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Good Night, Mrs. Calabash ...



Trivia Questions

#1. Who was the Mrs. Calabash of Jimmy Durante's famous closing line, "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are"?

#2. Norma R. asks, "Do you have the words to a song from the 1940s about a menu of food served during the week? I remember 'Monday soup' and 'Sunday roast beef,' and each verse ended with the refrain, 'All you hungry people, we wish the same to you.'"



Good Night, Mrs. Calabash ...

Known as "Schnozzola" because of his big nose, Jimmy Durante didn't need a posthumous honor to secure a spot as one of the most beloved radio and television personalities from the Good Old Days. Still, it's fitting that the Museum of Broadcast Communications inducted Jimmy into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007.

A legendary vaudevillian turned 1940s radio comedian and singer, who was known for his mangled English and raspy voice, Jimmy began as a piano player on Coney Island. He was a welcome and regular guest on many radio programs. After filling in for Eddie Cantor on The Chase and Sanborn Hour in 1933, he was offered his own program. The Jimmy Durante Show enjoyed success both as a solo act and as a comedy duo, with Garry Moore serving as Durante's on-air sidekick from 1943 to 1947.

He then went on to host The Jimmy Durante Show, a television variety show appearing the years of 1954 to 1957.

He was born James Francis Durante on Feb. 10, 1893, in New York City. After dropping out of school in the eighth grade, Jimmy began to ply his trade on the vaudeville circuit, appearing as "Ragtime Jimmy" at Coney Island. He then organized a five-piece band, "Durante's Jazz and Novelty Band," in 1916. He reportedly ran a speakeasy in New York City in the 1920s.

He was wed to Jeanne Olsen from 1921 until her death in 1943. Jimmy met his second wife, Margie Little, in 1944 at the Copacabana where she was a hat-check girl. After a 16-year courtship, they married in 1960 when he was 67 and she was 41. Jimmy and Margie had one adopted daughter.

Jimmy was known both as a singer and songwriter. He wrote his signature song, Inka Dinka Doo, and introduced each program with it. My favorite recordings by Schnozzola are his renditions of September Song and Young at Heart. They are from an album of popular songs Jimmy recorded in 1963. If you saw the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie Sleepless in Seattle, you heard Jimmy's wonderful interpretation of As Time Goes By during the opening credits and Make Someone Happy during the end credits of the movie.

One of the most endearing sides to Jimmy was his comic slaughtering of the English language. "I'm moitified (mortified)!" was a well-known exclamation. A catastrophe was a "catastastroke." Lots of youngsters like me grew up trying to imitate Jimmy's "Ha-cha-cha-chaaaaaa!" And don't forget it was Schnozzola who introduced: "I've got a million of 'em -- a million of 'em!"

Jimmy had a big heart when it came to children. According to the Wikipedia.org entry for him:

"Jimmy's love for children continued through the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who, among many causes, raise money for handicapped and abused children. At Jimmy's first appearance at the Eagles International Convention in 1961, Judge Bob Hansen inquired about his fee for performing. Jimmy replied, 'Don't even mention money, Judge, or I'll have to mention a figure that'll make ya sorry ya brought it up.' 'What can we do then?' asked Hansen. 'Help da kids,' was Durante's reply. Jimmy performed for many years at Eagles conventions free of charge, not even accepting travel money. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, in his honor, changed the name of their Children's Fund to the Jimmy Durante Children's Fund, and in his memory, has raised over 20 million dollars to help children."

Jimmy suffered a stroke in 1972. He died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, Calif., on Jan. 29, 1980. To those of us who loved him, it was a "catastastroke."

If you would like to see Jimmy Durante in action, click here to watch the closing of a 1955 episode of his TV show via YouTube. At the end of the clip, you'll hear him intone his famous closing line: "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."


Trivia Answers

#1. Jimmy never owned up to who Mrs. Calabash was. There are three theories put forth in the book, Hollywood Trivia by David P. Strauss (Greenwich House, 1984). One is that it was a reference to his first wife, Jeanne Olson, and Calabash was the name of a Chicago suburb that had personal meaning for the couple.

Another explanation was that Calabash was a mispronunciation of Calabasas, Calif., where they lived for a time, and it was an inside joke between the couple.

Yet another explanation is Mrs. Calabash was actually the proprietor of a restaurant in Calabash, N.C., where Jimmy stopped for dinner in 1940. In this theory, Jimmy liked the food and service so well he promised he would make the diner famous.

Since Jimmy took her identity to the grave, I guess today we must say, "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, whoever you were!"

Wikipedia: At a National Press Club meeting in 1966 (broadcast on NBC's Monitor program), Durante finally revealed that it was a tribute to his deceased first wife, Jeanne. While driving across the country, they stopped in a small town called Calabash, whose name she had loved. "Mrs. Calabash" became his pet name for her, and he signed off his radio program with "Good night, Mrs. Calabash." He added "wherever you are" after the first year.

Text source from Wikipedia is from: http://monitorbeacon.net/

Sound source: Monitor Beacon (sound clip from Durante is at 48:08)

#2. The A Prairie Home Companion Folk Song Book has these lyrics for the song:

Today Is Monday

Today is Monday,
Today is Monday.
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry children,
I wish the same to you.

Today is Tuesday,
Today is Tuesday.
Tuesday string beans,
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry children,
I wish the same to you.

Today is Wednesday,
Today is Wednesday.
Wednesday soup,
Tuesday string beans,
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry children,
I wish the same to you.

Today is Thursday,
Today is Thursday.
Thursday roast beef,
Wednesday soup,
Tuesday string beans,
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry children,
I wish the same to you.

Today is Friday,
Today is Friday.
Friday fish,
Thursday roast beef,
Wednesday soup,
Tuesday string beans,
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry children,
I wish the same to you.

Today is Saturday,
Today is Saturday.
Saturday payday,
Friday fish,
Thursday roast beef,
Wednesday soup,
Tuesday string beans,
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry children,
I wish the same to you.

Today is Sunday,
Today is Sunday.
Sunday church,
Saturday payday,
Friday fish,
Thursday roast beef,
Wednesday soup,
Tuesday string beans,
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry children,
I wish the same to you.