Peter Sellers--now I understand

I was a big fan of the old “Dean Martin” show. One night one of the guests was Peter Sellers. In one of the regular skits, Dean with chat with his guests and regulars, which for the most part was not “as characters.” They were just themselves, reading jokes off cue cards or whatever.

Well, what struck me as odd as that Sellers did that shole skit acting as–for lack of a better word–a sissy. I thought it was strange, and it didn’t tie into any of the other stuff going on.

Some years later, I saw Sellers in an interview (some time after “Being There”), and he did the interview as “Chance the Gardner!” Huh???

Some years late I read a short bio on him, and it said that he had always said that he did not have a personality of his own–that he “became” the characters that he was acting.

Blake Edwards said something similar to that–that Sellers remained “in character” after the cameras had quit rolling, and that that (among other things) made him quite difficult to deal with.

So, apparently he chose the “Chance” character for the interview, and the “sissy” character (for whatever reason) for the DM show. Apparently, in his view, since that skit was done out of character (which for him, did not exist), he had to “create” a character–OK, I see now (I think).

I have heard that Sellers was quite the loony. Apparently he had some sort of fear of a certain color and would completely lose it if that color was present anywhere near him on a movie set.

“My hovercraft is full of eels.”

I knew an actor years ago. When I first met him I was impressed with his wit and wordcraft. Soon enough it became apparent that almost everything he said or did was recycled from a role he had played. And it did make him difficult to interact with.

I saw a similar thing with Andy Kauffman on the Dating Game. He was one of the three bachelors and was claiming to be a lovable, naive, foreigner of indiscriminate ethnic origin named “Hadji.” At the end of the show, he seemed very confused as to why he didn’t win the date with the Playboy bunny. “But I answered all the questions,” he intoned beseechingly. I felt kind of sorry for the guy.

A few months later, “Taxi” premiered and there was “Hadji” only this time he was “Latka.”

I finally got the joke.

Was that really Andy on The Dating Game? I remember seeing that episode and wondering, “Damn, that looks like Andy Kauffman. But what the hell is he doing on a real game show?” It was a very wierd episode, and it seemed far too ecletic for the producers to let on the air. But if it was really him, it would make sense. But they certainly played it off very well. Andy seemed like he was honestly perturbed that he wasn’t picked. Nice to know that I wasn’t just imagining the whole thing.

On the bright side, beatle, he didn’t get that Hannibal Lector gig…


Chuck Barris regularly employed actors on “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” just in case the other contestants weren’t funny enough.

I saw PeeWee Herman as a Contestant on “The Dating Game” one time–as the “PeeWee” character. Long before he was famous (or infamous).

And no, he wasn’t chosen.

That must have been traumatic for Pee Wee. I hope he went to a movie to cheer himself up.