File puptcrit/puptcrit.0602, message 139

Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 20:39:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: [Puptcrit] Venrtiloquist Jerry Layne died Saturday, age 81 (fwd)

From: "Alan Cook" <>
Subject: Venrtiloquist Jerry Layne died Saturday,
	age 81. Frequent performer on Ed Sullivan/Toast of the Town TV shows
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2006 01:33:50 GMT

Since many on puptcrit are interested in That special branch of the Puppet Tree called Ventriloquism, this sad news has been submitted.


-----Original Message-----
From: Dennis Alwood
Sent: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 16:42:10 -0800
To: Alan Cook, Bill Nelson, Bob Isaacson, Burt Dubrow, David Erskine, Doug Preis, Glen Rappold, Jay Smith, Jeff Dunham, Jimmy Nelson, Joe Lopez, Kelly Asbury, Ken Groves, Matt Kimbro, Paul Zerdin, Randy Malick, Robert McRay, Todd Oliver, Tom Basso, Tom Ladshaw, Valentine Vox
Subject: Fw: VELVEL -

Rickie Layne, R.I.P.
Posted at 3:42 PM  Permalink<>

Ventriloquist Rickie Layne, who made 38 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show with his wooden friend Velvel, died Saturday at the age of 81. As this 2002 article in The Jewish Journal<> explains, Layne (born Richard Israel Cohen) owed his stardom to a recommendation from singer Nat King Cole.

Some additional details not in the article: The Sunset Strip nightclub mentioned in the piece was Ciro's, which was in the building where The Comedy Store is now housed. Cole's wife, Maria Cole, was playing there and her opening act, fresh from the Catskills and Miami hotel circuits, was Rickie Layne and Velvel. On October 23, 1955, Nat and Maria did the Sullivan show and told Ed about the wonderful Jewish comedian and his dummy with the Yiddish accent. Sullivan said he ordinarily liked to see an act before he booked it and that he wasn't travelling to the West Coast, where Layne was then working, for some time. Nat said, in effect, "Trust me on this one, Ed. Book the guy. If you don't love him, my next appearance with you is free."

Sullivan took the offer and Rickie Layne appeared on the January 1, 1956 episode of Ed's show, which was called Toast of the Town back then. Layne's lips moved more than Edgar Bergen's even but Velvel was hilarious and the act was immediately booked again, with many appearances to follow. Of all the acts that appeared on Sullivan's long-running variety series, only four others -- Wayne & Shuster, Topo Gigio, Jack Carter and Myron Cohen -- made more appearances than Rickie Layne and Velvel. He was one of Ed's main "go-to" guys when a given episode seemed in need of an extra comedy spot. (The Jewish Journal article says he made 48 appearances. It was actually 38.)

Alas, Layne's career did not much survive the end of the Sullivan program He barely worked after the late seventies. His last public performance seems to have been in 1997 when there was a show/party at The Improv in Hollywood to celebrate the 100th birthday of the great Seor Wences. I should post an article I wrote at the time about that wonderful evening, but one of the things that made it special was the appearance of Velvel. Not long after, I was fortunate to attend a private party for Rickie Layne that celebrated his life and career, and to hear him tell wonderful tales of his years playing the Borscht Circuit. It was amazing how many hotel and showroom owners couldn't quite grasp the fact that the insults (and demands for better pay) that came out of Velvel's mouth actually were the views of Mr. Layne.

Oddly enough, the other day in the hospital, I watched an Ed Sullivan special on that in-house comedy TV channel I mentioned and saw a few seconds of Velvel in great form. I wish someone would assemble a special or a DVD of those acts presented in full. With so many people like this leaving us, those clips are all we have to remember the great art form represented by variety performers like Rickie Layne. And, oh yeah -- Velvel, too.

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