On Thursday, one of my all-time favorite comics, the brilliant Bob Newhart, turned 90.
The AP did an interview with him, an excerpt which I’ll paste here, and I’ll provide another link to the interview at the bottom of this post.
Newhart: I’ve said it before, but of all the weird things, comedians’ marriages seem to last the longest: George Burns and Jack Benny and Buddy Hackett and (Bob) Hope. I think there’s something between longevity and laughter. You’ll be having a fight, and you’ll say something stupid and then start to laugh, and then she’ll start to laugh, and then the fight’s over. I think laughter is vital. It’s as vital as breathing. It gets you through difficult areas. Laughter is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. It’s like music, of a kind.Associated Press
This is one of the reasons I respect and admire Mr. Newhart because he’s totally right on that.
I briefly encountered him on a film shoot some years ago and wrote/posted about it back when, but that post isn’t on my current incarnation of this site, so in honor of his 90th birthday, this is my little encounter with the great Bob Newhart, who said I had a “nice dog.”
Seriously, he complimented my dog, and I can live with that.
Yesterday was a Bob Newhart kind of day around here, which was actually a little more exciting than it sounds.
This is because Bob complimented my dog, Rufus, one day a few years ago, and I was reminded of it yesterday when they had a “Newhart” marathon playing on one of the cable channels. I kept it on while I worked, but it was very distracting because of those lovable woodsmen Larry, Darrel and Darrel, and those precocious scamps Michael and Stephanie.
I thought it was the funniest show on television back in ’85. I remember the first show too, from the seventies, which my dad loved. He never missed an episode.
There was an attempt at a show in the early nineties which fell flat, but we watched it, that coffeesister and I. We were married by then and she knew I was a Bob Newhart fan, so she supported me in that effort.
So, I went through about five episodes of the old Newhart show yesterday and then Bob showed up for an interview on a late-night talk show. He looked good for being almost eighty, and although he’s slowed down a bit he was still funny. He was asked if he ever gets mistaken for someone else (jokingly, because WHO looks like that, huh?) and I thought he was going to tell about meeting my dog.
He didn’t. Oh well. But honestly, he met my dog because he was mistaken for someone else.
Rufus was a solid black Keeshond with a curly rooster tail. He stood about yay high, and he was a sweetheart. Everybody loved him because he didn’t have a mean bone in his little body. I’d never seen him snap or snarl at anyone, he was always ready for a little love when he could get it, and otherwise he’d just mind his own business.
He’d been a Christmas gift to my mom from us, and she kept him for the first four years of his life until she had to leave everything behind one day all of a sudden, so we took Rufus in. He stayed with us for about the next ten years.
During my Hollywood period, when I was doing work in TV and film as an extra, I got booked on Reese Witherspoon’s “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde,” which wasn’t the greatest movie ever made but it’s the only one that has Rufus in it because he got booked too.
He’s not actually in it, because it turns out that photography directors in movies don’t like solid black dogs, clothes or cars because they sort of disappear into a void on film, so they didn’t really put ol’ Rufus in any good shots but he ended up on the DVD in a “making of” segment.
Knowing how they felt about black dogs, I put a little blue visor on my buddy with the hope that it would provide enough of a color splash that they’d put him in a main shot so that he would be immortalized forever in a movie, but no such luck.
I had booked this shoot through Central Casting of Los Angeles, as I had most of my gigs, and they would pay you what’s called a ‘bump’ for anything extra, like bringing your car or dog when asked. This was a massive ‘dog-call,’ and all dog owners got an extra $25.00 for bringing their pups.
When the check came about a week later, I cashed it and set aside $25.00 entirely for Rufus, since it’s the one day in his little life he’d actually been employed and worked a whole day. All of it went for treats and toys for him and his brother, Ian, our sheltie. I figured Rufus would want to share with his bro, and I was right.
They had a great time ripping through $25.00 worth of doggie stuff!
Bob Newhart was in the movie, and we were all out at Exposition Park in Los Angeles that day filming a scene depicting a “million dog march” on Washington. There were hundreds of dogs and their owners milling around, including Chuck and Grace, who I’d met on a previous gig. They had their two huskies and we were hanging out near a catering truck while the crew set up the next big scene they were going to shoot.
Grace asked if she could get us anything because she was going to walk over to the catering truck, so we placed our orders. She returned about ten minutes later, shaking her head and kind of embarrassed. “OH MY GOD,” she said. “I think I’ve just insulted Bob Newhart!”
She told of walking up to the truck but not seeing any bananas. This was crazy, because they always have bananas at these trucks, and she really wanted one. So she asked the older gentleman standing next to her if he had any bananas today and he stammered, “I, uh.. I.. don’t, uh.. I don’t.. well.. work here. I’m actually, uh.. I’m IN the movie.”
It was Bob Newhart, who was also there to get a banana. He was wearing some kind of uniform which led her to believe he was a caterer, when actually he was in costume for his character.
She profusely apologized and he accepted, telling her it was okay because it “happens all the time” to him, so she grabbed a few items and rejoined us. She was telling us the story when he came up behind her, eating a banana.
“Hey, uh.. they.. they have bananas.. they were hiding behind the cereal boxes. I brought you one.”
Yes, he stammers like that in real life. It’s not just an act after all!
He handed Grace a banana and then gave our dogs a look. “Nice dogs,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye and a slight grin as he gave the two huskies and Rufus a pat on the head each. He’d overheard Grace telling us about meeting him and I’m sure he thought it was pretty amusing. We thanked him and he went on his way to get ready for his next scene.
I remember that whenever I see him, and I saw him a lot yesterday, so today I thought I’d write about it. Rufus is long gone, and although it’s not a big story or a hysterical one, to me it’s just one of those weird times when worlds collide because I think of my beloved little pal Rufus every time I see Bob Newhart, because Bob said he was “a nice dog.”
He was, Bob. He was the best.