Friday, October 17, 2008

Edie Adams and Jack Narz

Those of us who spent (or in some cases misspent) much of our childhoods watching TV in the '50s and '60s have reason to be sad this week with the deaths of Edie Adams and Jack Narz.

I suppose Edie will be forever linked with her late husband and frequent co-star, comedian Ernie Kovacs, and I also suppose she wouldn't mind that much, if at all.

Many people have called Ernie a genius. And that's quite possibly true, even if his stuff, viewed today, is mostly funny only if you remember seeing it the first time around, when the technology, trick shots and gags were new and fresh, long before "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" borrowed (to put it mildly) his style. (And 40 years later, that show seems antiquated, too.)

I've sometimes wondered what Kovacs, who died in a car crash in 1962, 10 days short of his 43rd birthday, would have achieved if he'd lived longer.

But there's no doubt about what his widow achieved, for while Ernie might have been more brilliant than Edie, she was surely the more mature of the two. His motto was "Nothing in moderation," and the debts he left his family leave little doubt that he lived by those words. Over the years, as Mark Evanier notes in his indispensable blog, Edie Adams went to accounting school and eventually got her family out of debt.

All this while being a fantastic performer: a very talented singer, actor and impressionist who knew how to be sexy without being salacious.

If you're too young to know what I'm talking about, go up to any guy who was around back then and say two words: "Muriel cigars."

You will probably notice that he is smiling, and you won't have to be The Amazing Kreskin to know that he is thinking about Edie Adams....

When I was a little kid, my favorite game show was "Dotto." (Well, maybe second favorite, next to "Concentration.")

"Dotto" featured connect-the-dot puzzles, which I was really into at the time. It was hosted by a guy named Jack Narz.

At one point the show left the airwaves forever. Years later, I learned it had been fixed. Narz, whose career went into a tailspin, denied he was in on the fix.

I've always believed him.

His career recovered, and he also emceed such shows as "Video Village," "Now You See It" and (a '60s favorite of mine) "Seven Keys."

Jack Narz was not the wittiest of men, but he didn't need to be. Like the master game show host Bill Cullen (who was Narz's brother-in-law; Narz's brother is Tom Kennedy, another game show host and underrated talent), Narz made a difficult job look easy.

All of us have probably had to go to work on days when we didn't particularly want to go to work. Maybe Jack Narz had days like that, too.

But if he did, he never showed it. When you watched a show emceed by Jack Narz, you always saw a guy who seemed happy to be there, happy to be alive, happy for the winning contestants and happy to have you in his life.

As far as I'm concerned, that's not a bad way to be remembered.

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