RED SKELTON by Arthur Marx


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The life story of the noted American clown, glibly recounted with an abundance of rumor, innuendo, and ribald anecdotes. The result: a tale of sex, booze, infidelity, suicide, divorces, opulent living, national fame, loneliness, and despair. Witnessing to the debacle are the producers, directors, writers, managers, and agents whom Skelton hired and fired (without notice) in his half-century of performing. There is no evidence that the author interviewed Skelton himself, or for that matter tried to understand him. Son of a circus clown who died when the boy was an infant, Richard Skelton ran away with a traveling medicine show at age twelve and for the next two decades roamed North America in every form of entertainment from marathons to showboats to burlesque. Largely through the determination and business acumen of his wife and partner, Edna, Skelton made it to Hollywood and a movie career in 1937. From there, he went on to radio (his ""I dood it"" swept the country) and eventually to television, where his stable of characters--Freddy the Freeloader, Clem Kaddiddlehopper, etc.--became household names. By that time, he had two mansions, five Rolls Royces, and a new wife, Georgia, a heavy-drinking, promiscuous redhead who bore him two sons, the younger of whom died of leukemia. After many years of turmoil, Georgia, divorced from Skelton, killed herself--close by the Japanese tea house where the comedian in mystical moments painted and wrote songs, short stories, and dally love letters to his third wife, ""Little Red."" Shoddy and sleazy beyond the call of candor.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1979
Publisher: Dutton