Link to Lord Richard Buckley Jr.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
LORD RICHARD BUCKLEY
I Met Lord Richard Buckley in Miami in 1954. One night Frank invited Lord Buckley to join us at the Eden Roc Hotel on Miami Breach. I can see Lord Buckley now, marching through the lobby of the Eden Roc Hotel, in his black bow tie and tails. I say marching because he carried himself like a major in the British Army; chest and chin high, white hair and mustache, and striding like a man with a mission.
When he spotted us, he approached us, and with a deep bow, said in his chesty voice, "Good evening, Prince Frank of Linale. How Are you this glorious evening? And Lady Bunny, you look elegant, my dear." Frank introduced us. Lord Buckley said, "How do you do? I have heard, Prince Frank and Lady Bunny speak of you many times. Henceforth I dub you, Prince Sam, of the royal court of Lord Buckley." We shook hands and became friends.
We entered an elevator and rose to the penthouse to visit, Harry Belafonte, who was performing that night in the main show room of the Eden Roc Hotel. In the late 40's Frank was the arranger and conductor for, Martha Raye at her Five O' Clock Club on Miami Beach. Harry Belafonte was one of the acts that appeared there. In those days Harry had to leave the Miami Beach when he wasn’t performing. One of those stupid racial laws. Now he had the Penthouse suite in the Eden Rock Hotel.
One of Harrys managers let us into the suite. Harry appeared and we were introduced. Again, Lord Buckley gave a sweeping bow and said, "Sir Harry of Belafonte, I am honored."
Harry had been working on some new music and wanted Frank to hear it; we were all treated to a personal performance of his new song. We chatted for a while, then when it was nearing show time, we left Harry, and went down to our table in the main room.
Both Frank and Lord Buckley knew the Maitre d’ and the captains. We were shown to our table, where it became a circus between the waiters, Lord Buckley and some of the people in the audience, who knew him. The house lights dimmed and the show began. At one point in the show, Harry introduced Frank and Lord Buckley, who of course did his gracious bow. This was my introduction to Lord Buckley, which was the beginning of an interesting and most novel association.
The next meeting with Lord Buckley was at a dinner at Frank Linale’s home in South Miami. It was a large house with an attached swimming pool. I had a room there while attending The University of Miami. The front door opened, Lord Buckley’s children (Richard and Laurie) entered and announced the arrival of Her Ladyship and His Lordship, Lord Richard Buckley. Lady Buckley, a tall, beautiful, blonde, who carried herself like a ballerina, entered first. (I learned later that she was a ballerina and taught "Ballet for Living", a theory that was based on posture and movement. Lord Buckley applied these principles. I tried to follow them, and still do to this day.)
Lord Buckley, who was very regal, even without his black tie and tails followed Lady Buckley into the house. It was a pleasant evening, with talk centered on Lord Buckley and show business. I regret not having that evening on tape because it was an intimate conversation with lots of humor. That was the beginning of our friendship.
Lord Buckley was a frequent visitor at Frank's home and the Vagabond Club in Miami, Florida. The club was owned and operated by The Four Vagabonds: Al Torrieri, Tillio Risso, Dominic Germano and Pete Peterson. Frank Linale, was the Vagabonds’ band leader and manager. Frank, set up a recording booth off-stage and recorded the various acts that appeared there. He recorded a lot of Lord Buckley’s material. I used to enjoy assisting him. When the Vagabond Club closed for the last time, Frank rented a building in Miami and on the top floor built the first stereophonic sound studio. I helped him build it and install all of the recording equipment. Those were some of my more enjoyable days.
The Vagabond Club was on Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown Miami. It was an elegant dinner club with a large stage and a full orchestra. The lounge had an elevated stage setup behind the bar. After the last show in the main room Lord Buckley would get on the stage in the lounge and go on for hours sometimes. Woody Woodbury was the lounge act at that time. He was a great act. As well as bringing in named acts, the Vagabond's also performed at the club when they weren’t on the road. I remember a very funny bit that Lord Buckley did on stage with the Vagabonds. He seated them in chairs, stood behind them and when he patted one of them on the head, that person would open and shut his mouth and Lord Buckley would say the dialogue. Every time they did it, it would bring down the house.
Lord Buckley and I spent a lot of time together, driving around Miami Beach. I am not sure why, but we pulled into a long driveway and stopped in front of a mansion that overlooked the beach; it used to be a gambling casino. We met Faith Dane, who lived there. Faith had an act with a trumpet that she performed in the strip clubs. She was renting rooms to people working in clubs. Bon Bon, Jenny Lee the Bazoom girl, a Latin dance team and a Comedian, Tubby Boots were a few of her tenants. Lord Buckley and Tubby Boots roomed together at one time (an interesting story there, that I will save for later).
Lord Buckley rented some rooms and moved his family into Faith's mansion. You could find him holding court at the large kitchen table most anytime. There was a large room facing the ocean that had been the casino in it’s day. Lady Buckley gave dance lessons in that room, called, "Ballet for life". It was all about the importance of posture in everyday life. She was a grand lady. I photographed Faith and Jenny Lee, the Bazoom Girl in that room.
At that time I had a 39’ ketch that I used for advertising as well as charters. We sailed up and down the beach advertising Coppertone and the Vagabond Club on the sails. Friends who owned the Calypso Club across the street from the Vagabond Club were producing Lord Flea in the Vagabond Club. We put his name on the sails and advertised his show up and down Miami Beach. The owner and a couple of people from the club would sail with me. Whenever we came abeam of the mansion, it was drop anchor and a swim to the beach for a visit with Faith Dane and Lord Buckley.
Faith and I became great friends. During that time she got married and then divorced. As I said before, I was a frequent visitor to her mansion. One day she told me that she was going to New York to audition for the Jack Parr Show. She was going to have to get an arrangement written for her act. Instead, I took her over to Frank’s studio and he recorded an arrangement so that she could take a vinyl with her to the audition. She literally blew them away with her trumpet. She got on the show and then later, was cast in Gypsy with Ethel Merman. They used her strip act with her trumpet. She was Mazeppa the stripper. She stopped the show every night, something Ethel Merman was not too happy about.
I flew up to New York, frequently, to visit her. I saw Gypsy many times. I met Ethel Merman while waiting backstage for Faith. We would go out to Sardi’s after the show. Sardi’s was a celebrity restaurant with caricatures of all of the celebes on the walls and the tables filled with the celebes. It was an exciting place. When we walked to our table the whole restaurant started applauding, Faith, she was Broadway’s new star. It happened every night we went there.
Other times when I watched her dog, I would bring him to the theatre in a cab and we would wait for her to come down. She used to yell out of the window to the dog (“Hey, big dog!”) before coming down and out the backstage entrance. It gave a thrill to all of the people waiting at the backstage entrance.
Faith and I traveled around New York a lot. One time she was invited to Special showing of a play called “A taste of Honey” with Joan Plowright and Angela Lansbury. We sat next to William Benedict and four seats over was Sir Laurence Olivier, Anthony Quinn and Walter Pidgeon. – The theatre was full of actors.
During intermission I met Paul Ford, who had a series on TV and David Merrick, one of the producers. We were standing in the lobby talking and I asked Paul Ford for a cigarette. (I smoked at that time.) He said, I only have a Marlborough – that was his sponsor, and that was a joke. After the show, there was almost a fifteen minute, standing ovation. I saw Sir Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn rushing down the aisle towards the backstage area. Of course Sir Laurence Olivier married Joan Plowright.
It was during one of my visits to New York that I learned of Lord Buckley’s demise. While enjoying a hot pastrami at the Stage Deli, I bumped into Sid Gould, a comedian I knew from Miami Beach. Sid told me about Lord Buckley. Faith and I went to the funeral home to pay our respects to Lord Buckley, and later we went down to the Village to visit Lady Buckley. It was very sad.
Sid introduced me to his brother Oscar, a very interesting man (Stories about Sid and Oscar later in the book.) Sid's cousin was Gary Mortin, who married Lucille Ball. You may have seen Sid in some of the "Lucy" series. He also played the patient in the "Sunshine Boys" with Walter Matthau and George Burns.
Years later,I bumped into Sid Gould at the Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills just north of Hollywood. Ross Hunter, the producer of the film, “Lost Horizon,” threw a big backstage party for Mitzi Gaynor, who was appearing there. Sid came with his cousin, Gary Morton, and Lucille Ball. There were quite a few stars there: William Shatner, Pearl Baily, Ed Ames, and more I can’t remember.
Sid Gould told me the same story about Lord Buckley that he had told me in New York. Everybody, who paid their last respects to Lord Buckley, stashed a joint in his pocket. He probably had a pound of grass on him when they buried him. I can see the police reading this and digging him up to confiscate the grass. One night a couple of years later, I met Sid Gould in Cantor’s Restaurant in Hollywood, and once again I was eating a hot pastrami. We talked about old times and again he repeated the story about Lord Buckley. I think it was one of his favorite stories.
I thought a lot of Lord Buckley. He was an interesting, caring person in his own way. I enjoyed our times together and wished there could have been more of them.
8/7/2001 To be
continued in the far future: Four
I just received an email from one of the family members:
Laurie Selma Buckley
I loved the Vegabonds so much, they were so dear to our family. I remember visiting the house. It was Easter time and Mom (Lady Buckley) had shopped that day to dress us up for a marvelous party. Tillio was the Vagabond I remembered most. After dad died, he came out and found us at our little ranch house in Vegas. Mom was about to begin her bout with depression, we were lost and needed some groceries. I don't know how he knew, but he gathered us up and off we went to the store. He gave me a $100 bill and i went in to get us some food.
The Buckley's were a very proud family, but those who knew of the beauty of kindness and love, found their way into our hearts and reached out to us in our moment of darkness without his lordship. Lady Faith would find us in New York City when Mom began to slip into deep mourning and depression. She painted a beautiful portrait for a butcher, and filled our empty freezer with meat; took us to meet her parents outside of New York for dinner.
It is this magnificent kindness and lovingness that was extended to us throughout our lives as we would rediscover the true beauty of the many people who loved our family and the memories of Lord and Lady Buckley. Reading your amazing site has brought back the volumes of emotions that graciously and deliciously have touched my heart forever.
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Jason Ankeny about
Lord Richard Buckley
"A most immaculately hip
Buckley was the epitome of comedy cool; a onetime vaudeville
performer and a hulking ex-lumberjack, he was a comic
philosopher, a bop monologuist whose vocalese fused the rhythms
and patois of the street with the arch sophistication of the
British upper-crust to create verbal symphonies unparalleled in
their intricacy and dexterity. A comedian who didn't tell jokes
and a word-jazz virtuoso riffing madly on the English language, Buckley
combined the frenetic intensity of Beat poetry with the lessons
and moral heft of Biblical tales and historical discourse;
holding court over the "hipsters, flipsters and finger-poppin'
daddies" of the postwar era, he was a true visionary, the
His Lordship was born Richard Myrle
Buckley on April 5, 1906 in Tuolumne, California, a mining town
located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. After spending
his formative years as a lumberjack, in the mid-1920s Buckley
set out to find work in the oil fields of Texas and Mexico; he
never made it, instead teaming with a traveling guitarist to
form a musical comedy act. By the 1930s he was in Chicago,
emceeing in mob-owned speakeasies; there he became a protege of
Al Capone, who set up the comedian with his own club, the Chez
Buckley, where he performed backed by a cadre of jazz musicians.
Constant vice-squad pressure soon forced Buckley out of town,
however, and throughout the early 1940s he worked the vaudeville
circuit, gaining a notorious reputation for ridiculing unhip
audiences and smoking dope onstage.
After touring with the U.S.O. during
World War II, Buckley relocated to New York City, where he acted
in a Broadway production titled The
Passing Show. After marrying Elizabeth Hanson, one of
the show's dancers, the couple and their children moved to Los
Angeles at the dawn of the 1950s; after attempts to break into
films proved largely unsuccessful, Buckley began taking on the
persona of "His Lordship," an aristocratic hipster
madman clad in tuxedo, pith helmet and Salvador Dali-esque waxed
moustache. He quickly emerged as an underground legend,
partipicating in LSD experiments while throwing wild parties at
his rented Hollywood Hills mansion (dubbed the Castle) where the
likes of Frank
Davis, Jr. and Tony
Curtis mingled with jazz musicians, junkies and poets. At a
Topanga Canyon art gallery owned by his friend Bob DeWitt, he
also founded the first jazz religion, "The Church of the
In 1951 Buckley
made his first recordings for the Vaya label, Euphoria
Volume II. The first album contained his most legendary
routine, "The Nazz," a "hipsemantic"
retelling of the life of Christ ("the sweetest, gonest,
wailinest cat that ever stomped on this sweet, swingin'
sphere"); the latter featured a number of riffs on Aesop's
Fables as well as "Jonah and the Whale," complete with
a pothead Jonah. Despite a series of well-received appearances
Tonight Show, The
Milton Berle Show and You
Bet Your Life, Buckley
did not re-enter the studio until 1955, when he cut Hipsters,
Flipsters and Finger-Poppin' Daddies, Knock Me Your Lobes,
which spotlighted his adaptations of scenes from the
Shakespearean dramas Julius
After issuing a trio of singles in 1956
— "Flight of the Saucer, Parts 1 and 2" (an
excursion into outer space rapped over the 1946 Lyle
Griffin track "Flight of the Vout Bug"), "The
Gettysburg Address" and "James Dean's Message to
Teenagers" — as well as recording the LP A
Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat (which went unreleased
until 1970), Buckley
moved to Las Vegas, where he worked the nightclub and casino
circuit. In 1959 he returned to play Hollywood; the majority of
a February 12 appearance at the Ivar Theatre was soon issued as
the album Way
Out Humor, while the remainder appeared in 1966 as Blowing
His Mind (and Yours, Too). Ever the nomad, Buckley
and his family moved to San Francisco in 1960, where he took up
residency at clubs like the Hungry i and the Purple Onion; a
performance at Oakland's Gold Nugget formed the basis of the
1970 release The
Bad Rapping of the Marquis de Sade.
In the summer of 1960, Buckley
set out alone in a red VW microbus to tour the country; in
August he arrived in Chicago, where he fell ill. Still, he
forged on to New York for a series of October performances at
the Jazz Gallery; during one of his shows, the city's vice squad
confiscated his cabaret card — a document necessary to play
area clubs — on the grounds that he lied about having a prior
arrest record. On November 12, he called the novelist Harold
Humes, complaining of great anxiety triggered by the cabaret
bureau's daily refusals to reissue his card; he also said he was
hungry and broke. Within hours of hanging up the phone, Lord
Buckley was dead of a stroke brought on by "extreme
hypertension; " he was 54 years old. A few weeks later,
civic pressure forced a repeal of the cabaret card law.
While never a mainstream figure, Buckley's
stature grew to mythic proportions in the months and years
following his death. Lenny
Bruce was an avowed fan, borrowing much of his attitude and
rhythms from Buckley's
lead, and everyone from Jonathan
Winters to Robin
Williams acknowledged His Lordship's influence. Bob
Dylan was also enamored of his work, and at the outset of
his career frequently covered Buckley's
rendition of the poet Joseph Newman's "Black Cross." Jimmy
Buffett performed the Buckley
original "God's Own Drunk," and George
"Crackerbox Palace" drew inspiration from the
comedian's life and its title from the name given his tiny
Hollywood home. Still the subject of a fanatical cult following
and a true underground hero, even decades after exiting
"this sweet, swingin' sphere" the self-styled Messiah
of Hip lives on. — Jason Ankeny
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