Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Red Buttons was born Aaron Chwatt on February 5, 1919, in New York City, to Jewish immigrants on New York City's Lower East Side.
He became a performer after winning an amateur contest at age 12. Six years later he was a singing bellboy in a Bronx tavern. His stage name came from the red buttons on his bellboy uniform.
A talented and versatile performer of stage, screen, and television, Buttons was equally at home in dramatic or comedic roles, but it was as a burlesque comedian working in the Catskills Mountains that he first made a name for himself. Buttons appeared in plays on Broadway and in movies.
In 1952, the red-haired comedian starred in the CBS television series The Red Buttons Show. Extremely popular during its first season -- Buttons' distinctive theme song in which he'd clap his hands together as if in prayer and sing, "Ho Ho! He He! Ha Ha! Strange things are happening!" was a sort of hit amongst American kids -- it was a blend of variety acts and a weekly sitcom. The show declined in popularity its second season and was canceled, then picked up by NBC the following year where it ran in different formats until 1955.
Buttons' career went into decline, but he made a comeback playing a love-struck American soldier who defies the racist policies of the U.S. military and marries a Japanese woman in the tragic film Sayonara in 1957.
In later years, Buttons was in demand as a participant in toasts and roasts of other actors, singers, and comedians. Here's a funny toast that he delivered a dinner to honor Frank Sinatra.
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)