Weathering Winters

Winters_jonathanJonathan Winters was too modest to linger after the applause. “Certifiably Jonathan” was screened for friends and admirers Tuesday night at Harmony Gold. It’s being called a “Seriously Funny Dadamentary.” An armada of admirers appears in the 81 minute tribute-dissection-crystal balling of the unique life and talents of Winters. His one-of-a-kind antics are interspersed in the serio-comedic revelations of his life and ambitions as an artist–described as a “the missing link between Miro and Dai.” (He personally disputed the artistic comparison to me).

Among the performers who appear as themselves:  Robin Williams, Robert Klein, Jim Carrey, Gary Owens, Sheena Easton, Clint Holmes, Jeffrey Tambor, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, the Arquettes–Alexis, David, Patricia, Richmond, and Rosanna, also Nora Dunn, Rob Reiner, Howie Mandel, Tim Conway, Fabio and others in the environs of Winters’ magnificent Montecito home, offering a peek at him at work as an artist. “Art has been a great therapy for me,” he admits modestly of his talent. “I’m having a great time in a great place.” Among those whom Associate Producer Kathy Fields Lander assembled for the screening were: Mandel, Klein, Owens, Dunn, Penny Marshall, David Lander, Cindy Williams, Michael McKean, Annette O’Toole, Dominick Keating, Nikita Ager, Mike Shapiro, Eric Weissman, George Schlatter, Kevin Dunn, Ed Begley, Mark Rydell and Candy Clark. 

The morning after the screening, a warm and thoughtful Winters discussed the film with me–anxiously and appreciatively. He is grateful for the contributions of all who worked on it and believes “Certifiably Jonathan” could make for a TV special. I agreed. Jim Pasternak wrote, directed and appears in the film, which is produced by Richard Marshall.

Winters, 81, limits his appearances, but says he is happy to perform at a salute to Mort Sahl on his 80th birthday, June 28 at the Wadsworth Theater in West L.A. “We started out together at about the same time–50 years ago,” Winters warmly reminisced as he complimented Sahl’s also-unique comedic talents. The evening is a benefit for the Heartland Comedy Foundation whose tribute fundraisers are aimed at “providing temporary financial assistance to professional comedians who may find themselves in a time of need.”

Those performing in the tribute to Sahl include: Woody Allen (on tape), Jay Leno, Drew Carey, Bill Maher, Shelley Berman, David Steinberg, Richard Lewis, Paula Poundstone, David Brenner, Kevin Nealon, Jack Riley and Winters. Budd Friedman reminds that “So many of the great comic minds of the past several decades owe a huge debt to Mort. Assembling all these comics and the many people behind the scenes who are donating their time was easy once they knew who it was for. You hear the word ‘legend’ bantered about so often, but in the case of Mort Sahl there’s really no other word that describes him.”   

What’s not in a name?

Thursday’s issue of Daily Variety carried a lengthy story of the name change at Brillstein-Grey and the hefty retention of the name “Brillstein.” Bernie and I laughed at the history of the name of his company. “It was originally called ‘The Bernie Brillstein Company,'” he reminded. “Then it became ‘The Brillstein Co.

‘ Next it was ‘Brillstein-Grey.’ Then in 1995, I sold my interest but it was still called ‘Brillstein-Grey.'” And now, although the company owners have reverted to calling it “Brillstein Entertainment Partners,” Bernie laughingly reminds that, having sold his partnership 12 years ago, “I’m just a paid employee.” Yeah–and this ’employee’ looks after 15 prime employees–excuse me, ‘talents.’ 

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