Art imitates life — and other ‘realities’

Published 8:12 pm Friday, December 27, 2013

Remember the ‘50s country hit by Al Dexter that also hit the pop charts, “Pistol Packin’ Mama?” It was based on a true story. He owned a nightclub in Texas and, one night the husband of one of his waitresses came in raising cain with her. She pulled a gun and chased him out. “Lay that pistol down, babe….”

Twice, I portrayed Dr. Einstein (the Peter Lorre part) in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the very funny story of two sisters who, feeling merciful, put their elderly guests out of their misery by serving drinks armed with arsenic.

Not so funny is the fact that there was a real life counterpart, a woman who took in elderly men, putting arsenic in their drinks. Amy Archer was America’s deadliest female serial killer — body count of more than 60.

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The book is called, “The Devil’s Rooming House.”

Bert Convy was, without a doubt, the cleverest game show emcee. He can be seen on “Super Password” weekdays at 11 a.m. on the “Game Show Network.”

He recalled being at a meeting of theater art students, the speaker telling the 500 aspirants, “if you are very, very lucky, one of you will make a living in this business.” Convy said, “I remember walking out feeling sorry for the other 499.”

Oh! Number Two clever guy was Richard Dawson, who married one of his contestants.

“The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.”

It’s a cruel choice: work or daytime television.

Honesty on the tube? Duh! In 1998, “60 Minutes” ran a documentary on Colombian drug smugglers. It was later exposed as a near total fake. The Colombians were actors, the heroin was sugar.

The best part? The central character, a mole hired to smuggle drugs on flights from Colombia to Britain, turned out to be — ready for this? — a parking lot attendant who never smuggled a thing.

Along that line — and this one hurts — according to the Bravo network in a program about so-called reality television, about 75 percent of the bloopers on a show about same (Dick Lamb and Ed McMahon) were fake.

That’s a heap of bogus blunders.

Dumb joke: “How many paranoid people does it take to change a light bulb?” (Pause) “Who wants to know?”

The former mayor of Cincinnati emcees a sleazy show called “Baggage.” But give him credit for honesty. He said, “My show is the stupidest show on TV. If you are watching it, get a life.” So, who’s arguing?

I once met Tom T. Hall, backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. After we talked, amiably, for a spell, he invited me to visit on his bus and have a drink. I declined. He scowled, and there went a budding friendship.

One more bad joke: A grasshopper walks into a bar. The bartender says, “You know, we’ve got a drink named after you.” The grasshopper says, “You’ve got a drink named Harold?”

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at