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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pat McCormick, RIP

Chances are, you remember Pat McCormick. Big guy. Funny.

Here's another update from show biz from Mark Evanier's blog,
This is a couple years old as Pat passed away some time ago:

Pat McCormick, R.I.P.

I am almost happy to report that a brilliant, funny man named Pat McCormick has finally died. For the last seven years, his sad and hopeless condition has broken the hearts of so many of us who loved and admired what was once one of the greatest minds in comedy.

Here is the story, and I'm not sure this has been reported anywhere else on the 'net. In 1998, Pat was scheduled to perform with his friend and sometimes partner, Jack Riley, at a live show Merv Griffin was hosting at the Beverly Hilton hotel. They had a routine called "The Smartest Man in the World" in which Jack acted as straight man, peppering Pat with questions. The show was about to start but Pat had not arrived. Suddenly, from the direction of the garage, everyone heard some sort of explosion and they ran out to see what it was.

Pat had driven his car in and...well, he either suffered a stroke which caused him to crash his car into a concrete wall in the parking lot or he crashed his car into the wall and that triggered the stroke. Either way, it was an awful crash that caused the auto to catch fire. Unreported at the time, for some reason, was that Pat's life was saved by a little old lady. Some tiny woman, reportedly in her sixties or seventies, pulled his 6-foot-7 body out of the flaming car and dragged it to safety.

Sadly, there wasn't much of a life left to save. Pat McCormick, one of the wittiest men ever in show business, never spoke another intelligible word.

Those of us who knew him dutifully trucked out to visit what was left of the man at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, and to try not to cry. Most of Pat's shattered bones eventually healed but it was impossible to connect with the human being, such as he was. No matter what you said to him, he'd nod and sometimes giggle a little. You were never sure if he had the slightest idea what you'd said. When I visited, the only thing he did that suggested he might have some brain cells functioning somewhere in there was that he'd point to a guest book on a little music stand and indicate that I should sign it. Once, I wrote — accurately, I think — "To Pat, from whom everyone in the business has stolen..." Me aside, that guest book became a Who's Who of veteran comedians and comedy writers. I recall signing in the first time below the names of Buddy Hackett, Shelley Berman and Jonathan Winters.

Everyone knew Pat not only as a writer (and sometimes performer) of funny material but as a man who was just as colorful and hilarious as any joke he ever authored. A lot of comedy writers are, when you meet them, indistinguishable from guys who sell life insurance for a living. Not Pat. There are hundreds of stories, most of them true, about outrageous Pat McCormick deeds and actions. The ones about him dropping his pants at his mother's funeral or running nude through a Tonight Show taping are among the few that can be told in, as they say, mixed company.

This obit [L.A. Times, registration required] will give you the basics of Pat's career. What it doesn't convey sufficiently is how loved he was by the comedy makers of his generation...and how tragic it was to see that brilliant mind silenced the last seven years, sealed away someplace in a body that the doctors said (correctly) would never get any better. Now that the rest of him is dead, maybe we can put that Pat McCormick out of our minds and remember the real one.

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