Sunday, January 29, 2017


Dick Gautier (October 30, 1931-January 13, 2017) sang “Honestly Sincere,” and lived by those two words, at least in describing his rather humble career. He had a lot of humility, acknowledging that some of his most memorable roles had a down side. He played Robin Hood in a very short-lived Mel Brooks sitcom. Another sitcom, "Get Smart" only used him a handful of times. And despite having the title role in Broadway's "Bye Bye Birdie" he was denied the film version.

Dick made the most of his odd attribute: good looks that were too good to be true. He was almost a parody of a dashing leading man in his first (and I think last) Broadway role. The download below is from the “Bye Bye Birdie” original cast album. The show was an overlong musical sitcom based on Elvis Presley going into the army. Thanks to some good (at the time) tunes like “Put On a Happy Face,” even adults who hated Elvis music went to the show, which mostly featured MOR tunes. Theatregoers especially enjoyed the ebullient Dick Van Dyke (like Gautier, getting a huge break having been almost unknown) and a newly discovered stand-up comic named Paul Lynde. Lynde played the father of a star-struck Birdie fan. His lizard face and feverish grimaces of chagrin made him seem more neurotic than gay. He was of course, both.

Two members of the cast were NOT in the movie. Chita Rivera was deemed too ethnic (replaced by Janet Leigh) and Gautier was replaced by some guy named Jesse Pearson. As you’ll hear below, Gautier was not really the greatest singer in the world, but maybe that was the wicked aspect of the parody…that teen idiot girls would not only fall for a genuinely good singer like Elvis, but a bad one like Fabian. The show's producers apparently lumped Conway Twitty into the "not great singer" collection. Twitty (who had a slight Elvis moan on his hit "Only Make Believe" had the dubious honor of his silly name parodied as “Conrad Birdie.” Sure, the lead character could've been Elvis Pretzel or something like that. But "Birdie" put a little lawsuit distance between the show and Presley, and make it seem like all pop stars were being tweaked.

Of course the big deal a few years after “Bye Bye Birdie” was Gautier parlaying his wooden acting into the robot part on “Get Smart.“ He was so memorable he almost seems like a semi-regular (along with Bernie Kopell's "Siegfried") but no, he was used very sparingly. Some game show geeks will recall that he was a sly guy with a bluff on “Liar’s Club” and other daytime series. If you know him from anything else, you really are a fan!

Behind the scenes, Gautier showed other talents. He was an excellent artist, and wrote many books about cartooning. He also put together a very good book collecting the original art of other talented actors and actresses. He wrote an autobiography, and even a mystery novel, which unfortunately is only available in a Kindle edition.

You were expecting the ironic “I Got a Lot of Living to Do,” as the choice? No, no. Gautier’s “Honestly Sincere” was actually released as a single. The song was also covered by The Marcels, in appropriately goofy fashion. Not related to the writer Theophile, or to the French singer Mylene Farmer (born Gauthier), Dick was pretty unique nonetheless, and if you visit his dotcom, you can find out more.


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