Funnymen: A Novel
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.
“And you know that when you tell a reporter something, they twist it around.” “Oh, I'll twist it around, Sal! I'll twist it around his neck!” He was yelling and waking up people at the hotel. Danny came out into the hallway, then Arnie. Ziggy ripped the newspaper up and kept ripping up the pieces he'd already ripped. “You gotta punish him, Arnie,” he said. “I'm gonna do that?! He's an adult! Occasionally.” “This is bad for the act.” “We'll survive. Can I finish shaving now?” “We got a show
a fault.” “Exactly,” he said. ARNIE LATCHKEY: Letting the Cat go wasn't easy. First time we met him, he was just a young soldier boy in New Mexico. But we had to do it. Spying on each other—that was bad. I know he was only doing what he was asked, but you had to draw the line somewhere. He was devastated. He was the straightest arrow you ever saw. Hardly drank a drop, never gambled, didn't run around with girls. Christ, he still looked like a soldier. “I don't know what I'm going to do,” he
catatonic. This was going on for five minutes. I was thinking, This is what you get for getting rid of your parents, you schnook, but, you know, it was too pathetic; he was too sad a figure to be angry about or vengeful over. It's time for me to play the cavalry now. So I go onstage and sit down and I'm just about to play some songs that he and I had performed, when I hear this very slight whimper come out of him. He won't be able to sing, I thought. No way. I walked over to him and whispered
me except for two things. One: most of the time we were all together, it hardly seemed like a business. We'd be just screwing around, trying new material, goofing off. This was not a board meeting at General Motors, you have my utmost assurance. And the second thing was, I had begun seeing Estelle, my own secretary, by then. Danny nipped it all in the bud. He offered me his resignation. I accepted it. I wished him luck and told him I'd do anything to help him get a new job. He wants me to call
me first, scumbag.” That's just what I said. Then he put his hand on my nose and laughed like he used to when I was a kid. He says, “I got your nose,” and laughs. Ha ha ha, he goes. He pulls his hand away and there's blood squirting all over the place, it's squirting like it's comin' out a kid's water pistol. It took me a few seconds before I felt it—I just saw the squirts first. I looked at his hand and he's got all the flesh of my nose—it looked like a thumb—in his hands. And a razor blade too.