If there was one show, besides westerns, i loved more than all of the rest when television became another resident of our household from 1954 until i went to college in 1962, it was Red Skelton.
We are hunkered down. During the day, i attack many things i previously have intended to accomplish but have had other things to do like golf, dining out, golf, Balboa Park, golf, the Zoo, golf, visiting friends and places, golf, walking on the beach (which i almost never do), and golf. i still have a lot of tasks remaining.
By dinner time, i’m sort of worked out. Our tradition is we dine on dinner trays in the family room and watch as much local news as we can stand. We, then, used to watch sports mostly. In spite of the sports sequestering and having our fill of covid-19 updates and advertising stuff that this hunkering down is supposed to make more attractive, we have maintained our tradition. But we are into this seriously for about two weeks. Maureen and Sarah watch their movies and television shows mostly during the day. They allow me to watch my preference at night, which often is none, so i read, listen to music, and write.
But as noted earlier, i go to oaters, especially when i need a picker-upper. We also go back to old movie favorites. “Casablanca” (thanks, Judy Gray, for bring this one to the fore) with Sarah. Sarah had us watch a show from the “Mandalorian” series. And i’m sure “The Quiet Man” is not too far away. We found “Cheers” reruns. Then, the other night, i found “3rd Rock from the Sun.” i searched fruitlessly for one of my favorite series until i went to Youtube. Last night, we watched the first show of the series “Evening Shade.” i had forgotten how star-packed that series was: Burt Reynolds, Marilu Henner, Ossie Davis, Hal Holbrook, Charles Durning, Elizabeth Ashley, Ann Wedgeworth, and my favorite Michael Jeter. So now, we have those three and westerns to choose from each evening until this thing blows over.
But sometimes, even all of that seems to be missing something, especially in this re-run of drear in the Southwest corner rainy season where we have gone over our annual average of rain of ten inches by almost two inches already with at least one more of these Pacific generated wet weather patterns, which will generate all of the weather guessers after screaming about a possible drought now warn us that all of this rain will make a lot of stuff grow, turn green, then brown, and be superb fodder for wildfires by summer’s end, a pattern the weather guessers love, a circular soap opera suspense story.
But in an almost funk last evening, i went to my go-to time killer, spider solitaire on my laptop, but spied something in a sidebar. i checked it out even though i had no clue who Dini Petty was, a rather remarkable woman it turns out and hostess of a Canadian television show of her name. But this one show caught me.
It was an hour-long — almost, they cut out the commercials — interview with an older Red Skelton.
i was entranced. His bubbling humor and adlibs did not fade with age. He was a showman and a promoter of the old school and his claim to the amount of work he accomplished in so many pursuits was a little bit too hard to swallow. As he spoke and Dini laughed and swooned over him along with her audience, i was taken back to all of Red’s shows. They were clean (for the most part as there were some innuendos funnier than what was the literal interpretation), inventive and more difficult for a comedian to keep ’em laughing than with the foul language shock of the later comedians. And he did it for twenty years. Twenty years every week.
But the other thing that kept coming through was his humility, his genuine caring, his humanity, and yes, his sadness in his personal life.
The world was better with Red Skelton. i wish i could go back to those years when i watched. i could miss Milton Berle, Martha Raye, “The Ted Mack Amateur Hour” (where Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, Jose Feliciano, Irene Kara, and Tanya Tucker debuted — looking this up in Wikipedia, i found Louis Farrakan played a violin under his birth name Louis Walcott — and others. But not Red. No, not Red.
If you are too young to really know about Red Skelton or wish to reminisce a bit in this sheltering, i recommend Dini’s interview. It’s a bit long, but i think worth it: