October 2nd, 2009

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From Twitter 10-01-2009



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QUOTES AND BIO: Groucho Marx, 1890-1977

Happy birthday, dear Julius Groucho.

Julius Henry Marx was the sharp-witted middle child of five brothers. His mother Minnie favored the handsome, fair-haired older brothers and the adorable younger two, but she apparently thought less of young Julius. The dreamy, slightly wall-eyed boy loved books and music, but he had to drop out of school early to help support the family. In later life he read voraciously and corresponded with authors and intellectuals like Carl Sandburg and T. S. Eliot. His own writing style ranged from the trenchant to the brilliantly absurd.

Depending on the source, he was a moody, mean-tempered skinflint who drove his wives to drink, or just a moody skinflint. His woman-chasing may have been a joke, but his misogyny apparently wasn't. He was married and divorced three times. After growing up in poverty, he earned a fortune--and lost $800,000 in the big stock-market crash that heralded the Depression. Afterwards he never stopped being obsessed with money. In the 1950s he stopped by the New York Stock Exchange to entertain the dazzled stockbrokers -- an act that literally shut down all Wall Street trading for fifteen minutes. He was determined to get his $800,000 worth.

He had hit shows in vaudeville, on Broadway, in the movies, on radio, and on television. He wrote several books--and yes, he actually wrote them. He died at 86, more than 30 years ago, and he is still one of the funniest men who ever lived.


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dropping acid with Paul Krassner
He told me about one of his favorite contestants "a gentleman with white hair, on in years but a chipper fellow. I inquired as to what he did to retain his sunny disposition. "Well, I'll tell you, Groucho," he says "every morning I get up and I make a choice to be happy that day."

We had long periods of silence and of listening to music. I was accustomed to playing rock 'n' roll while tripping, but the record collection here was all classical and Broadway show albums. After we heard the Bach "Cantata No. 7 Groucho said, "I may be Jewish, but I was seeing the most beautiful visions of Gothic cathedrals. Do you think Bach knew he was doing that?"

There was a point when our conversation somehow got into a negative space. Groucho was equally bitter about institutions such as marriage ("like quicksand") and individuals such as Lyndon Johnson ("potato-head"). Eventually, I asked, "What gives you hope? Groucho thought for a moment .... . Then he said just one word out loud: "People."

After a while, he started chuckling to himself. I hesitated to interrupt his reverie. Finally he spoke: "I'm really getting quite a kick out of this notion of playing God like a dirty old man in Skidoo. You wanna know why? Do you realize that irreverence and reverence are the same thing?"
"Always?"
"If they're not, then it's a misuse of your power to make people laugh"
And right after he said that, his eyes began to tear.

When he came back from peeing, he said, "Everybody is waiting for miracles to happen. The human body is a goddam miracle."

He mentioned, "I had a little crush on Marilyn Monroe when we were making Love Happy - I remember I got a hard-on just talking to her on the set."

During a little snack: "I never thought eating a fig would be the biggest thrill of my life."

He held and smelled a cigar for a long time but never smoked it.

"Everybody has their own Laurel and Hardy," he mused. "A miniature Laurel and Hardy, one on each shoulder. Your little Oliver Hardy bawls you out-he says, 'Well, this is a fine mess you've gotten us into.' And your little Stan Laurel gets all weepy -"Oh, Ollie, I couldn't help it, I'm sorry, I did the best I could. . . ' "


Groucho and cigars, by his son Arthur.

Groucho's FBI file.

Quotes about Groucho from his fans, including Terry Southern, T. S. Eliot, George Burns, George Bernard Shaw, and Candice Bergen.

The young Jon Carroll interviews the elderly Groucho.