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Comedienne Phyllis Diller gets a lift from emcee Buddy Hackett prior to the celebrity stag luncheon roast at the New York Friars Club Oct. 9, 1985. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)
OBITUARIES: Funnyman Buddy Hackett Dies at 78 & ICM Agent Mort Viner Dies (Click on More to view all articles)
Posted: Tue., Jul. 01, 2003 07:52:40 AM MST

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Buddy Hackett, the squat, round, rubbery-faced funnyman who appeared for more than 50 years as a top act in nightclubs, Broadway shows, on television and in such movies as "The Music Man," "The Love Bug" and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," has died, his son said. He was 78.

Hackett died at his Southern California beach house either late Sunday or early Monday, Sandy Hackett told The Associated Press on Monday night. The cause of his death was not immediately known; his son said Hackett had diabetes.

"He was one of the greatest ever. He was a terrific father. He was my best friend. He prepared me very well for this day, but no matter how much you prepare it still hurts," Sandy Hackett said as he arrived at his mother's house in Los Angeles.

The younger Hackett, who is also a comedian, said he had driven to Los Angeles from his Las Vegas home as soon as he got the word of his father's death.

Hackett was invited to join the Three Stooges when "Curly" Howard, the bald-headed member of the comedy team, suffered a stroke in 1946. But Hackett declined, believing he could develop his own comedy style. Playing for small money on the Borscht Circuit for New York City vacationers in the Catskill Mountains, he learned to get laughs with his complaints about being short, fat and Jewish.

His career grew with appearances on the TV shows of Jack Paar, Arthur Godfrey and others. Soon he was earning top money in Las Vegas, Florida and Las Vegas.

In the beginning his material was suitable for family audiences, but in later years nightclubs advertised his show "For Mature Audiences Only." His performances in those days were noted for their prolific use of four-letters words at a time when that just wasn't done.

"Compared to motion pictures, I'm very mild these days," he remarked in 1996.

He was born Leonard Hacker in a Jewish section of New York City's borough of Brooklyn on Aug. 31, 1924. For a time he apprenticed in his father's upholstery shop, but at school he found he had a talent for making his fellow students laugh. That was a necessity to offset the taunts about his roly-poly shape.

When he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame a few years ago, he quipped that he had left Brooklyn "to get away from the subway" only to discover that his star had been placed above the one in Los Angeles.

"It's a damn circle," he joked.

After graduating from New York's New Utrecht High School, where he had played on the football team, Hacker spent three years in the military during World War II, then reinvented himself as Buddy Hackett, standup comedian.

"He was born funny," his son said Monday. "It was in his bones. He didn't know how not to be funny."

He was also willing to share his material with others.

"If I was going to a corporate job somewhere, I'd call him up, and he'd rattle off 10 jokes," his son recalled. "He never called just to say hello. He'd call and say: 'A guy walks into a bar. ... '"

Hackett had flopped using joke writers, and he soon came to realize that only he could write for Buddy Hackett. Doing so, he moved on to Los Angeles, where he scored at a small showcase club.

Soon he was making big money across the country, and audiences called for his most noted routine, the Chinese waiter.

In 1954, playwright Sidney Kingsley persuaded Hackett to appear on Broadway in "Lunatics and Lovers." Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, described Hackett as "a large, soft, messy comic with a glib tongue and a pair of inquiring eyes."

He also appeared on the New York stage in "Viva Madison Avenue" (1960) and "I Had a Ball" (1964).

Hackett made his film debut in 1953 with "Walking My Baby Back Home." Among his other movies: "Fireman Save My Child," "God's Little Acre," "All Hands on Deck," "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm," "Muscle Beach Party," "Loose Shoes," "Scrooged" and Disney's animated "The Little Mermaid," as the voice of Scuttle. He played legendary comic Lou Costello in the 1978 film "Bud and Lou."

The comedian appeared on television from the medium's beginnings and starred in the short-lived series "Stanley" from 1956 to 1957.

He made numerous guest appearances on other shows, appearing in recent years on "Just Shoot Me" and "Sabrina The Teenage Witch" and, in a recurring bit called "Tuesdays With Buddy," on "The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn."

He turned down many offers to star in another TV series, complaining that he could rarely get along with network executives.

"That ends the meeting," he once said of network officials telling him how to structure a comedy show.

Hackett was married to the former Sherry Dubois, whom he met at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills.

In addition to his wife and son Sandy, Hackett's survivors include daughters Ivy Miller of Denver and Lisa Hackett of Los Angeles.

ICM Agent Mort Viner Dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Mort Viner, a Hollywood agent who represented major film stars, died Sunday. He was 72. He died of a heart attack while playing tennis, fellow publicist Warren Cowan said.

Viner's clients included such stars as Shirley MacLaine, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly and Jimmy Stewart.

Raised in New York City, Viner began his career with MCA, working first in New York and then transferring to the firm's Beverly Hills headquarters in the 1960s. When MCA was dissolved, Viner became a senior executive with Chasin, Park Citron.

He then joined ICM, where he remained for more than 30 years.

Jazz Flutist Herbie Mann Dies at 73

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- Herbie Mann, the versatile jazz flutist who combined a variety of musical styles and deeply influenced genres such as world music and fusion, has died. He was 73.

Mann, who had battled prostate cancer since 1997, died late Tuesday, according to a friend, Sy Johnson. A funeral home in Santa Fe said it was making arrangements with Mann's family.

Mann had moved to Santa Fe in the late 1980s after spending most of his life in his native New York City.

Mann always performed different styles, then combined them. He did bebop and cool jazz, and toured Africa, Brazil and Japan listening for new music.

"I just think he was a wonderful Pied Piper of jazz, drawing our attention what's happening around the world and the country," said Johnson, a New York City composer who had known Mann for some 40 years. He called Mann "a guy who loved music of all kinds an and eager to explore it all."

Family of Mann, formed in 1973, played world music before it was called that. Mann's best-selling "Memphis Underground" was a founding recording of fusion.

If a genie offered Mann anything he wanted, he said in a 1995 Associated Press interview, he would choose a big band including three rhythm sections for straight-ahead jazz, Brazilian music and soul.

"I'd be able to play all that music; I wouldn't have to play any one thing all the time," he said. "And I would always like to try to evolve the music to another step. Once you reach the point where you play it perfectly in a genre, to me it gets boring. Then I want to try to evolve by combining things."

When he left Atlantic Records in 1979 he started producing his own records, and later he launched his own label, Kokopelli. In all, he made more than 100 albums as leader.

Touring, he said, was "a killer, the hours and food. I always thought if you made good records your records could do the traveling for you."

Album titles reflect Mann's versatility: "At the Village Gate" (1962); "African Suite" (1959); "Brasil, Bossa Nova & Blues" (1962); "Latin Mann" 1965; "Memphis Two Step" (1971); and "Eastern European Roots" (2000).

"As much as I love music, I never really thought it was my life. I thought it was the vehicle I used to express my life," he said.

Born Herbert Solomon in Brooklyn in 1930, he started his career when he was 15, playing in groups at Catskill Mountain resorts for the summer. He studied saxophone but preferred flute. In the 1950s, after three years in the Army playing with the Army Band in Trieste, Italy, Mann toured France and Scandinavia.

He credited visits to Africa and Brazil in the early 1960s with changing his musical outlook.

"When I came back (from Africa), I hired (Babatunde) Olatunji, a Nigerian drummer living here, and we started doing music based on African motifs," he told the AP.

As for the Brazil tour, he said, "Revelation doesn't touch it. Up to that point, the ethnic music I had heard had 14 drums playing different parts but the melodies were very simple. Then I saw the `Black Orpheus' movie and heard multiple rhythm parts along with the most beautiful melodies in the world.

He returned and recorded with Brazilian musicians, including Antonio Carlos Jobim and a 19-year-old Sergio Mendes.

At 70, he put out a CD called "Eastern European Roots."

"I've played Cuban music, but I'm not Cuban," he told the Rocky Mountain News. "I've played Brazilian music, but I'm not Brazilian. I've played jazz, but I'm not African-American. What I am is an Eastern European Jew. I love all the music I've played, but I wanted something that is mine. ... I had been writing this music for years, but I never thought there was a place for me to play it."

"I'm playing better than I've ever played," Mann said in the 1995 Associated Press interview.

"As far as I'm concerned, almost everything I've done in the past has been on the surface or just a hair below," he said. "Now I'm getting serious."

His last live gig was May 3 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where "he got a standing ovation for five minutes," Johnson said.

"He had a lot of plans," Johnson said. "His time may have been limited and he knew it, but he was a man of energy and an active life that would constantly churn up things," Johnson said.

Johnson said Mann is survived by his wife, Janeal Arison; sons Paul and Geoff; daughters Claudia Mann-Basler and Laura Mann; his mother, Ruth Solomon; and a sister, Judy Burnstein.


On the Net:

Jamaican Singer Vic Taylor Dies At 56

NEW YORK (AP) -- Vic Taylor, a singer who performed with the Jamaican bands Tommy McCook and the Skatalites and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, died Monday at age 56, his daughter Vanessa Taylor said.

Taylor, who lived in Uniondale, N.Y., died of cardiac arrest at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, N.Y., his daughter said.

Taylor was a lead singer with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires in the 1970s and '80s, performing songs like "My Way" and "You'll Never Walk Alone," said Errol Gayle, a guitarist with the band.

Before joining the Byron Lee group he performed with the pioneering ska and reggae group the Skatalites, Gayle said.

Taylor's solo hits included "Heartaches" and "For Your Precious Love," his daughter said.

In addition to Vanessa Taylor, survivors include two other daughters, a son and two grandchildren.

Wrestling/Concert Promoter Zane Bresloff Dead at 57

(CelebrityAccess News Service) -- Former wrestling promoter Zane Bresloff died June 20 in Littleton, CO, at age 57. He was in a one-car automobile accident on May 16 and had been hospitalized in a coma.

Promoter Chuck Morris, who collaborated on shows with Bresloff, told the Denver Post that Bresloff was "one of the last of the great old-school promoters - a little wacky, colorful, and he knew how to put a butt in the seat. And a heart of gold to boot."

Bresloff was a sports and concert promoter in Chicago before moving to Denver, when Barry Fey had him run the ticketing agency, Select-A-Seat. He was the first World Wrestling Federation promoter in Denver as well. He also promoted "Wrestlemania III" in Chicago, and drew a reported record of 93,000 fans in Pontiac, MI.

"One of the best things you can say about Zane is there was no one like him - he wasn't mundane," Fey told the Denver Post. "I saw an AT&T truck on the way to heaven - they're going to put extra phone lines in! A good guy, and he loved his family." -- edited by Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

Venue Exec Bob Scanlin Dies

(CelebrityAccess News Service) -- Bob Scanlin, CFE, director of the Georgia Mountains Center, died on July 27 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 54.

Scanlin became a member of IAAM in 1986 and earned his CFE (certified facility executive) designation in 1995. He was very active in IAAM and served as a great leader within District V, holding positions of District V treasurer, secretary, assistant district vice president and district vice president on the board of Directors. Bob was also involved in the IAAM Foundation and recently served on the Board of Trustees. He had to cut short his term due to aggressive treatment of his cancer.

Scanlin was also a member of the American Society of Association Executives; Georgia Society of Association Executives; and the Georgia Hospitality and Travel Association. He served as chairman of the Government Division of the United Way Board of Directors, chairman of the Gainesville Civic Center Restoration Advisory Committee, trustee of the Lanier Technical Institute Foundation, deacon of First Baptist Church, and was a Little League coach. -- edited by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen.


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