Actor / Comedian Dick Shawn was a pretty sensational performer, especially for someone who seemed to often 'fly under the radar' in his professional career.
He'll never be forgotten for his small turn as 'LSD' in 1968's 'The Producers', though personally I'd have to say I'm partial to his appearance as beach bum Sylvester Marcus in the second act of '63's 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World'.
This small photo-article ran in the October 19th, 1954 issue of LOOK Magazine, as Shawn's
one-man cabaret stage act was leading him to bigger appearances on television.
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Over the years there have been anecdotes told about Dick Shawn by Mel Brooks and others that worked with him.
More often than not they'd illustrate his versatility, quick inventiveness,
off-beat humor and how he could be both stunningly charming and winningly tasteless, sometimes in the same breath.
He worked fairly regularly in film and TV, though only a handful of those appearances seemed to stand out.
Shawn's real passion was for nightclub performances.
His one-man stage act combined
stand-up with singing and dancing, and he kept up a steady run of appearances throughout the 30+ years of his career.
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Much has been written about
Dick Shawn's demise, but it's such a perfectly fitting performer's exit that it bears repeating...
Performing at U.C. San Diego on
April 17, 1987, he was in the middle of doing a routine about nuclear war.
"...He was his manic self as he began to imagine the holocaust. Nobody would survive, he explained, except the audience in the little sheltered theater.
Then he shouted, 'And I would be your leader!'" ǂǂ
He fell forward, flat onto his face.
He lay there while the audience's laughter slowly subsided and turned to uneasy silence, wondering if this was part of the act.
It was no act.
Dick Shawn had suffered a massive heart attack and died on stage.
He was 62.
In writing about Dick Shawn's death, New York Post columnist Cindy Adams recounted what the comedian had once said about always trying to find the right audiences for his brand of comedy - - "I can't work places like Vegas or the Catskills where people are belching. Maybe I belong in colleges. At least if I die, I die in front of intelligent people who know what I'm talking about."
Another quote from Shawn in reference to performance - - "I think of my relationship with any audience as a love affair. It lasts only a little while but I always look forward to a happy ending. For both of us."
Below, ⬇ Dick Shawn in action - - From 1967, a clip from the CBS Summer replacement variety show, 'Our Place' (with regulars Rowlf The Dog and Burns & Schreiber).