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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

I have no idea why I’m up at 12:45 am but I’ve had some trouble sleeping lately so I was searching around on YouTube and came up with this gem from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson from 1986. I’ve written on this site about Johnny Carson more than once and how much I loved his reign on The Tonight Show but that’s not what I’m talking about tonight. No, this post is to spotlight the one-of-a-kind life, presence, and accomplishments of Jackie Gleason. I actually wrote about Jackie this past February on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. You can find that post HERE.

However, as I sat watching this next clip just moments ago I couldn’t help but smile and be grateful that I grew up in a time where I knew very well who Jackie Gleason was. I was born in 1964 so by the time I came along, “The Original 39” episodes of The Honeymooners was already nine years old.  Not that it mattered, since the reruns were on TV every night. I did grow up with the color version of The Honeymooners that were part of a variety show Gleason did every Saturday night from 1966 – 1970. Amazingly, I remember quite vividly sitting on the ottoman in our family room watching the camera zoom in over the water and the announcer saying, “From Miami Beach . . . it’s The Jackie Gleason Show!”

But these few moments of Gleason reminiscing with Johnny Carson are really sweet for two reasons. First of all, you rarely saw Johnny really impressed by a guest as he is so obviously in this clip. And second, it’s bittersweet because this appearance seemed as “a summing up” of his life and, in fact, he would be gone less than two years later. Jackie Gleason was the last of the dinosaurs, GIANTS of comedy and show biz that once trod the boards and lit up the screens of theaters and our homes. Guys like Gleason came up the hard way, honing their craft in saloons, strip clubs, burlesque theaters, vaudeville houses and nightclubs. They could pretty much do it all.

In Gleason’s case, as is mentioned here by Carson, his was an extravagant life and style and for better or for worse, he did have a certain authentic style. He was who he was. There are personalities around today who present a certain style but it all seems rehearsed and inauthentic. Audiences give standing ovations to people on talk shows who are reality stars! Admiration is no longer earned, it’s coached. You are prepped by these shows to go crazy for the host and the guests so that no response is actually earned, just programmed.

Jackie Gleason was authentic, he was unique, he was a star!

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