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.
Which reminds m, I haven't mentioned my second odd food experience at the Theatrical Grill, and if anyone actually want to know what it was, visit my Bill Dana interview.
Adams continued to find lots of work after "Get Smart," though he never found anytbing to match its success, though he enjoyed a long run as the voice of Inspector Gadget. He and Rupert Crosse were an inept detective team in "The Partners," but that sit com foled after 20 episodes during the 1971-72 season. He got three seasons out of "Check Ir Out" (1985-88), a comedy about a supermarket staff, and in 1995 was Chief Maxwell Smart in a one-season revival of "Get Smart," that featured as agent Zach Smart. Barbara Feldon was back as Agent 99. His final television project had him supplying the voice of Principal Hickey in 14 episodes of the animated series, "Pepper Ann."
He died in Los Angeles in 2005. He wa 82 years old.