Here's what inevitably happens. I share a movie with a friend or a loved one. Something I think they'll really like but probably have not seen. They love it, and I tell them "That was one of my Dad's favorite movies."

So here are some of those movies, my memories and thoughts, and what made them my Dad's favorites.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Jack Paar and the Water Closet Joke:

A bit of a departure for this entry - let's call it "My Dad's Favorite Joke."

On February 10, 1960, television icon and "Tonight Show" host Jack Paar told the following joke as part of the late night talk show:

"An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room, and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms, and when everything was settled, the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move. When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a "W.C." (water closet - what the British often call a toilet) around the place. So she immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there were a W.C. around. The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tired to discover the meaning of the letters W.C., and the only solution they could find for the letters was a Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote to the English lady the following note:

Dear Madam,

I take great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the house you occupy, in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and it is open on Sunday and Thursday only. As there are a great number of people and they are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early: although there is plenty of standing room as a rule. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it. While others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time. I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is a musical accompaniment. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expression on their faces. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people, since they feel it is a long felt need. My wife is rather delicate, so she can't attend regularly. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you if you wish, where you will be seen by all. For the children, there is a special time and place so that they will not disturb the elders. Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain,


The Schoolmaster."

The joke was also published in Paar's book "I Kid You Not," and it was a perennial favorite around our house. It was often a challenge to see who could read it aloud without laughing. I can clearly remember my Dad painstakingly working his way through a reading while trying to force his mouth from curling upwards in the smile that would undoubtledy open the door to full fledged laughter.

Paar described the joke as "a little anecdote given me by a friend. He got it from his thirteen-year-old niece, whose teacher had read it to her junior high school class. They had enjoyed it so much that the teacher had given each class member a copy."

So Paar was ill prepared when he discovered that the network censor, without notifying him, had cut the joke from the broadcast, leaving the impression that Paar had told a "smutty story." Paar asked that the offending material be aired the next night, and that the audience be allowed to decide whether it was offensive or not. The netword refused. The next night, a still angry Paar gave one of the most public, emotional and memorable resignation speeches of all time.

By March 7, Paar was back on the air hosting the Tonight Show. He strolled onto the stage, struck a pose before the expectant audience and uttered the infamous line "As I was saying before I was interrupted ..." The audience erupted in laughter.

He continued "I believe the last thing I said was 'There must be a better way to make a living than this.' Well, I've looked...and there isn't." He explained with his usual self-depricating honesty "Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I'm totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business, but I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past."

Two years later, in March of 1962, Paar left "The Tonight Show, " stating that he could no longer maintain the five-nights-a-week grind, and opening the door for replacement Johnny Carson. He moved to prime time with "The Jack Paar Program" airing weekly on Friday nights through 1965.

© 2009 Edward Bowen
© 2009 Edward Bowen