Saturday, April 30, 2016

Favorite Story - Revealed as Untrue

I worked with a psychologist around 1980 who had trained at an expensive private psychiatric farm/camp/hideaway/rehab in NoCal that had taken in many important people when they had "episodes," including Jonathan Winters.  Winters has long been a favorite of mine, and I nearly wore out "Another Day, Another World" when I was in junior high.  I had heard that Winters was what we called Manic-Depressive in those days, and it gave me some understanding of the edge, the difficult balance between loose associations and wit.

Dr. Fields related a story about Jonathan being brought in on a somewhat emergent basis, and staying at the retreat a few weeks.  Frank said he wasn't there himself at the time, but Winters remained legendary among the staff and the tale seemed credible.  The comedian had ended up naked in a fountain in Las Vegas or some such thing, and the California psychologist who ran the joint had stroked his beard and said, rather typically "Well Jonathan, did you learn anything from the experience?"

"Yes," Winters is supposed to have replied "I learned that we should never land on this planet one at a time."

I must have told that story a hundred times, always careful to note that it is third hand and suspect but still, I hinted broadly, plausible and likely true.  I posted it hear about five years ago.  Well, maybe.  Comedians do reuse, streamline, and perfect material and all that.  But today I was listening to 60's comedy on Pandora and there was a routine from "The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters."  I was sitting comfortably on the porch nibbling on cheese, crackers, and pepper jelly and distinctly heard in his introduction (which obliquely references being put back in the zoo), "We should never land on this planet one at a time."

Dr. Fields likely lifted the story from the record.  At least I know that Winters actually did say the line, though it's nowhere near as interesting this way.

And seeing that people are even less likely to be listening to introductions of 1960's comedy albums now, maybe I can still get away with it.  I am Al Wyman's son, after all.


Sam L. said...

You're saying your dad did it? (Listen to intros.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

My Dad was a brilliant but not always, uh, reliable storyteller. Drunk or sober, he could command a room and entertain it. Only later in life, as my brother and I became adults and would sometimes visit him together did he face any serious competition. There a few brief times when his three sons and my two oldest boys would all be present, which both rocked him to the core and thrilled him beyond measure. We all became something of him in that way, even the quieter brother, Scott.

It seems to be coming to an end. Neither of Scott's children nor either of my grandchildren shows any signs of emceeing every gathering of more that two people.

Except maybe Sarah (in the recent picture). We'll see. And there still could be more. Plenty of time.

james said...

It seemed as though Winters was excellent at improv and thinking on his feet. Perhaps that was the fruit of intense preparation, but I'll guess that it was as it seemed.

I'd guess it more likely that Winters reused his own material.