Monthly Archives: June 2016

Excerpt from “The Danny Kaye Saga” by Kurt Singer ~~Tea~~

picture-DannyKayeSaga-SingerOne of the funniest incidents during these days at the London Palladium is told by Sammy Prager, a humorist and wit in his own right.
“It was customary at the Palladium for tea and sandwiches and biscuits to be served to Danny between each show by a young woman, named Olive. During the show-break on this particular afternoon there was no Olive and no tea. Danny didn’t seem to notice the change in the routine until he was on the stage, and suddenly, right in the middle of a song, he stopped dead, looked at me and said as casually as if we were in his living room. ‘Sammy, we didn’t have our tea this afternoon.’ Then he wistfully added, ‘Gee, I’d like some tea.’
“The Londoners loved it. Tea and Englishmen go together like ham and eggs. Marilyn Monroe and curves, and ‘either’ with ‘or’. I’ll bet there weren’t three people out of the thousands who hadn’t had their tea that afternoon, and they were in full sympathy with Danny.
“Danny moaned and groaned a little more and went on with his act. Suddenly I spotted Olive standing in the wings with her silver tray, tea-pot and cup ready to serve Danny at the first opportunity. I signalled for her to come on the stage, and she, good sport that she was, gingerly slid out before the footlights and stood waiting quietly just outside the direct beam of the spotlights, but where the entire audience could see her.
“The audience were panicked! And they were delighted. It was obviously spontaneous, and it took Danny several seconds before he caught on. He stopped and savoured his refreshments while I tenderly played ‘Tea for Two’.
“This little bit of silly-business was so in keeping with British psychology and wit, that we decided to keep it in the show. Of course, each time Danny went through it the pantomime was a little different but the basic idea was a great hit, the result of a completely unplanned situation.”
The gag of Danny and the tea had an amusing aftermath.
On February 28, 1948, something happened that virtually altered the course of the Empire. King George VI, with the Royal Family – Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Margaret, came to the Palladium to see Danny Kaye’s performance, marking the first time the King had seen a variety show since his Coronation. And for the first time the Royal Family spurned the Royal Box and watched the show from the front row of stalls – unheard of in the annals of kingly visits to the theatre.
Danny, alerted that the Royal Family had arrived, pranced on the stage and burst into his act in his inimitable, innocent, exuberant style. Suddenly he spotted Sammy, looking very dapper and suave, wearing a new tuxedo he had bought for the occasion. As Sammy tells the rest of the story:
“I felt the least I could do was look my best when the King came to visit; so I spent some time getting a new suit, new glasses, a manicure and a haircut. Danny spotted my newly shorn tresses – and what did he do? He pointed a finger at me and in a shrill voice began intonating that tune and rhythm so familiar with kids, ‘Sammy got a haircut . . . Sammy got a h-a-i-r-c-u-t . . . Sammy got a H-A-I-R-C-U-T . . .’ The audience picked up the chant, and I could feel the blood rushing to my face until I was sure I looked the colour of a Maine lobster. I glanced out into the audience, and could hardly believe my eyes. There was the King singing along with the crowd, ‘Sammy got a h-a-i-r-c-u-t’!
“The King seemed to have a marvellous time. It was rewarding to see his warm, kind face so amused and to watch him laugh so heartily. That evening I felt we had done our fair share of welding Anglo-American relations.
“Danny went on spinning his thin, breezy thread of routine and hanging on bits of amusing business that came into his mind. Then, according to plan, Olive appeared on stage, standing slightly behind Danny, with his tea and biscuits. Danny pretended he did not see her. Olive moved closer, but Danny continued his story to the audience.
“Suddenly I heard a loud whisper from the audience, from the first row, in fact – from King George himself. His Majesty was sitting on the edge of his seat, gesturing to Danny and saying, ‘Danny – your tea’.”
That night, Danny Kaye, the Kid from Brooklyn, who had long before won the heart of the man on the street, received the admiration of a King.
Olive, who had been made famous overnight by being the woman behind the tea and biscuits, analysed Danny’s popularity:
“Mr. Kaye gives the same courtesy and consideration to me or to Bert, the stage-door man, as he offers to the King or Prime Minister. He’s a real gentleman, he is!”


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