by Tommy Gun
Sections on this page
Summary of the Book as a Whole
Facts About the Book
Book Flap Summary
How the Book Begins
Henry’s First Wife, Isobel
Henry on the Radio
A Few Random Anecdotes
Chapter 41 : (“I’ve Got a Secret”)
Table of Contents
Let me start off by saying that I’m really not much of a reader. I really don’t read books, and if I do, it’s probably a computer book. So I’m just going to try to show you what this book is all about, so you can judge for yourself whether you’d like it or not. To understand this page you should know that everything in the grey boxes are quotes from the book, including the stuff in parentheses. Any comments by me will NOT be in the boxes. Also, everything in the boxes is WORD-FOR-WORD (although it’s possible I made a typo, of course). There are some mistakes in the book, but I won’t be quoting too much of it, so you probably won’t see many here. The funny thing is that Henry misspelled the panelists’ names a few times, but I left them in. Can’t really blame him though, he didn’t have the internet. If there are any obvious mistakes like these, they will be followed by “[sic]” so you know it’s actually like that in the book.
Summary of the Book as a Whole
To put it simply, this book is about his life, as expected. He talks about his various jobs, various women, and anything else he feels like talking about. He talks about what it was like in the old days, which is interesting if you didn’t grow up then, but perhaps could be boring if you did. Maybe it will have a nostalgic appeal, though. He talks about parties he went to, people he met (some famous), and places he’s travelled to. The bottom line is, if you like Henry, and would have liked to sit and hear about his various escapades, you’ll like this book.
If you like the stuff you read on this page, then by all means, BUY THE BOOK! You can search for the lowest price on www.abebooks.com. I got the book for under $10, including shipping!
Facts About the Book
Here’s Morgan! The Original BAD BOY of Broadcasting by Henry Morgan
Retail Price: $22.00
299 Pages, 9 photos
Copyright 1994 by Henry Morgan
Jacket design by Walter Harper
61 Fourth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Book Flap Summary
Yes, here–at long last!–is the delightfully outrageous and utterly irreverent life (and loves!) of Henry Morgan.
“I’ve just spent a lifetime at a marvelous party, and I’d like to tell you all about it”–and he sure does! Peek over his shoulder as Henry is ceremoniously presented to President Eisenhower at a White House reception and read about his wacky run-ins with Ike.
Then see what happens when a drunken and furious Johnny Carson confronts and corners Morgan at a social gathering. And talking about parties, sultry Gloria Swanson seeks out Henry in order to invite him to a bash at her Manhattan duplex–with an unexpected outcome.
And there’s still more, much more. Come along with him as Morgan takes you through a flavorsome tour of Old New York, of Florenz Ziegfeld, Major Bowes Al Jolson, and the George White Scandals, all seen through the eyes of young Henry [sic]
Find out how Morgan blundered into his first radio job–and how he blew it. Meet Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer; Ed Sullivan and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor, along with scores more of the rich and famous that hobnobbed with him during his marvelous party.
Then there were his years on TV’s lively “I’ve Got a Secret,” and his many adventures as a panelist on the fondly-remembered show from the Golden Age of Television.
And last–but not least–see Henry Morgan in action, as The Bad Boy of Broadcasting brilliantly razzes his sponsors, his station and his world around him, to the delight of his vast and addicted radio audience who found him irresistible.
Read his book and you will, too!
How the Book Begins
The book starts off with his Obituary–“written while alive, January, 1994.” It’s a whole page of diseases he has had in childhood, and “later.” It also lists how many quarts of beer, cigarettes, etc. he has had. The very last line is “2 wives.” The next page contains two quotes, and the next page is a dedication “to the people who made it possible”–it’s a list of all of his doctors.
The intro is named, “A WORD OR TWO BEFORE I GO.” The first line of the book is:
I was an unloved child; neither parent ever molested me.
Any book that starts off that way HAS to be good in my opinion.
Henry’s First Wife, Isobel
Sometimes Henry seemed to hold some animosity towards women. Understandably so when you read about what he went through with his first wife. Here are some examples he gives in the book:
Lest it be thought that the bride and I spatted like foolish urchins caught up in the besotted fumblings of young love–that we were tender simpletons who groped and tottered and soughed in the twirlings of young love: Not so.
Item: The new Mrs. had moved in with me to my two enormous rooms in a solid old hotel. The bedroom had a small terrace overlooking Central Park.
I came ‘home’ one evening and the desk clerk handed me the key to a ‘newer’ suite. The madam had decided, without any consultation, without hint nor clue, to move. In the middle of the afternoon she had chosen a SMALLER, redecorated two-room, low-ceilinged arrangement that faced a building across the street. I still remember the stiffness of the fake-leather, yellow couch. Inside me, I raged.
Item: When we moved into an east side upper duplex which I had found, we had two bedrooms upstairs, one of which I had thought to make into an office for me and my writers. I came home one evening to find that she had managed to paper our bedroom in pink with an overlay of white ‘lace.’ When I had the temerity to suggest that I slept in that room, too, she announced that it was her room. I was free to decorate “your office” any way I chose. It may be of interest to note that she flatly refused to do anything to clean the all-but-unfurnished apartment. “I,” she announced, “am not a maid.”
The bathrooms were cleaned by me. The maid.
Item: Without notice, Mrs. Decorator sent out my dear old solid mahogany Governor Winthrop desk to be scraped and refinished in “blonde” and the pigeonholes painted GREEN. The legs had been removed and it sat with its poor bottom flat on the floor. It was ashamed to look at me.
Item: One day when I was out trying to keep off the dole, she sent out a mahogany chest of drawers, which had been made by my paternal grandfather in 1884, to be scraped down and refinished in the same terrifying style as the desk. By means of terrible threats I found out where it had been taken and managed to rescue it just as the craftsman started to sand down its top. I have it to this day, its poor lacerated scalp disguised by a wig of brownish marble.
Item: When I was making So This Is New York we lived at the Beverly Hills Hotel in a rather expensive suite. I came home from work one evening and the desk clerk handed me the key–to a whole bungalow! Miss America had decided, without consulting even her analyst, that she needed a grander place in which to entertain her LA-based family.
Item: I discovered that she had never learned to cook.
Item: (God, this is tiresome)–back in New York, immediately after my radio show was sold, she announced that she needed a fur coat. I explained that we had no money yet and brought in my accountant to show her the books. Would she mind starting off with something of wool? The Big Star’s wife went out and found a little number in beaver that cost one thousand five hundred dollars. In 1946!
Item: (Puff puff)–in L.A. she had bought a ‘picture’ hat. In a fatuous attempt to be an understanding husband I said she looked nice in it. She promptly went back to the joyful dealer and bought ELEVEN more.
A bit later Henry talks about a woman he was involved with named Simone. This leads to another small rant about Isobel:
Before the question arises in your mind–why didn’t we get married? the answer is quite simple: Isobel and I had a legal separation, but she refused to get a divorce. It may seem odd to you but at that time a respectable man never sued; it was thought to be indecent. I was respectably employed in radio, and it just couldn’t be done. Isobel flatly refused to sue me for some six years…and at that, I had to sign away my life to get shed of her. Which, of course, I was never really to be. The only real guffaw I’ve ever had because of this woman was occasioned by the fact that when, because of her, I was blacklisted and therefore without a job, she sued me for back alimony!
Henry on the Radio
In between the records there were monologues. They were meant to be funny and sometimes they actually were.
Then there were the commercials. I couldn’t abide reading the junk the clients provided so I ad-libbed them in kind of breezy, off-handed fashion that sometimes bordered on the insulting. Listeners liked it, though, and something happened then that I don’t think has happened since, either on radio or TV, viz, the audience paid attention to the commercials. One of the clients was Adler Shoes. When they started with me they had two stores and inside of a year they had fourteen.
Well, as the fella says, “He who tooteth not his own horn doth not get it tooted.”
Incidentally, the shoes were called “Adler Elevator shoes” and the slogan was, “Now you can be taller than she is.”
Could YOU do that with a straight face?
You can’t win ’em all, as you know. For instance, Life Savers was an advertiser. One night I said that they were mulcting the public because when you got home and opened the package you found that the centers had been drilled out. I claimed that if the manufacturer would give me all those centers, I would market them as “Morgan’s Mint Middles” and say no more about it.
The manufacturer was a man named John Noble. He took umbrage at my use of the word “mulct”. He cancelled.
Years later at a Christmas party at the Blue Network of NBC, which Mr. Noble had recently bought, he came up to me and said, “Morgan, I’m still not sure that your way of advertising is wrong.”
I’m still not sure either.
At the end of each show I would give the weather forecast. Here are a few:
(“For New York City and vicinity”)–
–High winds followed by high skirts followed by me.
–Falling barometer followed by a loud crash.
–Snow, followed by little boys with sleds.
Henry was accused of being a communist. His name appeared in a book called Red Channels. Here is a letter Henry received:
VINCENT W. HARTNETT
541 East 20th Street
New York 10, N.Y.
February 10, 1952
Mr. Henry Morgan
310 East 50th St.
New York 22, N.Y.
Dear Mr. Morgan:
As you know, I am the originator of RED CHANNELS.
As you also know, only a small portion of your record in connection with Communist fronts was given in that book.
A new and much more complete book is now in preparation. It is not my intention to create undue hardship for anyone. Above and beyond telling the truth, I try to make it a work of supererogation not to refer to the past records of those who had conclusively broken with the Communist or Communist front movement.
I am familiar with the background of your anti-Communist position taken at the TVA meeting at City Center Casino on Thursday, January 24, 1952. I am also familiar with the status of your former wife, Isobel, and can make due allowance for the influence she may have exerted on you.
I enclose a confidential memo listing reported affiliations on your part with Communist fronts and causes. Only a few of these were used in my former book. If you care, in your own interests, to comment on these to me before I publish them, I shall be glad to hear your side of the story. It is imperative that I hear from you before Thursday, February 14th, if at all. It is also necessary that this matter be confidential between us. Should you attempt to draw a certain fraternal organization (which is now endeavoring to “clear” people) into our conversation, I shall consider the matter ended automatically. I simply do not have time to dissipate in endless discussions with pressure groups.
I wish to make it crystal clear that I am tendering you this opportunity to comment not because I have any obligation to do so, but purely gratuitously and without any expectation or desire of personal gain of any sort. I am acting out of a wish to protect you from undue hardship, in view of your position taken on January 24, 1952, a position which was productive of patriotic gains in the entertainment industry, no matter how belated.
(signed) Vincent W. Hartnett
Henry then goes on to explain…
Red Channels was a 212-page paperback published in June, 1950, by a faceless, nameless person or group of persons described in the book as “former FBI men.” (Italics his or theirs.)
It listed actors in radio and television who had, according to published (?) reports, appeared at dinners or attended rallies sponsored by alleged Communist front organizations. Or were members of organizations believed to be fronts.
We’re coming to something amusing.
I am mentioned three times. Once for being a member of something called Progressive Citizens of America (not true), once for having spoken by recording at a rally called by The Stop Censorship Committee, and once for making a collection pitch at a rally for Veterans Against Discriminations. (true.)
That’s not the funny part. (I’m assuming that you understand that if someone came to me today and asked me to speak out against discrimination or against censorship that I most certainly would. Even in full knowledge that once again, as in the past, some smart ass would decide ten years later that those were Communist fronts.)
The funny part is that I was, briefly, a member of something called the Duncan Parris Post of the American Legion. It took only two meetings of this group for me to discover, to my surprise, that it actually was dominated by Communists, so I quit. The funny part is that the wonderful “former FBI men” never even heard of this Post.
The secretary of the outfit, the one who kept the minutes, was a strikingly handsome girl, an ex-WAC sergeant named Ruth Cosgrove. She quit Duncan Parris when I did. Until her death a few years back she’d been Mrs. Milton Berle.
A Few Random Anecdotes
Here are some examples of the kinds of stories you’ll find in the book:
Understand, to make a telephone call, you picked up the receiver and waited until the operator said, “Number ple-uz.” Then you told the number to a living, human person. All operators were alike. Each was a white, middle-aged virgin who lived with her mother and a geranium. She was paid just enough to feed the geranium–so no operator ever retired–she just dropped dead of malnutrition. If she had a canary to feed, too, they both died a little sooner.
When you bought tomatoes next door, the man always picked over them, discarding the bad ones. Then he’d weigh them on a crooked scale and charged you a little less, making both sides happy.
Conversation between Frank and a waiter in a restaurant…
Chapter 41 : (“I’ve Got a Secret”)
This is the chapter about IGaS. He talks about it in other chapters as well, but not too much, and I’m not going to transcribe them here. He misspells Garry’s and Bess’s last names. The correct spellings are Myerson and Morfit, but I left the mistakes because I’m transcribing word-for-word.
The panel show I joined was chaired by Garry Moore and consisted of Bill Cullen, Faye Emerson and Jayne Meadows, sister of Audrey and, later, wife of Steve Allen.
The best looking of these people was Faye Emerson, a woman who, during the time I knew her, had been married, married the second time to Elliott Roosevelt, and thirdly to a sort of band leader named Skitch Henderson. She was vibrantly beautiful but her hips were much too broad (for what? for whom?) and she disguised them by dressing cleverly. She was fond of men but fought the strong ones and married the weaklings. She said to me once during a a marital hiatus–for both of us–that the reason I didn’t want to marry her was that she wasn’t Jewish. Not so. The reason was that I loved her the way I loved a great guy. Faye’s ‘motto’ was, “The good times are where I am,” and she meant it. And it was so.
We both played in summer theater a lot, and once I told her what I thought was the clever way in which I handled actors who ‘upstaged’ me.
Faye’s way was different…and more effective by far.
“When someone does that to me,” she said, “I take him aside after the show and say, ‘do that again and I’ll just stand there and glitter.'”
Which, of course, she could and did and it worked every time.
In a real sense nothing ever really worked out for her and she died in a lonely house far in the hills on the island of Majorca.
I doubt that she was as old as fifty.
Jayne was, and is, a charmer and a fine friend. She once thought me a possible match for her sister, but Audrey talked through her nose. Well, some of us are like that.
During my stay on “Secret” there were lots of pretty ladies. Larraine Day comes to mind, as does dear, delightful Betsy Palmer and a woman of whom we shall hear more, Bess Meyerson. [sic] (Boy, do I have a surprise for you!)
The most interesting of the lot was our leader, Thomas Garrison Moffit [sic], a convoluted man who used a name he had chosen in a contest–Garry Moore.
Once there was a party for Garry in a large tent at the back of his house in Rye, N.Y. It was a kind of serious evening which included Republican neighbors, the minister who married Garry to Nell, announcer Durward Kirby, and me. After dinner, there were lots and lots of toasts. Durward, a tall, craggy- faced man made the last of them, a small, craggy toast.
“To Garry, a man I’ve known for many years. I think I may say that he often reminds me of St. Joseph.” (PAUSE) “A small, undistinguished town in Missouri.”
The preceding lauds had all been heartfelt, and they were not misplaced. The persona Garry used for TV was that of a considerate, kind, honest man, both fair and warm.
Inside all that was an additional Garry, a highly intelligent and well-read man who just happened to be in show biz.
I mention Republicans. Garry never said what his politics were, but after knowing him for too many years to have to guess, I’d guess that he was a Democrat who lived like a Republican.
One day he invited me for a cruise on his swell, old eighty- foot schooner, Redwing. You may know someone like him; the ship was rigged in such fashion that when Garry felt like it, and most of the time he did, he could sail her by himself.
On this voyage there were four of us. Garry, a man named Al Smith, who had taught him sailing, a writer whose job was to “cook” har, har, and me.
The other gents had bunks. I slept on the floor in a bag. There may have been a message there, no?
Just one highlight: It tells a lot.
On the second night Garry piloted his sturdy band of Lascars up a narrow Connecticut river and, with a lot of “Danforth” and “heaving the lead” and “make fast” and other hake-and- flounder talk, we stopped. The noble corsair put out an anchor fore and one aft because of the current, or the wind, or the cow in the field about forty feet away.
At three in the morning (six bells, Connecticut ocean time), I tried to turn over in my little bag but couldn’t do it and the effort woke me. It seems (don’t you just love “it seems”?) that the river only existed at high tide and our gallant ship was lying at a forty-five degree angle in the mud.
By five A.M. we had the vessel roped to some trees so that it stopped listing.
Hours later the tide changed its mind and we were able to horse the damn thing out of the mud and up on its feet, like.
All-in-all it was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for forty, forty-five cents.
Once ashore, Garry and I went to his house to be greeted by a knowing Nell. In her presence, I called Garry “Peep.”
“Why Peep?” Nell asked me.
“Short for ‘people lover,'” I said.
She laughed herself into a fit, and we became friends.
One night I was doing my own local TV show and, in lighting a cigarette, I remarked that I was creating my own cancer. It didn’t occur to me, of course, that “Secret” was sponsored by Winston, the w.k. cancer purveyors. But it did occur to a viewer, a well-wisher who got in touch with Winston-Salem so fast that they fired me at dawn.
Garry flew down to North Carolina and talked them out of it.
What can you do with a guy like that? More to the point, what can you do without him?
In his retirement on the Atlantic coast he was quite happy. He sailed, he told me, every day.
Not alone. He was the crew for an aged New Englander who brought his schooner south. “Not Redwing,” Garry told me, “but she’s okay.”
Well sir, I had a job, so I rented a little penthouse with a grand view of the Hudson and I got off Ruby’s back. She took umbrage, married him and removed to California. I stayed on West End Avenue for the next fifteen years, happy as a bachelor with a steady flow of bucks can be–give or take about forty lawsuits from the old-time Mrs. Morgan.
On “Secret” I played, ha, ha, the heavy. I was the Dorothy Kilgallen, but with laughs. One night I wore a striped seersucker suit to a party where Miss Kilgallen said, en passant, “Where’d you get the mattress ticking, Henry?”
“Gee, Dorothy,” I said, “you know a lot more about mattresses than I do.”
She never spoke to me again, and that was a very nice thing to happen to a young man.
I realize now that I had a number of hobbies: Girls, traveling, girls, the theater, poker, making train models and also girls–I had a quarter-of-a-century of fun. When Secret went off the air I was making, or, rather, being paid, one thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars a week. I did ‘voice-over’ on TV and radio commercials on the side, played in stock and, in season, was a big help to various clubs and restaurants.
You might be wondering what Henry meant when he said,
“…and a woman of whom we shall hear more, Bess Meyerson. [sic] (Boy, do I have a surprise for you
Well, that makes it sound like they had an affair or something, but either that’s not what he meant, or he forgot to write about it, because he never says anything like that in the book. He does tell a story about being on a boat with Bess and her husband, and being in a huge storm. I don’t know if that qualifies as “a surprise,” but that’s really the only story about Bess. I guess the only way we’ll ever know is if someone asks Bess.
Table of Contents
There is no actual TOC in the book, so I typed them out here for anyone who is interested. Not all chapters are named, and there actually are TWO chapter 25s for some reason. The Chapter names are in bold, and the sub-chapters are in italics inside parentheses, separated by colons.
Chapter 0 : p.7 : O Tempura
Chapter 1 : p.9 : (Sex)
Chapter 2 : p.15 : Readers’ Rest Period (Eisenhower : Carson : Manny Zora : Rudy Vallee : Eartha Kitt : Gloria Swanson)
Chapter 3 : p.19 :
Chapter 4 : p.21 :
Chapter 5 : p.23 : Genesis
Chapter 6 : p.29 : (Daddums)
Chapter 7 : p.33 : (Toothy Amos)
Chapter 8 : p.39 :
Chapter 9 : p.45 :
Chapter 10 : p.47 :
Chapter 11 : p.53 : (More Games People Played)
Chapter 12 : p.57 :
Chapter 13 : p.63 : The Girls in Their Bright Summer Dresses
Chapter 14 : p.67 : Kinaani is an Indian Word, Mayhap
Chapter 15 : p.71 : Show Time!
Chapter 16 : p.73 : Palisades Park, 1928
Chapter 17 : p.75 : Goldie, 1927
Chapter 18 : p.83 : (The Formerly Club.)
Chapter 19 : p.87 : (1929 and 1930. Harrisburg, Pa. : Homer : The River)
Chapter 20 : p.93 : (Somewhere Above David Letterman’s Theatre)
Chapter 21 : p.97 : (1932 Radio)
Chapter 22 : p.101 : Lonely as a Goddam Cloud (Bouncing Again : Entre ‘Acte : ’33 and Philadelphia)
Chapter 23 : p.107 : (Sex, at last!)
Chapter 24 : p.111 : (Duluth, Minnesota)
Chapter 25 : p.113 : (Living With a Superior Undertaker : Wa Wa : But Back To My Knitting)
Chapter 25 : p.121 :
Chapter 26 : p.125 : What was the Depression Really Like? Don’t Ask. (Icumen In?)
Chapter 27 : p.129 : (Beantown)
Chapter 28 : p.133 :
Chapter 29 : p.139 : (Yo, Rocco!)
Chapter 30 : p.143 : Old Hotel. I Mean, Old. (Back To Earth)
Chapter 31 : p.149 : (Deep, Deep in the Heart Of)
Chapter 32 : p.151 : (The Country Club)
Chapter 33 : p.155 : (More Babble Babble)
Chapter 34 : p.163 : Is Icumen In
Chapter 35 : p.171 : (Simone : Burgos. : Madrid. : Barcelona. : Nice.)
Chapter 36 : p.183 : (From my diary)
Chapter 37 : p.191 :
Chapter 38 : p.195 : (The Hinge of Fate)
Chapter 39 : p.203 : Kindergarten Kafka
Chapter 40 : p.209 :
Chapter 41 : p.211 : (“I’ve Got a Secret”)
Chapter 42 : p.215 :
Chapter 43 : p.221 : Fred
Chapter 44 : p.227 : Emily or, My Affair with Mrs. Lundgren
Chapter 45 : p.231 : Borah
Chapter 46 : p.235 : A Short Muse
Chapter 47 : p.239 : (Thule (too-lee) Greenland, anyone?)
Chapter 48 : p.243 : (Bess Myerson and the Greek Islands)
Chapter 49 : p.249 : Wha’ Happen?
Chapter 50 : p.251 : Karen
Chapter 51 : p.257 : K-K-K-Kyoto
Chapter 52 : p.259 : Hong Kong
Chapter 53 : p.263 : Angkor Wat
Chapter 54 : p.265 : Phnom Bloody Penh
Chapter 55 : p.269 : Bursitis In Bangkok (From Karen’s Notes: : On The Phraya River)
Chapter 56 : p.275 : Canada
Chapter 57 : p.283 : The Little House on the, Uh, Dirt Road Up the Hill.
Chapter 58 : p.289 : City Boy. Again
Chapter 59 : p.291 : (July, 4 U.S.A. : The Glorious Fourth! : More Anon)
Chapter 60 : p.295 : If You Knew Karen Like I know Karen, Oh, Oh, Oh What a Girl! (L’Envol)