Monday, August 09, 2010

JAMES KOMACK - "The Beat Generation"

Imagine if Jerry Lewis had been influenced by Lenny Bruce.

That sort of describes what you'll find on the lone James Komack comedy album "At the Waldorf." It's a mix of comedy and music, Borscht Belt schtick and a touch of the "sick." Back when he was a rising stand-up comic, most felt the highlight of Jimmy's album was his sure-fire brawling "fight announcer" routine: imagine a boxing commentator broadcasting a couple's wedding night! Ya-ha! Today, the more rewarding tracks on the album are his bent musical parodies of drug addiction ( "Man With the Golden Arm") and hipster poetry ("The Beat Generation.")

In the late 50's Komack was also a promising comic actor, standing out from the rest of the wacky Washington Senators singing "Heart" in the film "Damn Yankees." He issued some novelty tracks for Coral (including "Them The Enemy" about "femmanim" women, and his klutzy fascination with them) and in 1957 even managed to get a deal with RCA Victor for a mostly serious singing album. The comical album cover for "Inside Me," showed him on a psychiatrist's couch.

James offered some comic relief on the Jackie Cooper sitcom "Hennesey" but found better luck behind the scenes as a sitcom producer. He helmed the short-lived "Hank" in 1965 featuring the very late Dick Kallman as a guy constantly being chased off a college campus while trying to get an education and degree without the tuition money. He followed it with Roger Smith's TV sitcom version of "Mister Roberts" and then, balancing the failures of "Mr. T and Tina" and "The Roller Girls," he had major successes with "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," "Chico and the Man" and "Welcome Back, Kotter."

We missed James Komack's birthday, August 3rd , 1924. But so did he. He died the day before Christmas, 1997. When I first heard "The Beat Generation," still a school kid, I didn't get all the references. (I did get the joke album title, that he was not playing the posh Waldorf Astoria hotel, but a cheap deli). I still knew there was something cool going on, and that Komack's indie album deserved a better fate than it got. That opinion's grown over the past decades. I think he was pretty flattered that anyone remembered it as fondly as I did, but there are other weirdos out there, and hopefully there will be more now. Some lines have become catch-phrases for me, and it's hard to really explain why. But if I ever get near Sak's Fifth Avenue, I'd go in and "stomp on the floor," just to get a chuckle out of Komack's poltergeist. Assuming it isn't too busy beating the crap out of Pinky Lee's poltergeist. PS, "Beverly Aadland, go home!" (Why, I have no idea. Maybe James was an Errol Flynn fan.) Hear it for yourself. Consider yourself hipped.


1 comment:

Bette Sohm said...

I loved this album. Especially Prize Fight Announcer. Any chance of that being posted?