No joke: Ballard to be honored by Caring Community
By Jerry Tallmer
When Kaye Ballard comes to New York to accept the Caring Communitys 2005 Greenwich Village Alumni Award next Tuesday, Nov. 7, shell be staying for a few days at the Hotel Edison on 47th Street, just off Times Square, exactly where she first lived in this city when Spike Jones brought 17-year-old Kaye here to sing with his band in 1943.
Right across the street, said Kaye Ballard last weekend by phone from her digs in Rancho Mirage, Cal., there was the Joey Gold ticket agency. A man there named Jesse Berelly said to me one day: Kid, you ever seen a Broadway show? and gave me gave me a ticket to see Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie. Then I saw Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun, and thats when I knew thats what I have to do, rather than sit around in a cold-water flat.
She hasnt been doing much sitting around since. Her dossier of movies, stage work and television most famously opposite Eve Arden in The Mothers-in-Law stretches from the 1940s into the here and now, as conveyed with pizzazz in her two solo shows of the 1980s, Hey Ma
Kaye Ballard and Kaye Ballard, Working 42nd Street at Last, and in her recent autobiography How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years.
She wrote that one and published it herself, sold 3,000 copies, and is now negotiating with a more formal publisher.
I wrote it for the people who came to see The Palm Spring Follies that I was in last year the people who danced to the same prom songs I did. You know, Imagination, The Very Thought of You all the old Bobby Short songs.
Rancho Mirage is outside Palm Springs. This was the 14th year of The Palm Spring Follies, but my first. You have to be over 55 to be in it. We did three months, 750 seats, nine shows a week. Now Im writing a sequel: How I Gained 10 Pounds in 53 Minutes at an Italian Wedding.
So sayeth Catherine Gloria Balotta, daughter of Vincent and Lena Balotta of Cleveland, Ohio.
An Italian background is a lot like a Jewish background. My father was a cement finisher and very proud of it. He would take me around to parts of Cleveland and say: I laid this cement down in 1933. My mother made me think she never believed in me. It was very difficult. But I loved my mother.
Ive been performing since I was 15 that was at the Stage Door Canteen in Cleveland and next month [Nov. 20] Ill be 80. Im getting o-l-l-l-d, but I dont feel it. Ill always work until I die because I never saved any money, and God bless the union, thats all I say.
I have a bad knee hurt my knee in The Full Monte  and didnt get a goodbye from anyone. Thats show business today.
She affirms that, yes, shes a cancer survivor, but she lets the interviewer say the bad word without it passing her own lips. Its been 10 years, she does say. I dont think about it. Maybe thats a good thing or maybe its a bad thing. Smoke? No, I never never never. Though I sang in nightclubs and thats not so hot either. Secondhand smoke.
It was Arthur Makar, executive director of Greenwich Villages Caring Community, who phoned her some months ago No, I dont have e-mail, are you mad? she inserted to say hed read her book and would like to invite her to be honored at this years gala.
At that event at Tribeca Rooftop at 2 Desbrosses Street on Nov. 7 shes going to do a 15-minute bit on what show-business humor used to be like, along with a tribute to the late Henny Youngman.
I loved Henny. He used to feed me all my one-liners at the Bon Soir [downstairs on Eighth Street]. Open with this! Open with that!
Ive lived through a wonderful era. Such fun. Class, also. I dont know why anyone thinks gross is funny. You know whats missing today? Wit! Wit!
It was 1947 when she first moved into the Village first to Fourth Street, then to 25 Fifth Avenue, then 12th Street, then Ninth Street, and then, when I was doing Pirates of Penzance I moved Uptown. I was in Pirates 53 weeks at the Minskoff as Ruth [the Pirates Maid-of-All-Work]. Was there through seven Frederics [the Pirate Apprentice], three or four Pirate Kings and Maureen McGovern a vegetarian [so quirky that] she didnt even have a box of Kleenex as Mabel.
After Pirates, I moved back down to 1 Sheridan Square. Thats right, the building under which Café Society Downtown used to be. Only you would remember that, she quipped to this writer.
You know, I was in Los Angeles 10 years and never bought a Los Angeles Times. I couldnt stand it. I bought The New York Times. Im afraid to tell anybody out here that Im a Democrat.
New York, said Kaye Ballard, over that phone from California, anything to do with New York. New York is my heart.
As one enters the Hotel Edison on West 47th Street, the Edison Coffee Shop otherwise known as the Polish Tea Room is just to the left. See you there, Kaye.