On Red Buttons

Today is the birthday of Red Buttons (born Aaron Chwatt, 1919-2006). Too late for vaudeville, he got his start in the Catskills (where he partnered with Robert Alda), Minsky’s burlesque, and starting in 1941, Broadway shows. From 1952-55, he starred in his own tv variety show, and from there went on to a distinguished Hollywood movie career, winning a best-actor Oscar for his role in Sayonara (1957), and following up with dozens of other memorable parts (I first saw him in 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure, one of my favorite movies.) I’ve also always loved the 1962 Howard Hawks film Hatari! with John Wayne and a whole bunch of rhincerouses in which Buttons plays “Pockets” (I wonder how long it took them to think of that name).  Buttons was also a much beloved figure at Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts in the 70s, with his popular “…Never Got a Dinner” routines. He passed away in 2006.

And now here he is singing a rather terrifiying song from 1953, which sounds very much like it was produced by Mitch Miller. The effect is best if you picture him wearing clown make-up:

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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3 comments

  1. My favorite Red Buttons line was, “Do you know what my name was before Red Buttons?” (wait for it) “Blue Zippers!” (rimshot). Classic Catskill comic (love alliteration), who was a pretty dam good actor.

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  2. That really is a strange and terrifying song, with some disturbing implications (not helped by Button’s rather eerie delivery of it). Was this meant for a children’s show? (some of the tv and film geared toward children in the 1950s would be considered way too off the wall today.)

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    • yeah it really was for kids! I dont know if he did it on childrens tv; it was released as a kid’s record. He also had his own tv variety show. If I have time today Im hoping to do a post on it

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