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Jack Carter


Story of My Life: Left Out!

Jack Carter was a performer for seven decades. He did movies, television, theater, nightclubs. Fred Allen, Ed Sullivan, Sammy Davis Junior, Judy Garland . . . he knew and worked with the brightest luminaries of their day. He outlived every personality who replaced him on a show. Even a summary of his highlights would run for screens, so, to keep sparkling and punchy like Jack, here are some "did you know" fun facts, culled from an 2011 extended interview with Kliph Nesteroff, and to keep it thematic, a lot of Jack Carter's work has been . . . left out.
In 1949, Carter hosted a television variety program called Cavalcade of Stars, on the DuMont Network. After one year, he was lured by NBC to do his own show, so he recommended Jackie Gleason as a replacement host. The Jack Carter Show, broadcast from Chicago, filled the first hour of NBC's "Saturday Night Revue," and the comedian opened it with a stand-up routine that poked fun at the day's news, a device that late-night comics still use. From there, the show moved on to music and comedy skits, followed by Your Show of Shows.

Watching the film My Favorite Year, you might think of a certain swashbuckling, boozy Tasmanian actor portrayed by Peter O'Toole. The real story came from Carter: David Niven was the film actor slightly unnerved by live television. "Niven had no idea we were live. He wanted signs in the wings to read from. We put together a sketch he would be comfortable with, but that was a disaster trying to get through that show with Niven."

Carter's all-time favorite city was Vancouver. For a time he was "King of the Cave," a performance venue. It was in Vancouver where he met Morey Amsterdam, and where he nearly lost his fingers in a game show hosted by Alex Trebek.

"Yeah, there was this game show where the set went up and down. If you missed a question, the set went up or down. I tried to hold on to the set as a gag. I didn't realize it was coming down with these steel clamps. Caught my hand and nearly took my fingers off. They rushed me off to the hospital somewhere. The producer was a friend of mine, Bill Armstrong. Yes, the set went up and down and I thought if I held on it wouldn't go down, but my hands got caught in a metal brace."

Carter was also almost half of television's "Odd Couple." "Yeah, I had it. It was me and Tony Randall originally for the TV show. I went to lunch with Sol Leon, my agent, and he said, 'I've got some bad news. You're out of the show.' 'Why?' 'Somebody said they can't have two comics. They've got to have one who's a straight actor. It's going to Klugman.'"

Jack Carter's first two marriages, to Paula Stewart and Joan Mann, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife, the former Roxanne Stone; two sons, Michael and Chase; a daughter, Wendy Carter; and two grandchildren.

--Keister Button

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