CDN, syndicated
9 May 1956

They Just Pile Up: Phil Silvers Hunts Larger Apartment for His Trophies

By MILT FREUDENHEIM

NEW YORK, May 8 (CDN)—TV’s top comic, Phil Silvers says: “I’ve got to get a new apartment—for the awards if for nothing else.”

He refers to the three gold “Emmys” and the silver Sylvania trophy he copped for portraying Sgt. Ernie Bilko, this year’s comedy sensation.

The award statuettes are crowding Phil out of a two-room Park Avenue apartment which doesn’t come near to reflecting the $250,000 he is making per year.

In the same moderate style, he journeys to his native Brooklyn once a week to see his mother—in a rented drive-yourself automobile.

Phil accepts the Sylvania award for “Best Comedy Show” from Deems Taylor, chairman of the committee of judges. New York, November 1955.

8th Emmy Awards, Waldorf Astoria hotel, New York. 17 March 1956.
Best Comedian—Phil Silvers; Best Actor in a Continuing Performance—Phil Silvers; Best Comedy Series—The Phil Silvers Show.

ENLARGE

And still they come. Phil’s Emmy for the 1956/57 season.

Phil and mother Sarah at the Silvers family home in Brooklyn. Published April 1956.

His tentative plans for expanding his way of living are conservative, too.

He wants his landlord to knock out a wall and give him a double apartment, as was done for a neighbor downstairs, TV impresario Ed Sullivan.

Silvers also has given serious thought lately to marriage, a living arrangement he tried unsuccessfully (1945-1947) with former Miss America, Jo Carroll Dennison.

“Yeah, but it’s an awful tough step to make,” Phil argues with himself.

DATES “DAZZLERS”

Silvers told of a wisecrack by his sidekick Nat Hiken who produces the Bilko TV show.

Hiken says Silvers wants “to come through the arch after the preacher marries him and find waiting among the potted palms two children already 10 years old.”

Phil and future wife Evelyn Patrick. Published February 1956.

Since Silvers dates dazzling young showgirls and TV actresses (example: Evelyn Patrick “A real close friend”), the scene is an unlikely one.

Not that he doesn’t get propositions.

“Ever since I admitted to being lonely on Ed Murrow’s show, I’ve been getting letters saying—‘I am lonely too. I am a widow with two children . . .’ ,” he quotes.

Silvers will be 45 May 11. He will celebrate by playing “Stardust” on his clarinet at a club in Las Vegas where he opens soon.

“Stardust” is about the only song Silvers plays, but he renders it nicely. Midway, he pauses briefly to sass the audience: “You didn't think I was good, didja?”

The stardust trail for Silvers began when be was 13, the show-off youngest of eight children of financially hard-up Russian immigrants.

“SCHOOL DAYS”

Phil’s voice was a high, pure choir boy alto with a touch of soprano. He sang during reel changes and breakdowns in neighborhood movie houses.

One day Gus Edwards, the vaudeville headliner, caught Phil cutting up on the boardwalk at Coney Island. Silvers became part of Edwards’ “School Days” which played the Palace Theater.

When Phil’s voice began changing, he kept on singing, which he now blames for his present squeaky rasp.

He got parts playing a comic youngster on the lesser vaudeville circuits such as the “Coast Guard” of New England cities.

The depression hit vaudeville, detouring Silvers to jobs as a “social director” at Catskill resort hotels.

Did he like it?

“You like everything when you're 18.”

Then he drifted into burlesque where he was No. 3 comic, a “third banana.” He dated strippers.

“They were beautiful women who made an adjustment—and got $1,500 a week for it.”

“You had to keep your balance on sex,” he recalls, “because that’s all there is in burlesque. They have their morals, although it’s an immoral business.”

Phil felt lost as a $75-a-week burlesque comic.

“I came from bigtime show business . . . but now I realize it was the most fun I’ve had. I didn’t know it then.”

From burlesque, Silvers went into “Yokel Boy,” a Broadway comedy, and then to Hollywood where he was “frustrated” playing practically the same role (the leading man’s comic friend) in 23 features.

The experience was a lesson to him. Recently he has been rejecting Hollywood offers to do a movie based on his TV Bilko role.

“They don’t seem to have the imagination to come up with something new,” he says.

After the war he returned to Broadway in “High Button Shoes” and “Top Banana,” a musical about burlesque which may have softened his personal memories of the bump and grind houses.

“I've been a big hit on the isolated stage,” Silvers says, lapsing into the English he learned in Gus Edwards’ “School Days.”

If televiewers ever weary of Sgt. Bilko, Silvers knows the “isolated stage” is always there for Phil Silvers.