Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jonathan Winters

Jonathan Winters said he'd like me to collect him from his house in North Hollywood and drive him to my Holiday Inn where I had pinned a piece of gray paper to the wall of a suite and put up a light. My assistant stood in for a test shot (recorded on Polaroid) so that we'd be ready on my return.

When I got to the house Mr. Winters answered the door wearing a dark blue blazer and an English schoolboy cap (the one worn by virtually every English schoolboy from the late 19th century up until the 1960s.) He showed me into a room where hundreds of hats of different kinds hung on the walls. He tried many of them on and an hour later we were satisfied with the English school cap, a tam o'shanta, together with a silver topped ebony cane, and a stetson.

On the run back to the hotel Mr Winters sat in silence bolt upright in his seat with his hands in his lap. Suddenly I heard a police siren. I looked in my mirror but saw nothing. Then a second later I realized what it was. The inspired Mr. Winters had begun an imaginary commentary between myself and a policeman who had pulled me over for speeding. Brilliantly he seized the contrast between the rough LA cop and the staid Englishman. His perfect mimicry of the two accents had me in helpless laughter.


  1. One of those unforgettable memories. For a second it almost felt like I was remembering it myself... thank you for letting us peek in on that moment between newly acquainted strangers. I'm curious about whether or not there were photos of the other hats made as well. With the steady disintegration of magazines and newspapers, we're losing out on some of the publications which would pay for a photo such as this to be made. I have a hard time imagining a lot of the web journals doing so -- seems like many settle for asking the writer of a feature to take the photo himself, as that's "good enough."

    Then again, it's not as if I have any idea what I'm talking about... Pardon the babble.

  2. Until I came to know the genius that is Woody Allen, ever since I was a kid Jonathan Winters was my favorite comedian. Whenever he was on Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, and of course, Carson I remember begging my parents to let me stay up to catch him. They never did since they knew that Jonathan would always get me in stitches. His knack for imitation was brilliant as you discovered first-hand Dmitri. Too, if by chance you ever see a copy of his now somewhat rare EMI recording of 'Peter and the Wolf', buy it immediately. He narrates and does all of the animals himself! It's an absolute riot! Whenever I played it at Tower I'd sell a box lot. It's unquestionably my favorite performance.

    And what a wonderful photo Dmitri!

  3. Oops, I meant to write 'they always did' regarding my parents. That's what I get for forgoing that glass of wine with dinner... .


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