Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 25, 1980 · Page 12
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 12

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Monday, February 25, 1980
Page 12
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MONDAY, FEB. 23, 1980 Ipitlsburgt) ost-tfazcHc 13 ally WMmm Comic Killing' Em With Gags By MIKE JULINA Dennis Miller looks like an undernourished altar boy, and he has the kind of pallor associated with struggling artists, which he is. He travels on a fast-track of comedy and paints a dazzling array of whimsical to hilarious portraits with a succession of one-liners, monologues, sight gags and jokes. like Pittsburg) because it's so ethnic. The other nigit I went to a nigitclub on the Southside. It had .a threepcrog minimum. Miller, 26, "minored in obscurity" at Point Park College, but as soon as he got his diploma he realized he was unsuited for a white-collar existence: "If I don't really like something, I do it badly," said the Castle Shannon native. "I had a tendency to get fired from one job after another. Then one day I saw some comics work and I thought, hey, I can do that And I debuted at the Oaks Lounge on Sleepy Hollow Road, Castle Shannon, about a year ago. Was his comedic debut a mere 11 months ago the traditional disastrous experience from which he would eventually recover after sealing himself in his room, determined never to fail again? No. "I was a smash. I killed! But the house was filled with all of my relatives. It was like playing the Waltons' dinner table." I was bom 11-3-51 No, that's not a day bid the combination of the locker they found me in at the Greyhound terminal. After playing some small clubs throughout Western Pennsylvania, he managed to scrape $1,000 together and headed for the Big Apple. . "I had to bribe a landlord $200 to get the apartment The security deposit was $250. And the first month's rent was $250. 1 was in New York 15 minutes and out $700 all for an apartment that looked like the bunker they found Hitler in." An in-depth Nick Perry interview: "What's your name? Where do you work? Do you like sports? Do you eat? Do you sleep? Are you alive? Do you like lasaffia?" ; m ; ,: x: m N' ill - -? 1 ' r. . 1 j Miller supported himself with a succession of odd jobs from bartender to payroll clerk and at night made the rounds of New York's top showcase clubs: the Improvisation, the Comic Strip and Catch a Rising Star. His first big break came when he tried out for the New York Laff-Off Contest "There were only 40 slots to be filled in the contest" he said, "and 32 of them were filled up front with the top regulars at the three clubs involved in the competition. That left eight openings and 350 people tried out for them. I was surprised to be one that made it "The problem was that a lot of the guys in the competition were heavies. Some had done Carson, Griffin, Douglas. And they had hours of material All I had was 10 minutes." But Miller killed at the Improv "would you believe, a standing ovation?" and made it to the finals of the Laff-Off. In the process, he was seen by dozens of agents and, as a result got bookings at clubs and colleges. was watching "Let's Make a Deal" reruns last nigit and saw Monty Hall stump the audience by offering 50 bucks to anyone who could produce some digiity or self-respect The Laff-Off experience also did wonders for Dennis Miller hams it up for camera. Miller's ego and paved the groundwork for some new and brighter material, which he performs in New York as well as Pittsburgh. He recently performed at Tuesday's comic's night at the Portfolio on Craig Street in Oakland, and tonight will be performing in a one-man concert at Brandy's, the popular Strip District restaurant at 2323 Perm Ave. Miller's ego was swelled by winning $500 in a "Funny Money" contest sponsored by Playboy Magazine. More than 12,000 people submitted 216,000 jokes to an all-star panel, which included the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, David Brenner, Art Buchwald, Bill Cosby, Martin Mull and Buck Henry. And Miller was a tie for runner-up. News bulletin: A gvup of rnilitirized pgxrs CHARLES STUEBMNPMt-Guefle today overthrew the government of Ecuador in a majx political cooooooooa Miller will be returning to New York after an appearance tomorrow at the Portfolio and he will be "feeding the monster by day" - eking out a living at whatever is available and hurliog jokes at New Yorkers by night "Oh, yeah, I almost forget I'm going to be immortalized by Hustler Magazine," Miller said. Hustler Magazine? "Yeah. In a forthcoming issue they're featuring me in an article called The 10 Funniest People in, America You'll Never See on TV.'" But Hustler may be wrong. Someday you probably will see Dennis Miller on TV. Inflation, Labels Top Shopper Concerns By WOODENE MERRIMAN Eder, Better Living FORT LAUDERDALE - Inflation has hurt the American diet. Food shoppers are more interested in a good price than in good nutrition now, Sen. George McGovern's Subcommittee on Nutrition was told here. First results of a Yankelovich, Skelly and White study commissioned by Woman's Day magazine show consumer concern for good nutrition had declined in the last two years. "Shockingly, inflation is taking its toll. Consumers are now shopping for price first," Jeanne Voltz, the magazine's food editor, said. "It understandable, but deplorable," McGovern answered. - Previously, the magazine had found that 77 percent of Americans indicated a primary interest in good nutrition. Mrs. Voltz was one of some 60 magazine and newspaper editors asked to testify, before the subcommittee here, reporting a sampling of their readers' conceptions and misconceptions about food. In Atlanta, Ga., people want more information about sugar and salt on food labels, Anne Byrne of the Atlanta Journal said. In Toledo, Ohio, they'd like to see standard measurements for serving sizes on package labels, according to Mary Alice Powell of the Toledo Blade. In St Louis, people are "confused about food labeling and selfish. They're not really interested in what's on a food label until they have a diet problem," said Karen Marshall of the Globe-Democrat In Fort Worth, Texas, according to JoAnn Vachule of the Star-Telegram, what people hear on radio talk shows is often what they believe about nutrition regardless of whether it's true. As the testimony went on through the morning, it became clear that the concerns of consumers from Pittsburg, Calif., to Pittsburgh, Pa., are much the same. Consumers are confused by multisyllable chemical words on packages. They don't know the difference be-' 111 ,i-x, v f e.y Does Pittsburgh Talent Really Need New York? 4 ! v hilt Y?'ytM f- '-?x : 1 v-' I " "m- '"- ft v. 7 1 if PAU. StANTSPoslelle Tiffany Graham, 7, holds plate of spaghetti and tossed salad, a meal her class had for lunch at end of study on food. tween additives and preservatives' and they assume both are bad. A generation ago, when Mom made the apple pie, they knew exactly what was in it. Now they buy the apple pie and it can have a multitude of ingredients, such as four kinds of sugar. "Consumers have a right to know what's in the pie, and they must know, for good health," Mrs. Voltz argued. "That's why we need laws for labeling." Yet she admitted, consumers now read the calorie count on the label, but not much else. Most don't check to make sure they're getting enough of each important nutrient each day. They take a vitamin pill and forget it And there are still mysteries in the (Continued on Page 15) He used to play piano in a place called The Little Red Door in an alley Downtown and he was good. Just a kid from East Liberty who had gone to Peabody High School. Local musicians would drop in to listen to him but he really wasn't that well known to the public. Just another piano player in a night spot. Probably making enough money to keep up with his car payments. Then, he went to New York and within a year he was being hailed as one of the greatest. Lot of people thought he was the greatest jazz pianist of all time. When he returned to Pittsburgh to play at old Mercur's Music Bar, he must've been paid 10 times as much as he earned at The Little Red Door. Errol Garner, whose death was noted throughout the United States and Europe and probably on other continents. Errol Gamer, a pianist of unique talent. Recognized. Sometimes I wonder whether Errol Garner would have been remembered anywhere but in East Liberty and Downtown if he hadn't received the New York "seal of approval." He was the "world's greatest jazz pianist" no matter where he played but would he have been recognized as such without the New York- acceptance? I doubt it Now, I really like New York and, personally, I don't think there's any self-serving conspiracy of condescension upon the part of New Yorkers to put down the talents of musicians, artists, poets, writers and similar strivers from other parts of the country. Actually, most who receive acclaim from New Yorkers are out-of-towners. The problem, I think, is with non-New Yorkers. Sort of an inferiority complex that results in recognition of talent being withheld until the New York "imprimatur" has been granted. I just heard of a guy whose experience, as told to me, illustrates what I'm talking about The way I heard it this young man tried to get some work as an actor in TV commercials but hardly made enough money to live on hamburgers. He went to New York, got a New York address, joined some New York association and then came back to Pittsburgh. Now, I'm told, he has it made because he's a "New York pro." Still the same guy who couldn't get work here as a Pittsburgher. It isn't only in the arts and related fields that the nearsightedness toward local talent exists. Despite all the national and international corporate headquarters located here, practically all the big public relations accounts go to non-Pittsburgh firms. Usually New York-based firms. And, while I welcome people from anywhere, it always seemed outrageous to me that guys are brought here from all over to work on construction projects while local people are out of work. But, it's in the area of the arts that local talent suffers most grievously. I'm convinced that many, many very talented people have been denied recognition because, for personal reasons, they have been unable to do what is necessary to win the New York "seal of approval." To win that approval, such hopefuls would have had to go to New York. New York won't come to them. Now, some people can live on art and love but three square meals a day makes it easier. And, there are little things like rent and bus Our Towne By Joe Browne - fare and maybe a jug of wine now and then. Which means the man or woman seeking recognition has to take some menial job, which not only brings on backache but cuts into the time and energy needed for the real purpose of being in New York. So, most talented people are forced to stay here and face the facts of life especially if they're married or expect to be. Get a job and, well, maybe some day I'll always believe that Nat Elbaum was one of the most talented actors I've ever watched perform. When the Playhouse was in its heyday, he lit up the stage in every play in which he appeared. I can still see him in "All My Sons." Why he never went to New York and the "big time" I don't know - but I suspect it was because he had responsibilities here that made it impossible. There are so many more like Nat -. "gems of purest ray serene." It's always been my hope that would be as smart as William Butler Yeats and those other Irish men and women who, in effect said "The hell with London and the Continent! We'll write our own plays about our own people and some day they'll come to us. And, the world's been going to the Abbey Theater since. Renaissance I, II or XXXII requires more than new buildings and champion sports teams. The talent's here Let's use it! Art Buchwald The Soft Sell At Chrysler - WASHINGTON - All right, we've asked you as nice as we could to buy a Chrysler car. First, Joe Garagiola offered you $500 off on any automobile from the Chrysler lot. Then Ricardo Montalban told you what a Chrysler product would do for your image. Finally, Chrysler's own chairman of the board, Lee Iacocca, decided to go on the air and beg. Well, maybe he didn't exactly beg. He asked you just to compare the major American models, and if you didn't think a Plymouth or a Dodge or a Chrysler was superior, that was your business. But he knew when you tried the competition, you would be fair about it and go for his product Well, you didn't, so Lee made you an offer you couldn't refuse. You could buy the car, and if you didn't like it, you could return it within 30 days and get your money back. You would have thought that the American people knew a good deal when they saw one. I mean, what more do you want Lee to do for you? Since you didn't take advantage of his offer, I'll tell you what I'll do. I haven't cleared this with Lee yet, but I know he'll go along with it. After all, he dropped one billion big ones last year, and he has no choice. If you buy a Chrysler automobile or truck within the next 90 days, we will give you a condominium in Florida, a four-year college education at Yale, Harvard, Princeton or MIT for any member of your family, a lifetime airline pass for any person over 21, a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and a quarter interest in the Alaska pipeline. I know what you're going to say - you already have a car. That's not the point. Once you drive a Chrysler, Lee and I know you'll never drive anything else again. So, here's our last offer. We're not even going to ask you to buy a car. AH we want you to do is to go to a Chrysler dealership and LOOK at one. Is that asking too much? Just stand outside the window and show some interest. If you do this, one of our salesmen will come out and present you with an original Rembrandt painting, signed by the artist himself. If you decide to come into the showroom, and open one of the doors of our models, we'll give you a diamond necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels, valued at $100,000. And if you decide to take a spin in the car, we'll present you with the franchise to any national football team in the league. We're being as nice about this as we possibly can. But if you still won't go out and buy an Omni, Volare or a Le Baron, then we will nave no choice but to get tough. We're going to put those automobiles on the road one way or another. If this means getting out there on the highway and smashing them into the car you are now driving and totaling it, so be it. I'm not saying we're going to do this. Lee happens to be dead set against it, but there are a lot of people in the company who want to take a hard line. You can lose megabucks in this business for just so long and then your patience wears thin. So all I'm saying is you either buy a Chrysler car the easy way or the hard way. It doesn't make any difference to me. I'm not in this business for my health. Bernhard Says Ethnic Jokes Cost Votes By ANDREW BERNHARD Things are getting pretty bad when a politician can no longer tell a joke lest it offend some of the voters he hoped would support him. A case in point is that of former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency. At the urging of newspapermen on his campaign airplane he recounted this one: "How do you tell the Polish one at a cockfight? "He's the one with the duck. "How do you tell the Italian? "He bets on the duck. "How do you know the Mafia is there? "The duck wins." AU right it's a pretty sad joke but it got the governor into trouble. He had hardly finished it when his issues adviser, traveling with him, said, "There goes Connecticut." Connecticut has a heavy ethnic population, including many Italians. Reagan promptly explained that he had not thought of the joke as poking fun at any ethnic group, least of all Italians. He had no prejudice against any ethnic group, some of his best friends were of ethnic origin and so on and so on. Reports of the incident got around and have been causing Reagan uneasiness despite his explanation. It set me to thinking of the way public attitudes toward ethnic groups seem to have changed since my youth. Out in the Midwest ethnic groups were numerous. Each group built its own churches, Swedes, Norwegians and Danes were largely Lutheran. Poles, Italians and French Canadians were mostly Roman Catholic. Each language group endlessly made fun of the others. They also told jokes on themselves. Vaudeville theaters leaned heavily on ethnic jokesters, notably German, Irish, Scandinavian, who made fun of themselves as well of the others. I remember notably two Scandinavian comedians, Olson and Johnson who, after touring vaudeville circuits for years, finally took their show to New York. It was a zany production called, "Hellzapoppin." The New York critics panned the show mercilessly but the public loved it The show was a sort of hodgepodge of skits and specialty acts mingled higgledy-piggledy. It ran on and on, to the discomfiture of the critics. But that was 30 or more years ago, before the American public became self-conscious about its racial and national origins. Poor Ronald Reagan evidently has not realized that public attitude have changed in recent years.

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