They're old and primitive, a wooden fork with three wide prongs and a spoon with a an indention for an egg. That's because one fresh egg was the essential ingredient in my dad's Cesar Salad, which still ranks as the best I've had.
I cleaned up the old wooden utensils (after their long stint in the garage) and applied mineral oil. Then I used the legacy tossers to make a giant salad for my children, both of them here in the house for Father's Day weekend. Yeah.
This all brought back memories of the Sixties, when mom, dad and I were back in the house in South Florida. A lot was going on any Saturday night -- family and friends rolling in; dog-and-kids shenanigans. Things more or less came to a halt, though, when the Great One made his appearance, in glorious TV color.
When roundmouthed announcer Johnny Olson promised, "From Miami Beach, the sun and fun capital of the world, it's 'The Jackie Gleason Show!' " there was hometown pride aplenty in the living room: Gleason's arrival from New York was a civic coup for sleepy South Florida. I was even born down the road from his TV show's theater, in Coral Gables.
MPI Home Video has released a trio of DVDs with "The Honeymooners" hourlong episodes from that period. The latest, "The Color Honeymooners Starring Jackie Gleason: Collection 3," came out a few weeks ago with 12 episodes over three discs.
The old "classic 39" episodes of "The Honeymooners" -- with Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph -- were mostly known to us from syndicated reruns. That show about a blustering Brooklyn bus driver and his garbage man pal lasted only one season, a ratings dud that eventually proved immortal.
The black and white "Honeymooners" was the second-go-round for the characters, following their debut on Gleason's "Cavalcade of Stars." The comedian kept the bits going for the rest of his career. MPI's next "Color Honeymooners," due in August, features a 1973 reunion sketch.
Revisiting "The Color Honeymooners" had its pleasures and disappointments. Mostly pleasures.
Meadows and Randolph didn't make the trip south with Gleason; they were replaced by Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean, both capable but ... just not the real deal. The new lineup debuted in season 1 (the first MPI DVD), as the gang won free trips to Europe.
No one confused these episodes with the originals, even if some of the material was recycled. Instead of lean half-hour sitcoms, we had hourlong color comedies with opening musical productions and a song-and-dance bit or two from the characters. The Gleason spokesmodels and the June Taylor Dancers provided beauty and froth. (June Taylor's dance company also provided me with my first lover, but that's a story for another time. ... )
Gleason wasn't much for rehearsals, with all that golf, seafood and booze to soak up in Miami. The actors screwed up a few times a show, flubbing lines and whatnot, which feels a bit odd contrasted with the Broadway-like music, dance and production elements. But the great "Honeymooners" comedy duo still had it going, their interplay sometimes better and wiser than in the old shows.
Gleason and Carney were just OK as singers (white rappers, really). The ladies brought their musical theater voices, though, and once in a while a number really connected. On Collection 3, check out Carney and Kean making a racket with a great vaudeville-like song in "Be It Ever So Humble." So good it's startling. Carney won three Emmys for his acting on the show.
Gleason's Miami series also broadcast regular variety shows, but none of those are included here.
On all three of these DVD collections, the video starts off with a thud -- the opening flying-into-Miami Beach footage remains in sorry shape. Once things move to the stage, colors look soft but generally pleasing. (The show was an early user of color video tape.) The images are full screen, of course, and the audio is just-OK mono.
Collection 1 has a short film detailing the Great One's publicity stunt train ride from N.Y. to Miami, an old fashioned whistle-stop campaign that had the nation talking. "And away we go," Gleason said, and he meant it.
Update 6/22: The man from the Times wasn't even remotely enthused. Read the "Honeymooners" DVD set pan. I think he missed the point -- the review is like dumping on a Beach Boys reunion concert for not having the magic of the 1960s band.