The Man of the Hour

Dave's childhood home

Dave at 2 years old

High School graduation

Basic training

Basic training 1951

Dave's early stand-up

In the beginning

Dave on stage

Performing his nightclub routine

Performing at the Hilton

March of Dimes Telethon

The Rat Pack

On the "Ed Sullivan Show"

"Camp Runamuck"

An Interview with

It could be said that Dave Madden's show business career happened quite by accident - literally! Dave was severly injured in a bicycle accident when he was 12 years old and, while recouperating, he developed a magic act which segued into a stand-up comedy routine - and the rest - as the saying goes -- is show-biz history!

Born in Sanaria, Ontario, Canada, on December 17, Dave was sent to Terre Haute, Indiana at the age of two to live with relatives following his father's death. Later, while stationed with the Air Force in North Africa, Dave worked on his old comedy magic routine, later performing before the King of Libya, and other delighted Arabs who named him, "Scookoo" or "The Crazy One."

Following his discharge, Dave returned to the East Coast where he performed in a variety of comedy clubs before moving west where his act was caught by Frank Sinatra who said, "I believe that Dave Madden is one of the bright young comedy stars in show business." That led to three appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and numerous guest spots on such TV series as "Bewitched," "Accidental Family, " and his first regular series role as Camp Counselor Pruitt on "Camp Runamuck." Following "Runamuck," Dave was selected by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin to spend two summers touring with the "Laugh-In Comedy Show," which led to his being hired as a series regular.

After "The Partridge Family," Dave enjoyed a lucrative career as a commercial voice-over artist, as well as guest starring on numerous television series including, "Love American Style," "Happy Days," "Starsky & Hutch," "Mulligan's Stew," "Fantasy Island," "Love Boat," "Barney Miller," "Life With Lucy," "More Wild Wild West," "Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch, " and "The Ben Stiller Show," among others, and became a semi-regular in Mel's Diner on "Alice."

In 2008 Dave wrote his autobiography, titled ,"Reuben On Wry : The Memoirs of Dave Madden" which is chock full of stories too numerous to include here. For your convenience, we have included a link at the end of this interview where you may purchase it directly.

Now semi-retired and living in Florida with his lovely wife Sandra, Dave spoke with us in March, 2009. So sit back, enjoy the ride, and hold onto your funny bone -- because Reuben is driving the bus!

GET HAPPY: What is your earliest memory...

Dave Madden: My earliest memory? Well, I was in the womb as I remember. I was inside it and I said, "Let me out of here! It's terrible in here! It's cold!" And I haven't gone into a womb since.

GH: Well, actually I was going to ask about your earliest performing memory? When did you realize you wanted to be a performer?

DM: I don't know - what time is it now?

GH: 10:00 AM.

DM: About 9:30. No, actually when I was in the 8th Grade. I got hit by a car on my bicycle. It was a head-on collision between me and an automobile going about 45MPH. It broke my leg in several places, fractured my skull, and they didn't expect me to live for a few days. But fortunately, not too long before that, penicillin was invented. Boy, this really makes it sound like I am old, doesn't it? But it was the penicillin that they pumped into me on an hourly basis for three days that saved my life.

I was in the hospital for quite a while because they had to keep breaking my leg over again because it wasn't healing properly and so I was in there for about three months. My aunt brought me a book called "101 Tricks You Can Do." It was a magic book and being flat on my back, I managed to sit up and study it and practiced a few things and tried them out on the nurses. So, by the time I was a freshman in high school I had developed a little magic act that I did for PTA meetings and things like that. By the time I went into the service it had developed into a comedy-magic act. Then out of the service and into college, that developed into a comedy act without the magic.

GH: Was that a natural progression? Magic and comedy?

DM: I guess I always wanted to comedy - it was fun to do. I was the Joke Editor, as the called it, in High School.

GH: For your school newspaper?

DM: Yeah, for their paper. Looking back - and we're talking about the mid-to-late forties - I don't know anybody that did high school joke editor type work. I wrote monologues - I didn't write jokes. I wrote monologues, which I think was unique for it's time. I guess that's when I started getting interested in monologues and I started throwing monologues into the magic act. Eventually I took up guitar playing while I was in college. That was the folk era back in the late 50s.

GH: Where did you go to college?

DM: The University of Miami. As a matter of fact, my current wife and I have been married for 11 years. But we met in college and dated in college. Then we didn't do anything about it for 40 years, and I thought, "Well, 40 years is long enough so we might as well go ahead and try." By that time she had had two children, and I had had two children. We had both been divorced. Now, we're celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary on the 10th of May.

GH: How did you start getting booked professionally? How you get your first agent?

DM: My first agent was in Orlando, actually. When I got out of the service my folks had moved from Terre Haute, Indiana to Winter Park , Florida. So when I got out of the service I went to Winter Park. It was the only place I could go.

GH: You were raised by an aunt and uncle, right?

DM: Yes, they raised me. They were like my parents. I got an agent while I was there. I wasn't yet in the union, but I got an agent in the area and he got me some jobs. Now, I had worked for money prior to that. Even when I was in the service I did shows for money. But my agent got me jobs locally in the Winter Park area.

GH: Did you search him out or did he discover you while performing?

DM: I searched him out. His name was Sam Rowen. So I got out of the service in January and had until September before I enrolled in college to work and try and get some jobs. I didn't do a lot, but I got some jobs in the Winter Park area. Then I went down to the University of Miami.

GH: So you were working as a stand-up comic even through college?

DM: Oh yeah, it was weird. I didn't have any agent down in Miami. I used to get in my car in the evenings with 8 X 10 glossies that a friend of mine in college took. I made up a resume that was mostly lies and I would drive down Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and stop at various hotels and go in and submit myself. I'd give them an 8 X 10 glossy and a resume and I got a few jobs doing that at a couple of the hotels and motels along the Miami Beach strip.

GH: Did you look for an agent while in Miami?

DM: There was an agent in Miami named Jerry Grant who was with Gold Coast Agency and I entered a contest in Miami Beach where the First Prize was your initiation fee paid into the union, which was AGVA - American Guild of Variety Artists. That was like a $100.00 initiation fee into the union and I couldn't have afforded that. So that was the prize along with a 6-month contract with Gold Coast Agency. I won the contest, so Jerry Grant became my agent in Miami for a period of time. I didn't get much work through him because that was just something they threw in. They didn't really expect to get me any work. There was quite a bit of entertainment in that area back in those days. Not anymore, though. There were a lot of Miami Beach comedians who could work towards that crowd. I was not exactly a gentile comedian trying to do comedy for an audience that sometimes was so Jewish they hardly spoke any English. There was a lot of bombing going on down there!

GH: What did you do once you graduated from college?

DM: There was an agency in Atlanta named Ross Russell Agency and Ross Russell booked me in the South. Now, the places comedians could work in the south were pretty much toilets. They'd send you into a club and you'd work with a stripper. They'd hire a stripper and advertise the stripper and then say, "And M.C. Dave Madden." And for that, you would do about 10 - 15 minutes up front and then you'd introduce the stripper who would come out with her tape recorder and do a dance. Afterwards you were expected to fill out the better part of an hour. So you had to work about 50 minutes out of 60 and then the stripper would work the rest.

GH: And I'm sure everyone was there to see the comic!

DM: Oh yeah -- they packed in to see me. I worked a lot of awful clubs back in those days. I did that for a few years till I decided to go out the Los Angeles and try to at least find a better class of nightclub to work in.

GH: What made you decide Los Angeles instead of New York?

DM: Well, I tell you - I had been to New York while I was in the service. New York scared me. I thought of it as a rather cold city. I was a small town boy and the idea of going to LA, which I understood was made up mostly of little towns like Beverly Hills, Hollywood and things like that. There's not just one giant conglomerate like New York. So I felt more comfortable going out to LA -- not to become an actor - that all came later. I went out there to work in nightclubs. That's when I was sent over to Palm Springs to work as the opening act for the Crosby Brothers. Bing Crosby's sons had a singing act and I was their opening act.

GH: Did you have an agent in Los Angeles that booked you work?

DM: Well, I had a manager named Marshall Edson that got me that job. I was with him for about 12 years. I worked Palm Springs during the Palm Springs Golf Classic, which means everybody was there. Everybody. The whole Rat Pack came in one night and sat ringside. That particular night I did very well. So, Frank Sinatra came back after the show and asked if I would come and work with him as his opening act in Lake Tahoe the following July. They were opening a new showroom at the Calneva Lodge, which was a hotel that sat right on the California/ Nevada border. They actually had a line that ran through the hotel and all the gambling equipment was on the Nevada side.

GH: How did you end up on "The Ed Sullivan Show?"

DM: Well, Sinatra and I used to hang out together, and one night in his bungalow after the show, at about 2 in the morning, he said "You ought to be on "The Ed Sullivan Show." So he picks up the phone - because he has these numbers - and he called Ed Sullivan in New York and woke him up, and told him he ought to have me on his show. So I did three guest shots on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

GH: What year was this?

DM: 1964. I did three guest shots all in the same year.

GH: Where else did you get booked?

DM: My manager had a little club in Beverly Hills called The Ye Little Club and he called me in one night. I had gone out and worked some Playboy Clubs and I was in town and he called me because the singer was sick and he wanted me to come and perform on a Saturday night. In the audience was a writer for Screen Gems named Jerry Davis and his wife, and Nat King Cole's manager and his wife. After the show, they called me over to their table and Nat Cole's manager asked if I would like to do an eight-week tour with Nat King Cole. And Nat was my favorite singer, so there was no problem there!

GH: That must have been a treat!

DM: Well, it would have been. What happened there was the date we were supposed to open the tour at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City was the day they buried him. I never even got to meet him. So that was that. But, Jerry Davis wanted to know if I was interested in doing a pilot. I'm not even sure I knew what a pilot was, but I said yes. It sounded like something that was going to pay me money. So he sent me over to the casting agent for Screen Gems, a woman named Millie Gussie. I went to see her, and then she sent me over to a man's office named David Swift. David Swift had written and was producing and directing a pilot for a series called "Camp Runamuck." We did the pilot in 1964 and the show was on during the 1965 - 66 season on NBC.

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