An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.
I was a big Frank Gorshin fan when I was still too young to even know what a "fan" was. (Kinda like how I wanted to have sex with Anne Margeret when I was still too young to even know what "having sex" was.) There was absolutely nobody else like him on TV in the early sixties. We'd be sitting there the Saleeby TV room catching a little entertainment before someone said something to piss someone else off, when every few weeks or so . . . this . . . this . . . MANIAC would appear! . .
See, you young punks today with your MTV and your HBO have no idea what TV was like in the Old Days. We were always watching these cheesy "Variety" shows full of super slick show biz singers, movie stars and comedians who inhabited a world with as much to do with reality as "The Bugs Bunny - Road Runner Hour" when - From Out Of Nowhere! Frank Gorshin would come flying out and rip into all those other cornball vaudevillians we'd been staring at with these unbelievable impressions that captured not only their exact look and sound but ripped away their phony lounge lizard facade to lay bear the Ego Monster Psychosis that lurked within!
Frank Gorshin - The Real Life Man With The X Rays Eyes! Dig those throbbing temples! Plunk out a jazzy bass line on them taut neck muscles! "Hitler Live At Nuremburg" was Kevin Costner in "The Al Gore Story" compared to this guy! The eye rolling teeth gnashing frenzy of my day to day family life right there on "The Andy Williams Show"! Frank Grins. Frank growls. Frank grows into The Phreak That Phingered Philadelphia while the Boy Robin Williams shits his jammies. Jonathon Winters is curled up on the floor in a fetal position. Larry Storch is banging his head against the wall. Will Jordan? Forgotten!
I loved the guy.
Generally speaking, impressions are as corny as magic tricks or playing the blues. I never did any impressions of anybody in my stand up act. As a matter of fact, my stand up act never made much of an impression on anybody. But, impressions - Squaresville. Like Rich Little, whom I have had the great pleasure of following down Bourbon Street one night drunkenly jeering "Rich Little! Big fuckin' deal!!" until he turned around and told me to get lost.
But impressionists were a big deal in the late fifties - early sixties.
had his JFK impression, his Ed Sullivan impression,
his Nixon impression . . . People were just desperate for something to
look at until The Beatles finally got their act together, I guess . .
. David Frye was a big deal impressionist back in the sixties. I wonder
whatever happened to him? Maybe some drunken wise ass followed him down
Bourbon Street jeering "David Frye! Big fuckin' deal!" and Frye
pulled out a gun, killed the punk, and got sent to The Electric Chair.
His Final Act - "Hey, can you imagine if Richard Nixon ever got sent
to the electric chair? I think it might go something . . . like . . .
THIS!!!" ZZZZZAPZZZZAPBZZZZAPZZZZZAP!!! "Oooh, that wuz goood!"
"Yeah, remember that time Julius and Ethel Rosenberg did Dezi Arnez
and Lucille Ball!?"
But a Frank Gorshin impression was infinitely more exciting because Frank Gorshin himself was such an amazingly weird little dude himself. To describe him in "Spinal Tap" terms (I am talking verrry sloooowly right now), if Frank Gorshin had a control knob on the side of his head it would go to 11. A lot of comics have tried using booze or drugs to achieve that kind of intensity, but you can be sure that Gorshin was never dumb enough to try that crap because if he had there would have been a thermonuclear explosion and life as we know it would have ceased to exist. (You know, kinda like what happened with Jimi Hendrix a few years later.) The difference between Gorshin's impressionist act and, say, Fred Travelena's, is that Gorshin is as freaky before, between, and after all of the impressions as he is during them. Indeed, Ed Sullivan and JFK were very interesting fellas but, compared to this Frank Gorshin character, they had about as much ZIP! POP! PIZZAZZ! and PHHHTING! and as your Uncle Chester (Before the goiter, of course.) Hell, when Gorshin does an impression it seems to be his way of taking a little time off to catch his breath. How taxing can being Marlon Brando feel after an entire lifetime of being Frank Gorshin? If Marlon Brando ever tried being Frank Gorshin for a few minutes he'd be liquified into a puddle of mumbling scum. (It would look just like his son.)
Frank Gorshin was born April 15, 1933 in Pittsburgh. The only other famous guy I can think of from Pittsburgh is George Romero, the guy who made "Night Of The Living Dead". Why was the city of Pittsburgh so determined to drive me out of my mind as a child? I bet those Flying Monkeys in "The Wizard Of Oz" were from the crazy place, too.
At age 15 Frank got a job at a movie theater where he watched the same movies over and over and became so familiar with the actor's performances that he began doing imitations of them to amuse himself, developing the talent that would one day make him a movie star himself. Something tells me Frank could have gotten a job in a supermarket and he would have become a movie star. No, wait - I had a job in a supermarket when I was a kid and now I can't afford to even go to the movies! When Frank was 17 he won a talent contest which led to a gig opening for Alan King at a big time night club. The night before Frank's big debut, his younger brother got hit by a car and died, but his parents insisted he go out there and give it all he had just like his little brother would have wanted him to and he KNOCKED EM DEAD!!! Whatta story! Whatta family! Whatta trooper!
A couple of years later after Frank finished school, served in the Army, and made his name on the small time club circuit, he got a phone call from Hollywood about a possible movie job and he hopped in a car, drove nonstop for thirty nine hours, fell asleep behind the wheel, and woke up in a hospital to find out that Don Rickles got the part. What a drag! I bet he hasn't slept a moment since. But many years later that story inspired a group of hard core British Frank Gorshin fans to name their pop band "Frankie Goes To Hollywood" Every cloud has a silver lining, now don't it? But things worked out okay because a Hollywood newspaper mistakenly reported that Frank was killed in the accident and in Hollywood nobody is hotter than the latest dead guy. Gorshin started acting in the movies and hasn't stopped since.
Among the motion pictures Frank Gorshin has appeared in are "Runaway Daughters", "The Proud And The Profane", "Hot Rod Girl", "Between Heaven And Hell", "The True Story Of Jesse James", "Tank Battalion", "Invasion Of The Saucer Men", "Studs Lonigan", "Sail A Crooked Ship", "That Darn Cat", "Skidoo", "Hollywood Vice Squad", "Body Trouble", "The Meteor Man", "Hail Caesar", "Twelve Monkeys", "Bloodmania", "Another Movie With Frank", "And Another One", "And Here Is One More", "He Sure Is In A Lot Of Movies", "Let's Keep This List Going", "Just Fill Up A Lot Of Space", "Like An Old Monty Python Bit", "Here's One More", "Frank Eats Lunch", "Gorshin Goes Gaga!", "The Readers Are Getting Pissed", "Saleeby Says 'Screw Em'", "No Wonder He Didn't Make It In New York", "He's A Dick", "Thank God He Was Not A Guitar Player In The Seventies", and "Where The Boys Are".
He also continued doing stand up comedy, performing in the same happening night spots - The Purple Onion, The Hungry I, and The Barking Cat - as hipster icons Lenny Bruce, Shelley Berman, and Mort Sahl and, unlike those guys, successfully making the move to headlining the big rooms in Vegas after rock and roll became the Baby Boomer entertainment medium of choice. How did he do that? "BATMAN"!
Screw you Boomer blowhards with your silly Beatles - The really cool, hip, cutting edge youth culture scene of the early sixties was going in nursery school and kindergarten classes all across the USA with "Batman", the butt kicking, all out laugh riot TV series based on the classic comic book with no ripping off of poverty stricken black folks in the deep South whatsoever. Oh yeah, Burt Ward looked kinda fruity in his Robin The Boy Wonder costume, but did he ever try to get you to run off to India and make an ass of yourself pretending to understand whatever the hell those nincompoops talk about when they talk about love? None of that stupid "Is Paul The Walrus? Is John The Walrus?" foolishness with "Batman" - When Burgess Meredith said he was The Penguin you knew he was The Penguin! And just listen to "Taxman" after you listen to the "Batman" theme song - The Beatles ripped off "Batman"! Did "Batman" ever rip off The Beatles? No way! Hey, Old Guy With The Pony Tail! What would you rather watch after you "spark up that doob" - The "Batman" episode with Julie Newmar as The Cat Woman or "The Magical Mystery Tour"? Not even a Dead Head could be that stupid.
And who was the very best thing about "Batman"? Frank Gorshin as The Riddler, of course. Julie Newmar is obviously quite an eyeful as The Cat Woman, but nowadays you just look at her and wonder if she ever got nailed by JFK - Depressing! Cesar Romero is such a noisy pain in the ass as The Joker you actually pull for Batman and Robin to get him, which is completely opposed to the spirit of the damn show. Cesar Romero! George Romero is funnier than that douchebag. Burgess Meredith is great as The Penguin, but how many kids related to that freak? Hey, everybody loves penguins with their funny walking around and catching fish in their beaks and stuff, but you really have to turn your back on substantial chunks of the human experience to immerse yourself in the penguin lifestyle to the extent that character has. Even a child as young as four or five can sense that. So, no - Forget about it! Frank Gorshin as The Riddler wasn't just the best thing on "Batman", he was the best thing on television PERIOD. Or should that be "The best thing on television QUESTION MARK"?
Gorshin's performance as The Riddler raised the bar for Comic Dementia so high that when they put the character in the movies they got Nineties Spazz King Jim Carrey to play him. Carrey did a really good job, too - But he's too tall, too good looking, too rich, and too successful for anything positive about his rotten ass to be written by an embittered, broken down miserable wreck of a man like myself. Hell, I'm physically ill from just having to mention him. Who's that on TV right now? Mike Myers? I can't feel my legs!! I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS!!!!
Really, Frank Gorshin is so intense it's amazing that he's managed to live so long. Jerry Lewis is another hyperactive lunatic who's been around since The Dawn Of Time, but at least he's had a couple of heart attacks, scary operations, and put on some weight. I've read all kinds of stuff about Frank Gorshin in the past few days and haven't found anything about any kind of medical problems at all. And, Lawd - You know how them show folks are - They'll find a spot on their elbow that wasn't there before and we'll all be reading about it in the next issue of "People" and crying our eyes out. So I can only reach one logical conclusion - Frank Gorshin is going to live forever. Both of his parents are still alive, you know. By the time you die of old age in sixty years Frank Gorshin will be almost a hundred and thirty years old and at your funeral he will get up and do an impression of you on your death bed that will have them rolling in the aisles. And when your kids die of old age in ninety years Frank Gorshin will be right there at their funeral making good cheap fun of their final moments, too. And then a hundred and forty years after that he'll finally headline at that vampire bastard Bob Hope's last rites and then Jesus will come down from Heaven and say "Frank Gorshin, everybody! Let's hear it for Frank Gorshin! And now, allow me to introduce The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse! Yeah! The Apocalypse, Ladies And Gentlemen!!" so Frank can lie down and take a little nap for once in his life.
Yeah, right - Can you imagine how nuts Frank Gorshin is gonna go when he sees GOD?!? It will be The Impression Of The Eternities! And all the great figures of history that are in Heaven like Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo De Vinci, and Buffalo Bill? There will never be a moment's rest for Frank Gorshin, not one minute.
Is there really such a place as Pittsburgh? I'm not going there!
John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines Schmuck.com, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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