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AALIYAH | Lucille Ball | Milton Berle | Les Brown | Karen Carpenter | Charles Chaplin's Son (Little Mouse) and Buckwheat | James Dean | The Del Rubio Triplets Minus Two | Morton Downey Jr | Roy Rogers and Dale Evans | Richard Farnsworth | John Gotti | Vince Guaraldi | Harry Houdini | Meyer Lansky | Liberace | Julie London | Raymond Massey | Marilyn Monroe | Jim Morrison | Carroll O'Connor and his son Hugh | Papa John Phillips | Elvis Presley | Mario Puzo | Claude Rains | Joey Ramone | The Rat Pack: Frank, Dean, Peter, and Sammy | STUDIO 54 owner Steve Rubell: Pasha of Disco | Gene Siskel | Ann Sothern | Andy Warhol
July 12,1908 - March 27, 2002
Milton was born Mendel Berlinger in Harlem, New York. His first exposure to show business was at the tender age of 5 when he won a Charlie Chaplin look - alike contest. This gave him the opportunity to appear with Chaplin and Marie Dressler in "Tillie's Punctured Romance." After his first film, he went on to become a prominate child actor of the silent era. He appeared in approximately 50 movies with many big stars of that era: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies and Mabel Normand. All this was possible due to his mother's driving force to see her son become a star. Sarah Glantz Berlinger was a frustrated actress who lived vicariouly through her son's career. She carefully managed his career.... and his life. According to Lucille Ball the two dated briefly, but the relationship came to an abrupt end due to Berle's meddlesome mother.
By 1916, he was enrolled in the Professional Children's School to hone his skills as an actor and finally made his first stage debut in "Floradora" in Atlantic City. Four weeks later he was on Broadway and then spent the next twelve years in vaudeville.
It was his exposure on Broadway that prompted Hollywood studio execs to beckon the young Berle.
Once in Hollywood he became an over night success such in movies, "New Faces of 1937" and "Radio City Revels" for RKO, followed by "Sun Valley Serenade," "Whispering Ghosts" and "Rise and Shine" at 20th Century-Fox.
Not only did Berle conquer the silver screen but he went on to do radio and performed regularly on "The Rudy Vallee Hour" (1934-1936). He made guest appearances on almost every comedy-variety show after that.
Realizing that he could be successful on his own, he started his own program called the "MIlton Berle Show" which was broadcasted on CBS Radio in 1943 and then for NBC Radio (1944-45). Berle was on a successful streak that landed him on a new show entitled, "Philip Morris Playhouse" on CBS which lasted from 1947 to 1948.
There was something else on the horizon for Berle, a new venue for entertainers that would change everything forever....TELEVISION!
Berle was smart enough to come up with an idea for an hour long comedy show. He took his idea to Philip Morris president, Alfred Lyon and then to Milton Blow who was the head of Blow Advertising Agency that handled the Philip Morris account. Both myopic men were not enthusiastic for the show or television.
They ended up doing the unthinkable, passing on the idea and then
cancelling Berle's radio show as well.
Berle was persistant and took his idea elsewhere, to Texaco. They not only signed him to do their radio program but they made plans for a new weekly TV show.
Berle headlined the first show which appeared on June 6, 1948. Although several other entertainers hosted subsequent shows, none had the Berle touch and he was later signed to be the program's permanent host.
Soon Berle became "King of All Television" dominating the airwaves with exceptionally high ratings that no one else has ever beaten, not even today.
Perhaps it was Berle that prompted more viewers to buy television sets in order to tune in to his program each Tuesday. Here are the facts: in 1947 there were only seventeen stations throughout the United States with only 136,000 sets. By the end of 1948, television stations grew to 50 stations and there were now 700,000 sets in American homes.
According to Berle's autobiography, crazy things began to happen all over the country. Nightclubs closed on Tuesday nights instead of the typical Monday nights. Restaurants were empty during the slotted Berle broadcast. Movie theaters lost business. Even the water level in the Detroit reservoirs dropped dramatically between 9:00 and 9:05, because people would wait until the end of his show before using the bathroom.
What was his secret? No one had ever seen anyone like him. His humor was not only just slapstick it was outrageous and very visually stimulating.
Berle however, was best known for dressing in drag. He would hobble around the stage in high heels while fixing his make up. A glamour girl he was not!
Berle as Carmen Miranda
Okay let's now fastforward to the 90's. In 1991, Berle met and married fashion designer Lorna Adams. Although she was a "few" decades younger than her husband, she was credited by family and friends for keeping the aging Berle young.
Berle maintained good health until 1998 when he suffered a mild stroke. It left him with severe eye problems but other than that he was okay. In December 1998, tests performed at Cedars Sinai diagnosed Berle with colon cancer. Since he was at an advanced age, 90, doctors thought it best not to operate. The tumor was so small and was not the kind to grow quickly.
Despite all of what the doctors had told him, Berle was convinced he would beat the big "C."
Unfortunately Berle did not beat it and died peacefully in his sleep at his home. His is survived by Lorna and two adopted children, his daughter Vicki Walton and his son William.
HIs funeral was held at Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles where he is also interred. It was almost like a roast. All his comedian friends eulogized him with jokes and still accused him of stealing their jokes. His closed coffin was drapped with his trademark overcoat and the cemetery passed out yarmulkes. Celebrities in attendance were:
Fyvush Finkel of "Picket Fences" and "Boston Public" fame
Ed Begley Jr.
He was cremated and put in coffin sized crypt.
He is not yet marked per Jewish religious rituals.
To find him drive straight into the gate toward the Al Jolson waterfall the easiest way would be to make a right but
I don't think you can it's one way. So you can either drive around the entire cemetery or park by the office on your
right and walk over to Arcadia Gardens which are the crypts on your right. He is closet to the road.
Photo Submitted by Staff Photographer Anne Parisi
Someone who wishes to remain anonymous sent me this paper with Milton's typewritten jokes along with some corrections he made by hand.