done with Unicef can he be nasty indeed?!

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i think it's easy to label a celebrity as "rude" if they catch them on an off-moment. we all have them. these people with their experiences don't seem to offer any reason as to why he might have been rude. if you're on-set, trying to work and get into character, of course, someone interrupting you might make them short with you. especially if you are a perfectionist (nothing wrong with being a perfectionist!). if they're not in the mood to be congenial for any other reason in public they might come across as short, or the person disappointed doesnt realise that in their excitement they are annoying. some people are... i mean, to some extent you could say it comes with the territory, and i wouldnt argue with that, but you shouldnt expect celebs to have their personality persona switched on 24-7. difficult to know without the full story. i guess as a lifelong fan, like others, i'd really hate to think that he was an a'hole off-camera!

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He might have been a person who could bring out the Nasty, when the Nasty was required. This is, if somebody was giving him a hard time, he could give it back.

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There's a biography of Kaye called "Nobody's Fool.&q 5b4 uot; I read a review of it in Time or Newsweek 10-15 years ago. I remember it said he had an exceptional ability to connect with an audience, but not with individuals. The book alleged he had a cold, dark side and nobody really felt close to him, not even his family.
Also, what prompted me to look him up after all these years, was watching an interview with Fred De Cordova, the long time producer of the Tonight Show. I don't believe I've ever witnessed a more politic man; in the 2.5 hour interview, De Cordova never spoke poorly of anyone, even a known jerk like Milton Berle. About Kaye, he acknowledged Kaye "wasn't the most popular man in town." Translated into normal speech, it means Kaye's reputation was very poor.

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Did it ever occur to you that alot of celebs do those charities for good publicity?

I read that he was cold and abusive toward his wife.

Handsome Latino

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Danny Kaye has been my favorite actor ever since I knew what an actor was. I had the oppertunity to meet his daughter and she told me that her father was a perfectionist with a complete artists temperment. She said that her father was incredibly kind to people who gave their best but could be rude to the people who were indifferent to their jobs. That insight into his personallity made me very aware of how I lived my life. I give everything my all and hve noticed that I am treated very well by those people that are known as perfectionist jerks. Could it be that the people that said he was rude and a jerk weren't giving their best? Just a thought.

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Could be

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I know i already posted on this, but since I posted last, I've been trying to find information on what Danny Kaye was really like as a person. And so far, nothing. Does anyone know where information like this can be found? I wish he'd written an autobiography. For years I t 238 hought Alan Alda was a jerk, then I watched MASH and began to wonder, and was able to purchase his autobiography (Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and other things i've learned, about $25, VERY good read), and I wish the same was true for Kaye.

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I would say looks for books written about him. One book is called "Nobody's Fool" and it is not very flattering at all. I have not read this book but have read reviews about it and it says that people who knew Kaye have nothing good to say about him at all. I wouldn't go so far as to say that though because people did like him, he might have been a cold man sometimes.

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My father was a trumpeter with the National Symphony (USA) during the 1950's and early 1960's. Danny Kaye appeared with the symphony a number of times during those years doing his various scripted routines. Dad said that he could certainly come off as a jerk if people expected him to be like the characters he portrayed in the movies, because he was a perfectionist and rather driven when it came to making his performances and those of anyone supporting him the best that they could be. There was no way anyone could do the things that Danny Kaye did without a great deal of practice. Much of his onstage routine was spontaneous to a degree, because he was expert at being able to gauge his audience's reaction and he could pick and choose which scripted work to segue to according to what got a laugh and what didn't.

Danny Kaye worked with an enormous book full of musical accompaniments for his routines, which were numbered. During rehearsals he might call for the orchestra to play "number 187" ten times while he went through that portion of the routine, only to never have that numbered cue turn up during his performance. After another night where "number 187" wasn't called for by Kaye's conductor, who knew his routines inside out and knew just what to have the orchestra play when, my father asked Danny Kaye about it backstage. Kaye told him that he listened closely for the audience reaction and had multiple options as to which direction to take his performance in, so that it might be possible that during a performance he might need to be able to draw upon many different possibilities. During that particular run with the National Symphony, he was never able to use the material that was accompanied by "number 187", because it just wasn't making anyone laugh enough!

Dad always thought this might be part of the reason why people thought Kaye was a jerk, because he was very demanding in rehearsals, and wouldn't let anything go until it was just right, no matter how restive the musicians might be getting. Dad said that you hated him in rehearsals but loved him the rest of the time, that backstage he was unassuming and quite pleasant, but not at all extroverted, as people would expect him to be if they only knew him through his movies and comedy routines. If people were expecting a wild and crazy guy who constantly cracked jokes and went through his comedy routines, they were disappointed and would say that he was a cold fish.

A lot of people just don't understand that actors and comedians are performers and that stage presence is one thing and real life is another. For any performer to achieve the routines that Kaye did would require great dedication and tons of rehearsal, particularly because he did a lot of live performance throughout his career. It wasn't like he had to get up once and get it right on camera - he had to get things right all the time in live shows. If things weren't going well in rehearsal and it wasn't his fault, yes, he could be quite a martinet. Thus the stories of being a real jerk.

Most likely he was like all other humans, sometimes a good guy, sometimes a jerk.

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George Carlin idolized Danny Kaye as a kid and told this story about trying to get his autograph:

"I collected autographs as a kid – not in any sort of hardcore way, but just by hanging around the stage doors. My Mother didn’t come home until seven at night, and until then, I got autographs. And I loved Danny Kaye. And I waited for him once at Radio City Music Hall. He was in the stage show at Radio City, and I went and I stood at that door for over an hour. It was a rainy, cold day – I wasn’t in the direct rain, but it was very cold and it was getting dark.

I knew his schedule, because you could lean into the doorman and say, "Is he out? What time’s he come back? There’s a show at 6?" or whatever. And I stood there and waited for Danny Kaye, and he came and I was the only kid there. And he walked right past me. He wouldn’t even say anything. And I did my little rap, "Oh please, please, please . . ." And then later I see him with these UNICEF kids, with 30 of them sitting on his lap, and I knew he was full of *beep* Sorry, but I had to tell you about that."

George Carlin: It's all bullsh-t and it's bad for ya.

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Brighidsgirl, yes. If, of the several incidents that occurred involving me today, all were reported, only three of them would be worth publishing and all scurrillous. But they would miss out on my work for charity.

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When he was performing in Two by Two, I waited to get his autograph after the show. There were initially about 30 people, but after about 40 minutes, there were just 5 of us. One was a Down's Syndrome girl and her mother. When the stage door opened, we were told that Mr. Kaye nevers signs autographs so we should not wait any longer. We all decided to stay on anyway.
A few moments later, the stage door opened and Mr. Kaye emerged between 2 other men trying to make a beeline to his limo waiting at the curb. The child stepped near him and tried to say that he was her favorite performer. He scowled at her with a look that could freeze hell and continued on his way.
.I will always remember that look!!!
I do stil llike him as an actor- but I never wanted to get near him again- carol

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Please don't get me wrong- I really enjoy his work and think he was one of the most talented entertainers created. However, I do clearly remember what I saw and how we all felt- he glared in a way similar to the distain one has right before eliminating a cockroach (both the inconvenience of having to deal with the intrusion an not really caring about the roach at all).
We all have bad social days but the warning by the Stage Door fellow gave me the feeling afterwards that the reaction we received was the norm, not the exception. carol

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When I was growing up in the UK during the 80's Danny's films were often on the TV and I became a big fan. I found an address and wrote him a letter and he sent back a signed photograph and he wrote on the back: "thank you for your kind words."
I'm sure he had days like we all do when he was feeling irritated and he probably was not a saint but I was so happy whenhe replied to my letter and I've still got that photograph framed on my desk.
The really sad thing about Danny Kaye is that so few of his films are on region 2 DVD and they are rarely shown on TV these days. I've got Hans Christian Andersen, The Court Jester and The Five Pennies on DVD but surely one of the all-time greats should have all of his films released on DVD-the ones I have don't even have any extras.
Most of my friends hadn't even heard of the great man and everyone of them became a fan when I showed them the films!

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100% consistent with my experience of the man. What kind of rotten person does that to a kid with Down's Syndrome? My experience was his "love" for kids was a sham -- they were great in the abstract and made him tons of money, but in real life it was a whole other story. I'm sure there were occasionally kids he was nice to (my guess is mostly when there was something in it for him) but after my experience with him, I was done with him as a human being and as an actor.

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Funny you should mention this, because, as a kid growing up in the New York area, I went to see "Two By Two" (Also, BTW, Richard Rodgers' last hit show, some ten years after the death of Oscar Hammerstein II) with my folks. It was my first Broadway show, and I was thrilled to pieces. I must have been around 13 or so, as this was early '71.

Well, 5b4 through a friend of a friend of my dad's, we managed to get these beautiful front row center seats. This was maybe a week before Danny broke his leg onstage. Well, when he was taking his solo bow at the end of the show, he saw me...and flashed me one of the biggest, most radiant smiles I have ever seen. For years after, my folks and I still talked about it. Maybe I cought him on a good night. I don't know. But it's 40 years later, and I still remember that moment as though it were yesterday. To this day, Danny Kaye is one of my favorite comedians, I consider "Hans Christian Anderson" one of the greatest family films of all-time, and "White Christmas" is still essential Holiday viewing at my home.

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We are quite lucky if we can remember those "special moments" when we are acknowledged by an individual we admire.
Having gotten a tad cynical, his curtain call smile may have been another verification of his warmth at a distance (procenium arch, tv or movie screen), but it takes a cruel individual to ridicule others. I don't buy into the justification of a "star's ego, attitude or profectionism" when it comes to relating to people. There are more than enough "stars" who refrained from insult or distain when interacting with their fans.
This said, though I will watch White Christmas, Court Jester, and certainly Merry Andrew anytime they are on.

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This is slightly off topic, I know, but I wonder if you or anyone else who saw "Two By Two" remembers (as I do) that it was a major stepping stone for at least two members of the cast, Madeliene Kahn and Walter Willison.

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I also saw Two by Two (a few times) but I also remember reading how Kaye made it a point to humiliate Walter Willison for several months prior to opening.
It was written in either the Gottried book or on the biography of Richard Rodgers. (or maybe the liner notes for the cd). IN any case, Willison had nothing good to say about the experience.

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This I did not know, but I did know, as reported in Rodgers' autobiography, that Kaye (who was allegedly bi. Hmmmm.) sexually harassed the girls in the cast (particularly then-unknowns Kahn and Tricia O'Neal) and that things actually got worse after he broke his leg, when he would use the crutches to goose them, not only during rehearsals, but performances, as well. It's not recorded, but you can bet that, especially during the First Wave of feminism, Kahn and O'Neal probably had something to say about that.

It's also interesting to note that the show closed within a week of Kaye's departure (supposedly, he'd just gotten tired of the routine), this despite unanimously positive reviews for Shelly Berman, who replaced Kaye on Broadway and who subsequently toured with the show.

God, we're turning this into an "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About 'Two By Two' (But Were Afraid to Ask)" forum. I'm almost beginning to regret the whole experience of going. For a better re-interpretation of the story of Noah, give me Bill Cosby's classic anytime ("Voopah! Voopah! Voopah!").

R
5b4
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What's a cubit?

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lol You dig!

"And then you had me bring a pregnant elephant on board. Gave me no manual for delivery, never told me the thing was pregnant. I get underneath, BROWM!, right on top of good ol' Noah.!"

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I recently had occasion to re-read Rodgers' autobiography, and 5b4 he opines that Kaye's unprofessional behavior while appearing in the show, including improvising lines, and consequently throwing everybody else's timing off, and all the less desirable qualities mentioned earlier, was the main reason Kaye wasn't nominated for a Tony that year (Willison and O'Neal were, but didn't win).

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To MrBlondNYC:

Hard to believe that, now that he was an adult, George Carlin still couldn't figure out that Kaye was probably preoccupied, over-busy and fatigued when he didn't stop and take the time to visit with "Little George" and give the kid an autograph. Hadn't Carlin himself been besieged by autograph hounds on numerous occasions when he felt least up to the task? Only if it can truly be said that Carlin accommodated his autograph-seekers on EVERY occasion might he be justified in making his little crack about Kaye having so disappointed the young Carlin.

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George Carlin was in show business for 50 years and well into the current media saturated/tabloid/paparazzi/message board/inflated sense of entitlement age. And I have yet to hear a story about him treating a fan poorly. He would sometimes unleash on hecklers but a true fan would not heckle him.

George Carlin: It's all bullsh-t and it's bad for ya.

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I wasn't suggesting that Carlin must be a piece of work himself or anything, but his description of Kaye's having ignored him as a youngster could have just as easily been thoughtlessness on Kaye's part as it could have been meanness. I think there's room for benefit of the doubt, especially since it doesn't seem that Kaye groused at, or was in any way cruel toward, the young Carlin.
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