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And Away We Go: 1952

And Away We Go: 1952

New York. August 1952. "Jackie Gleason rehearsing television show. Includes Gleason in steam cabinet." From negatives by various staff photographers used in the Look magazine articles "TV's Big Boy," "Mr. Saturday Night" and "The Jackie Gleason Story: Fat, Sad and Funny." View full size.


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Miami Beach Auditoriun

Growing up in Miami Beach, in the mid to late sixties, my friends and I would sneak in to the Auditorium and play around the stage where the Jackie Gleason Show was taped. There were times that the stage was set up with props such as a bowling alley. It's a wonder we never got caught. Great memories of a simpler time gone by.

Live TV!

When I was a kid, living in Port Arthur, Texas, the local kid's show was Cowboy John; the host was also the evening new's weatherman.

One day a fellow brought on a big python. Cowboy John was obviously nervous, and asked the handler, "Do these snakes bite?" The handler said, "No; they constrict their prey."

No sooner had the handler said that than the python struck Cowboy John on his hand, and the show went to a "Please Stand By" screen and then a series of cartoons and Three Stooges shorts; no more Cowboy John that show.

On the evening news that night, the anchors were teasing poor Cowboy John, who had a big bandage on his hand. The next day, the kids at Tyrrell Elementary could talk of little else!


Re: Break A Leg

TTERRACE: I recall vividly the episode where Pinky Lee had his heart attack. He was being physically bounced up and down by Mr. Bluster and suddenly went limp and yelled: Wait A Minute! or something like that. The show went to the familiar screen pattern, and did not come back on that day. SAD!

[I, too, believed the heart attack story at the time. Much later I learned that Lee's collapse was due to an extremely severe sinus infection. But it was final nail in the coffin for the ex-burlesque comic's career as a kid show host; his antics had long been under fire from parents for being hyper-active, violent and at times risqué. -tterrace]

Break a leg

A regular part of our Saturday night TV viewing, when we'd settle down in front of our 21" Motorola (in my case, sprawling on the floor) for 2-1/2 hours of sketch comedy and variety: first Jackie Gleason at 8, then switch to NBC at 9 for Sid Caesar and company in Your Show of Shows. Down on the floor I'd be rolling. One day in 1954 I witnessed one of those mishaps of the golden age of live TV (although here on the West Coast we were watching 3-hour-delayed kinescope recordings): Gleason slipped doing some slapstick and broke his leg. It was just the kind of thing to enflame the ghoulish imagination of an 8-year-old boy. A year later I was pouting after having missed Pinky Lee's medical breakdown on his kids' show.

Gleason's face is made up here, to sell the gag of him having gotten as red as a steamed lobster.

Red-faced in black & white

Was he wearing makeup? Otherwise it's difficult to imagine how he managed to live another 32 years.


Every time I see a picture of someone in one of those steam cabinets, I'm sure that, if I were to be put in one of those, I'd immediately get an uncontrollable nose itch!

Ticket window conversations

My mother was the cashier at a New Jersey movie theatre back when your ticket bought both a movie and a stage show. Early in Jackie Gleason's career he travelled with some kind of entertainment group, I assume comedy, and they often sent him to a nearby White Castle (or White Tower) for hamburgers and coffee (basically an ill treated errand boy). Between shows he stood at my mother's window and they passed the time talking. She never revealed what was said. She felt that he was a nice guy and she thought of him as a poor soul (personified as one of his later TV characters). In any case, he had the last laugh going on to fame and fortune, while the other troupe members likely faded from memory.

Don't steam me Norton!

It's hard to believe people used to use steam cabinets in the 1950s to lose weight. All the really did was become dehydrated. Love the photo by the way, Jackie Gleason was a true talent.

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