I tried to model my TV persona on the great David Letterman. I loved it when Dave played the straight man in a comedy bit. He knew – and you knew (and he knew you knew) – that it was all a gag. After 35 years and 5,000 TV segments, there were always a few folks who didn’t know my humor was shtick.
At Hoosier Park in Anderson many years ago, I asked a jockey to stand on a chair and allow me to interview him as “Otto, the world’s tallest jockey.“ The camera only revealed us above the waist. The jockey played it totally straight, even lamenting his poor basketball skills in high school. Turns out the horse’s owner was watching and had never met Otto – or seen me on TV – so she didn’t know I did shtick. She called Hoosier Park in a panic, concerned that her horse would be carrying a 6-foot 3-inch rider. How good an actor was Otto? He ended up playing the jockey in the movie “Secretariat.”
The Sybaris hotel is a place for lovers, complete with hot tubs, mirrors and some contrivances I don’t know the names of. I interviewed the owner in one of the rooms and behind us in bed were friends I had asked to be part of the show. There was no hanky-panky, but they kept peeking out from under the covers. The next day, some viewers told me I had inadvertently gone into an occupied room. Seriously?
“You really don’t want to wake up my husband.” That’s what Dick the Bruiser’s wife said to me when I knocked on their door at 5:30 in the morning almost 25 years ago. Bruiser then suddenly appeared and put me in a headlock and slammed my noggin into the Weber grill. Then he picked me up and threw me in the swimming pool. Prearranged? Naturally. But, the next day my aching body didn’t know the difference.