May 6, 1904|
|Died||November 23, 1958
Los Angeles, California
|Genres||Stand-Up, Dark Comedy|
(1937-1958; his death)
Harry Einstein (May 6, 1904 – November 23, 1958) was an American comedian and writer, usually known by the name Harry Einstein but was variously credited as Harry Einstein, Parkyakarkus and Nick Parkyakarkus. He was famous as the character Parkyakarkus, a pseudo-Greek character comic on the Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson radio programs. He appeared in eleven films as Parkyakarkas from 1936 to 1945.
Einstein was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Sarah (née Klayman), who was born in Russia, and Charles Einstein, a pawnbroker from Austria. He married actress Thelma Leeds on February 7, 1937.
He started out a newspaper reporter in his native Boston, coming into comedy via Eddie Cantor's radio show. His own show soon followed, along with roles in films. He met his wife, Thelma, while making New Faces of 1937. Einstein was referred to by the name of his popular character so frequently, he filed to have his name legally changed to that of Parkyakarkas, but was turned down by a New York judge. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was awarded to Parkyakarkus.
Einstein had made good real estate investments and for years was not dependent on performing for his income. His ill health had made him limit his comedic appearances to Friars' Club roasts.
Meet Me at Parky's
As a result of his popularity on the Cantor program, Einstein began a radio show of his own in 1943 called Meet Me at Parky's. Einstein's character, Nick Parkyakarkas, was the owner of a Greek restaurant. The scripts for the show were mainly written by Einstein himself. Sheldon Leonard, Elliott Lewis and Betty Rhodes were part of the cast, with Rhodes as the female singer as well as supporting work.
Death on stage
Einstein died from a heart attack at a Friars Club of Beverly Hills Roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on November 23, 1958, in Los Angeles, California. He had just finished his testimonal to a house full of laughter and Art Linkletter's remark, "How come anyone as funny as this isn't on the air?", when Einstein slumped onto Milton Berle's lap at the event. Berle asked "Is there a doctor in the house?"; this remark was met with laughter, as the crowd was unaware that Berle was being serious. Emcee Art Linkletter then directed crooner Tony Martin to sing a song to divert the crowd's attention; Martin's unfortunate choice was "There's No Tomorrow." According to the Los Angeles Times account, Desi Arnaz said: "This offering meant so much to me. Now it means nothing. Please, everyone, pray to your God that he will be saved." Lucille Ball then came to the microphone and managed to say, "I can say nothing", through her tears.
He was carried backstage where five specialists who were Friars Club members worked feverishly to save his life. One doctor used his pen knife to make an incision in Einstein's chest for open heart massage. Another used the ends of an electric cord as a makeshift defibrillator to shock his heart back to life; only the left side responded with a feeble rhythm. The doctors continued the open heart massage while waiting for the rescue squad. Despite two hours of intense medical effort, Einstein, age 54, was pronounced dead at 1:20 AM local time. The news of his death was the Los Angeles Times headline on the following day.
His children include the comedians Albert Brooks and Bob Einstein (a.k.a. Super Dave Osborne), and advertising creative/actor Clifford Einstein. By his first marriage to Lillian Anshen, he was the father of Charles Einstein, a writer.
In popular culture
- In the 1937 Warner Brothers cartoon Porky's Hero Agency, Porky Pig fought Medusa as a Greek hero named "Porkykarkus".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harry Parke.|
- "Parky Einstein Succumbs After Pocketknife Surgery". The Victoria Advocate. 25 November 1958. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
- "Hollywood Walk of Fame-Parkyakarkas". LA Times. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- Dunning, John, ed. (1998). On the Air:The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. p. 445. ISBN 0199840458. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- "Meet Me at Parky's" (PDF). Radio Album. 1948. pp. 54–55. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- The "Happy Deaths" of Dick Shawn and Parkyakarkus
- Interview with Art Linkletter on Larry King Live
- "Comic Parkyakarkus Dies at Friars Club Dinner". Los Angeles Times. 23 November 1958. Retrieved 31 August 2013.