Buddy Hackett

Buddy Hackett (born Leonard Hacker; August 31, 1924 – June 30, 2003) was an American comedian and actor. His best remembered roles include Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man (1962); Benjy Benjamin in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963); Tennessee Steinmetz in The Love Bug (1968); and Scuttle in The Little Mermaid (1989).

Buddy Hackett
Buddy Hackett Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Trailer14
Leonard Hacker

August 31, 1924
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 30, 2003 (aged 78)
Alma materNew Utrecht High School
OccupationActor, comedian
Years active1950–2003
Sherry Cohen (m. 1955)
Children3, including Sandy Hackett

Early life

Hackett was one of two children born into a Jewish family living in Brooklyn, New York. His mother Anna (née Geller) worked in the garment trades while his father Philip Hacker was a furniture upholsterer,[1] and part-time inventor. Hackett grew up across from Public School 103 on 54th Street and 14th Avenue in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and was active in varsity football and drama club at New Utrecht High School.[1][2] Hackett suffered from Bell's palsy as a child, the lingering effects of which contributed to his distinctive slurred speech.[3]

While still a student, Hackett worked as a "tummler" (Yiddish for "tumult maker") entertaining guests in the Catskills Borscht Belt resorts.[1] While there, he began performing stand-up comedy in the resort nightclubs as "Butch Hacker".[4] He appeared first at the Golden Hotel in Hurleyville, New York, claiming later he did not get one single laugh.[2] Following his graduation from high school in 1942, Hackett enlisted in the United States Army and served during World War II for three years in an anti-aircraft battery.[1][2][5]


Early career

Hackett's first job after the war was at the Pink Elephant, a Brooklyn club. It was here that he changed his name from Leonard Hacker to Buddy Hackett.[6] He made appearances in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and continued to perform in the Catskills. He acted on Broadway, in Lunatics and Lovers, where Max Liebman saw him and put him in two television specials.

Hackett's movie career began in 1950 with a 10-minute "World of Sports" reel for Columbia Pictures called King of the Pins. The film demonstrated championship bowling techniques, with expert Joe Wilman demonstrating the right way and Hackett (in pantomime) exemplifying the wrong way. Hackett would not return to movies until 1953, after one of his nightclub routines attracted attention. With a rubber band around his head to slant his eyes, Hackett's "The Chinese Waiter" lampooned the heavy dialect, frustration, and communication problems encountered by a busy waiter in a Chinese restaurant: "No, we no have sprit-pea soup ... We gotta wonton, we got eh-roll ... No orda for her, juss orda for you!" The routine was such a hit that Hackett made a recording of it, and was hired to reprise it in the Universal-International musical Walking My Baby Back Home (1953), in which he was third-billed under Donald O'Connor and Janet Leigh.

Hackett was an emergency replacement for the similarly built Lou Costello in 1954. Abbott and Costello were set to make a feature-length comedy Fireman, Save My Child, featuring Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Several scenes had been shot with stunt doubles when Lou Costello was forced to withdraw due to illness. Universal-International salvaged the project by hiring Hugh O'Brian and Hackett to take over the Abbott and Costello roles, using already shot footage of the comedy duo in some long shots; Jones and his band became the main attraction.

Hackett became known to a wider audience when he appeared on television in the 1950s and '60s as a frequent guest on variety talk shows hosted by Jack Paar and Arthur Godfrey, telling brash, often off-color jokes, and mugging at the camera. Hackett was a frequent guest on both the Jack Paar and the Johnny Carson versions of The Tonight Show. According to the board game Trivial Pursuit, Hackett has the distinction of making the most guest appearances in the history of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. During this time, he also appeared as a panelist and mystery guest on CBS-TV's What's My Line? and filled in as emcee for the game show Treasure Hunt.[7] He made fifteen guest appearances on NBC-TV's The Perry Como Show between 1955 and 1961.[8] He appeared with his roommate Lenny Bruce on the Patrice Munsel Show (1957-1958), calling their comedy duo the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players,"[3] 20 years before the cast of Saturday Night Live used the same name.

Hackett appeared twice on ABC's The Rifleman, starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. In both episodes, "Bloodlines" (1959) and "The Clarence Bibs Story" (1961), his fellow guest star was Denver Pyle. He was cast as Daniel Malakie in "Bloodlines", the father of three boisterous brothers headed to trouble, and then as Clarence Bibs in the episode of that same name. Bibs is a handyman who after cleaning a gun accidentally kills a notorious outlaw, Wicks (Lee Van Cleef). Then, Wicks' former partner, George Tanner (Denver Pyle), comes to town but avoids confrontation with Bibs and accepts the explanation that Wicks' death was accidental.[9]


Hackett starred as the title character on NBC-TV's Stanley, a 1956–57 situation comedy which ran for 19 weeks on Monday evenings at 8:30 pm ET. The half-hour series also featured a young Carol Burnett and the voice of Paul Lynde. The Max Liebman produced program aired live before a studio audience and was one of the last sitcoms from New York to do so. Stanley revolved around the adventures of the titular character (Hackett) as the operator of a newsstand in a posh New York City hotel. On September 30, 1960, he appeared as himself in an episode of NBC's short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier, set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.

After starring on Broadway in I Had a Ball, Hackett appeared opposite Robert Preston in the film adaptation of The Music Man (1962). In It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Hackett was paired with Mickey Rooney, with whom he had also recently made Everything's Ducky (1961), in which they played two sailors who smuggle a talking duck aboard a Navy ship. Children became familiar with him as lovable hippie auto mechanic Tennessee Steinmetz in Disney's The Love Bug (1969).

He appeared many times on the game show Hollywood Squares in the late 1960s. In one episode, Hackett (who was Jewish) was asked which was the country with the highest ratio of doctors to populace; he answered Israel, or in his words, "The country with the most Jews." Despite the audience roaring with laughter (and Hackett's own belief that the actual answer was Sweden), the answer turned out to be correct. Hackett's regular guest shots on Jack Paar's Tonight Show in the early 1960s were rewarded with a coveted appearance on Paar's final Tonight program on March 29, 1962.

Later career

Buddy Hackett in 1973
Hackett in 1973

Hackett continued to appear on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show until Carson left the series in 1992.

In 1978, Hackett surprised many with his dramatic performance as Lou Costello in the television movie Bud and Lou opposite Harvey Korman as Bud Abbott. The film told the story of Abbott and Costello, and Hackett's portrayal was widely praised. He and Korman did a memorable rendition of the team's famous "Who's on First?" routine.

In 1979, Hackett was the voice of the groundhog "Pardon Me Pete", and the narrator of the Rankin/Bass Christmas special Jack Frost (1979). He starred in the 1980 film Hey Babe!. That same year, he hosted a syndicated revival of the 1950–61 Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life which lasted for one year.

Throughout the 1970s Hackett appeared regularly in TV ads for Tuscan Dairy popsicles and yogurt. But his most famous television campaign was for Lay's potato chips ("Nobody can eat just one!") which ran from 1968 to 1971; Hackett had succeeded Bert Lahr as Lay's spokesman. He guest-starred in the Space Rangers episode, "To Be Or Not To Be", as has-been comedian Lenny Hacker, a parody of his stage persona. The character's name was Hackett's own real name.


For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Hackett was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[10]

In April 1998, Hackett guest starred in an episode of LateLine called "Buddy Hackett". The episode focused on a news broadcast paying tribute to Hackett following his death, only to discover that the report of his death was a mistake. Robert Reich and Dick Gephardt also appeared in the episode, paying tribute to Hackett.

In his final years, Hackett had a recurring spot called "Tuesdays with Buddy" on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn in which he shared stories of his career and delivered some of his comedic routines.

In 1999 he appeared in 13 episodes of Fox's "Action" TV series as a security guard and chauffeur named Lonnie Dragon.

Personal life

On June 12, 1955, Hackett married Sherry Cohen. They lived in Leonia, New Jersey, in the late 1950s. In August 1958, they bought the house previously owned by deceased crime boss Albert Anastasia in Fort Lee, New Jersey.[11] After renovations, they moved in and lived there through most of the 1960s. In 2003, Hackett and his wife established the Singita Animal Sanctuary in California's San Fernando Valley.[12] Hackett's son, Sandy, followed his father into the comedy world, and for years opened for his father before his performances. Sandy created a one-man stage show about his father after his death.[3]

He was an avid firearms collector and owned a large collection that he sold off in his later years.[13]


In the early 1990s Hackett was diagnosed with severe heart disease, but steadfastly refused to consider bypass surgery; his heart disease was the primary cause of his death.[3] Hackett died on June 30, 2003, at his beach house in Malibu, California, at the age of 78.[14] His son, comedian Sandy Hackett, said his father had been suffering from diabetes for several years and suffered a stroke nearly a week before his death which may have contributed to his demise. Two days later, on July 2, 2003, he was cremated and his ashes were given to family and friends.[14]


  • How You Do (Coral CRL 757422)
  • The Original Chinese Waiter (Dot 3351, reissued as Pickwick SPC 3198)
  • Ba-Lert



Year Title Role Notes
1953 Walking My Baby Back Home Blimp Edwards
1954 Fireman Save My Child Smokey Hinkle
1958 God's Little Acre Pluto Swint also Sheriff Candidate
1961 All Hands on Deck Shrieking Eagle Garfield
Everything's Ducky Seaman Admiral John Paul 'Ad' Jones
1962 The Music Man Marcellus Washburn
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm Hans (Segment: 'The Singing Bone')
1963 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Benjy Benjamin
1964 Muscle Beach Party S.Z. Matts
The Golden Head Lionel Pack
1968 The Love Bug Tennessee Steinmetz
1969 The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Ed, one of the townsman Uncredited
1978 Loose Shoes Himself also S.T.O.P.-I.T Spokesman
1978 Bud and Lou Lou Costello TV movie
1979 Jack Frost Pardon-Me-Pete Voice, animated short
1983 Hey Babe! Sammy Cohen
1988 Scrooged Scrooge
1989 The Little Mermaid Scuttle Voice
1994 A Troll in Central Park Stanley originally recorded in production, but replaced by Dom DeLuise
1998 Paulie Artie
1999 Action Uncle Lonnie
2000 The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Scuttle Voice direct-to-video

Short subjects

Year Title Notes
1950 King of the Pins Pantomime
1961 The Shoes
1992 Mouse Soup Voice role
2015 The Concept Animation short by band HeCTA and Chris Shepherd


  1. ^ a b c d "Hackett, Buddy @ Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. From: The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: The Gale Group, Inc. 2001. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Hackett, Buddy. I've Got A Secret, October 3, 1966.
  3. ^ a b c d "Episode 966: Sandy Hackett". WTF with Marc Maron. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  4. ^ Johnny Carson Tonight Show (1986).
  5. ^ "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" (March 30, 1973).
  6. ^ Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (May 4, 1989)
  7. ^ El Paso Herald-Post (El Paso, Texas): p. 20; 1959-08-06
  8. ^ What's My Line? – Buddy Hackett; Eamonn Andrews (panel); Martin Gabel (panel) (Jul 7, 1957)
  9. ^ "The Clarence Bibs Story on The Rifleman". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  10. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  11. ^ "Comedian Buys Home. Buddy Hackett New Owner of Anastasia House in Fort Lee", The New York Times, August 30, 1958; accessed March 30, 2011. "Mr. Hackett lives at 581 Nordhoff Drive, Leonia. He intends to take possession as soon as improvements are completed. The house was built in 1945 by Anastasia at a cost said to be $100,000."
  12. ^ "Rubber-faced funnyman whose talent stretched far: Buddy Hackett: Comedian and Actor, 1924–2003" (obituary) in The Sydney Morning Herald, 2008-07-11, p. 30 (from The Telegraph, London).
  13. ^ Obituary, chicagotribune.com; accessed January 30, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Severo, Richard (July 1, 2003). "Buddy Hackett, Irrepressible Clown of Stage, Screen and Nightclubs, Is Dead at 78". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2010. Mr. Hackett's career spanned more than half a century in nightclubs, movies, the stage and television. His rubbery face was a familiar one on America's home screens in the 1950s and 1960s when he was a frequent guest on talk shows hosted by Jack Paar and Arthur Godfrey.

External links

Dan Raven

Dan Raven is an American crime drama starring Skip Homeier which aired on NBC between September 23, 1960, and January 6, 1961. The setting of the series is the famous Sunset Strip of West Hollywood, California. The series focuses on activities of the sheriff's department, including those of the fictitious Lieutenant Dan Raven and his assistant, Sergeant Burke, played by Dan Barton. Quinn K. Redeker appeared as photographer Perry Levitt.

Dan Raven featured contemporary celebrities appearing as themselves, including Buddy Hackett, Paul Anka, Marty Ingels, Bob Crewe, and Bobby Darin. Darin appeared in the first of the hour-long episodes, "The High Cost of Fame".The long-running 77 Sunset Strip ran on ABC at 9 p.m. Eastern on the same Friday evenings as Dan Raven, which started at 7:30. Dan Raven, in the hour format, faced difficult opposition from the second season of CBS Western series Rawhide starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. Its competition on ABC was the sitcom Harrigan and Son, starring Pat O'Brien and Roger Perry.Other selected episodes include:

"The Mechanic" with Buddy Hackett on September 30

"The Trade" with Paul Anka on October 7

"Penny" with Paul Richards (1924–1974) on October 21

"The Empty Frame" with Suzanne Storrs on October 28

"The Night Is Numbered" with Paul Crewe on November 4

"The Satchel Man" with Paul Anka and Parley Baer on November 11

"The Junket" with Don Dubbins (1928–1991) and Mel Torme (1925–1999) on November 18

"The Man on the Ledge" with Marty Ingels on November 25

"Amateur Night" with Marty Ingels and Claude Akins (1926–1994) on December 2

"Tinge of Red" with Julie London (1926–2000), Judson Pratt (1916–2002) and Gavin MacLeod (born 1930) on December 16

"Buy a Nightmare" with Don Haggerty (1914–1988), Harvey Lembeck (1923–1982) and Adrienne Ellis, the series finale.Dan Raven was replaced on January 13, 1961, by the return of the Ronnie Burns's Happy.

Everything's Ducky

Everything's Ducky is a 1961 comedy film directed by Don Taylor and written by Benedict Freedman and John Fenton Murray. The film stars Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Jackie Cooper, Joanie Sommers, Roland Winters and Elizabeth MacRae. The film was released on December 20, 1961, by Columbia Pictures.

Fireman Save My Child (1954 film)

Fireman Save My Child is a 1954 American comedy film starring Hugh O'Brian and Buddy Hackett. The movie was directed by Leslie Goodwins.

Hey Babe!

Hey Babe!, also known as Babe! and also known as Rise and Shine, is a 1980 film, a musical drama starring Yasmine Bleeth and Buddy Hackett. This was Yasmine's first film at the age of 12 years.

I Had a Ball

I Had a Ball is a musical with a book by Jerome Chodorov and music and lyrics by Jack Lawrence and Stan Freeman. It starred Buddy Hackett, and featured Richard Kiley and Karen Morrow.

Jack Frost (TV special)

Jack Frost is a 1979 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. It was directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr., written by Romeo Muller, narrated by Buddy Hackett, and starring Robert Morse, Debra Clinger, and Paul Frees. The special premiered on NBC on December 13, 1979 and tells the tale of Jack Frost and his adventures as a human. It airs annually on Freeform as a part of its 25 Days of Christmas programming block.

Kiner's Korner

Kiner's Korner was a post game interview show following New York Mets home games hosted by Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner. It debuted on April 30, 1963, with guests Buddy Hackett and Phil Foster. The show usually consisted of an interview with the star of the game from the winning team, along with game highlights and scores of other games from that day. Sometimes two players were featured. As years went by and Kiner's workload decreased, the show was on less frequently, usually following home games on free television. Kiner developed a reputation for occasionally incorrectly stating the names of players being interviewed or in highlights.The show's theme music was Flag of Victory Polka, written by Alvino Rey under the name Ira Ironstrings. The show's name came from theclose-in left field seats in Forbes Field where Kiner deposited many home runs during his Hall of Fame career as a Pirate slugger. They were originally known as "Greenberg's Gardens" for Kiner's precursor and mentor Hank Greenberg, but earned their new name after Greenberg's retirement and Kiner's meteoric rise to stardom. It measured 340 feet to left field. The temporary fence was removed in the 1950's to restore it to the original 365 feet.

In 2010, SNY.TV, (website of SportsNet New York, the Mets' cable network), announced the replaying of nine classic episodes of Kiner's Korner on the web, in a series entitled "Kiner's Korner Revisited". While the network was in possession of several episodes, many had been lost or taped over.

New York Friars Club

The Friars Club is a private club in New York City, founded in 1904 that hosts risqué celebrity roasts. The club's membership is composed mostly of comedians and other celebrities. It is located at 57 East 55th Street, between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, in a building known as the Monastery.

On Location (TV series)

On Location is a series from HBO. The series premiered on New Year's Eve 1975 with a one-hour performance by Robert Klein and became a source for uncensored stand-up comedy performances from performers such as George Carlin, David Brenner, Redd Foxx, Rich Little, Robin Williams, Phyllis Diller, Buddy Hackett, Billy Crystal, Pat Cooper and others. In addition to showing select comedians, On Location featured comedy shows such as the annual Young Comedians Show and comedy club shows. From 1982 to 1986, a version of the "HBO In Space" program opening sequence was used to introduce the series.


"Shipoopi" is a song in the 1957 musical The Music Man by Meredith Willson. The song is sung by the character of Marcellus Washburn, a friend of con man "Professor" Harold Hill. It occurs in act 2 of the play during the ice cream social.

The dialogue surrounding the song does not explain the meaning of the term shipoopi, which Willson said that he invented for the song. When the high school kids want to dance, Marcellus asks which song they want to hear; Tommy Djilas replies "The Shipoopi", which seems to indicate that "shipoopi" is a dance. The chorus implies that it means a "girl who's hard to get", and the first stanza says a woman who waits until the third date to kiss is "your shipoopi".

In the original 1957 Broadway production, the song was performed by actor Iggie Wolfington, who portrayed Marcellus Washburn. In the 1962 film version of The Music Man, Marcellus is played by Buddy Hackett. According to the film documentary included with the extended DVD release, choreographer Onna White was able to take Hackett, not known as a dancer, and make him into a dancer for this number.

The Golden Head

The Golden Head is a 1964 American-Hungarian comedy film directed by Richard Thorpe and James Hill and starring George Sanders, Buddy Hackett, Jess Conrad, Lorraine Power and Robert Coote.

The Love Bug

The Love Bug (sometimes referred to as Herbie the Love Bug) is a 1968 American comedy film and the first in a series of films made by Walt Disney Productions that starred an anthropomorphic pearl-white, fabric-sunroofed 1963 Volkswagen racing Beetle named Herbie. It was based on the 1961 book Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford.

The movie follows the adventures of Herbie, Herbie's driver, Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), and Jim's love interest, Carole Bennett (Michele Lee). It also features Buddy Hackett as Jim's enlightened, kind-hearted friend, Tennessee Steinmetz, a character who creates "art" from used car parts. English actor David Tomlinson portrays the villainous Peter Thorndyke, owner of an auto showroom and an SCCA national champion who sells Herbie to Jim and eventually becomes his racing rival.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria

The Secret of Santa Vittoria is a 1969 film distributed by United Artists. It was produced and directed by Stanley Kramer and co-produced by George Glass from a screenplay by Ben Maddow and William Rose. It was based on the best-selling novel by Robert Crichton. The music score was by Ernest Gold and the cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno.

The film stars Anthony Quinn, Anna Magnani, Virna Lisi, Hardy Krüger, and Sergio Franchi. It also features Renato Rascel, Giancarlo Giannini, and Eduardo Ciannelli; with Valentina Cortese making an uncredited appearance. It was almost entirely shot on location in Anticoli Corrado, Italy (near Rome).

The world premiere was held in Los Angeles, USA on October 20, 1969. Television coverage included a special split-screen selection during The Joey Bishop Show. Army Archerd, Regis Philbin and Buddy Hackett interviewed Stanley Kramer, Anthony Quinn, Virna Lisi, and Sergio Franchi from Los Angeles. The premiere was held to benefit the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center, with Gregory Peck as chairman. The event ended with a celebration at the Century Plaza Hotel.This was selected as the opening-night film for the 13th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival. The festival ran from October 23, 1969 until November 2, 1969.

The Trials of O'Brien

The Trials of O'Brien is a 1965 television series starring Peter Falk as a sordid Shakespeare-quoting lawyer and featuring Elaine Stritch as his secretary and Joanna Barnes as his ex-wife.

The series ran for only 22 episodes on CBS Television between September 18, 1965 and March 18, 1966.

Among its guest stars: Milton Berle, Robert Blake, David Carradine, Faye Dunaway, Britt Ekland, Tammy Grimes, Buddy Hackett, Gene Hackman, Frank Langella, Angela Lansbury, Cloris Leachman, Roger Moore, Rita Moreno, Estelle Parsons, Joanna Pettet, Brock Peters, Tony Roberts, and Martin Sheen.

Falk often said that he actually liked this financially unsuccessful series much better than his later smash-hit Columbo.

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm is a 1962 American fantasy film directed by Henry Levin and George Pal. The latter was the producer and also in charge of the stop motion animation. The film was one of the highest-grossing films of 1962. It won one Oscar and was nominated for 3 additional Academy Awards. Several prominent actors — including Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Böhm, Jim Backus, Barbara Eden, and Buddy Hackett — are in the film.

It was filmed in the Cinerama process, which was photographed in an arc with three lenses, on a camera that produced three strips of film. Three projectors, in the back and sides of the theatre, produced a panoramic image on a screen that curved 146 degrees around the front of the audience.

Walking My Baby Back Home (film)

Walking My Baby Back Home is a 1953 American musical comedy film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Donald O'Connor, Janet Leigh, and Buddy Hackett. It was Hackett's film debut.Excerpts of the film are used in the Columbo episode "Forgotten Lady", in which Leigh plays a middle aged former film star Grace Wheeler who nostalgically watches the film.

Donald O'Connor enjoyed working with Janet Leigh.

She hadn't danced in years but was a real trouper. Nine times out of 10 we'd do all those beautiful dance routines on cement, and she got very tired, started falling a lot on her knees. And her knees started to swell three times their normal size. It was very painful. On the screen you can't tell how she was suffering in that darn thing.

Buddy Hackett's friend Lenny Bruce contributed to the screenplay. He was not credited.(Source: IMDB)

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