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August 15, 2014

Danny Kaye and Bob Hope

Roy Meachum

He was playing London; decided to come over to occupied Germany. We heard the stories about Danny Kaye and Lawrence Olivier. The Army decided I was going to be an escort. Readers may have heard the American Forces Network too much; my regular duties were at AFN Frankfurt, the headquarters, and I lived in the castle.


Wiesbaden was the first show. That was early on in the Germans called Luftbruecke (the Air Bridges) and the native population was right; there was a series of planes landing and taking off. And always did.


Berlin was the second stop. We were late, particularly when Soviet jets decided to interfere, blocking our path to East Germany. The Reds had a history of messing up the U.S., British and French flights intentionally. Anyway our pilot managed to get things right. We landed at Templehof, rushing to the place where we had been scheduled – the military police serenaded the streets.


Danny Kaye’s accompanist, Sammy Prager, managed to keep himself invisible, although it was the hardest when playing Ping-Pong. As for the star of the show, I don’t remember any set in which Danny was victorious. He used all the tactics, body language and facial expressions to win. But luck eluded him every time. In the shows he triumphed.


A noisy claque appeared in the Nuremberg opera house, consisting of one woman. Every time Danny opened his mouth, she was there. Can you imagine she interrupted the brilliant comedian at every turn? At one point he telegraphed his intention to get rid of the heckler. He stepped up to the footlights and bent down toward the audience, holding his hand to shield his eyes.


“I didn’t recognize you with all your clothes on,” he said. The rest of the stint went off, with the silence of the heckler. I learned from the master performer. I think that his tour wound up in Bad Nauheim, so the highest Special Services ranks could see him. At the end, the producer-writer could not deliver the script, trusting on us (Danny Kaye and me).


Bob Hope brought the cast and tech crew to the Palmengarten Special Services Club. Things went without a hitch. I remember his allusions to Milton Berle, not making a copy to feed him; at this point I have been overseas months and months, I didn’t realize the comedian’s influence on post-war television.


Mr. Hope managed to work in that Sunday evening without a hitch.


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