First, let me say I don't dwell on death. I just like to write about famous people and the joy they brought us before they checked out. The subject today is Buddy Hackett, who died June 30, 2003.
He's actually one of a handful of celebrities who died within a week of each other. They include Katharine Hepburn (June 29), Barry White (July 4) and Buddy Ebsen (July 6). Each entertained us in their own way, which you can certainly say about Buddy Hackett.
Buddy was born Leonard Hacker in Brooklyn, NY, in August 1924. He began performing as a teen in the Catskills, calling himself "Butch Hacker." His career went nowhere, and he eventually enlisted in the Army, where he served with an anti-aircraft battery during World War II.
After the war, he changed his name to Buddy Hackett, and this time his career took off. The comedian performed in nightclubs, in movies and on television. That's where I was first exposed to his humor, when he appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Hackett joked about his mother's lousy cooking, saying that regardless of the occasion she always prepared chicken because that's all she knew how to make. He often mentioned that his mom gave him two choices for dinner, take it or leave it, and he was serious.
My fondest memory of a Buddy Hackett performance is in the movie, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World from 1963. Hackett plays one of a five motorists searching for a buried stash of stolen money. He's teamed with Mickey Rooney in the film, and the scene with the two trying to fly a plane is hilarious.
Buddy fought diabetes for years and it finally caught up with him in 2003. In declining health, he suffered a stroke and died a week later at his beach house in Malibu, CA. Buddy Hackett was 78.