On this New Year’s Day, here’s something that’ll make those of us of a certain age share a wistful smile at the memory.
The actor Victor Buono died 40 years ago today, on New Year’s Day 1982.
The big man specialized in playing bad guys with big personalities. King Tut on “Batman,” a role he loved because he could overact and get away with it. Mr. Schubert on “Man From Atlantis.” Count Manzeppi on “The Wild Wild West.” Twice a murderer on “Perry Mason.” No, not Wo Fat but the thief Eric Damien on “Hawaii Five-O.”
But there was another side to Victor Buono.
On talk shows, he was a gifted storyteller who often recited his comic poems. The proof: 30 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” 14 appearances on “The Joey Bishop Show,” 10 appearances on “The Mike Douglas Show,” eight appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show.”
Here’s Victor Buono making one such appearance on “The Tonight Show” from 47 years ago today, New Year’s Day 1975. He shares some New Year’s resolutions, then riffs on a news story while sitting next to Johnny Carson.
(Oh, that clip going around with Betty White and Johnny Carson as Jane and Tarzan? Victor Buono was a guest on that show, too. It aired Aug. 14, 1981. It was his second-to-last talk show appearance and his last with Johnny.)
It’s been at least a decade since I found Victor Buono’s LP of comic poems.
Here’s a wonderful cut from that.
“Fat Man’s Prayer,” Victor Buono, from “Heavy!” 1971. (Sharing a video here because my copy skips at one of the many good lines.)
Victor Buono always played and seemed older than he really was, perhaps because of his size. When this LP was released in 1971 — many of his most memorable TV and film performances already behind him — he was just 33. He was just 43 when he died of a heart attack at his California home.