Cleveland interviews were often conducted over meals at the Theatrical Restaurant (aka Theatrical Grill), a popular local nightspot, though I was there mostly for lunch in the mid-afternoon. I loved the Theatrical, but was oblivious to the mob connection mentioned in the recent Cleveland-based movie, "Kill the Irishman."
I really enjoyed my meals at the Theatrical, though my two favorite memories of interviews there are rather odd, food-wise, and one of those memories still makes me gag.
The first memory involves Don Adams. who proved to be a bacon-lover after my own heart. He was operating on California time and ordered breakfast instead of lunch. I think he wanted bacon and eggs; whatever, it was bacon and something and he emphasized he wanted the bacon well done and crisp. For emphasis, he instructed the waitress, "Just tell 'em to burn the bacon. Seriously."
And what he was served was bacon just the way he liked it. Fried to a crisp, but not burned.
Adams was in Cleveland to promote the spy spoof sitcom, "Get Smart," which became a big hit. He first attracted attention as a stand-up comedian, but his career took a turn when he was featured on "The Bill Dana Show" as Glick, the inept hotel detective. With just a bit of fine-tuning, Adams turned Glick into Maxwell Smart.
Adams told me he thought he had done more guest shots on television that any other stand-up comedian. "But I never really wanted to be a comedian," he said. "I always thought of myself as an actor.
"Two years ago (1963) I finally got my chance in a Broadway show — "Harold" — with Tony Perkins and Larry Blyden. At our first rehearsal, I noticed the other actors just mumbled through the script while I belted out my lines. I thought, 'God, Adams, you're great. If those other guys ares supposed to be actors, then you must be one of the five best actors in the world!'
"A few days later the other actors began coming alive. They were developing their roles. Me? I was still belting out my lines the way I had the first day.
"That's when I panicked. I realized I had a long way to go. On opening night in New York I actually threatened not to go on. You can't imagine how scared I was. I couldn't remember my lines. Oh, I went on all right — somebody pushed me, I think — and people told me later I didn't flub my lines. But, honest, I can't remember anything I did on stage that night."
Adams said reviewers were kind to him. "Most of them didn't mention me."
He added that the reviews also were kind to the show, and then in a reverse of the usual Broadway story, said, "It was the word of mouth that killed us. We folded after three weeks."
Adams made his publicity trip by train because he didn't enjoy flying. At all. (Years later football coach-turned-TV football analyst John Madden would become known for the same thing.) I couldn't help think when I re-read my story that if Don Adams didn't like flying in the 1960s, he'd absolutely hate it today. Which, besides his preference for crisp bacon, is another thing Adams and I had in common.