I represent the first generation who, when we were born, the television was now a permanent fixture in our homes. When I was born people had breakfast with Barbara Walters, dinner with Walter Cronkite, and slept with Johnny Carson.
Read the full "Pre-ramble"
Monday, June 19, 2017
We just want to be remembered before something is set in stone.
Bill Dana October 5, 1924 – June 15, 2017
Dana was born as William Szathmary in Quincy, Massachusetts. He was of Hungarian-Jewish descent. He took his stage name "Dana" after his mother's first name "Dena" as he felt "Szathmary" was unpronounceable. The youngest of six children born to Joseph and Dena Szathmary, Dana benefited from the expertise of an older brother, Arthur, who was fluent in several languages and gave his sibling his second entry into foreign languages. The first was growing up in a polyglot neighborhood where Spanish and Italian were among the languages spoken and having a Hungarian immigrant for a father. His older brother was Irving Szathmary, composer of the Get Smart theme.
Dana's career took a major turn when he began writing stand-up routines for the young comedian Don Adams, including the now well-known "Would you believe?" jokes popularized by Get Smart. From there, he was brought in as a writer for The Steve Allen Show, where he created the José Jiménez character for the show's "Man in the Street" segments.
On an Ed Sullivan Show appearance, Dana related a story of how a woman recognized him on the street, but knew him only as José Jiménez, and asked what his real name was. Instead of his stage name, "Bill Dana", he gave her his real name, "William Szathmary". The woman rejoined: "Wow, no wonder you changed it to Jiménez!"
Dana had several comedy albums but only one that strictly featured the Jose Jimenez character. One of the cuts; "The Astronaut (Part 1 and 2)"...an interview from news reporter, writer and producer Don Hinkley...made it to the Billboard Top 40 charts at #19 in September 1961. Hinkley and Dana met as writers for the Allen show.
Before appearing in front of a television camera for the first time on The Steve Allen Show in 1959, Dana had been a prolific comedy writer, an activity he continued into the 1980s, producing material for other actors on stage and screen. Dana co-wrote the script for the Get Smart theatrical film The Nude Bomb. His brother, Irving Szathmary, wrote the famous theme for the Get Smart television series. In 1961, Dana made the first of eight appearances on The Danny Thomas Show, playing Jimenez as a bumbling but endearing bellhop. The character was so well-received that it was spun off into his own NBC sitcom, The Bill Dana Show (1963–1965). Jiménez was still a bellhop, but now at a posh New York hotel. His snooty, irritable boss was played by Jonathan Harris. The cast also included Don Adams as a hopelessly inept house detective named Byron Glick; when the show was cancelled, Adams quickly used the Glick characterization as the basis for Maxwell Smart, and Get Smartpremiered on NBC that fall.
Joey Forman's 1968 parody album about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, called The Mashuganishi Yogi("mashugana" meaning crazy or bizarre in Yiddish), was produced by Dana, and includes a cameo of Dana as Jiménez, as well as a cover appearance. The album is a mock news conference, an extended question-and-answer session. The ersatz Bolivian–accented Jiménez asks the ersatz Indian-accented Yogi: "Why do you talk so funny?"
The José Jiménez character was part of several scenes in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. The government officials watch The Ed Sullivan Show before recruiting the Navy pilots. Sullivan is talking to Jiménez. ("Is that your crash helmet?" "Oh, I hope not!") Later during medical testing, a large, Hispanic worker (played by NFLoffensive tackleAnthony Muñoz) takes offense to Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) mimicking the Jiménez character. The hospital worker gets a measure of revenge later on when it comes time for Shepard to receive an enema.