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Entries in Madeline Kahn (2)


Call Answered: George Bettinger: The Mom and Pop Shop

As the host of "Call Me Adam," I love chatting with other people who conduct interviews, especially when I ask them "What question I haven't asked that they would have liked?" It's so interesting to see how what someone else will think of. When I found out about comedian George Bettinger, who had a friendship with the legendary comic/TV host Joe Franklin and hosts the hit radio show The Mom and Pop Shop, I couldn't wait to interview him. He has interviewed some of entertainment's biggest names such as Madeline Khan, Julie Newmar, Robert Morse, Kathy Garver and so many more.

In this interview, we talk about laughter, fame, Joe Franklin, and get some inside scoop about a few of the celebrities George has interviewed!

For more on George be sure to visit and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

The Mom and Pop Shop airs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4pm EST! Click here to listen!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a comedian? As a child I had nephritis, which kept me indoors a lot. I watched a great deal of television. In the mid 60's there were great comedy films on TV from the silent days on up to the 50's. I loved Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, The Bowery Boys, The 3 Stooges and so on. It inspired me to imitate them and later to make little films on 8mm film doing that style of comedy.

George Bettinger and Lucie Arnaz2. You always say "Make sure you laugh a little everyday, it is important and can change the way you feel." Do you remember the first time laughter really changed the way you felt? If so, what was that moment? Has there been a day where you haven't laughed? If so, why didn't you? I can go as far back as being hospitalized for my nephritis, (maybe four years old) grabbing a doctors stethoscope and running down the corridor making the nurses and attendants laugh. There have been multitudes of days I haven't laughed. I suffered severe third degree depression and debilitating panic and anxiety.

3. When did you realize your brand of humor made people laugh and that perhaps this could be something you could do for a living? What feeling did you get the first time someone laughed at your jokes? Around age 12 I was making people laugh, in school, at friend's homes. I didn't think of it as a living then. A living to me was the toil my father worked at being a retailer on New York's Lower East Side, putting in six days a week selling luggage one suitcase at a time. From an early age I too helped out in the store. It was serious work. There was a huge family to feed with many splinter families and friends who came in and out of our home. My parents worked very hard. My mother took care of the home making sure all were fed and then packing food to take to her invalid parents. I accompanied her many times.

George Bettinger4. What was the worst comedy set you ever performed? After that performance, did you think of giving up or did you say, "We all have bad nights, I'm just going to learn from this and do better the next time?" I don't recall performing an actual stand up set that was so bad that I wanted to quit. There were many "on" and "off nights." I do recall attempting one particular bit on LIVE television that fell flat. It embarrassed me and gave me pause and made me realize that I can not do all that I think I could.

5. You first came to the public's attention as an Eddie Cantor impersonator on The Joe Franklin Show. What was it about Eddie Cantor that made you want to impersonate him? I loved Eddie's energy! I watched him on TV and really enjoyed his delivery and his mannerisms and his singing was unique. I read a great deal about performers. Eddie was one who was quite the humanitarian. He was also Joe Franklin's first friend in show business and I knew it delighted Joe when I impersonated him. As with Groucho Marx, I could do the "young version" and the "old version." Joe particularly got a kick out of when I would talk to him as the "old Eddie." Joe laughed and said "You make him sound like an old man in a rocking chair!"

George Bettinger and Joe Franklin6. What went through your head when you found out you were going to be on Joe Franklin's TV show? How long after your appearance on that show, did things start to change for you? Excitement, fear, adrenalin rush, pounding headaches and a feeling of accomplishment. Things changed relatively quickly. I was already putting together my first cable TV show called Movie Magic and contributing to The Uncle Floyd Show.

7. In a nice turn of events, you got to interview Joe Franklin in 1985. What was it like to interview the man who helped get you your start? Was there anything you wish you got to ask him that you didn't? I was 23. Joee was about 59 at the time. We were already long time friends. It was a delight to interview him. We had chemistry on TV and as personal friends. Joe kept a close circle of real friends. I was honored to be part of that circle. At that time he was extremely on top of this game as the "King Of Nostalgia" and a legendary late night host. He would not do any show. But he did mine. He then had me on his show the next week, sitting beside him, and told the world that "this is a recip (reciprocation)." He said referring to himself; "I did his show and now he is doing my show." I was able to make Joe laugh in private to the point where tears were flowing and he would beg me to stop. I would impersonate people that only he and I knew. We had a bond.

8. You are currently hosting the hugely successful radio show The Mom and Pop Shop on Dreamstream Radio. What do you love about having your own radio show? What made you want to call your show The Mom and Pop Shop? Our main station is Tune In Radio's It's Right Here In Miramar broadcast out of Miramar City Hall in Florida and heard worldwide on the Internet. What I love about The Mom & Pop Shop is that it's one of a kind. Fan's who merely met on the LIVE chat have literally traveled from FL to Italy to meet, from Ireland to The Bronx. That is loyalty and trust. I love that. It is a hybrid of the charm of the golden age of an accessible host combined with the immediacy of the fast paced internet. This is why NBC and ABC network news covered the show.

I decided to call the show The Mom & Pop Shop because of the album I created in 1998 titled George Bettinger's Mom & Pop Variety Shop which is still available of Amazon and CDBaby.

9. Over the years you have gotten to interview so many legends: Madeline Khan, Julie Newmar, Robert Morse, Kathy Garver and so many more. I personally was a big fan of Madeline Khan and Julie Newmar, what was one surprising fact about each of them that you learned from interviewing them? If you don't remember, then you can answer this question...what do you enjoy most about interviewing people? Who do you still want to interview? Madeline Kahn and I clicked as soon as we met in person. It was at an audition. She was a brilliant performer and a genuine person. I was overjoyed to gain her trust. When I reflect back, I realize that this was very important to Maddie. I feel blessed that she was in my life. William V. Madison mentions me in the first authorized biography of Madeline Kahn. I am at the top paragraph of chapter 74. Quoted as "her friend George Bettinger." What struck me most about Julie Newmar was her keen intelligence and wisdom on how to deal with life. I think of the words she said to me everyday. There are many people I wish to interview. I enjoy talking to people.

10. As an interviewer yourself, what is one question I didn't ask you that you wish I did? (and please provide the answer to said question). Here is my question: Where would you like to see yourself in the industry? I would like to have a television show, that would give me the opportunity to be a genuine, charming host sans the popular snarky-ness so prevalent today. I would like to have a program like The Joe Franklin Show where celebrities are interviewed and up and coming talent get their start.

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Wisdom. I wish to continue to learn.

George BettingerMore on George:

George Bettinger began producing short comedy films by the age of 12, at a time when Kodachrome Silent 8mm film was the standard. "I began way before VHS tape. We had to purchase each 3 - minute film cartridge individually. It was costly for a kid. Three minutes was 50-feet of film stock and then we would shoot scenes and hope that after waiting a week for the 50-foot roll to be processed, something showed up that was usable!" At the same time, George was appearing regularly in school plays and occasionally showing his 8mm custom made films at school.

At a young age, George developed a great appreciation of classic comedians from the golden age of silent and early sound films. By 16, he was impersonating Groucho Marx, Eddie Cantor and other legends, when he caught the eye of broadcast legend Joe Franklin, who featured George regularly on The Joe Franklin Show on WOR-TV. He was also writing and appearing in comedy bits on The Uncle Floyd Show.

In 1982, George created an early cable TV series called Movie Magic, which ran for five years. He simultaneously worked at his father’s world famous little luggage store, Bettinger’s Luggage, on Rivington and Allen Streets in NYC’s historic Lower East Side. There George delighted customers with his impersonations as he sold suitcases.

Throughout the late 1980’s and 90’s, George kept busy auditioning and booking numerous radio and television commercials, playing the voice of the animated red M&M on NBC promos for Frasier and Will & Grace, one of the highlights of his commercial career.

Teaming with his mentor Joe Franklin on Saturday nights on WOR radio as Joe’s "Man of 1000 Voices," gave George the opportunity to release his CD, The Mom & Pop Variety Shop on Original Cast Records.

When given the enthusiastic green light to bring a 90-minute radio program to the internet George used the CD as his template and The Mom & Pop Shop was born.


Call Answered: William V. Madison: Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life

William V. Madison, Photo Credit: Nathaniel Goodman"Call Me Adam" chats with author and producer William V. Madison about his new book Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life and panel discussion at The Drama Bookshop in NYC (250 West 40th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue) on June 11 at 6pm! 

The panel discussion is composed of Madeline Kahn’s colleagues and friends, including comedian Robert Klein, (Kahn’s most frequent co-star - New Faces of 1968The Sisters RosensweigMixed Nuts, etc.),Martin Charnin (lyricist, Two by Two), Lee Roy Reams (director, Hello, Dolly!), Scott Ellis (director of Kahn’s final theatrical appearance and of the current Roundabout Theatre revival of On the Twentieth Century), Jonathan Lynn (writer/director, Clue), Walter Willison (Tony-nominated co-star, Two by Two), Joan Copeland (co-star, Two by Two), Maddie Corman (Kahn’s niece on the George C. Scott sitcom, Mr. President) and Lawrence Leritz (guest star, Cosby).

For more on William be sure to visit and join his Facebook Page Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life!

1. You just released your new book Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life. What made now the right time to release this book? The sassy answer is that the time was right because I'd finished -- after seven years of research and writing. A better answer is that people still miss Madeline. Her death came as a great shock to so many people, and I remember vividly the way New Yorkers particularly responded to the sad news on December 3, 1999. We felt cheated, and we still want some kind of connection with her. Also, the time was right because many of the most important witnesses are still around to share their memories. Just before I began work on Being the Music, Harvey Korman and Dom DeLuise, two of Madeline's favorite co-stars died, so I didn't get to talk with them. Maddie Corman, who's on the panel June 11, is almost the only surviving member of the regular cast of the sitcom Mr. President; she's the last best witness to a full year of Madeline's career. If I hadn't been able to talk with Maddie, and with Mel Brooks and Hal Prince and Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett and Gene Wilder -- and so on -- my job would have been almost impossible.

2. Why did you want to write a biography on Madeline Kahn? What was it about her career and life that fascinated you so much? The basic outlines of Madeline's life and career are there for the world to see, but there's a great deal that she kept concealed by design. In her acting, I saw something remarkable, even when the character is cartoonish: she locates the seriousness, what she called the "truth" of the character, and makes that the foundation of the comedy. Even to "Lili von Shtupp" in Blazing Saddles, she brings nuance and dimension. That ability had to come from some place, and I wanted to find and understand the source.

Beyond Madeline's own talents, she also worked with some of the most important creative minds of her time: everybody from Leonard Bernstein to the Muppets, from David Rabe to Neil Simon, from Charles Ludlam to Gilda Radner. Exploring her career meant learning more about their careers, too.

Finally, Madeline was extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and cultivated. I never imagined that I'd spend seven years on Being the Music, but I knew she'd be good company for the journey, and I was right.

Madeline Kahn on "The Muppets"3. What do you hope people come away with after reading Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life? Certainly I hope they'll come away with a better understanding of a beloved yet misunderstood performer. I hope, too, that they'll appreciate the challenges specific to working actors who -- unlike Madeline's friends Lily Tomlin and Gene Wilder -- aren't also writers. (Or directors, like Wilder and Barbra Streisand.) Actors really don't have much control over their destinies: the real control lies with casting directors, writers, directors, producers, whose choices can define an actor's career. More generally, Madeline's experience as a single working woman, on whom her mother relied for financial support, really resonates for a lot of people today.

4. What was something you discovered about Madeline that you did not know before writing this book? There were many discoveries, but perhaps the biggest was the extent of her operatic training and ambitions. Though she sang professionally only once, in La Bohème in 1970, Madeline was still fielding offers for operatic engagements in the mid-1980s, long after she'd won fame in Hollywood. You can hear even in Young Frankenstein that she's got a real voice ("Not living-room bull****," as her friend Robert Klein says), but I hadn't realized the degree to which she'd studied. Every one of her early breaks as a performer came to her because she could sing.

Madeline Kahn on "Saturday Night Live"5. On June 11, you are having a panel discussion at The Drama Bookshop in NYC. What made you want to do a panel discussion as opposed to a regular book reading? Really, the panel discussion reflects the book. In my research, I interviewed about 120 people -- this isn't just a collection of my personal observations and pontifications. The book isn't my voice, it's theirs -- and of course it's Madeline's voice, because I quote extensively from her interviews and from a private notebook she kept for 20 years. Madeline can't join us on June 11, but her friends and colleagues can, and this way the audience will get some sense of the enjoyment I got from talking with them while I prepared Being the Music.

6. How did you decide who you wanted to be part of this panel discussion? Right now we've got Robert Klein, Martin Charnin, Scott Ellis, Lee Roy Reams, Joan Copeland, Maddie Corman, Jonathan Lynn -- and more -- on the panel, with other terrific people in the audience. It's a combination of who's in the New York area, who's available, who has an interesting perspective on Madeline's career, and who's fun to spend time with. I've never organized or moderated a panel like this before, so I wanted to be sure to invite people who'd make my job easy. Three of them -- Betty Aberlin, Walter Willison, and Lawrence Leritz -- have been heroic in helping me throughout my writing, and they've become my dear friends. So, even beyond the great stories they have to share, having them with me will be comforting!

Madeline Kahn and John Cullum in "On the Twentieth Century" 19787. What made you want to have this event at the Drama Bookshop? The Drama Book Shop is a terrific space, it's in the theater district, and it's the first place people think of for an event like this one. So many people asked not whether but when I'd do something there, that we felt we had to ask the shop for a date!

8. What's the best advice you took from Madeline's life or career? Persistence. Madeline had an extraordinarily difficult relationship with her mother, her first music teacher, who gave her not only the means but the need to express herself. Madeline was effectively abandoned by not one but two fathers when her father and stepfather in turn divorced her mother; when working relationships didn't go well or petered out, when Mel Brooks stopped working with her, she felt genuine pain. Yet Madeline didn't really want to be a performer in the first place, and she hated being typecast as a bawdy comedian. All of these elements are roiling in the background of her life -- but she didn't let them stop her. Even after her disastrous experience in On the Twentieth Century (the most complex story and the longest chapter in the book), she kept going. She had to work, to make money to support her mother. Now, when we want to forget our own cares, we can turn to Madeline's work -- but obviously, if she hadn't persisted, we wouldn't have these opportunities.

Madeline Kahn and Carol Burnett9. What did you learn about yourself from writing this book? That I had that kind of persistence, too! Putting this book together meant challenges, obstacles, disappointments, and a tremendous investment in time, money, and effort. Now I look back and think how easy it would have been to give up and walk away, but at the time I really didn't see any alternative. I had so much of Madeline's story already -- I had to finish.

10. If you could have a conversation with Madeline Kahn today, what would you say to her? I'd say something much like the things said to Madeline by two of the people I spoke with, the choreographer Joseph Patton and the film director Eric Mendelsohn: "I get it. I understand how hard it is to be you." Madeline tried to insulate herself from unpleasantness, but she went through a lot of hardship in her life, beginning when she was a tiny child, and in her career she experienced some terrible disappointments. She was in some ways very fragile -- which is not what we think of when we remember her performances. Often she was afraid that audiences were laughing not at her characters or the funny things she said, but at her. It really wasn't easy to be Madeline Kahn -- but look what treasures she left us!

William V. MadisonMore on William:

William V. Madison is a former producer at CBS News and a former Associate Editor of Opera News. He was also the lone production assistant on the Broadway musical Rags in 1986. A native Texan, Madison is a graduate of Brown University & the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.