The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters

Dean-Martin-and-Jonathan-Winters-Image

Dean Martin and Jonathan Winters as Maude Frickert
Photo credit – YouTube.com

Last month our friend from television, Jonathan Winters, passed away. We had the good fortune to work along side him for several years on the Dean Martin Comedy Hour, The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters and several Dean Martin TV specials. He was the master of improvisation and had a great influence on other comedians. Robin Williams was one those comedians who looked up to Jonathan. In a New York Times article, Robin called him, “a madman but angelic.” We think that is a perfect description. Jonathan’s death was a great loss to the world of entertainment. To remember him, we would like to share some memories of Jonathan from our book.

Jonathan-Winters-Dean-Martin-TV-Special-and-Guest-Stars-Image

Dean Martin’s Christmas in California – Photo courtesy of Robyn Whatley, one of Dean’s Golddiggers. Robyn is center next to Jonathan with her arms wrapped around Linda Lavin. With Patti Gribow, Mireille Mathieu & Crystal Gayle (far right)

Excerpts from BEYOND OUR WILDEST DREAMS

 “Linda: Our first TV show taping was The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters, a variety show which featured a spot where the comedian would rummage through his ‘attic,’ pick up some random object and do a whole monologue on it. We were on for something like eight shows, we shot two a day.”

Deborah-Pratt-Image

Deborah Pratt

Deborah Pratt, Golddigger 1973-1974:
Jonathan Winters’ mind was just so explosive, he was in his own world. My favorite
part was to come and watch the ending where he would take nothing and make it into fifty things just with the sound effects he did with his mouth while his hands were doing mime.”

 

Linda-(Alberici)-Eichberg-Image

Linda (Alberici) Eichberg

Linda: There was not much interaction with Jonathan Winters on the set but our trailers were side by side so I would talk to him outside the soundstage. I had pleasant conversations with him, he was very approachable, very mellow and warm when he wasn’t on stage.

One day when I was talking with Jonathan he invited me into his trailer. If it had been someone else I would have had second thoughts but not with Jonathan. In spite of his zany TV characters he was pretty normal, super nice and very intelligent. We talked about our mutual November birthdays and The Twilight Zone episode he did. I was a big fan of Twilight Zone.
Jonathan was an incredibly talented, funny guy. He invented lots of crazy characters, I adored his old lady character Maude Frickert. Every time he became her, everyone was hysterical with laughter. As Maude he stole every scene he was in. The other guest stars didn’t have a chance except to go with the flow and let whatever happened happen. That’s what was so great about his show, the improvisation and spontaneity.”

Maria-(Alberici)-Lauren-Image

Maria (Alberici) Lauren

 

Maria: Jonathan Winters as Maude Frickert was also a guest on The Dean Martin Comedy Hour. Dean would try to hold his own as Maude flirted shamelessly, his reactions were priceless. One smirk would say it all. Dean was the perfect straight man—although his TV persona could not walk a straight line.”

Dean Martin Golddiggers Christmas Special (Beyond Our Wildest Dreams)1

Dean Martin, Jonathan Winters and the Golddiggers from Dean Martin’s Christmas in California special.

A favorite Jonathan Winters TV clip is on the YouTube link below, narrated by producer, Greg Garrison. It’s too funny!

 

Our television debut as two of “The Golddiggers” was on The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters show. This YouTube contains a clip of our performance on his show along with a Larry King interview and recent highlights of our entertaining in “Showstoppers.”

Copyright – Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

Times with Lee Hale, Dean Martin Show – Musical Director

Is there a man who could be a director and teacher for countless young women of ambition and changing hormones and never lose his cool? Yes! His name is Lee Hale. Being two of “The Golddiggers” from 1973 and until 2003 (with a few years off in between), we had the opportunity to see the enormous respect Lee Hale earned from the show business community and from celebrities. We never once saw Lee lose his patience. He was always open to listening and would be generous with advice that would be both truthful and supportive. As the musical director and a producer of Dean’s TV Shows and Specials, he remained humble and kind, Lee was the person who made us, and all of Dean’s guest stars, feel comfortable.

ImageLee was a performer himself, so we knew he understood us as performers. He was also a gifted writer who wrote clever musical material for Dean Martin’s TV Shows and for “The Golddiggers” shows. He knew how to bring the best out of each girl by finding a special song that would make her shine. Lee had great musical instincts! Like an Uncle or a Dad, he had a genuine caring and supportive attitude. Lee Hale is the person responsible for bringing the Golddiggers act through several decades. He always believed in our singing abilities and he gave us challenging, showstopping material that grew us into leading ladies. In addition to our television appearances, we were a popular Las Vegas opening act that worked regularly for Dean Martin and many other stars until Dean’s retirement.

Lee Hale, still is a talented singer and songwriter. He was fantastic in our ‘Showstoppers’ “Golddiggers Reunion Show” with his original song, “Prostate Blues”. It brought the house down. He is our mentor and friend. Today, we are proud to be standing along side this versatile man as writers sharing our individual stories about Dean Martin and friends in our books. We are very grateful to him for the contributions he made to our book, “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams.”

Lee, we are so blessed to have had you in our lives! Happy Birthday Lee!!
With love, Maria Lauren and Linda Eichberg (Alberici Sisters)

Image

Alberici Sisters with Lee Hale at a recent book signing together

Excerpt from “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams”

“Lee Hale, Musical Director, The Dean Martin Show: Greg (Garrison) was always good to me because he kept upping my salary every year. I didn’t have any problem with him, he made it easy as far as The Dean Martin Show went because he never came around to rehearsals. Basically I put that show and the Golddiggers’ show together myself, just myself and the choreographer…

By the ninth season we were shooting on Saturdays. I would start on Monday putting together all the music for the show and deciding who was going to do what. Then on Tuesday we usually got our first guests in for rehearsal and they would rehearse Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On Friday we had a run through with all the staff, the cameramen and everybody involved in the show who hadn’t seen our rehearsals. And then on Saturday we were in the studio and we did all the camera work ahead of time and then the orchestra rehearsal was three hours in the afternoon. Greg’s motto was “We’re not making records” so we couldn’t go past that three-hour period. And I don’t think we ever did, we had to rush things along. The best part of it was, the writers and any agents or managers were not allowed at rehearsals so we just had the guests and us. The guests were always on their best behavior because they wanted to be part of a hit show so they didn’t give me any trouble…”  copyright, Beyond Our Wildest Dreams 2012 – 2013

                                         

                  Books by Lee HaleImage

Lee-Hale-Story

Purchase The Lee Hale Story: http://www.amazon.com/The-Lee-Hale-Story-Entertainers/dp/0984787801

Brothers of the Super Bowl – Sisters of the Super Stars!

What are the odds? Two brothers are coaching the dueling teams in the Super Bowl game. The San Francisco 49ers coach, Jim Harbaugh competes against the Baltimore Ravens coach, John Harbaugh.Brothers of the Super Bowl

Musically, the Super Bowl started with a touching rendition of “America the Beautiful” by the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir with Jennifer Hudson taking the lead to give it a gospel feel. Then, Alicia Keys gave a respectful rendition of the ”National Anthem” with a touch of jazz influence using just her voice and piano. The half-time was spectacular starring Beyonce. The production had an abundance of flashing lights, special effects and ‘girl power’; shortly after there was a power outage.

When the lights were all turned on, Baltimore took the win, a sweet victory for Raven’s star linebacker, Ray Lewis, who after 17 years is retiring. At the game conclusion, the brothers spoke the words, “I love you… congratulations.”

Love goes deep in families and sibling rivalry is natural but the competition can help us to be the best we can be.

~~~

Excerpts from “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams”

Maria and Linda: “What are the chances? The odds certainly were against us but out of thousands of young women, two humble girls from a family of nine children were chosen to be featured singers and dancers on The Dean Martin Comedy Hour.”

dean-martin-linda-eichberg-maria-lauren-the-alberici-sisters(med)

Dean Martin with The Alberici Sisters: Linda Eichberg & Maria Lauren

Maria and Linda: “Working with Dean was a safe haven for us and we continued performing with him until he retired in 1991.

Those were the happiest of times. We also felt Dean’s profound loss as he dealt with the tragic death of his son and we were there when Dean shared the details of his falling out with Frank Sinatra.

Looking back, it was a blessing to have each other to share this journey. There were many more adventures to challenge us and surprises beyond our wildest dreams but those are stories for another day.”

~~~

My sister, Linda Eichberg and I had the good fortune to entertain with super star legends as The Golddiggers and open for Dean Martin in Las Vegas until his last years before retirement. Dear to our hearts are the times in between our performances. We were like family sharing laughs, sorrows and tender moments.

Wishing you joyful moments. ~ Maria Lauren (aka) Maria Elena Alberici – Riccio

DEAN MARTIN’S RED HOT SCANDALS – The Alberici Sisters Sing!

Image

The Golddiggers on Dean Martin’s Red Hot Scandals of 1926 (Part 1) – left to right: Patti Pivarnik Gribow, Maria Lauren & Linda Eichberg (Alberici Sisters) Robyn Whatley, Peggy Gohl Stucker, Joyce Garro

Excerpt from BEYOND OUR WILDEST DREAMS

L.A. Times, November 6, 1976: “The music, fashions, and humor of the mid-1920s will all be featured on Dean Martin’s first special of the season, Dean Martin’s Red Hot Scandals of 1926, Monday, Nov. 8 from 10 to 11p.m. Appearing with Dean are Jonathan Winters, Dom DeLuise, Abe Vigoda, Hermione Bedeley, Georgia Engel, Charlene Ryan and the Golddiggers.”

Linda: “The special opened with a row of antique cars pulling up to a beautiful theater as we sang ‘Red Hot Scandals of 1926.’ We purposely sang in the jazzy style of the 1920s using high, thin voices. We sounded just like the ladies in the Gold Diggers movies from the 1930s.”

Maria: “…In one scene, Dean Martin joked individually with each of us and we all did a little singing solo spot too. We had a blast doing ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ with Dean. During the song, I was right next to him and at the end of each musical phrase, we would bump hips. Greg Garrison loved to get candid reactions from Dean so all the girls caught on and started doing the same hip action all together. We were knocking Dean all over the place. The look on his face was amusing, to say the least.” – copyright 2012 – 2013

YouTube link to see music & comedy bits from Dean’s Special, “Dean Martin’s Red Hot Scandals of 1926” & Alberici Sisters performances

 

dean-martin-the-golddiggers-abe vigoda-georgia-engel-red-hot-scandals© All rights reserved

“Modern Family” rings in the New Year with Laughs and Memories of The Dean Martin Show

LAINIE KAZAN, BILLY DEE WILLIAMS, ED O'NEILL

LAINIE KAZAN, BILLY DEE WILLIAMS, ED O’NEILL – MODERN FAMILY 2013 ABC

What fun it was to see fellow Dean Martin Show Alumni, Lainie Kazan on the ABC comedy hit, Modern Family. In the January 9, episode, Jay (Ed O’Neill) tries to plan a New Year’s Eve family get away for the adults at a hotel. Lainie guest stars as a hotel employee with an alter ego who befriends Jay. Imagine Jay’s surprise when he discovers Billy Dee Williams (playing himself) playing a poker game in the back room of that same hotel.

It was deja vu seeing Lainie and Billy together, since my sister, Maria Lauren and I spent some time with them not too long ago at a book and memorabilia show. We were signing our book, Beyond Our Wildest Dreams! Lee Hale, Dean Martin Show Musical Director, also attended “The Hollywood Show”. We had a lot to talk about with Lainie, who was a frequent and popular guest on the Dean Martin Television Show. It was like a family reunion; we had some crazy TV taping stories and memories to share together. Lainie was a delight.

Back to the show; my favorite part of the “New Year’s Eve” plot, is when Alex (Ariel Winter) and Haley (Sarah Hyland) team up together rather than doing their usual bickering and stay home to watch over the kids. Growing up with six sassy sisters, I can relate. Luke (Nolan Gould) wants to entertain a girl in his room and the angst Haley feels about keeping the situation from developing ends up making her realize she owes her mom “an apology”. Seeing Haley struggle with ‘walking a mile’ in her mom’s shoes is great!
Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell’s (JesseTyler Ferguson) adventures in trying to reconnect with the ‘party scene’ and feel young again were hilarious.

Image

LINDA ALBERICI EICHBERG ~ LAINIE KAZAN ~ MARIA LAUREN ALBERICI-RICCIO

Starting out this new year Maria and I would like to wish you and your family & extended family all the best. We hope you enjoy making memories together, beyond your wildest dreams. May laughter abound!
~ Linda Alberici Eichberg

Modern Family – “New Year’s Eve” episode, original air date – January 9, 2013
Also starring in the show: Philip ‘Phil’ Dunphy – (Ty Burrell), Claire Dunphy- (Julie Bowan), Gloria Pritchett – (Sohphia Vergara), ‘Manny’ Delgado (Rico Rodriguez), Lily Tucker-Pritchett – (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons)