The Pope, The Clown and The Cross

skelton_pope

In 1957 comedian Red Skelton was on top of the world.  His weekly comedy show on CBS was doing well.  He had  curtailed the drinking which had almost derailed his career.  Not too shabby for a man who had started out as a circus and rodeo clown and who was now often called the clown prince of American comedy.  He and his wife Georgia had two beautiful kids:  Richard and Valentina Maria.  Then the worst thing in the world for any parent entered into the lives of Red and Georgia Skelton:  Richard was diagnosed with leukemia.  Unlike today, a diagnosis of leukemia in a child in 1957 was tantamount to saying that Richard was going to die soon.  Red immediately took a leave of absence from his show.  CBS was very understanding and a series of guest hosts, including a very young Johnny Carson, filled in for Skelton during the 1957-1958 season.

Red and his wife made two decisions.  First, they decided not to reveal to their son how ill he was;  if  worse came to worst they wanted him to enjoy the time he had left.  The boy’s leukemia was temporarily in remission and outwardly he appeared healthy.    When the boy saw “The Last Days of Pompeii” on TV and was fascinated by it, his mom and dad made their second decision.  They were going to take him and his sister to Europe so the boy could see Pompeii and other parts of Europe and the world, and to allow the parents to consult with foreign physicians and also to conduct a pilgrimage for their son.  The Skeltons were Protestants, indeed, Red was an active Mason, but they had chosen to educate their kids at a Catholic school and Richard was very religious, his room filled with religious pictures and statues.  Like many Christians of whatever denomination, in their hour of utmost need the Skeltons decided to seek aid of the Catholic Church. (more…)

Published in: on July 12, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Thanksgiving 1952: Red Skelton

Red Skelton rose from poverty to become one of the most popular comedians of his day.  A comedic genius, he created a gallery of comedic personas:  Clem Kaddidlehopper, the Mean Little Kid, San Fernando Red, Freddie the Freeloader  and others, which allowed him not only to amuse but also to engage in wry commentary about some of the foibles of his time. Skelton the man was fairly simple:  he liked to make people laugh, and he loved God, Country and Kids.  The love of God and his dying son I have written about in the post The Pope, the Clown and the Cross.  Skelton’s love of God and Country shines through in his rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance which I have written about here.

His love of kids was no mere entertainer’s pose as the following anecdote illustrates:

“Funny how you can go to a doctor’s offices and find magazines that are years old in the lobby. I had to go to a dentist two week ago and found a Golf magazine from the 80’s. I also found a magazine that told me the following story:

Decades ago, a young American was flying across the mountain ranges of Europe on his way to London. Accompanying his friend, a Catholic priest, the two were scheduled to have a meeting with the Pope in England. As the priest talked, the plane suddenly rocked. Then rocked again.  Something told the priest the plane was not destined to ever touch land again.

The passengers, busy in their individual conversations, failed to notice, the priest observed, until a flight attendant made an announcement of impending doom. The plane was over a mountain range and losing altitude.

As expected, panic set in. (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving 1952: Red Skelton  
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Red Skelton: Thanksgiving 1952

A Thanksgiving thought in 1952 from master comedian Red Skelton.  Born into deep poverty, he went to work at the age of 7 to help his family.  Life dealt Skelton some tough cards at the beginning of his life, and the worst thing that could happen to any parent, the death of a child, lay in his future.  Yet throughout his life Skelton retained a deep faith in God and an abiding love for his country.  He approached life with optimism and a thankful heart, a good message for any Thanksgiving.  Below is his classic Pledge of Allegiance skit. (more…)

Published in: on November 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Red Skelton: Thanksgiving 1952  
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Flag Day, Red Skelton, Sir Walter Scott, Johnny Cash and Mom

I can think of few things more appropriate for Flag Day than Red Skelton’s immortal explanation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  When my sainted mother became a naturalized American citizen, she was given a little American flag.  I have a treasured photo of my Mom and Dad just after the naturalization ceremony, both happy, and my Mom clutching the flag of a land that she loved long before she became a citizen.  I still have the flag, one of my most precious mementoes of my Mom.

A flag of course is only physically a piece of fabric, sometimes described disparagingly by cynics as a rag on a stick.   Sir Walter Scott described such people well long ago: (more…)

Published in: on June 14, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Flag Day, Red Skelton, Sir Walter Scott, Johnny Cash and Mom  
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Flag Day 2014

Something for the weekend.  There is only one song for Flag Day:  The Star Spangled Banner.

Here is the history behind the song:

Back when I was young and dinosaurs ruled the Earth, it was customary for the National Anthem to be played before television stations signed off for the evening.  This was always my favorite of such renditions:

Red Skelton’s immortal rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance seems called for on this day:

(more…)

Published in: on June 14, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Flag Day 2014  
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Confederate Dentistry

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xpIi2k5et8 Last week I was watching A Southern Yankee, a Red Skelton flick from 1948.  It was howlingly funny, following the misadventures of Red as a Saint Louis hotel bellboy who gets mixed up in espionage for the Union.  One sequence had Red having two teeth pulled by Confederate dentists.  That got me curious as to whether the Confederacy actually had dentists among their medical officers.  They did, unlike the Union which firmly rejected any suggestion that dentists be made medical officers.   While Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce, Davis had attempted to establish unsuccessfully a dental unit in the Army. Dentists were appointed in the Confederate Army as early as 1861 and with conscription of dentists they became fairly common in Confederate military hospitals, providing extractions, fillings and the cleaning of teeth.  The Confederate dentists stressed dental hygiene and the use of toothbrushes by the troops.  Several Confederate dentists did pioneering work in root canals.   They also aided in the treatment of gunshot wounds to jaws and mouths, using facial splints to help avoid disfigurement while the wounds were healing. (more…)

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 10:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Red Skelton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God

Red Skelton and his unforgettable rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Skelton rose out of abject poverty to become one of the great comedians of his time.  His comment about the phrase “under God”  reminds us how deeply this phrase is embedded in American history:

The addition of “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 of course echoes this sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Pledge was altered with that phrase of Lincoln’s specifically in mind.  The Knights of Columbus played an important role in getting the pledge changed, beginning in 1951 to say the Pledge with the phrase “under God” inserted at all Knights of Columbus functions.

Lincoln probably recalled the phrase from George Washington’s use of it in his order to the Continental Army on August 27, 1776 before the battle of Long Island:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

(more…)

Published in: on November 14, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Red Skelton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God  
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Flag Day: Johnny Cash and Red Skelton

“Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

June 14, 1777-Marine Committee, Second Continental Congress (more…)

Published in: on June 14, 2013 at 6:04 am  Comments (2)  
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Red Skelton, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God

Red Skelton and his unforgettable rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Skelton rose out of abject poverty to become one of the great comedians of his time.  As the above video indicates Skelton also had his serious side.  His message about the Pledge is good to remember this Fourth of July week and every week.  His comment about the phrase “under God”  reminds us how deeply this phrase is embedded in American history: (more…)

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Red Skelton, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God  
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