Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Oct. 8
Dig a Hole: Sid Melton
The question that will be a topic of conversation for decades to come: Where were you when you first learned of the death of Sid Melton?
I posted the news on Facebook — after taking 20 minutes to compose myself — and some miserable soul had the temerity to ask, "Who is Sid Melton?" Who is Sid Melton?! To quote San Diego's dearly departed (but cryogenically resilient) Ted Williams, "Who the hell are you with these goddamn questions?"
Melton melts the screen as "Pinkhead" in Edgar G. Ulmer's Girls in Chains. With those ears, he kinda' looks like a '48 Buick with the doors open.
For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those that don't, no explanation will suffice. Sid Melton is dead and with him goes our illustrious heritage of the second banana. The true definition of a clown is someone who has the ability to make one laugh at first sight, no words are necessary. I don't need to see Sid Melton to get a chuckle. The mere mention of his name is enough.
Sid Melton was always a welcome visitor in the Marks household. After my homework was done, mother and father allowed me to open the fake wood-paneled doors on the 25-inch Zenith console so my little friends in Television Land could come out for a visit. As a child I ran to Dannys Thomas and Kaye. Now I run from them. I was in the wrong place at the right time as far as Make Room for Daddy was concerned and words cannot describe the irreparable havoc it wreaked on my receptive encephalon.
Sid Melton played "Uncle" Charley Halper, the fictionalized honcho of the Copacabana Night Club -- a room Thomas could easily have filled simply by sticking his nose in it -- on the Lebanese load's popular sitcom. Sid Melton owned every scene he appeared in. With his Lilliputian stance, loud sport coat, stale cigar, proud Brooklyn accent, and putting green brush cut, he was the epitome of cr...class and refinement, everything Joey Bishop strove to represent but couldn't touch.
Sid Melton was blessed to have for his "show wife" the incomparable Pat Carroll. What actor (or actress) wouldn't have leapt at the opportunity to play femme opposite Carroll's butch Bunny Halper? For years I was under the impression that her character's name was Bunny Helper. So much for my "just add rabbit" joke.
The Monroes: television's original Ambiguously Gay Duo, Sid "Alf" Melton and Mary Grace "Ralph" Canfield on Green Acres.
Carroll wasn't the only ambisexual TV character Sid Melton was asked to woo. I never missed an episode during its original run, but it's been years and I currently find myself at a loss when it comes to character lineage in Green Acres. Were Alf (Melton) and Ralph (Mary Grace Canfield) brother and sister? Husband and wife? Did Ralph "play for the other team" or was s/he a pre-op transsexual? Did Alf like to watch? And where did Arnold fit into all of this?
How I wish that a copy of Budd Boetticher's The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond sat lounging on my DVD shelf. Were it true, I'd gladly share "Little Auggie's" final moments with you. As difficult as it is to watch even a fictional mock-up of the tiny titan's demise, the sight of the forced, dubbed-in laughter of the diminutive comic being silenced by a spray of gunfire would coat laptops across San Diego with morning coffee. The potential tidal wave of spit-takes would have made Thomas proud.
2011 will mark America's first Christmas without Sid Melton, seen here as "Little Louie" opposite Bob Hope in Frank Tashlin's The Lemon Drop Kid.
Sidney Meltzer was a spry 94 when snatched from us on November 2. Note to St. Peter: Make room for Melton!
A commercial for Make Room for Granddaddy featuring Sid Melton (and his hip '70's sideburns), Roosevelt Grier, and Marjorie Lord executing a picture-perfect spit-take reversal.
If only they had worked together. Just once.
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