Red Skelton - Thursday, August 6, 2015 - Red Skelton

And so we come to the last of our three headlining performers at the 1963 Great Allentown Fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania!  All week, we have discussed the history of one of the oldest fairs in the United States and two of the other main attractions - Tennessee Ernie Ford and Jimmy Durante.  Today, we honor the performer for September 19, 20 and 21:  Red Skelton.

His real name was Richard Bernard Skelton and he was born in the year 1913 in the town of Vincennes, Indiana.  He would become known as "Red" because of his later communist leanings. Okay, that's not actually true.  It was because of his bright red hair.  Red's father died when he was two months old.  His childhood was dominated by harsh poverty, which led him to get his first job at the young age of seven.  He sold newspapers, learning how to talk a potential customer into giving him money if only to get him to be quiet.  One such client took a liking to the boy and bought all his newspapers and took him to the theater.  That client was Ed Wynn, who became Red's inspiration to become a performer himself.  He dropped out of school at 14 and performed in a medicine show, then in vaudeville, burlesque, the master of ceremonies at dance-a-thons (very popular at the time) and even on a showboat.  He was a comic natural, such that he inspired laughter whenever he attempted a dramatic roll.  

By 1939, Skelton had made it into Hollywood comedies, and did well as a protege of the much-admired (if little watched by that time) Buster Keaton.  Keaton trained Skelton on comedic timing, which improved his access to rolls in Hollywood, while also making him more appealing for radio and the new medium of television.  By the early '50s, Skelton had all but abandoned film, focusing his energy onto television, where his star rose and where he embraced the roll of one of America's great clowns.  Of course, he continued to perform live (he did so in the late Summer of 1963, after all), but his first love was always tv.  His The Red Skelton Hour proved very popular until it was cancelled in 1970 not because it lost its ratings, but because his network, CBS, felt that it needed to revamp its line-up and remove long-standing shows such as Skeltons, Ed Sullivan's and Jackie Gleason's.  Skelton never fully recovered from the blow and essentially retired from performance a few years later.  He passed away at the age of 84 in 1997, having left a legacy of smiles in his wake.
QUESTION:  Which of the following women never married Red Skelton?
A)  Edna Stillwell
B)  Ann Davis
C)  Georgia Davis
D)  Lothian Toland

WAR'S END.  History is filled with decisions that even in their time were controversial.  Today's anniversary is of an event that remains difficult to think about to this day.  It was exactly seventy years ago when the atomic bomb "Little Boy" was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 70,000 people instantly.  This event would lead to the end of the most devastating war in human history, but it would also lead to the beginning of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, that would maintain a sense of tension and fear across the world for over forty-five years.

QUOTE:  All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner. - Red Skelton

ANSWER:  B)  Ann Davis.  She played Alice in the Brady Bunch but never married Red Skelton.