Wednesday, October 06, 2004

No Respect

I was sorry to see that Rodney Dangerfield died yesterday. I had previously noted his tremendous line when he went into the hospital for heart surgery: “If things go right, I'll be there about a week, and if things don't go right, I'll be there about an hour and a half.”

As we now know, things didn’t go right. The operation must have been performed by Dr. Vinny Boombatz.

I, in the course of living my rather odd life, somehow crossed paths with Rodney a couple of times.

I bumped into him once on “radio row” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas before the Tyson-Bruno II fight in 1997, where he was, typically, making the rounds in a wild Hawaiian shirt and that awful late-career Jack Lord hairdo he wore for a while. He really did jerk around like that when he was just standing there; constant, frenetic motion. In a room full of heavyweight champions, boxing legends, and even Don King, Dangerfield was the center of attention.

The next year, I had the opportunity to interview him on my radio show. It was a thrill for me, an aficionado of comedians, to be interviewing the man whom almost every living comic looked up to as an icon (if not a mentor, as he was to many, many young comics, like Sam Kinison, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr, Bob Saget, and a whole truckload of others).

Unfortunately, the interview itself was a disappointment. Rodney was very nice and gracious, but he seemed to be in a hurry to get away. (Although that was par for the course on my show...) I wanted to talk mostly about “Caddyshack” and his place in comedy history, he mostly wanted to talk about the home video release of “Meet Wally Sparks” or something. There was a lot of selling going on. (“I get no respect, I tell ya. I get no respect at 8 and 10pm at the MGM Grand, and I get no respect on my website at”) But hey, it’s not like he came on the show because he felt the urge to spend some quality time with me. It was still a thrill, even if it wasn't one for the archives.

I saw him perform live once, at a taping of Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” He was probably 73 or 74 at that point. And he killed. Just ripped the place up. Even at that age, he still worked hard for every laugh.

He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for those of us of the male persuasion who grew up watching Miller Lite commercials and “Caddyshack,” it didn’t get more solid than Rodney.

There's a nice piece on Dangerfield at the Weekly Standard, published upon the release of his recent autobiography in August before he went into the hospital. At the time, Dangerfield was doing well, and was out promoting the book.

The author, Duncan Currie, was prophetic. The closing lines of the article:
Rodney won't be with us much longer. "I can count," he writes, "and I know my days are numbered." But, he reassures us, he's not about to go anytime soon. Why? "There are too many people out there who owe me money."
How better than to close with a classic Rodney one-liner?:

"When we got married my wife told me I was one in a million. I found out she was right!" Ba-dum-bum.

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