King of Jesters


I’m thinking about Danny Kaye. At our editorial meeting this morning, we learned that those of us over 40 or so know that the vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison but the flagon with the dragon has the brew that is true.

Those of us under 40 don’t know who Danny Kaye was.

(Spoiler alert: Danny Kaye, nĂ© David Daniel Kaminsky, 1911-1987, was an American-Jewish comedian-actor-singer-dancer. In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s he was famous around the world for his work in movies, TV and in live performances. The business about the vessel with the pestle was part of a tongue-twister routine in his film “The Court Jester,” a Robin Hood sendup from 1955. I’d say the routine is famous, but it isn’t if you haven’t heard of it.)

Danny Kaye came up at our staff meeting because I was about to go to the Library of Congress to see “Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids from Brooklyn,” an exhibit that explores Kaye’s career and Fine’s role as wife, songwriter and manager.

I’ve now seen the exhibit and I’ll be writing more about it in next week’s issue. In the meantime I’m grappling with Danny Kaye’s seeming disappearance. He was a staple of my childhood. His elastic face and dancer’s frame were everywhere, it seemed.

In my family, though, Danny Kaye is a tradition worth preserving. I am not the last of my line to know that “he lives for a sigh, he dies for a kiss, he lusts for the laugh, ha!”

Get it?

Got it.


[email protected] Twitter: @davidholzel

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