Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Father's Favorite Entertainer

To Durante, With Love, by Jim Bishop, 1974 My mother was a newspaper clipper.  If she liked a story, article, or poem, she clipped it.  If my father liked an article or cartoon, she clipped it.  When one of her children was mentioned in an article, she clipped it.  I found this article at right among my mother's papers, clipped because my father loved Jimmy Durante.

My father, Lee Doyle, grew up in rural Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, in the late teens and twenties.  His connection with the outside world was probably limited to interaction with other people, the newspaper, and a radio -- but the radio didn't arrive until sometime between October, 1927, when Dad was 14, and 1930.  Having a radio with access to music, news, and stories must have been exciting for him and the others in his family. 

Perhaps Dad became acquainted with Jimmy Durante while listening to the radio or maybe he saw one or more of his early films at a theater.  In the absence of Dad's childhood stories to tell me, I'll never know for sure  However it happened, Durante became one of my father's favorite entertainers.

I remember our family watching the Jimmy Durante show on the television set (as it was called then) when I was a child.  I remember his big nose and the nickname Schnozzola.  He had such a good sense of humor and never hesitated to highlight and laugh about his nose.  At the end of each program he walked off the stage saying, "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."  No one seemed to know for sure who Mrs. Calabash was.

As a youth Durante learned to play the piano.  In the mid-1920s he became a Vaudeville star, later a radio personality, a Broadway performer, and both a motion picture and television star.  "Inka Dinka Doo" became Durante's theme song but you may also remember "As Time Goes By" and "Make Someone Happy" in "Sleepless in Seattle."  You can read more about Jimmy Durante at his page on Wikipedia and elsewhere on the internet.

Today is Jimmy Durante's birthday.  He was born in 1893, 20 years before my father, whose birthday is February 27, 1913.  I thought it was a good day to share this article and to remember both Jimmy Durante and my father, Lee Doyle.  Thanks to my mom for being a clipper, thereby providing this connection to her, my father, and a happy childhood memory.

As I was previewing videos to share they reminded me how much fun some of the the old 1950s and 1960s variety shows were.  Perhaps you remember "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Perry Como Show," and some of the others?  In the video below Durante, nearly 72, sings several songs and dances in one.  The video is about 8 minutes long but his first song is over in just a few minutes.  I hope you enjoy at least one.


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. What a fun post! Jimmy Durante seems like a stand up guy and someone I would have liked to know, he has a great voice too!

    1. Hi, Brenna. As I was researching Jimmy Durante I found that he was a kind, generous, humble man. (One has to be humble to have a nose like that and make fun of it!) I enjoy his voice but I think of it as almost gravelly.

  2. "I got that note from Bing Crosby, and boy, was he glad to get rid of it!" Ink-a dink-a dink-a dinka doooo!

    1. Oh, yes, Michael. I remember Jimmy Durante but I didn't really know much about his music or sense of humor until I started watching youtube videos. He was a very funny guy.

  3. A wonderful remembrance piece Nancy! It captures what I call a "genealogical factoid" that often is the kind of information about and ancestor that gets completely lost. I always liked Jimmy Durante myself.

    I have mentioned your post in this week's Saturday Serendipity -- with my usual introductory comments. ;-)

    1. Hi, John. I think these kinds of memories are important to share about the family members I know particularly because none of my older family members shared memories of parents and grandparents they knew but I didn't. Even having second hand memories, passed down from my parents and grandparents about their parents and grandparents to me, would have helped keep them alive in memory.

      Thank you for including this post in your Saturday Serendipity this week. As always, you are so generous with your kind words about my posts. I appreciate it.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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