Here’s a Friday Question worthy of a complete post. It’s from longtime reader of the blog, Wendy Grossman and it concerns the great Mel Brooks. Wendy asks:
Ken, have you ever met or worked with him?
At the time Mel had a production company based on the 20th Century Fox lot. And that’s where MASH was filmed and produced.
Quite often at the end of the work day Mel would pop his head into the MASH writers room to say hello to Ronny. Ronny would always invite him to hang out for a few minutes and Mel always obliged.
For the next half hour or so Mel Br would hold court. And he was HILARIOUS. We received a private performance by Mel Brooks. I was in stitches… and in awe.
We so looked forward to those evenings when Uncle Mel would come around. He told stories, launched into characters, segued into hysterical rants and kvetching – the man was a comic force of nature. Like I said, we knew we were in the presence of greatness.
One story Mel told was this (and I’ve heard him tell it elsewhere). Early in his career he had an office on some movie lot and encountered Cary Grant. Mel was awestruck by Cary Grant (who wasn’t?). Much to Mel’s extreme delight Cary asked him to join him for lunch.
For Mel it was a career highlight. The next day Cary came to his office and invited him to lunch again. This happened the next day as well.
But not for Cary. Day after day he would swing by Mel’s office to get lunch. Eventually Mel hid – anything to get out of these interminable lunches. Imagine ducking Cary fucking Grant.
Here’s why I shared that story:
One night after work we were watching the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers were playing the Phillies for the pennant. It was a crucial game and we were hanging on every pitch.
And Mel popped into the room. Normally we’d be super thrilled but the Dodgers’ entire season was on the line. Mel sat down and like he always did, launched into a brilliant comic monologue. Except this time we wanted to say, “Hey, Mel. Shut up. We’re watching the game here.” We didn’t do that of course but it sure reminded me of the Cary Grant incident.
Quite simply Mel Brooks is one of the funniest people on the planet. And also one of the nicest. I’ve seen in restaurants talking to fans who interrupted his meal. He is always gracious. Always kind. A total mensch.
Mel is now 90 and I don’t think he has missed a step. He’s a national treasure and I feel blessed that I got to spend some time with him, except during the NLCS.