Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Red Skelton story from Barbara (Phillips) Siembida

Barbara gave me permission to post her letter.

Dear Mrs. Red Skelton,

I was so happy to have recently come across the July 19th, 2017 Fox News posting of The Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy.

As I write this letter to you, I feel as if I am that old woman who told the story of the Titanic. A tragic beginning but with a happy ending.

Long ago, December 3rd, 1961, within minutes from our home in Boardman, Ohio, my family’s plane had crashed on the Ohio Turnpike. I was the sole survivor at the age of 5 who received gifts as far as South America but there is only one cherished ever since.

Red Skelton of whom I adored as a child, took time to mail me a photo of himself and wrote, “To Barbara, Best Wishes, Red Skelton”. Those six hand-written words have meant more to me than gold! Even the empty frame I found in my families attic decades ago was meant-to-be. For over half-a-century now, I have held his personal gift close to my heart and thought of sharing my story with you.

Your husband, Red Skelton, the man who touched many, was truly blessed! In spite of life’s challenges he had given me the will to continue on with courage, God’s love & laughter. He also inspired me to become a young performing ventriloquist of which I still have fun with when teaching piano with my finger puppets (Legato & Staccato). My true love however was and always will be composing music.

A few days ago as I was searching for articles of my past from what is now known as The Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio) . . . next to Red Skelton’s photo were lyrics to a piano arrangement I had written in the mid 1990’s, “The Magic of Love”. A song, I believe(d), was meant for Disney only to then be told they did not accept music outside their industry. I never found that love yet the meaning still lives within and after reading your story perhaps it’s time to try again.

Sometime after 1984, Red Skelton had appeared in one of the theaters here in Columbus, Ohio of where I have since called home. I remember feeling like a little girl once again, sitting straight up in her seat, anxiously awaiting to grasp whatever memory I could hold on to thereafter. All I remember though was what always meant the most . . . as he stood behind the single podium, the lights became dimmer and dimmer and he ended with, ‘Good night and God Bless’.

Funny how life sometimes brings many circles to those we cherish or never knew. It was a pleasure to have shared mine with you and reminisce of Red Skelton once again J.

Barbara (Phillips) Siembida
August 5th, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Clowning with Red exhibit

Special exhibit on Red Skelton's love of clowns and Clowns love for Red Skelton.
     Red Skelton always wanted to make people laugh. He was a clown at a young age in Vincennes, Indiana. He did a TV special called "Clown Alley" with celebrities friends and professional clowns. 

Red was told that his father was a clown. There is a timeline the shows Red's father and circus history. 

Red was fiends to Clyde Beatty and Emmett Kelly.

Clown honored Red with memberships to Clown Alleys and he kept clown gifts and paintings.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Black History Month

Wonderful Smith
Wonderful Smith (1911-2008) That is real name. Was the chauffeur to Hattle McDaniel in 1939. Became famous for a telephone routine called "Hello, Mr. President". This was performed on in Duke Ellington's "Jump of Joy" in 1941. That same year he became a cast member for Red Skelton's radio show.

Wonderful appeared as many characters on the show. He did telephone bits and was Deadeye's partner. Smith was drafted in the Army in 1942 but Red read his letters on the air. He returned to the show for the 1945-47 seasons. His contract ended in 1947 and was not renewed. Negative talk followed but if you look at the the 1947 season you will see that Skelton did other cast changes. Band leader David Forrester was replaced by David Rose and GeGe Pearson was replaced by Lurene Tuttle. 

Smith did some television in the 70s. He can be seen in the "Hello Cleveland" scene in "This is Spinal Tap" (1984).   

The Four Knights
 Singing group on Red Skelton's radio show 1948-50. Appeared on the TV show in 1951. 

Guest Stars and Singers on television

Nat King Cole (1953)

Mahalia Jackson (1962)

Dionne Warwick (3)

Nancy Wilson (2 times) 
Godfrey Cambridge (4 times)

Nipsey Russell (2 times)

Archie Moore (1965)


"Gabe" Jackson taught young Red Skelton to play the ukulele.