Monday, May 28, 2007

R.I.P - C.N.R

Another person from my TV teenage memories died today, Charles Nelson Reilly. Of course, I remember him mostly from Match Game, but in the 1970s Mr. Reilly was ubiquitous. As quoted in his obit today:

He recalled being dismissed early in his career by a network executive, who told him that “they don’t let queers on television.” Paul Linke, who directed [Reilly's] one-man show, said Mr. Reilly later had the last laugh when he would page through TV Guide and count how many times he was on the air that week.

There wasn't a variety show, game show, kid's show, commercial that he wasn't popping up on. He was regular guest on the Tonight Show where he and Johnny would skate around his queerness. I recall Johnny asking him if he ever dated women, and CNR said, "I only date women who are over 80 years old, they never ask anything of you except to walk their dogs."




Charles Nelson Reilly was the last of the royal dandies, such as Edward Everett Horton, Clifton Webb, Franklin Pangborn, and on television Paul Lynde, James Coco. Dozens of books have been written about these men who were well know as homosexuals, and played asexual characters such as, prissy clerks, henpecked husbands, and ineffective, non-threatening villains. Then the 80's came and with it AIDS and suddenly homosexuals were no longer funny. Gone were men with goofy laughs and bitchy snears; And at the same time Charles Nelson Reilly seemed to disappear.



There was a time before downloading songs from the Internet that I'd have to take the bus downtown to the Cultural Center and go to their listening center where I would spend hours playing recordings of Broadway cast recordings. It was where I found out that CNR was a Broadway actor before he ever wore a big hat in Lidsville. His version of "Coffee Break" from "How to Succeed in Business With Out Really Trying", still rings in my ears. I thought I had a copy of it to share, but I don't...

I do however have a fairly rare album of Charles and his HTSIBWORT co-star Robert Morse doing show-stopping comedy songs...

Click to hear: A Jolly Theatrical Season
and the very weird: Lolita
Luckily someone filmed his last theatrical outing, "Save it for the Stage". Here's the Preview.


RIP Charles, there aren't many like you left...

5 comments:

BC said...

As an 8 year old kid, I made sure I was home every day to catch Match Game. At the end, when they showed the stars chatting, I would pretend to be on the show with them, and talk and laugh, scaring my mother, I'm sure. I loved Charles! Have you seen his X-Files episode? So brilliant & a classic.

Johnny C said...

I've not seen the X-Files, yet... I'm doing a complete viewing of the series, but I'm only in the 1st season. Charles was far talented than we probably suspected; I think we should all wear ascots for the week in memory.

And I have the box set of Match Game show... I think I smell a video party.

Johnny C said...

I've made some changes to the post and added a new improved version of the Bic Banana commercial.

Aaron said...

I loved Charles and Joanne Worley on Match Game! (I remember how they changed the year every year: first it was "Match Game '74," then one day it was "Match Game '75." I finally got it.) BC, I used to pretend to be talking and laughing with them, too! (Of course, I did the same thing with Maude and with Erica Kane's mother when I watched them, too...)

Johnny C said...

Talking to the characters on the TV!? You guys are nuts! I've proven to myself time and again that they can't hear you, not unless you get really close to the screen.

And Aaron: I remember that the high point of every year was the big New Year's show where they would change the year... It was a can't miss event when I was a teenager.