Today is the birthday of character comedian Arnold Stang (1918-2009).
Although we think of the weak-chinned, diminutive, bespectacled and bow-tied Stang as the archetypical New Yorker he actually hailed from Massachusetts. He started out when still a teenager in radio on shows like The Goldbergs. And truly, what is Arnold Stang if not a voice? Screechy, scratchy, high pitched. And yet his character was never a wimp, precisely. He was assertive and pushy, full of wisecracks and demands and insults, just like any self-respecting New Yorker.
In the 50s he did lots of TV, including a regular role named “Francis” on the Milton Berle Show. And he also did some notable films. He had quite a dramatic role in the drug addict tragedy The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) with Frank Sinatra, and has always been one of everyone’s favorite characters in the all-star It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). The voice also had him working constantly doing voice overs in animated cartoons, mostly famously as the voice of Top Cat (1961-1962, and later incarnations), which he modeled on Phil Silvers. And in the 1980s, he was the voice of the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee! His last gig was regular v.o. work on Courage, the Cowardly Dog (1999-2001).
To find out more about show business past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.