Brushes with Greatness - Milton Berle

Uncle Miltie's Butt

In 1996, I was asked to put together a film clip tribute celebrating Milton Berle’s 90th birthday for HBO’s Comic Relief. I edited some clips together and invited Milton by our office to give us his input. Although it was over 90 degrees out, he arrived in a hat and coat with a raincoat slung over his arm. When I took his overcoat he said, “My mother always said, ‘never go out without a coat". As he sat down to watch the monitor his pants suddenly disappeared into shorts, revealing long skinny white, bruised legs, connecting his pant legs and socks. I tried not to laugh as he re-lit his ever-present Havana Cigar. “Of course they’re not from Cuba, that would be illegal” he lied as he offered me one. Rather than get nauseas before the screening even started, I declined. I started to describe the clips, cracked a few jokes, “Only Berle talks”, he bellowed. I decided it was time to run the clips.

My clips started with his first filmed appearance in a Charlie Chaplin movie “Tillie’s Punctured Romance”, and rolled through his long and memorable TV career. His life spun before his eyes. When it was done, he said. “I was good, wasn’t I baby?”. From then on I was only referred to as “baby”. He had a suggestion or two about big stars he had on his show with him, but basically, he was happy and asked to use the bathroom. I volunteered to walk him there and took the opportunity to ask a few questions. “You were responsible for selling more televisions than anyone” “Yeah, he quipped back, “My uncle sold his, my cousin sold his…” then as we passed a photo of Marilyn Monroe, I asked him, “Did I read somewhere that you shtupped Marilyn?”, He stopped, shook his head and said, “What a piece”. I followed up by reminding him that Marilyn had bragged to people about how well endowed he was. “Was it true?” I asked. “I don’t know”, he answered, "I tried to look a couple of times, but I always faint before I can get unzipped." I let him use the powder room by himself, so I cannot prove or disprove the rumor.

As he was leaving, I saw his half smoked Havana sitting in my ashtray, “Unclie Miltie, would you sign this for me?” Ooops, I had gone from being the consummate professional to a fan. “I can’t, I’m old, it’s really hard”. “Please,” I pleaded.” He signed, and now Uncle Miltie’s butt is the prized relic in my TV Shrine. “Thanks for coming” I shouted as he got into his car. “That’s what my wife said this morning” he shouted back as his manager drove him away. All Rights Reserved 2012