I was a big fan of the Marx Brothers from the time I was old enough to understand their type of humor. Harpo was the silent devil who had a child like quality. His antics made me scream with laughter. I especially loved the enchanted moments when he played the harp in their films. He was so childlike and innocent looking. Chico always amused me as the guy who could twist around the English language, and then become a slick double talker like a used car salesman. The Marx Brothers had a huge revival in the 70’s. Teenagers and college kids were discovering their films and loving them.
In 1976, I was invited to a dinner at Groucho’s house. It seems that he loved piano players. Someone was making this party for him of only piano players and I got invited. It was quite an evening. There I was with some of the most incredible piano players on earth. We all played piano for him and told him jokes. He in turn told us some really historical stories about Hollywood and show biz. Toward the end of the evening I sat on the couch in his living room and he joined me. We chatted about New York, vaudeville, television, sex, great delicatessens and of course Hollywood. We spent about twenty minutes together. I know for a fact that if he were still alive, we would have been great friends.
At the end of our conversation he said something very profound. He shook my hand and said “Artie, you will never be an old person because of your great sense of humor. Take a look at me. I’m not old Artie .. I’m just sick.” He really got to me, so I hugged him and gave him a little kiss on his cheek. He hugged me back and said, “I hope to see you again. You’re really funny. Let’s go jogging tomorrow morning at six a.m..” He winked his eye and left the room. I was so emotionally drained and yet so happy to have had a few private moments with him. Sadly, he died shortly after.
This picture was taken in his living room by one of the other piano players who were there that night — some guy named Errol Garner. For those of you who do not know who Errol Garner is, I suggest you buy a few of his recordings. You’re in for a treat.