Funnyman was star of TV, stage, screen
Charlie Callas, a versatile comedian whose zany faces and antics made him a regular for more than four decades on television, in films and on casino stages, has died in Las Vegas. He was 83.
Callas died Thursday at a hospice, according to his sons Mark Callas and Larry Callas.
Callas was a rubber-faced, wiry framed comic whose rapid-fire delivery drew laughs and made him a frequent guest on variety and comedy shows.
“Everybody that met him, he left them with a smile,” Mark Callas said.
For years, Charlie Callas made Johnny Carson laugh on the “Tonight Show.” But Carson banned him from returning after Callas shoved Carson off his chair in a bid for laughs in 1982.
Mark Callas said his father knew every member of the Rat Pack, a group of actors that included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.
Callas toured with Sinatra and Tom Jones, had a role with Jerry Lewis in the movie “The Big Mouth” in 1967, and was a guest on TV variety shows hosted by Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin, Andy Williams and Flip Wilson. Callas guest-hosted on the “Joey Bishop Show.”
He also played restaurant owner Malcolm Argos in the 1970s TV series “Switch” with Robert Wagner and Eddie Albert, and had roles in Mel Brooks’ films “High Anxiety” and “History of the World: Part I.”
Callas grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and served in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II before beginning a career as a drummer with big bands starring Tommy Dorsey and Buddy Rich.
He was a natural comic, and it wasn’t long before he gave up drumming for standup routines. He dropped a vowel from his legal name, Callias, when he took to the stage.
“He was just messing around with the guys and it worked, I guess,” Mark Callas said.
He was Charlie Callas when he made his first television appearance in 1963 on the “Hollywood Palace” variety show.
Mark Callas, who produces the “American Superstars” celebrity impersonators show in Las Vegas, said he encouraged his parents to move to Las Vegas from New York in 2002.
Larry Callas said the death of his mother, Evelyn Callas in July at age 80, broke his father’s heart.
Funeral arrangments were being made at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas.