Saturday, March 29, 2014


The first time I heard a tape of the Friars Club roast for Don Rickles, I got most of the references. Carson mocked Rickles for being "as exciting as watching Kate Smith take a douche." Another line made reference to the vagina of…Kay Armen. Who?

I assumed Kay was either fat and ugly, or some notoriously malodorous starlet that had somehow offended Johnny when she guested on his show. Though she did guest on his show, it 'twas the former. Fortunately for her, and Kate Smith, back then a lot of people simply listened to a lovely voice on the radio or on a record, and didn't care that much about physical charm. This was especially true of singers that specialized in ethnic numbers or "God Bless America."

Born Armenuhi Manoogian, Armen's less than attractive father was a pro wrestler billed as "The Terrible Turk." Her burly brother "Bobby Managoff" also became a pro wrestler. Kay, pretty hefty herself, appeared in a few films including "Hit the Deck"(pictured above) which evidently referred to what happened when sailors heard her stomping footsteps approach. She wrote some songs, none you are likely to know: “Be Good to Yourself,” “My Love and I” and “It’s a Sin to Cry Over You.”

Armen could've become a big star with the irritating novelty song "Come On-a My House." It was written for her by her Armenian cousin Ross Bagdasarian (aka "David Seville") and William Saroyan. It was the more pleasant-looking Rosemary Clooney who made it a hit. Clooney's singing style also had a lot more charm than Madame Armen…just listen to her strident "Ha Ha Ha" novelty.

Only a horse laugh is more irritating than a forced laugh. Whether in a pop song or an opera, anyone going "Ha Ha Ha," and pretending to mean it, should be going to ha-ha hell. Below, Kay's cover/translation of "Chella Lla" which had its last gasp via Connie Francis in the 60's as "Chella'lla." It was popularized in the 50's by Renato Carosone and later Marino Marini. Kay's actually pretending to find revenge hilarious. Oh, there were many annoying songs in the 50's, and this IS one of them.

It ain't over even after the fat lady stops singing. After enduring the song, you get Johnny Carson's Kay Armen joke from the Rickles roast. Remarkably, it got a solid 30 seconds of laughter…a tremendous amount for any joke. It's even more of an achievement considering Johnny was telling it in a room full of jaded comics more likely to mutter "That's funny" than to actually laugh. The dais that night included Flip Wilson, Jackie Vernon, and Jack E. Leonard, and you can hear some admiring mumbling from Fat Jack as everyone yocked the mocking of Fat Kay.


1 comment:

jakeway1 said...