Open that door, Richard

GILBERT SANDLER

May 19, 1992|By GILBERT SANDLER

IT LOOKS as though The Block is going to go, and not a few say good riddance. But in saying farewell to The Block, we ought to take a moment to remember The Old Block (before it became as sleazy as it is now). The Old Block was the center of so much fun! The "baggy-pants" burlesque comedians, doing their two-a-day shows at the Gayety, were at its heart.

They threw away lines like this:

"Run up the curtain, Mo!"

"Whaddaya think I am, a squirrel?"

Baggy-pants comedian Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham was best remembered for his famous line, "Here comes the judge!" -- an inextricable part of his loose and always changing act at the Gayety.

Mike Sachs was a regular, too, on the circuit, and although few knew it, Mike Sachs was blind.

Then there was Dusty Fletcher. In each of his skits, Fletcher would find the time and place to interrupt his monologue and shout upward at some invisible portal: "Open that door, Richard! Richard, I say, open that door!"

Those comedians often would seize on a line like that, and by repeating it often as a non-sequitur, they'd draw a laugh every time.

No one knows the origin of the line, "Slowly I turn . . ." Although Abbott and Costello are often given credit for it, many in the baggy-pants set used it. Included were the likes of Phil Silvers, Eddie Cantor and Milton Berle.

The Gayety was damaged in a fire early Dec. 21, 1969, and never reopened.

So all of you guys who went to the Gayety the night of your 16th birthday; all of you who took in the Gayety's New Year's Eve shows in your gowns and tuxes; all of you who were Saturday afternoon regulars at the old Gayety: Bow your heads in memory of Pigmeat Markham and the rest of the baggy-pants comedians. And now say in unison and in fond recollection:

"Open that door, Richard!"

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