1958: H’wood event ends in tragedy

Nov. 25, 1958:

A night to be remembered: No play ever held the dramatic impact of the backstage tragedy at the Friars’ BevHilton Desi-Lucy dinner when five top medics, in black tie, performed battlefield surgery to try and save the life of Harry “Parkyakarkus” Einstein (54) … The scene could never be used in a film — no one would believe it! Actor John Bromfield, hobbling painfully because of torn ligaments, aided by a coupla newsmen (yours truly included) in assembling an electric line for the medics to use in a last-ditch fight; waiters rushing towels from the men’s room, to be used in the gory emergency surgery; the “waiting room” onstage with the top names in showbiz hoping against hope for a happy ending; the suddenly saddened faces of friends who had minutes before been laughing hysterically at “Parky’s” great lines — which he, as usual, personally wrote. And, as usual, before each “Roastmaster” dinner, he confided how nervous he was — too nervous to eat, take a drink … Ed Wynn, commenting, “This should once and for all do away with the unfair adage ‘the show must go on.’ The show can’t go on.” … George Burns and Milton Berle argued no one should ever be permitted to work on a dais if he has a heart condition. And then Abe Lastfogel commented that perhaps keeping a man OFF might more quickly break his heart. (Whenever I am in the BevHilton’s Ballroom for a testimonial or “roast,” I still recall that night of 47 years ago when the comic, the father of Albert Brooks and “Super Dave” Osborne, died.)

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