My grandmother and I followed my mother here, to a house a block north of Hollywood Boulevard but a million miles away from Hollywood, if you know what I mean. We would hang out behind the ropes and look at the movie stars arriving at the premieres.
I had it in my contract with CBS, a very weird clause that was never written before and certainly not since, that if I wanted to do a variety show within the first five years of the contract, CBS would have to put it on for 30 shows.
I'm glad I was born when I was. My time was the golden age of variety. If I were starting out again now, maybe things would happen for me, but it certainly would not be on a variety show with 28 musicians, 12 dancers, two major guest stars, 50 costumes a week by Bob Mackie. The networks just wouldn't spend the money today.
When I was in college at UCLA, I took a playwriting course. I was all set to be a writer. But I had to take this acting class as a theater arts major. I had to do this scene in a one-act comedy. I just said this line, and then... this laugh happened. I thought, 'Whoa. This is a really good feeling. What have I been missing?'
In '57, I got a job at the Blue Angel nightclub, and a gentleman named Ken Welch wrote all my material for me. I lived at a place called the Rehearsal Club that was actually the basis for a play called Stage Door.
I was in California, and I was going to UCLA, and I knew I certainly didn't have movie star looks. I remember seeing pictures and photos of Ethel Merman and Mary Martin, who were kind of average looking. I said, 'Well, that's for me, then, to go back to New York and try to be in musical comedy on Broadway.'
Everybody I know who is funny, it's in them. You can teach timing, or some people are able to tell a joke, though I don't like to tell jokes. But I think you have to be born with a sense of humor and a sense of timing.