Archive for Celebrity Passing

Hail (Sid) Caesar! There’ll Never Be Another!

When I heard the sad news that Sid Caesar passed away this week at 91 years old, I was very moved.  He’s one of the last of his generation of comedians from what has been referred to as The Golden Age of Television.  I think I first got to meet him when I wrote for his Friars Roast in 1983.  Every big star was there, and I was writing for the Roasts at the time and at that Roast I wrote for five different performers including Dick Shawn, Jan Murray, and Joey Travolta, John Travolta’s older brother, and the son-in-law of Dick Shawn, one of my very favorite comedians, and a friend.

(L-R) Bobby Shields, Norm Crosby, Gene Baylos, Sid Caesar, and Jeffrey Gurian at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar, 1983.

(L-R) Bobby Shields, Norm Crosby, Gene Baylos, Sid Caesar, and Jeffrey Gurian at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar, 1983.

Joey Travolta, Jeffrey Gurian, and Jack Carter at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar!

Joey Travolta, Jeffrey Gurian, and Jack Carter at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar!

Sid was the star of NBC’s “Your Show of Shows” from 1950-1954, and “Caesar’s Hour” from 1954-57, and created sketches with his co-star comedienne Imogene Coca that are funny to this very day.  Sid was a genius in what you might call “dialect comedy.”  He could make believe he was speaking almost any language, from German, French, Italian, Russian, or Japanese, and with the help of writers like Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, and Woody Allen created many memorable characters.

He was also known for being incredibly strong physically, and supposedly once pulled a sink out of a wall in anger, and held Mel Brooks out of a window by his feet!  After we met, we stayed in touch for a while and I remmber going to see him in a theatre in NYC, and when I went backstage after the show to say “Hi” it looked like an underground bunker or construction site.

Jeffrey Gurian visiting Sid Caesar backstage in what looks like a construction site!

Jeffrey Gurian visiting Sid Caesar backstage in what looks like a construction site!

A different grouping at the Sid Caesar Roast, (L-R) Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, Gene Baylos, Jan Murray, Norm Crosby, and Jeffrey Gurian!

A different grouping at the Sid Caesar Roast, (L-R) Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, Gene Baylos, Jan Murray, Norm Crosby, and Jeffrey Gurian!

 

So many of the greats of that generation lived to ripe old ages. Milton Berle lived to be 93 or 94.  He was my original sponsor in The Friars Club and brought me into the LA club first where he was the President.   I was out there in 1985, which was where we took the photo below.

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985.  Milton was the Pres. of The Friars Club and was Jeffrey's sponsor!

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985. Milton was the Pres. of The Friars Club and was Jeffrey’s sponsor!

And in all the years I knew Milton I was always in awe of him.  I’d be on the phone with him and all I’d be thinking was, ” Holy s**t, I’m on the phone with Milton Berle!”.  Mr. Television.  The reason he was called “Mr. Television” was because people in this country bought TV’s just to watch him on Texaco Star Theatre.

He was the host on the show that ran from 1948 until 1956, eventually called “The MIlton Berle Show”, and people would crowd around in the streets watching his show through the windows of the television stores.  TV had only been around since 1941, and thanks to Milton TV ownership went from about 500,000 TV’s to over 30 million.

Milton was like a mentor to me, and we’d have lunch at The Friars Club in NY, just the two of us, and he’d tell me wonderful show biz stories and about things like “spitballing” where two comics run ideas back and forth to create new material.    He took me to his home in Beverly Hills, and showed me  his archives of kinescopes and jokes, and even showed me the thing he was most famous for in terms of his physical endowment! (LOL)  Not that I asked to see it, but I think he was so proud of it, that he showed it to people he trusted!

Jeffrey Gurian and Milton Berle at an event where Milton was performing! Circa mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian and Milton Berle at an event where Milton was performing! Circa mid-80’s.

I recall one instance where I felt he really came to my rescue.  It was 1985, and I was in a very down place emotionally.  It was a freezing cold winter day, and I got to the door of my 2nd floor studio apartment, just in time to hear the phone ringing.  I remember fumbling with my keys, hoping to get the call before they hung up.  I raced to the phone and picked it up just in time and who was it, … Milton Berle.  He had called to see how I was doing.   To this day I still can’t believe that.  If I had been one minute later, I might have missed it because who knows if Milton Berle would have left a message on my answering machine.

He wound up inviting me to a Friars Tribute in his honor.  I think he was named “Man of the Year”, and that’s where he introduced me to Sammy Davis Jr., who actually kidded me about the amount of jewelry I was wearing.  He who wore more gold than an Aztec god! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian with Sammy Davis Jr. at a Friars Club tribute to Milton Berle.

Jeffrey Gurian with Sammy Davis Jr. at a Friars Club tribute to Milton Berle. 1985

Some years later, I also attended a special event in Milton’s honor in Montreal hosted by the legendary Budd Friedman, owner and founder of The Improv, the very first comedy club in the world.  Budd sat at the head of the table, Milton sat next to him, and I sat next to Budd directly across from Milton.    When Budd inserted his monacle into his eye, I took a plastic spoon out of my pocket, ( I’ve been carrying at least one spoon since the early 80’s and no one knows why! LOL) and inserted that into my eye to “look at the menu.”

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman at the 89th Birthday Roast of Henny Youngman, for TV!

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman at the 89th Birthday Roast of Henny Youngman, for TV!

It was a character I created back in the 70’s which I called “Spoon-eye”, and which was copied many years later by Conan O’Brien, and written about in Cindy Adam’s column in the NY Post.  I provided photos of myself “with spoon” from back in the 70’s, and Cindy wrote, ” I don’t know why anyone would want to take credit for something like this, but Jeffrey  Gurian definitely did it first!

Anyway, Budd looked at me like  “What the F**K are you doing?”  And I simply said, ” It’s very big out on the coast”, not thinking that HE lived out on “the coast.”  He looked at me and said, ” I live out there and I have NEVER seen anyone do that.”  In the meantine, Milton was looking at me in disbelief, and I decided to take out the spoon and just change the subject.  I don’t think it ever came up again!

On May 14, 1998, when Frank Sinatra passed away, I happened to be out in LA.  I remember very clearly calling Milton from a pay phone. I guess my StarTAC clamshell cell phone was on “Roam”!  He took the call and told me that he wasn’t taking calls from anyone else because the press was calling him non-stop for quotes on Frank Sinatra’s passing, but he said when he heard it was me he took the call.  Another amazing moment for me.

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985.

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985.

He brought me to his home in Beverly Hills, and showed me his kinescopes and the 6 million jokes he had compiled over the years that he kept in a separate little house.  He also showed me the body part he was known for, … without me asking, … which is a whole other story for another time! (LOL)

I remember the first time he let me write for him.  It was for an event honoring Buddy Hackett.  I was supposed to go to Atlantic City to meet with Milton where he was performing, and I was bringing my wife at the time, as Milton’s guests, and a couple of days before we were scheduled to come, he called me at home and asked me to give him an example of the jokes I was writing about Buddy.  If they were funny I could come, if not, I guess he would withdraw the offer.  Now I was in the position of having to impress Milton Berle with my jokes, the man who heard every joke ever told.

Jeffrey Gurian with Buddy Hackett at a Friars Roast, mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian with Buddy Hackett at a Friars Roast, mid-80’s.

I recall saying to him, ” Clean or dirty?”  He said, ” One of each.”  My clean joke was, ” Buddy’s not a good looking man.  It took him a long time to get used to the fact that girls are supposed to close their eyes when they KISS you, not when they’re introduced!”  My “dirty” one was, ” A lot of people like to think of Buddy Hackett as a little man with a rubber face.  I prefer to think of him as a little rubber, with a man’s face!”  Milton laughed, and told me to pack my bags cause he was expecting us in AC!  AMAZING!!!

Through Milton I also got to meet George Burns who was performing at one of the grand hotels in The Catskills.  In those days all the big TV stars still performed at the hotels, like The Concord, Grossingers, Kutschers, and The Nevele. George lived to be 100 years old.

Jeffrey Gurian with George (God) Burns backstage at a hotel in The Catskills! Mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian with George (God) Burns backstage at a hotel in The Catskills! Mid-80’s.

I got to know Red Buttons very well, who lived to be 87, as well as Norm Crosby, “The Master of Malaprop” who fortunately is still with us, and is in his mid-80’s, as is Jerry Lewis who’s 87 and who I had the honor of writing for and working alone with, when he was Roasted by The Friars, back in 1986.

Jeffrey Gurian with Red Buttons at a comedy event, mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian with Red Buttons at a comedy event, mid-80’s.

Jeffrey Gurian with Norm Crosby at The Friars Roast of Don King, 2005.

Jeffrey Gurian with Norm Crosby at The Friars Roast of Don King, 2005.

And then there was Henny Youngman who lived to be 91 and who I knew well from The Friars Club and from Milton.  He and Milton once headlined together at Westbury Music Fair and when Milton saw me, he gave ma a shout-out from the stage.  It was one of the proudest moments of my life.  He would always kid Youngman with lines like, ” Nice suit Youngman, who shines it for you?”  And lines like that would crack me up, cause I love that kind of humor!

Jeffrey Gurian with Henny Youngman at a comedy event, Oct. 1990.

Jeffrey Gurian with Henny Youngman at a comedy event, Oct. 1990.

I got to work with Henny for his 89th birthday roast which was televised and which I wrote with Bill Persky, the genius who wrote and created “That Girl” for Marlo Thomas, Danny Thomas’s daughter, and was also known for “Kate and Allie” and for his writing on the Dick Van Dyke Show.

I consider myself Blessed that I got to meet so many of the legends I watched growing up, and I think it’s safe to say that no matter how talented the stars of today are, there’ll never be any others like Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and the others I mentioned.  And the fact that they all had such longevity adds strength to the concept that laughing keeps you young!  In any case, I certainly hope so!  As a matter of fact, I’m counting on it! (LOL)

 

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Jeffrey Gurian’s Excellent Adventure with Keith and The Girl

If someone told you you had to go on the radio for an hour and 40 minutes straight you might wonder to yourself if you had enough to say. On today’s Keith and The Girl appearance after almost two hours we were just warming up! I swear we could have gone another two hours easy! The flow was amazing and they are extremely gracious hosts!

The very descriptive and accurate logo for “Keith and The Girl”, (whose name is Chemda, btw!) This happens to be exactly what they look like! (JK!)

My curiousity was piqued last month when I attended a couple of nights of their 8th anniversary celebration which they held out in Brooklyn at a performance space called White Wave. They literally had fans fly in from all over the world. Right around me were people from Australia, Toronto, Europe, Colorado, California, and all of them had gone to great trouble and expense to come in and celebrate with KATG!

Keith and Chemda in a very accurate portrayal of what they REALLY look like, during their 8th anniversary celebration!

People like Ted Alexandro say I know everyone in comedy.

So I was embarrassed to admit that KATG had escaped my comedy radar. And for eight years??? How could that even happen? That’s when I made it my business to find out more about KATG, and I’m so glad I did.

They have a super studio in Queens, whose exact location will not be divulged. Suffice it to say that it’s hidden inside of a mountain and when you approach and yell out a secret word, which they give you before you arrive, the mountain actually splits open, and you walk in, like Moses parting The Red Sea! It’s incredible.

A candid shot of Keith and Chemda in the studio, getting ready to do the KATG podcast and videocast as well!

I started out strong when they asked me my favorite movie and I said “The Sixth Sense.” It seems that was Keith’s favorite movie as well and no one else had ever said that. Then they were both ready to fall out of their chairs when I told them my favorite color was orange, which also happened to be Keith’s favorite color. And anyone who knows me knows that’s true. It’s the color of The Second Chakra and a very powerful color.

We went on to talk about everything. We talked about my new book, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip, comedy legends like Andy Kaufman, Jack Rollins, and Milton Berle, young stars not with us anymore like Patrice O’Neal, Mitch Hedberg, Mike DeStefano, Greg Giraldo, movies, music, Healing which was an amazing discussion where we found out that Chemda has Healing energy, and she thinks she’d like to use it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with his great friend, the late Patrice O’Neal!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late Mitch Hedberg at one of his last performances in NYC!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late Mike DeStefano after he was on Last Comic Standing!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late Greg Giraldo at a party at Comix in NYC!

We talked about the comedy clubs and gave shout-outs to The Comic Strip, Gotham Comedy Club, and The Comedy Cellar. We talked about high school, and about how and why kids are so mean to each other, dating, sexuality, and almost every subject on the planet, and we had lots of laughs and a really good time.

We even talked about You Pop the new social media craze that’s sweeping the country where creative people can get paid for making cool little videos on their cell phones and uploading them to the YouPop.com site to be offered to the world at large!

You Pop, the most exciting social media craze to come along since Facebook!

To show you just what a good time we had, I didn’t check my e-mail even once during the two hours! It flew by so fast, I couldn’t believe it when Chemda told me how much time had gone by. Then I got the tour of the premises and got to see Lauren again, Chemda’s significant other, plus I got to see the office where they keep their merch and it’s loaded with goodies, except it’s lighter now cause they gave me a whole bunch of presents.

Chemda and Lauren at the 8th anniversary of KATG!

They gave me audio books that you wear on your wrist like a bracelet. I never even saw something like that. I’m not Bill Gates but I’m familiar with lots of technology, and this was really cool. It’s like a thumb drive and you get the book as an MP3.

I got their books, “The Great American Novel” by Keith, and “What Do We Do Now” a modern advice book for modern couples written by both of them. And I had to once again give them props for having been a couple, broken up, and still working together with such a cool dynamic. They are truly good friends. It’s a testament to what people can accomplish if they really want to.

Chemda hiding behind one of the KATG T-shirts while Keith proudly displays his “State of the Union” DVD.

But that’s not all, I also got Keith’s “State of the Union” DVD, and the Keith and The Girl Roast, with cartoon drawings on the back of some of the comics who participated and who you can actually recognize! One I’m sure is Mike Lawrence because the character has a huge beard!

They called my segment ” Healing Hands”, and you can actually listen to the whole thing right here:

http://www.keithandthegirl.com/Show-Detail/2653/Healing-Hands.aspx#

I really hope they invite me back!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili of KATG!

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The Comedy Cellar’s Live From The Table

I had a really great experience as a guest on the Comedy Cellar podcast called “Live From The Table.” Noam Dworman the owner of The Cellar is such a kind and hospitable guy, and I’ll tell you why I say so!

The inviting look of the outside of The Comedy Cellar! Makes you wanna go in and have some laughs!

First let me tell you about The Cellar. It’s a magical place where every single big star likes to hang out and perform. On any given night you’ll see Louis CK, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Attell, Jim Gaffigan, Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, and anyone who happens to be in town from LA hanging out there or getting up to do a set. It’s not that the 150 seat room is so overpoweringly beautiful, because it literally is in a cellar, but I think it’s kind of an energy thing.

Rooms take on the energy of the people who own them and hang out in them, and I think it’s the positive energy that pervades the place that draws the big names. That and the Olive Tree Cafe that’s part of it with the VIP table in the back!

The VIP table in the back of the Olive Tree Cafe where all the stars hang out while waiting to go on! Here it’s set up for the weekly podcast on Tuesday nights!

The club at 117 MacDougal Street, was originally owned by Noam’s Dad, the beloved Manny Dworman, who opened it in 1980 as Cafe Feenjon, a coffeehouse that was a serious hang for musicians. I remember seeing that name as a kid hanging out in The Village. It always stood out to me because “Feenjon” was such an unusual name.

Manny was not only a nightclub owner, but also a talented musician who appeared as himself in the Seinfeld documentary film “Comedian” in 2002. The Cellar was renowned for its postperformance roundtable discussions with comedians in the audience about political issues, and it was these very exchanges that were the inspiration for ”Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn” on Comedy Central.

When Manny left us in 2004, Noam took over the helm of the club! And he hosts the Comedy Cellar podcast called “Live From The Table” which is done from the VIP table in the back of the club where the comics who are performing in that night’s show can be found along with the comics that just come to schmooze or hang out with their friends.

Noam had me on as a guest and made me comfortable right away. I got there early as I always do so I can just chill and be ready to go on the air. I had a bite to eat and even got to meet his beautiful little daughter Mila!

Noam Dworman, owner of The Comedy Cellar, holding his 15 month old daughter Mila, with comedy writer/comic Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV!

One of the things we were going to talk about was my book called “Make ‘Em Laugh” which is about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip, the comedy club on 81st and 2nd. Chris Rock wrote an amazing introduction to the book and I interviewed comics that started out there like Seinfeld, Chris, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Billy Crystal, and several that frequent The Cellar like Ray Romano, Jim Gaffigan, Jim Breuer, Judah Friedlander, and Colin Quinn who was a bartender at The Strip until he quit to start performing stand-up.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with old friend Colin Quinn holding Jeffrey’s book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” which he is in!

I was on the podcast with Jim Norton who I had just interviewed a few days before for my Comedy Matters TV channel, when he hosted the last show of the first season of AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live at the Gotham Comedy Club.

Promo for the Comedy Cellar podcast announcing Jeffrey Gurian as a guest, and coincidentally it’s #54 which is Jeffrey Gurian’s lucky number! He even lives on 54th Street and graduated #54 in his class!

This was Jim’s fun interview:

Then it was also Lynne Koplitz who I love, and she had also just been on that same show with Norton, and then it was Dan Naturman who I know for many years and have always enjoyed his comedy.

Noam Dworman, Lynne Koplitz, and Dan Naturman on “Live From The Table” at The Comedy Cellar!

Noam was such a gentleman to have me on to talk about another comedy club, but I liken that to a beautiful woman who’s secure enough in herself to acknowledge the beauty of another woman without feeling threatened. Noam has nothing to be threatened about. He is the owner of a truly legendary venue that the biggest stars in the business call “home” today.

Not only did he help promote my book but he himself was kind enough to buy a copy and said on the air that he really enjoyed it. That’s not a just a gentleman, it’s the definition of a “Mensch” a word you may not find in your dictionary, … unless your dictionary was printed in Tel Aviv! (LOL)

Noam began by trying to give me a compliment by telling people that they should read about me, because I had an interesting background and an interesting look, and that I looked like a star, but Dan Naturman couldn’t bear to let him finish. He couldn’t wait to interrupt with an attempt to sabotage the compliment by yelling out “No, he looks more like a 70’s style producer” or something to that effect, but I stopped him in mid sentence.

I said, ” Why do you say “No’? Why can’t you let Noam finish saying something nice about me? Why do you have to jump in and try and say something negative?” Noam immediately agreed and stated that Dan was known for being negative, and Dan backpedaled by saying that what he meant to say was that I looked like a successful producer or someone who worked behind the scenes.

That led us into a discussion of “cock-blocking”, which that was a form of, where people try and block someone else from succeeding in some way. For whatever reason they can’t bear for someone else to receive something good. It kind of became the theme of the show, as you’ll see on the promo!

Now Dan is always a nice, mild-mannered kind of guy, and I don’t even think he realized he was doing that. It’s probably just second nature for him as it is for many comics.

Guys grow up being used to cutting each other down. It’s not necessary. Every meeting doesn’t have to be a rite of passage. Guys can support each other. For a lot of comics every casual meeting turns into a Roast. It’s why a lot of guys are not comfortable hanging out with other guys. Patrice O’Neal was supposedly famous for putting other comics in their place, or making remarks about them, but he never did it to me. It’s basically high school behavior!

Patrice and I had a closer relationship, and we really “got” each other. I would go so far as to say we had mad respect for each other.

(L-R) My special girl Jacqui B., Patrice O’Neal, Jeffrey Gurian, and Dante Nero at The Black Phillip Show!

Many people still don’t know that I was his co-host on The Black Phillip Show on Sirius, along with his original co-host Dante Nero. And if he hadn’t left us when he did, so prematurely, we would have probably had our own show together. Listen to a phone call he left me one night after we did our first show together. It’s something I treasure:

Patrice-Our Own Show

Anyway, I stayed on the podcast for the whole hour and when it was over, Noam invited me back, not only to the podcast but to hang in the club more often which I totally intend to do. It’s a rare magical place and he’s a rare magical guy! I can’t wait to go back! Here’s the link to the podcast:

http://www.riotcast.com/thecomedycellar/

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Charles Durning 2/28/23-12/24/12

His face was known all over the world. Even if you didn’t know the name Charles Durning, you recognized his face. He was in more than 100 films, including “Tootsie” with Dustin Hoffman, “The Sting” with Robert Redford, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”, “Dog Day Afternoon” with Al Pacino, and so many more! He was a police chief in “Dick Tracy”, and sold frog legs in “The Muppet Movie”!

He starred on Broadway, and won a Tony for his portrayal of Big Daddy in a 1989 revival of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”, and got two Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations and nine Emmy nominations. He was a beloved character, who in 2008 was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

I met him years ago at a wrap party out in LA, for a film he did with my friend Scott Baio called “Very Mean Men”, with Matthew Modine, Ben Gazzara, Martin Landau, and Burt Young to name a few of the more recognizable names. It was directed by Tony Vitale, who had just directed a film that I wrote with Scott Baio called “Face to Face”.

Scott Baio and Jeffrey Gurian in LA at the wrap party for “Very Mean Men” at Planet Hollywood! Scott was blonde for his role in “Very Mean Men”!

It was a comic drama directed by Ellie Kanner about three young men (Scott Baio as Richie, Thomas Calabro as Philly and Carlo Imperato as Al) who kidnap their emotionally distant fathers, (Dean Stockwell, Alex Rocco, and Joe Viterelli), for a weekend of forced “male bonding.” The movie won the Audience Prize for Best Comedy at the Marco Island Film Festival, the Silver Screen Accolade in the Reno Film Festival and the 10 Degrees Hotter Best Feature Award during the Valley Film Festival. It was also chosen as the opening night film for the Taos New Mexico Talking Picture Festival.

I missed a couple of those because my Dad was terminally ill at the time, and I wanted to be here for him. I made it to Taos though as well as a great festival in Sedona, Arizona. There’s nothing more exciting than having your film shown in a film festival, especially when you’re there with the stars.

I had met so many stars before, but I was really impressed to meet Charles Durning. There was something about him that always drew me to him. I had admired his talent for years and I think he even played W.C. Fields in a movie, and W.C. Fields was my favorite comedian of all time.

Scot Baio, Jeffrey Gurian, and the great Charles Durning at the wrap party for “Very Mean Men” at Planet Hollywood in LA!

Charles Durning is a talent that will be missed! R.I.P. Charles!

For more on this story and Charles Durning check out Andy Soltis’s story in the NY Post!

Posted in: Celeb Photos, Celebrity Death, Celebrity Passing, Comedians In The News, Comedy Events, Comedy Festivals, Film Festivals, New Films, Red Carpet Events

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Caron Foundation Honors Clive Davis, with Judy Collins, Geraldo Rivera, Chris Lawford, and Lots More!

The Caron Foundation is a nationally recognized nonprofit provider of alcohol and drug addiction treatment. Thanks to their grateful donors, their treatment centers last year provided almost 14 million dollars in scholarships to addicted individuals and their families.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with music legend and Caron Foundation honoree Clive Davis at Cipriani’s 42nd Street!

Cipriani’s 42nd Street was the site of the Caron Foundation event honoring music legends Clive Davis and Judy Collins, and it was a spectacular, star-studded event handled by Rob Goldstone and David Wilson’s Oui2 Public Relations.

Clive Davis is the Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment and a true legend in the music industry. The last time I saw Clive I was having dinner with Michael Bolton and we went over to his table to “kibbitz”! In the video below, you’ll see I had the opportunity to reminisce with him about the time I invited him to attend a Friars Roast, (I wish I recalled which one it was!), which led to Clive being honored as The Friars Man of the Year.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with good buddy Michael Bolton backstage in Vegas!

During his long and illustrious career, Clive Davis has discovered and nurtured the careers of many superstars including Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Barry Manilow, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and the late Whitney Houston.

Judy Collins’ career has spanned more than fifty years, and she has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. She’s also openly sober for many years and something so cool happened which you’ll see in the accompanying video. As I was interviewing Geraldo Rivera on the red carpet, we were suddenly, and unexpectedly joined by Judy Collins who was so open, and so kind that the other journalists thought I had planned it. But you could never plan something like that.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing both Geraldo Rivera and Judy Collins at the same time!

So there I was doing a three-way interview with Geraldo on one side of me, and Judy Collins on the other. I felt like I was watching a tennis match! I didn’t know which way to turn first! (LOL) Geraldo had bought a table for his friends from Fox News including national correspondent Laura Ingel, and Laurie Dhue who was the MC for the evening and was also openly celebrating five years of sobriety.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing Laurie Dhue, MC for the Caron Foundation event honoring Clive Davis and Judy Collins!

I also got to see my old pal Chris Kennedy Lawford, who is a big supporter of the work that Caron does. He looks so much like his Dad, Peter Lawford that whenever I see him it reminds me of The Rat Pack, with Frank Sinatra, cause his Dad was one of the group.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing his pal Chris Kennedy Lawford at the Caron event at Cipriani’

Chris was a nephew of JFK, and is also very open about his own struggles with addiction. It hits every age group and social strata, and it’s always very courageous when well known people use their “celebrity” to bring attention to the need for help.

I never knew that Chris was instrumental in bringing the movie “Drunks” to the big screen, in which another old friend Richard Lewis was the star.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Richard Lewis at The Friars Club in NYC!

Laurie Dhue told me that Geraldo had been a big supporter of hers and she felt that he was very helpful in her staying sober. Geraldo of course was too humble to accept that assessment, but she assured me he helped her tremendously.

It was truly a night of reminiscing for me, because when I spoke to Geraldo I was able to reminisce with him about the great story his mother-in-law told me about how he was able to prolong his father-in-law’s life.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Geraldo Rivera at Cipriani’s 42nd Street for teh Caron Foundation event honoring Clive Davis and Judy Collins!

It was a powerful story of synchronicity, where his wife Erica’s Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Geraldo attended an affair where he just happened to be seated next to a doctor he had never met before who just happened to be an expert in prostate cancer and guided him to the surgeon who prolonged his father-in-law’s life. Unfortunately he later on succumbed to the disease, but his wife told me the story because she was struck by the synchronicity of the event.

Geraldo was surprised that I remembered it so clearly, but it’s the kind of story I hold on to, because it’s so meaningful. Theoretically it can’t even happen! (LOL)

I also got to reminisce with Geraldo about an evening we spent many, many years ago with Salvador Dali at the St. Regis Hotel in the King Cole Lounge. Check it all out right here!

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Prayers and Condolences for Ardie Fuqua

Hands down there’s no nicer guy than Ardie Fuqua and no one who loved his kids more than Ardie Fuqua. What a shock to hear that he lost his 19 year old son Jamal in a car accident a day ago. How does anyone make sense of something like that?

Jeffrey Gurian with Ardie Fuqua in happier times. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ardie!

The last time I saw Ardie and Jamal was last March 31st, at Chris Rock’s The Motherf**ker With The Hat! I was there with Richie Tienken and Ardie and Jamal sat right in front of us. He was so proud he could bring his son with him to see Chris and afterwards we all went up to Chris’ dressing room to congratulate him. Ardie was beaming as he introduced Richie and I to his son. He couldn’t have been prouder and rightfully so. He was a beautiful kid. Very respectful, and just like his Dad.

Most people who experience a tragedy of this magnitude are allowed to grieve, but comedians are in that rarefied place where no matter what happens in their lives they still have to go out and make other people laugh. It’s what they do. It’s all they know how to do. It’s in their DNA.

I pray that God gives Ardie the strength! My deepest and sincerest condolences to you Ardie in your terrible loss!

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Soho International Film Festival Kicks Butt

It may only be the third year for the Soho International Film Festival,but it’s grown into a formidable event, with a week straight of great shorts and features, plus a cool party every night, thanks to sponsoring partner Brock Ganeles of www.NiteTables.com who arranged for all the venues from Sat. through Thurs. and Greenhouse/WIP who sponsored the opening party on Friday 4/13, and the party for awards night,on Friday 4/20, as they have done for the past two years.

It even had to move to a larger venue this year and was held at the Sunshine Cinema Theatre on East Houston Street, right next to Yonah Schimmel’s knish shop, the oldest knish shop in the country! Very fitting, the oldest knishes and the newest films! (LOL)

I must give props to the founder of the festival, Jorge Ballos for bringing in Exec. Director Sibyl Santiago, who worked tirelessly the last 2 years to make this happen, and to Carlos Santiago and his team of screeners for choosing films that people want to see. I also made sure to get what turned out to be an insightful video interview with Sibyl, as I not only like to talk to the celebs, but I like to talk to the people who make the events happen.

Soho also gets great celebrity support, with red carpet guests like Kevin Jonas, Mike Starr, Octavia Spencer, Rudolph Martin, and Danny Aiello just to name a few, and Danny doesn’t do these type of things very often at all. He told me he did it to support Sybil and John Gallagher.

I also ran into director John Gallagher’s talented writing partner Nick Brooks, who just happens to be the son of Mel Brooks! Watch out for their project “Sam” which they are currently in the process of making into a play. And it was great to see mega-movie producer Mark Lipsky who produced many of Eddie Murphy’s films, and will hopefully like my film “Men of Violence” that John Gallagher is committed to directing!

Exec. Director Sybil Santiago with international film star Danny Aiello on the red carpet of the Soho International Film Festival!

Opening night, I got to meet and interview Mike Starr, who’s been in so many TV shows and films including Goodfellas, Dumb and Dumber, Radio Days, and Ed Wood. He was also the star of John Gallagher’s film “The Deli” which was shown on closing night as part of a celebration for it’s 15th anniversary.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with film star Mike Starr, (which is a perfect name for him), on the red carpet at the Sunshine Theatre!

That night I got to see a fantastic documentary film called “Genius On Hold”, the story of Walter L. Shaw, an inventor, and genius, working for AT&T who invented things like speaker phones, call waiting, call forwarding, and conference calling, all of which were taken from him, and he was not given one cent in royalties. He died homeless and penniless. In his quest to make a living and support his family, he worked for the only people who would pay him, the mob.

He invented something called “the black box” that the mob used to evade police detection when taking bets, and he wound up going to prison for four years on charges of stealing 4 phone calls from AT&T without paying for the service. His son, Walter, who made this film, and told me it was 22 years in the making, turned to a life of crime out of bitterness, and wound up doing 12 years in prison himself. It’s a story that needs to be told and a movie that needs to be seen to be believed.

The after-party at Greenhouse that night, was off the proverbial chain, and people really let loose and had fun!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Sibyl Santiago, Exec. Director of her Soho International Film Festival at Greenhouse!

A couple of days later I had the pleasure of seeing a film called “Forgetting The Girl” directed by Nate Taylor who had an amazing Mohawk hairdo, and starring an actor named Christopher Denham. I got a great video interview with both of them which will be posted shortly.

I also got a great video interview with Kevin Jonas, of The Jonas Brothers, who was there with his wife Danielle DeLeasa. Her brother Brian Gonsar was one of the producers of the film, which answered my question to him, ” How does one get even one of the Jonas Brothers to support your film?” (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Kevin Jonas at the Soho Film Festival. I accidentally called him Nick, and we both had a good laugh!

The short that night was a drama called “Enamour” with Ryan O’Callaghan, who I have seen in a few films already, and directed by Justin Ho, and was also very good.

The after-party that night was at Sutra on First Avenue. Besides choosing great films, they also chose great venues for the parties which included Affaire, Le Souk, Hotel Chantelle, and Tammany Hall!

(L-R) Actress Lisa Regina, Donna McKenna, Jeffrey Gurian, and director Ari Taub partying at Sutra!

The next night was another treat as I got to see a film called “From The Head” written and directed by George Griffith, currently living in LA. Not only did he write and direct the film, he starred in it as well. A masterful move!

Anyone who knows my comedy knows I always talk about owning a Men’s Room, and what I don’t like about it is that I hate when guys come in and ask if they can use my restaurant! I’m like, ” Look pal, I’m running a Men’s Room here. You can’t just come in to use the restaurant!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with writer/producer/director/actor George (Shoes) Griffith from the film “”From The Head”!

Well George shot almost his entire film in a Men’s Room. He was the Men’s Room attendant for three years in a strip club in NYC, and he told a brilliant story about life as a Men’s Room attendant. They called him “Shoes” for the two-toned wingtips he wore on a nightly basis, and everyone there wondered why such an intelligent guy would be working in a Men’s Room for such a long time.

I was glad I got to meet George, because I needed to tell him how talented I thought he was. I knew that scene very well, ( not the Men’s Room, the strip club! LOL) and he portrayed it perfectly. I understand he had to actually build a Men’s Room in order to be able to get the camera in there and get the shots he needed. I’m sure it was a difficult job, because there’s lots of mirrors in Men’s Rooms and you have to be careful that the camera doesn’t show in the shot!

I also liked the choices he made as an actor. He didn’t play the character as a typical loser. He played him as a guy in control who made a conscious choice to do what he was doing. If you get a chance to see this film, definitely go and see it, and check out the site at www.fromthehead.com

The after-party that night was in Le Souk, a place I really like on LaGuardia Street that has cool “hookahs.” (Not hookers! LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with actress Valery LaFond at the Soho Film Festival, before attending the after-party at Le Souk!

I was not able to attend every night even though I wanted to, because of my schedule. I don’t know how Sibyl and Carlos did it, but they did it with grace, and neither of them even looked tired. I guess when you do something you love, it gives you energy! (LOL)

Closing night was very exciting as it began with an event honoring Danny Aiello, one of the greatest film stars, and one of the greatest, and humblest gentlemen in the business. Danny has been in 90 films, and starred in 30 of them. They showed a retrospective of his films, some of which were Spike Lee’s ” Do The Right Thing” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, Norman Jewison’s “Moonstruck” in which he starred with Cher, Luc Besson’s “The Professional”, Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon A Time In America”, and Francis Ford Coppola’s classic “The Godfather.”

This moving retrospective of his films was followed by a Q&A, and Danny could not have been more open and more generous. The only time he was more open and generous was in the interview he gave to me before the evening started. I had gotten there early, with my DP Rob Krieg, and we were all set to shoot Danny on the red carpet. As luck would have it, he got there early and I was in the right place at the right time, and as I went up to say “Hello”, Sibyl went to introduce me, and Danny said, ” I know Jeffrey for a very long time”, and we embraced and went onto the red carpet by ourselves to do an interview.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with award-winning film and TV star Danny Aiello at the Soho International Film Festival!

Well we weren’t by ourselves for very long, as people started to come in and gathered around to watch and listen. I wanted people to know about Danny’s connection to comedy since many people only know him from his film roles and from TV, where he usually plays a tough guy or a cop. (Is that redundant? LOL)

Danny got his start as a bouncer at the original Improv Comedy Club on West 44th Street, which Budd Friedman first opened back in 1963. Danny worked his way up to be an MC, and he was supporting three children at the time, and always appreciated what Budd did for him. He also worked for Greyhound Bus Co. where he started as a bus driver, calling out the stops all the way from NYC to Buffalo, which he still remembers and did for me in the interview, worked his way up to head the union, and then got into acting late in life.

In recent years he even had a comedy club called “Danny’s Upstairs” in Hoboken, above a fantastic Italian restaurant, (where else???), and I remember being at the opening. All the comics from NYC wanted to work at Danny’s. I wasn’t performing yet in those days or else I would have asked for a spot too!

Danny and I reminisced about the days we used to hang out in Columbus Cafe back in the mid 80’s, and he shared a great story with me about a night when Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and other stars of that magnitude were there, which was common for Columbus. That’s when Danny and I first met, since I was a regular there as well.

I recall one night, I was downstairs near the rest rooms, talking to Robin Givens, and Mike Tyson came over, grabbed her, literally threw her over his shoulder and carried her out of the restaurant. I think it was the first time they met! Needless to say, I didn’t start a fight over it! (LOL)

Danny also shared with me the story of how he lost his son Danny, back in 2010 to pancreatic cancer, and how he was concerned that if he did a PSA,to help raise awareness and money to fight pancreatic cancer, it might look to people that he was looking to get attention for himself. That is the sign of a truly humble man to even worry about such a thing. He spent about 25 minutes with me on that red carpet and it was a moment I will cherish. I can’t wait to edit the video and show you all!

The best part was when I was able to ask Danny to play the lead in a film I wrote called “Men of Violence” that John Gallagher loves and wants to direct, and he asked me to send him the script. He’d be absolutely perfect for the lead.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters Tv with director John Gallagher before the showing of his films “I Love You” and “The Deli”!

After the Danny Aiello Q&A, they showed two of John Gallagher’s films. One was a short that I and my “muse” Sylvia Ogonaga are in called “I Love You”.

Sybil Santiago onscreen in John Gallagher’s film ” I Love You!”

Actress and Jeffrey Gurian muse Sylvia Ogonaga onscreen in John Gallagher’s film ” I Love You”! Come home Sylvia, we miss you!

The other was his iconic film “The Deli” which I think had more stars than almost any movie I’ve ever seen. It was the 15th anniversary and in the film were Gretchen Mol, Ice-T, Heavy D, Michael Imperioli, Frank Vincent, Heather Matarazzo, Burt Young, Chris Noth, David Johansen, Iman, Frank Vincent, Tony Sirico, Vincent Pastore, Mike Starr, Debi Mazar, and even Jerry Stiller. There were even more, like comic Joey Kola who it took me a moment to recognize! And he was funny even then!

Screenshot of the John Gallagher movie “The Deli!”!

Poster credits for “The Deli”! I’m surprised he didn’t need two posters to get all the names on there! (LOL)

(L-R_ A.J.Benza, Frank Vincent, and Debi Mazar in a scene from “The Deli”!

Anyway, I can’t wait to see what Sibyl and Carlos come up with for next year. All I know is I’ll be there, so save me a place on the red carpet guys!

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Mike Wallace Gone at 93

I was shocked to see in the NY Post that Mike Wallace had passed away. I really thought he’d go on forever. The last time I saw him in person was in 2004 when he featured me in an episode of “60 Minutes” focussed on mentalist Marc Salem called ” How Did He Do That?”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late Mike Wallace at The Lyceum Theatre for a “60 Minutes” special on Marc Salem, in 2004!

At the time Mike was 86, and I marveled at how good he looked. As you can see in the photo, he was tan and fit and really sharp, and I thought he looked like he was in his 60’s.

Marc Salem is a “mentalist” who had a show called “Mind Games” that is really beyond description, and Mike Wallace was determined to find out if he was on the level. I was in the audience to observe and had been invited by some PR person, who was involved with the show.

I was with a beautiful model named Sonya Gignac, and we both unexpectedly became the focus of the show. I even wound up in the video promo, which aired leading up to the show, and people from all over the country were calling and asking me why I was going to be on “60 Minutes”

I was in the audience as a journalist, to cover the show for my Comedy Matters blog, and Mike and I had known each other casually from The Friars Club.

Marc Salem does a thing where he stops his pulse, and Mike wanted a medical doctor to verify it. He asked the audience ” Is there a doctor in the house”, and no one responded. How rare is that? Literally not one doctor on the house! Obviously not a Jewish crowd! (LOL)

Then he said, ” There’s no one here with medical experience?”, and to save the day I was forced to “out” myself as a doctor, and was called up on stage. Mike was surprised to learn of my other life, since he knew me from the entertainment business. He greeted me warmly, and in between shots he grilled me as to what I thought was going on.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with mentalist Marc Salem who was the focus of a segment on “60 Minutes”.

I wound up assisting with a few different amazing things that Salem did, at one point sealing coins over his eyes with a bandana, and taking random objects from audience members that he identified, down to reading the driver’s license number off of someone’s out of state license, just by passing his hand over it. Truly incredible!

But it was when Salem claimed to have stopped his pulse that I really came in handy. I had been taking people’s pulses for years, … and had quite a collection of them at home! (LOL) But seriously, I was used to taking people’s pulses, so when I took his and suddenly it stopped, Mike asked me what I felt, and I told the audience that Salem had just passed away! It got big laughs.

Now unfortunately Mike Wallace has passed away, and no one’s laughing. He will be missed, and I’m so glad I knew him! R.I.P. Mike!

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