Funnymen: A Novel
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SIGMUND "ZIGGY" BLISSMAN isn't the best-looking, sanest boy in the world. Far, far from it. But this misfit child of a failed husband-and-wife vaudeville team has one (and only one) thing going for him: He can crack people up merely by batting his eyelashes.And Vittorio "Vic" Fontana, the son of a fisherman, is a fraud. Barely able to carry a tune or even stay awake while attempting to, the indolent baritone (if that's what he is) has one thing going for him: Women love to look at him.On their own, they're failures. But on one summer night in the Catskills, they step onstage and together become the funniest men -- and the hottest act -- in America."Funnymen" is the wildly inventive story of Fountain and Bliss, the comedy duo that delighted America in the 1940s and '50s. Conceived as a fictional oral biography and filled with more than seventy memorable characters, "Funnymen" details the extraordinary careers of two men whose professional success is never matched in their personal lives. The two men fight constantly with their managers, their wives, their children, their mistresses, and those responsible for their success: each other. The stories recounted about Vic and Ziggy -- and the truths Heller reveals about human ambition, egotism, and friendship -- make "Funnymen" a wild ride of a novel that is also a rare and imaginative masterpiece of storytelling.
like a bear, and Chester Yalburton of the Globe —who wouldn't have liked a Fountain and Bliss movie if we paid him a hundred grand (and we gave that serious consideration)—shredded us like confetti. Justin Gilbert of the Los Angeles Mirror pulverized us. “Comics don't ever get no respect, Latch,” Ziggy said to me when we had all the reviews in. “You make someone cry, you're a hero, a saint. You make someone laugh, you're a mongrel. You think Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera got good notices?”
Sally called me at seven in the morning, four people had already called me. Mickey Rudin, Sinatra's lawyer, called me, because Frank had such a big stake in the Cal-Neva. Pete Conifer called me—the guy was probably tied up with a diaper on and being spanked as he was talking. Shep Lane called too. “Honey, if four people know, then twenty people know,” Estelle told me over my morning grapefruit. “And if twenty people know, then a thousand people know.” Sally called Ziggy's house and Jane
impression. Another factor was he was maybe too gassed to do too much damage a lot of the time. In these movies, Johnny Venice walks around with a flask in his holster instead of a pistol. Well, that wasn't Cel-Ray tonic in that flask, you can take my word for it. BILLY WILSON [body double for Vic Fountain]: I'd been knocking around Hollywood for a few years. My first flick was The Naked and the Dead, the Aldo Ray film. I get killed in that movie; a shell explodes and I drop my rifle and
brother?” “Yeah. I swear.” “I still don't have to do shit. Clean your bathroom. Now!” He and Ziggy ran into each other that day, in the Sunset Lounge. They had Ziggy on medication, to take him off all them pills he was taking. He didn't look any more like the Ziggy I'd seen on the TV than I did. He just looked like a little bent-over bald Jewish man to me. All them freckles he had? They'd all faded and his skin looked like rust. But now in the lounge he was like a zombie. That's what Hope
all reported this hysteria was for Fountain and Bliss, who simply forged their way unmolested through this screaming mob. And then we got in our taxis and headed for the Hollywood Plaza Hotel. Morty met us there, in the lobby. This kid was just on a different plane. His mind raced a million miles a second and I think so did his pulse too. “It went off good, didn't it, at the station?” he said. And I told him it sure did. Even with that good news, he's biting his nails down to the knuckles.