26 August 1964

The Voice of Broadway


(Dorothy Kilgallen is on vacation. Her guest columnist today is comedian, Phil Silvers.)


NEW YORK—Until eight years ago, I knew very little about women and even less about little girls. I was a confirmed bachelor. And, like many bachelors, I was afraid that if I got too involved with any one female, I’d be forced to give up the really important things in life—the prizefights, the races, the ballgames.

In a sense, I was like the character I used to play in those Alice Faye-John Payne movies. I was Binkie or Blinky or good old Charlie. I had a lot of pals who were big ladies’ men—Artie Shaw, in fact, was my roommate. But when it came to romance I was strictly a kibitzer, always good for a laugh when a guy’s wife tossed him out or his girl friend went home to Biloxi.

Then I met a beautiful television personality named Evelyn Patrick, and Blinky vanished like Judge Crater. Suddenly I wanted the whole bit—the girl, a home in the suburbs, a pipe and slippers and a family. And I got my wish. Boy, did I get my wish!

Evelyn has spent most of our marriage wearing maternity clothes. In eight years, we have had five children—all girls. After 43 years of being a loner, I suddenly found myself living in a girls’ dormitory.

I had a lot to learn. The practical stuff, like mixing a 2 a.m. feeding or diapering an infant without pinning her to the crib, came easy. But adjusting to the vital personalities of five little girls required a lot of self-education.

I guess the first thing any father learns is that while all other kids are alike, his children are “different.” They’re smarter and faster than other kids. They’re special.

(L to R) Nancey, Cathy, Candace, Evelyn and Tracey.
TV Guide magazine. October 1963.

Take my gang, for instance. Our first-born was Tracey, who is really two personalities in one. When strangers are present, she’s as gentle and lady-like as her mother. A real princess. But when we’re alone, she’s got all the inhibitions of Milton Berle at a Friar’s convention. She’s a seven-year-old three ring circus. Nancy, 5, is the needler. She has an answer for everything. Not long ago I found Candie, one of our twins, hanging from an outside staircase, 15 feet in the air. Once I got my heart out of my mouth and hauled her down, I gave a stern warning: “Never do that again.”

As soon as my back was turned, Nancy whispered in her sister’s ear: “How about just ONCE more?”

The twins, Cathy and Candie, are three. Cathy is our own Greta Garbo. She has learned that a little girl’s tears can be as powerful a weapon as the bomb. When Cathy doesn’t want to go to bed or doesn’t like her supper or deserves a spanking, we know it’s time to settle back and watch another performance of “Camille.”

Candie is on another planet altogether. She wanders around the house, singing and talking to people who aren’t there, seeing things the rest of us are too earth-bound to see. She’s a sprite. And thanks to her German governess, she’s bi-lingual at an age when most kids don’t even speak much English.

Our fifth girl, Lorey, is only seven months old, but she has taught us all a lesson. She’s the happiest, warmest, most trusting little soul on earth. And because she’s so good, everything comes to her. Just by being herself, she’s the center of attention.

Has fatherhood changed me? Of course it has. Before I met and married Evelyn, I was wrapped up in only one thing—myself. I had to be “on” all the time. I needed laughs.

Now, other things are important. Recently I headed home busting with good news. The “Top Banana” date in Dallas was shaping up as a sellout, I’d cinched a deal I’d wanted at the Sahara in Las Vegas, and I’d been offered a fat three picture deal.

Before I could tell Evelyn, she exclaimed: “Wait ’till you hear this! Tracey’s first grownup tooth came in today!”

Evelyn was right. That was BIG news—bigger than the three-picture deal, bigger than a three-horse parlay, bigger than the World Series.

I wouldn’t have believed it unless I’d lived through it, but now I know: a wife and kids beat luxurious hotel rooms, expensive restaurants and what the boys call “freedom” any day in the week.