Tenacious, cigar-chomping comedian Milton Berle (1908-2002 ) was born Mendel Berlinger on this day in New York City. "Mr. Television," and "Uncle Miltie" made history as the host The Texaco Star Theater (1948-1956), becoming television's first and biggest star.
"Marriage is one of the few institutions that allow a man to do as his wife pleases," said Berle, known for his wild gags and costumes.
At the height of his fame in 1951, NBC signed Berle to a 30-year "lifetime" contract, which paid $100,000 a year, whether he worked or not. Not bad for a childfrom Harlem whose ambitious stage mother steered him to vaudeville. At age five, Berle won a talent contest with his imitation of Charlie Chaplin.
After that, there was no stopping him.
"A worm has some things going for it. For instance ó it canít fall down!" joked Berle who made his Broadway debut in 1920.
He was eventually toppled from television by the sermons of Fulton Sheen. Of it, Berle cracked, "The Bishop had better writers."
During his long career, Berle appeared in over 70 films. He influenced the comedians who followed. "Too many people simply give up too easily," he once said. "You have to keep the desire to forge ahead, and you have to be able to take the bruises of unsuccess. Success is just one long street fight."
Comic Alan King praised his mentor Berle as "a grand clown in the tradition of Bobby Clarke, Willie Howard and Burt Lahr. He was part vaudeville, part burlesque, part circus clown, and he was all show business."
Comedian Sid Casesar said Berle was "the first, the one that proved to the networks who were skeptical that the same man could do a different show every week."
Coax opportunity with initiative.