The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Brandeis University Press
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Prologue: Overweight Sensation
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On October 26, 1962, it still wasn’t clear everything would be okay and the Cuban Missile Crisis would not lead to nuclear war. There were two days to go in the thirteen-day showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union. Missile construction in Cuba charged ahead, and Fidel Castro urged the Soviets to bomb America if the U.S. invaded Cuba. It was a good day to ...
Introduction: Humpty Dumpty
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By September 1936, Allan Segal was an eighth grader who had been around. Just shy of turning twelve, he was already on his second last name, third father, and fourth school, and he still had one more name and four high schools ahead of him. But for now the years spent rambling between Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York were over and he was settled in Los Angeles, a city he f_irst saw ...
1 | Witz-Krieg!
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Among the two million Jews who lef_t Europe for America at the turn of the twentieth century was a passel of Lustigs. Between 1906 and 1920, siblings Anna, Abraham, Fanny, and Saul Lustig arrived in Chicago as single adults in their late teens and early twenties. Their sister Esther joined the family exodus in 1909, but she lef_t Stashev, in Russian-ruled Poland, as the twenty-six-year-old ...
2 | College in Sex Acts (Printer's Error)
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In the fall of 1941, Sherman wrote a letter to the editor of his college newspaper decrying the lack of a student humor magazine. The University of Illinois had one once, but it had folded four years before. Sherman heard it was considered too risqué. That was more than he could bear. He was just one month into his freshman year and not yet seventeen years old when he opened f_ire in the ...
3 | I've Got a Secret
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Af_ter getting everything he wants Sam Noodleman is miserable, and that is the moral of The Golden Touch. Better known as Cheesecake Sam and owner of a New York delicatessen of the same name, Noodleman curses the day he was tempted by riches and glamour to go upscale and French. He made a lot of money, yes, but is he happy serving paté? The question answers itself because, ...
4 | There is Nothing Like a Lox
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On the evenings of September 21 and September 28, 1957, two consecutive Sat-urdays that conveniently fell just before and af_ter the Jewish New Year holiday, Vernon Hills Country Club in Eastchester, New York, presented an amateur variety show starring Allan Sherman and other members called “Handicaps of 1957.” The event was held in the club’s theater, which the “Handicaps” program ...
5 | Ollavood!
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In the summer of 1961, Allan Sherman met Harpo Marx, the meeting blos-somed into a friendship, and the friendship produced one of the moments that helped Sherman launch his comedy career. “My dad just thought he was Harpo lived with his wife and children at El Rancho Harpo, his home in Rancho Mirage, California. But because summer in the California desert was ...
6 | My Son, the Folk Singer
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On August 6, 1962, Joe Smith of Warner Bros. Records was out to dinner in Los Angeles with his wife and father-in-law when he played a tape of Sherman’s f_irst album, My Son, the Folk Singer, recorded earlier that day.“A guy at the next booth said, ‘What is that? I want twenty-f_ive of those. I’ll write you a check,’” recalled Smith. “We thought we had something.”...
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Sherman’s father, Percy Coplon, at the start of his 100-day fast. Courtesy of his Allan’s maternal grandparents, Esther and Leon Sherman, 1951. ...
7 | My Son, the Celebrity
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By the time Sherman asked the recording engineers if the My Son, the Ce-lebrity album session was over, he had dutifully followed a friend’s instruc-tions to “get loaded.” On outtakes from the session a shell-shocked and tipsy Sherman tells the assembled audience, “I don’t understand the whole thing. I don’t understand the whole thing starting on August 6 when we did the f_irst ...
8 | My Son, the Nut
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Reports of 1960s music fans “actually breaking down doors” of record stores to buy a star’s latest hit song sound like news about a teen sensation, but in the summer of 1963 they were about overweight sensation Allan Sherman’s smash single, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A letter from camp).” The song was a hit as a single record, and when Billboard on July 27 reported on the behavior ...
9 | Allan in Wonderland
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On February 9, 1964, the New York Journal-American ran a prof_ile of Sherman while he toured England. International concerts were the logical next step. Over the past year he had blanketed the American market with an exten-sive tour and television appearances, and he had fans in London, Leeds, and Manchester. My Son, the Folk Singer sold 200,000 records in England and ...
10 | Peyton Place, U.S.A.
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...“I’m not supposed to be Jewish,” Sherman told the New York Times on the eve of his f_irst television special. “I was Jewish three seasons ago. Then it was avant-garde. I have to come out like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and forswear my forefathers. NBC felt that it was all right for a few million records, but they want me to be Sherman’s ambivalence about television was no match for its allure. It prom-...
11 | Oddball
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...“He wanted the divorce,” Sherman’s ex-wife Dee Golden remembered. “He was in love with a girl. It came to a very sad end. She lef_t him abruptly. He had In 1966, Sherman ended his marriage and followed in the self-defeating footsteps of his unbalanced parents. To try and apply the brakes to his downhill slide, he sometimes sought the advice of friends about new girlfriends. “He ...
12 | Hallowed Be Thy Game
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Sherman’s rightly forgotten musical is preserved only in works such as Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops, but at least one of its The Fig Leaves Are Falling opened on January 2, 1969, at New York’s Broad-hurst Theater and closed af_ter four performances. The idea for it was lif_ted directly from Sherman’s life, but the show itself did not embody an idea at all, ...
13 | Hail to Thee, Fat Person
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By the time Sherman died, his descent from stardom was complete. All of his albums were out of print. In the early 1970s, af_ter a tumultuous decade of mass peace and civil rights demonstrations, riots, political assassinations, and the public spectacle of Watergate the country could not respond to his clever but nonabrasive comedy and was ready for the hard stuf_f. Richard Pryor ...
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My father is fond of the expression, “One hand washes the other.” In other words, nothing can be accomplished without assistance. That goes double for biographies, which depend upon the memories, papers, letters, and insights of others. Many people who knew Allan Sherman shared theirs with me.At the top of the list of people that deserve my gratitude are the members ...
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Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture and Life