Danny Kaye hummed a Strauss waltz as he swung a fungo bat—da-dum-da-da-dum, swish-swoosh, swish-swoosh—in the cramped clubhouse at the Seattle Mariners' spring training camp in Tempe, Ariz. His audience of players, coaches and locker-room functionaries stood just out of range, backs safely to the walls, as he swung and hummed and lectured on the dynamics of the level swing, on the virtues of just meeting the ball.
"Power is not good in itself, unless it is used to manufacture speed," Kaye advised his listeners, among them Seattle Coach Vada Pinson, who accumulated 2,757 hits and 256 home runs in 18 major league seasons. "The simple things in life are the most difficult to do. I remember playing golf with Kirk Douglas once." Here Kaye instantly transformed his slender self into a burly and grimacing Douglas, arms held out from the body to accommodate protruding latissimi dorsi. "Kirk would take that big muscular swing and go oomph, swish-oomph! I'd take my easy swing like this—swish-swoosh—and outdrive him by 15 yards on every hole. I could see it was sending him over the side. Finally, he couldn't take it any longer. 'Listen, you redheaded s.o.b.,' he shouted, 'I'm bigger than you are and stronger than you are and younger than you are, and I swing harder than you can. So how come you hit the damn ball farther?' "
Kaye became Kaye again, smiled contentedly, took another easy cut with the fungo and said, "Well, in trying to muscle up on every swing, he was only interfering with the speed of the club." Then Kaye demonstrated how the extra effort interrupted the flow of the downswing. "He was working against himself. I was using what power I had to manufacture speed. The simple things in life are the most difficult to do." Da-dum-da-da-dum, swish-swoosh, swish-swoosh....
The Seattle players and coaches, all of whom know much more about swinging a baseball bat than a comedian does, listened attentively, nodding gravely in agreement, as if the simple truths imparted by Kaye were as unfamiliar to them as Hegelian dialectic. Of course, they were more or less obliged to mind their lessons, because the lecturer was their employer, one of the two managing general partners of the new American League franchise, and they knew full well that many careers have been truncated by inattentiveness on such occasions. Then, too, Kaye is a famous entertainer, and free performances, however brief, by celebrities of his stature are not easily come by. Furthermore, the players and coaches were still trying to take the measure of this unusual man, so unlike them and yet so involved with them. Beyond all that, Kaye is a spellbinder, a man of such commanding presence and an anecdotist and mime of such uncanny skill that even a discourse on the paving of highways might prove riveting. Beyond even that, Kaye has accomplished so much in so many diverse fields that to ignore what he has to say on anything would be rampant foolishness. He already knows a lot about baseball and, if he should dedicate himself to this pastime with anything approaching the energy and tenacity he has applied to more complicated disciplines, the game and those in it would be the richer for his counsel.
Kaye is celebrated as an entertainer, singer, dancer, master of double talk and dialect and star of such exceptional motion pictures as Up in Arms, The Kid from Brooklyn and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. By his own choice, his public appearances have been increasingly rare of late, although he protests that he is not retired but is merely aware that "I've done all that, been there before." He was most recently seen on national television last December as Captain Hook to Mia Farrow's Peter Pan, and he continues to function as a globe-trotting goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, for which he has raised many millions of dollars.
What is less well known about Kaye is that he is a conductor of symphony orchestras who, though he can neither read music nor play an instrument, has been acclaimed by such maestros as Dimitri Mitropoulos, Charles Munch, Zubin Mehta and Seiji Ozawa. He is a renowned chef, the only American amateur to receive "Les Meilleurs Ouvriers de France," the top French culinary award. Only a handful of chefs in the world have been so honored. He is a pilot skilled enough to fly every plane in the sky, including the immense 747, and durable enough to have flown (on behalf of UNICEF) a private jet to 65 cities in 4½ days. Though Kaye's formal education stopped short of graduation from Brooklyn's Thomas Jefferson High School, his lifelong interest in medicine has made him an extraordinarily well-informed layman who can comfortably discuss surgical technique in the company of such distinguished physicians as his friend Dr. Michael DeBakey, the Houston heart surgeon. And now Kaye has a baseball team.
Kaye brings to each of these fields what his wife Sylvia describes as "very superior equipment, an acuteness of perception that is staggering, an ability to absorb from his eyes, ears and senses that is incredible." He has, says she, "a brain like a blotter." Says Mrs. Olive Behrendt, Kaye's friend and chairman of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, "There is nothing that Danny loves to do that he does not do as well or better than anyone in the world." Adds Vin Scully, another of Kaye's friends and the voice of the Dodgers, "Danny is a lot of person. He is a group photo."
Kaye's experiences with golf, a game he eschewed until he was more than 40 years old, illustrate his capacity for total immersion in whatever commands his interest. One day Abe Lastfogel, board chairman of the William Morris Agency, invited Kaye to the Hillcrest Country Club in Beverly Hills. "Have you ever played golf?" Lastfogel innocently inquired. Kaye replied with derision. Golf, he said, was an old man's game. And it made no sense. Striking a ball, then walking after it to strike it anew, seemed an unparalleled exercise in futility. Lastfogel persisted. He set a ball on a tee, handed Kaye one of his clubs and urged him to take a swing at it. Kaye obliged by blasting the ball 200 yards down the middle of the fairway. "See, I told you," Kaye snorted. "It's a silly game." Lastfogel was undaunted. He set another ball on the tee and bid Kaye have another swing. This time the ball ascended many feet into the air and descended only a few yards from where Kaye stood. Kaye tried again: a dribbler off to the side. And again: a slice into the trees. Concluding that there was more to this golf than met the eye, Kaye hurried to the clubhouse, bought a set of clubs and hired the club professional to give him lessons.
For the next five weeks, Kaye never left the practice tee. "I took a lesson every day," he says. "The first time I played a round, I broke 100. By the end of that year, I broke 90. A year later, I broke 80." He became a five-handicap player, and on one memorable day, he nearly broke 70. "I needed only a three-foot putt to do it on the 18th green," Kaye says. "I missed it. I can't explain how, but I missed it. The next day I was ready for another shot at breaking 70. I felt marvelous. It was a perfect day. Everything was right. I shot an 86." Kaye virtually abandoned golf in the 1960s, but not because of the frustrations inherent in the game. "I had been playing about four, five times a week," he says. "Then I took on a television show and found that I was lucky to get to the course once a week. That did it. I'm not crazy about doing anything badly, so I gave it up."
Kaye's affection for baseball is much more unyielding. He has been an ardent fan since the '20s, when as Daniel David Kaminsky, the son of an immigrant tailor, he started going to Ebbets Field. The ball park then represented the limit of his horizons. "When we had to go to the Polo Grounds, it was like a safari into darkest Africa," Kaye says. "Who knew where Yankee Stadium was? Dazzy Vance, Van Lingle Mungo, Burleigh Grimes—they were my heroes. I'd save nickels and dimes for a seat in the bleachers. The Dodgers were everything to me in those days."
Not quite everything. Kaye quit school, tried any number of jobs that interested him not in the least and finally caught on as a tummler (a clown; literally, a creator of tumult) on the Borscht Circuit in the Catskills. His horizons were considerably broadened in the mid-'30s when he signed on with a troupe that toured the Orient, where he polished his gift for pantomime and developed his taste for Chinese cuisine. Back in New York, Kaye built a minor reputation as an entertainer that became major when he nearly stole the show from Gertrude Lawrence in the 1941 Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin-Moss Hart musical, Lady in the Dark.
A year earlier, on Jan. 3, 1940, Kaye had married Sylvia Fine, a talented pianist, composer and lyricist, who became his collaborator on much of the material he used on the stage and screen. Kaye was hardly the renaissance man when Sylvia first met him. "I asked him if he read the newspapers," she recalls. " 'Sure,' he said, 'the sports pages.' I don't think he knew how many political parties there were. I married the man, and before I knew it, Leo Durocher was my most intimate friend."
Kaye signed with Samuel Goldwyn in 1942, moved to Hollywood and completed his first film, Up in Arms, two years later. By the time his revered Dodgers rejoined him on the West Coast in 1958, he was a star of international rank, both for his movie comedy and for the one-man shows he performed all over the world. The love affair between the Kid from Brooklyn and the team from Brooklyn was quickly rekindled.
"I first met Danny at the L.A. Coliseum, where we were playing in those days," Vin Scully recalls. "He would be up in the broadcast booth, pacing back and forth, muttering to himself, totally involved in the game. He is a knowledgeable fan and just about the most unforgettable character I've ever met. Danny is not a comic—he's a mime and an actor. He'll stir conversation, get people from all walks of life—the theater, classical music, sports, aviation—to tell their own stories. The funny thing is, when I was a kid in New York, I had a Danny Kaye impersonation. I'd do his 'Anatole of Paris' routine. He loved it when I told him. Once, when he was performing in New York and we were playing the Mets there, he got my parents into his sold-out show by putting them in overstuffed chairs in the wings. Danny would do a bit, then turn to the wings and ask, 'How'm I doin', Bridget?' That's my mother's name. He kept referring to her all night. He owned that audience, of course, so at the end of the show he had everyone sing, 'Happy birthday, dear Bridget.' Well, here was this little red-haired Irish lady sitting in the big chair backstage just beaming—even though it wasn't her birthday."
Kaye's several lives are not without twists of irony. That he, a man who regularly fulfills his dreams, should have played Walter Mitty, who fulfilled none of his, is indisputably one. That a true-blue Dodger fan should find himself an owner of an expansion team in the American League qualifies as another. Kaye had long wanted to buy into the National League, but for one reason or another, he never realized that ambition. Last year he and his business partner, Les Smith, were in the bidding for the San Francisco Giants before a surge of civic pride prevented that team from moving. It had been the partners' intention to relocate the club in Seattle, where they own two radio stations and where Smith, as quiet a man as Kaye is turbulent, resides. So when the American League voted in February 1976 to expand to that city, Kaye and Smith were at the ready. At Smith's insistence, they included as co-owners four local businessmen: Stanley Golub, Walter Schoenfeld, James Stillwell and James A. Walsh.
Kaye is the only non-Seattle resident in the group, but Smith, who recently moved into a new house, has had his kitchen redone to accommodate his friend, the peripatetic gourmet. As co-managing general partners, Smith and Kaye have separate responsibilities. Smith and General Manager Dick Vertlieb handle the business end, and Kaye and Director of Baseball Operations Lou Gorman run the baseball side. "Danny loves it," says Gorman. "He's curious about every aspect of the game—the mechanics, the fundamentals, the philosophy. He's spent hour upon hour analyzing personnel. He has a feel for this business."
As might be expected, Kaye was with the team from the first day of spring training, preparing to act as host, tour guide and cheerleader for his fellow owners when they arrived for the Mariners' historic first game, a March 10 exhibition with the Oakland A's in Tempe. He was everywhere in the little stadium, sloppy beach hat over tousled strawberry-blond hair, pipe protruding from elastic face. For the Mariners' debut, he wore a yellow neckerchief, a bright blue Mariners warmup jacket, yellow corduroys and the laceless, ventilated Murray's Space Shoes he has specially made for him in New York. Kaye was once on the best-dressed lists, but for the past decade or so he has affected what might charitably be described as the casual look. The shoes, generally worn with highly visible white socks, set the sartorial pace, resembling as they do the bandaged feet of Napoleon's army during its retreat from Moscow. Kaye has been made well aware that his feet are eye-catching. He describes with relish a Papal audience during which he observed that the Pontiff was staring with great interest at his Space Shoes. Then, nodding in what Kaye interpreted as approval, His Holiness extended one of his own shoes from beneath his cassock. It was, Kaye gleefully noticed, bright red.
Casually arrayed and eccentrically shod, Kaye stood behind the cage, seeming to supervise his team's batting practice. He was pleased to learn his suggestion that Infielder Jose Baez choke up a little had met with approval. Another of his proposals—that Centerfielder Luis Delgado be shifted to shortstop—had been received less enthusiastically by Manager Darrell Johnson. Delgado, as Kaye had advised, is nimble of foot and quick of hand, requisite attributes for a shortstop. He is also left-handed. Undismayed by his manager's unwillingness to break tradition, Kaye turned to Johnson and commented dryly, "We must find a school that can teach Luis to throw right-handed."
"Trow da coive," he shouted in impeccable Brooklynese at Coach Wes Stock, who was pitching batting practice. Stock laughed instead. Inquiring of Johnson what signs were to be used in the game, Kaye found himself slipping into an impersonation of Frank Howard, the former Dodger and Washington Senator slugger, searching myopically for a sign. He expanded himself to an approximation of Howard's 6'7", standing on tiptoe with his arms once again bulging out from his sides. A look of woeful incomprehension swept over Kaye's countenance. Johnson, whose features are as immobile as Kaye's are expressive, dissolved in laughter. Kaye had not only looked like Howard, but he had also looked like a ballplayer.
Kaye can be anyone. It is a devastating gift. As Walter Kerr wrote of Charlie Chaplin in his book The Silent Clowns: "The moment he wishes to become a boxer, he becomes an extraordinarily deft one. The moment he wishes to put on roller skates, he becomes Nijinsky on wheels. The moment he wishes to become a rich man, he becomes a rich man, though when he does, he tends to drink. If he wishes to marry, he marries, takes his children on outings; if he wishes to rescue a woman from a burning building, his skill and bravery are unexampled; if he wishes to walk a high-wire, he walks a high-wire superbly; if he wishes to set a table for dinner, he sets it with Cordon Bleu finesse...." Every word of that could just as easily have been written about Kaye.
"Mimics will do famous entertainers," says Sylvia Kaye. "Danny will do writers, doctors, anyone. He selects the essential characteristics. He can watch somebody walk down the street and immediately walk like that person."
In the ceremonies preceding the Mariners' first game, Kaye responded to his introduction with an impersonation of a manager assessing his team for the press. Dropping his voice to a grumble, he told the crowd, "All I can say to you is that we've improved our ball club over last year. We've improved in a couple of positions, and if we can stay healthy, avoid injuries to key men, we'll be competitive. I'm not saying we'll win it all, mind you, but we're definitely a contender." He staggered back toward his box seat under the seemingly intolerable weight of several plaques proffered him by Tempe city officials. "Darrell," he called out to Johnson, "maybe we should stock some champagne for the victory celebration."
To do so would have constituted wretched excess, because the Mariners fell behind 12-0 in the first five innings. They rallied bravely, but succumbed 16-10 in a game to be remembered only because it was a first. Kaye retreated early to the shade of the press box. His fair complexion is sensitive to the sun, and at age 64 he is vulnerable to skin cancer. While others watched in shirt sleeves, Kaye was shrouded like a sheik.
From the press box, he chastised those who departed the debacle before its conclusion. "Are you deserting a sinking ship?" he inquired of one cluster of defectors in the voice of Charles Laughton. "Why, we have the best-looking team in baseball. Not the best team, but the best-looking."
He was intercepted on his way to the team offices by a teen-age boy. "Will you sign this?" the boy asked, thrusting a program into Kaye's hands. "Will you sign this, what?" Kaye replied. "Will you sign this, please?" the boy said, catching on. Kaye scribbled his signature and returned the program. He laughed, recalling, as he strode purposefully ahead, a similar incident years ago. "Once in New York a boy about that age came up to me after a show and asked for an autograph that way. I said to him, 'What's happening to kids in New York City? Have they all forgotten how to say please?' The boy looked as if he were off the hook. I live on Long Island,' he said."
Kaye plopped down into a chair in the office of Mariner public-relations man Hal Childs. He slumps so when he sits that he seems diminished. It is almost as if he is hiding. As he sat there, his eyes grew furtive, and with his head barely peeking above the edge of the desk, he looked like an arch conspirator. It is difficult at times like these to regard Kaye as a serious man, which he is. Not solemn or self-important like so many comedians, but serious. Kaye's comedy springs naturally from him; he is rarely, if ever, "on" as other entertainers often are when they mingle with the public. His sense of the absurd simply overpowers him from time to time.
"A lot of people use the word 'pro' carelessly," he said, sucking on his pipe, "just as a lot of people misuse the words 'genius' and 'intellectual.' To determine if someone's a real pro, you must see the conditions under which he's working. Take a concert artist. He comes to a performance well rested. The acoustics and lighting are first-rate. He's had a good flight to the city where he is performing. There is nothing in his personal life interfering with his concentration. So he gives a good performance. But how good will he be when he has eaten bad restaurant food, been on an airplane all night, had personal problems weighing on him, gotten a bad hotel room? If he can perform under these circumstances, he's a pro. It's the same in baseball—there are many parallels between the two professions. When a pitcher goes out knowing he doesn't have his overpowering fastball, when he doesn't have good support, when his team is not hitting, but he still uses what he has to best advantage, then he, too, is a pro.
"There are standards you set for yourself, some of them pretty unrealistic, so that nobody has to say to you, 'That was a good performance.' You'll know better than anyone. I've had people come rushing backstage to congratulate me on a great show. I know it hasn't been great. It's just that I've been professional enough to get by with what I had to work with.
"Take pressure. It's the same in my business as in baseball. There are performers who are great in rehearsal, just as there are players who are great at taking infield or batting practice. Zing, they'll make all the plays, hit drives all over the park. But when that curtain goes up—oops!—there's an audience out there." Kaye becomes a child cowering from something large and threatening.
Kaye as himself is not much for cowering. Twenty-two years ago he agreed, strictly for laughs, to conduct the Philadelphia Symphony in a couple of simple pieces before his own show went on in the theater next door. It was another Mitty dream realized, the chance to stand before a major orchestra and experience "the greatest neurotic power in the world." The brief performance, which included nothing more complex than The Stars and Stripes Forever, was a surprising success. Kaye's comedy had obscured the fact that, even with an elementary repertoire, he had done unusually well as a conductor. Serious music, like medicine and baseball, had long been one of his obsessions.
A few weeks later, Harry Ellis Dickson, a violinist with the Boston Symphony and assistant conductor of the Boston Pops, spotted Kaye backstage after a performance. Aware of Kaye's success in Philadelphia, Dickson asked him if he would be willing to conduct the Boston Symphony in a benefit program for the musicians' pension fund. Flattered by the proposal, Kaye said he was interested, so Dickson introduced him to the orchestra's conductor, Charles Munch. It was agreed that Kaye should conduct a concert in three weeks. This time, much to Kaye's surprise, it would be a full concert.
"You've got me in trouble," Kaye told Dickson after talking with Munch. "I've never conducted more than three minutes in my life. You've got to help me." Dickson produced a stack of records, and for the next three weeks, with Dickson serving as technical adviser, Kaye set about memorizing the pieces, part by part, measure by measure. It was an awesome undertaking, even for one with Kaye's remarkable ear. But when the curtain went up, Kaye was there, and his two-hour performance that night, says Dickson, was virtually flawless. Kaye has since conducted nearly every important symphony orchestra in this country and many abroad and has raised more than $5 million for musicians' pension funds. He has yet to accept a fee.
The act is meant to be funny. As batters once did in the on-deck circle, Kaye will take practice swings with perhaps 20 batons before arriving at the one of the right weight. Then he will mount the podium, only to wander off, while the orchestra is playing, to woo the harpist or cashier the concertmaster. He will conduct The Flight of the Bumblebee with a fly swatter, or face the audience while conducting, on the theory that the customers never get to see anything of the conductor except the back of his head and ears. It is all a deceit, because the quality of the music never suffers.
"Danny has an authority and a dignity through it all," says the Los Angeles Symphony's Mrs. Behrendt. "When he raps for attention, the orchestra knows. I'm talking very seriously when I say that people like Rubinstein and Piatigorsky consider Danny their peer."
Some years ago at a party following a Kaye appearance with the New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulos, then that orchestra's conductor, approached Kaye ominously. "What I saw out there was not funny," he snapped. Kaye was flustered and angry at the unexpected criticism. "No, it was not funny," Mitropoulos said so that others could hear. "Here is a man who is not musically trained, who cannot even read music, and he gets more out of my orchestra than I ever have. What a waste of talent."
Waste is hardly the word. Diffusion is more like it. Doctors wonder why Kaye did not pursue medicine. "Danny has had no medical training," says Dr. DeBakey, president of the Baylor University College of Medicine, "but he knows his way around an operating room and he knows all the lingo. He's so intelligent he picks up immediately what he's observed."
In fact, Kaye wanted to be a doctor. "I have a strange philosophy," he says. "A person becomes what he has to become, not what he wants to become. I always wanted to be a doctor, but there was something pushing inside me and I became what I am."
There seems little question that he could also have become one of the greatest chefs, if he is not one already. "He is a cook who is not to be believed," says James A. Nassikas, president of the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco, where Kaye frequently stays. "He has a remarkable sensitivity toward taste. He has mastered all of the regional Chinese cuisines, and he is also skilled in Italian and French dishes. He makes all his own pasta and sausages."
It was Nassikas' good fortune last May to experience what amounts to a quintessential Kaye day. "Danny probably got up at about 5:30 or 6 to help out in our kitchen," Nassikas says. "On this particular day, Margot Fonteyn was a guest in the hotel. She, need I say, is an old friend of Danny's. He insisted on dressing up as a room-service waiter and delivering a bottle of champagne to her room. I followed him up. He rapped on the door, looking exactly right, towel over the arm and all. When she answered, there were howls of delight. We sat down and had some champagne, and he talked ballet with her for about an hour. His knowledge, his insights, seemed to me remarkable.
"Now, James Beard, the cookbook author, was also a guest, staying in a room just down the hall. Danny insisted on seeing him, too. Beard was visiting with Helen Kan, the widow of Johnny Kan, whose Chinese restaurant here is a big favorite of Danny's. There were again howls of delight as we entered this room. This time the subject became food, and that discussion went on for another hour or so. Danny held Beard spellbound.
"After that Danny said to me, 'Let's go to the ball game.' We drove across the Bay to the Oakland Coliseum, where the A's were playing, I believe, Minnesota. Danny rapped on the door to the A's clubhouse. A big fellow answered who obviously didn't know who Danny was. 'I'm from TIME magazine,' Danny said with great authority. 'You tell Chuck Tanner to get out here now.' Tanner, the A's manager then, showed up looking angry—until he saw Danny. There was yelling and backslapping. Danny and Tanner talked baseball right up until game time. It was a whole new world. Then Danny broadcast a few innings of play-by-play. I was amazed at the tremendous amount of baseball lore he had stored up. When he finished broadcasting, he turned to me and said, 'Let's go to the symphony.' So we did, catching part of the performance. Afterward, Danny hurried backstage to see Seiji Ozawa [then conductor of the San Francisco Symphony]. He immediately told him that one of his violinists was not up to snuff. Ozawa laughed, and they sat down and talked for two hours about music. I've got to tell you, it was an incredible experience, from ballet to food to baseball to the symphony all in one day."
All of these people from all of these different fields consider Kaye to be either "my best friend" or "one of my very closest friends." Kaye may be a friend to many, but at the same time he is, by his own definition, "a very public person and a very private man." And an elusive one. As Kerr wrote of Chaplin, "...the man who can, with a flick of a finger or the blink of an eyelash, instantly transform himself into absolutely anyone is a man who must, in his heart, remain no one...."
Sylvia Fine Kaye is small and dark, a perfect contrast to her husband's angular fairness. She is scholarly; he, intuitive. She circles a subject warily, trying to get a fix on it; he plunges in head-first.
"I don't know anyone who knows Danny," she said, sitting primly in the Beverly Hills house the Kayes have occupied since 1949. "I think I know him better than anyone, but our daughter, Dena, also thinks that. People get through one or two layers of Danny and think that is all there is. but he is an extremely complicated person. In many ways, I am his best friend. Still, it takes an enormous tolerance on both of our parts to give each other space. Danny the performer is quite different from Danny the husband and father. Altogether there are five or seven Dannys. I do know that when he's home and happy the whole house lights up, and when he is depressed, so is the house. You may like Danny or not, but you cannot ignore him."
Kaye sat in the Mariners' little clubhouse debating with Coach Jim Busby the relative merits of Bob Feller's and Sandy Koufax' curveballs. The unsophisticated fan might argue about their fastballs, but these experts were well beyond that. Busby is pleased that his boss is in the same conversational ball park. "Feller had a real hook," said the coach, twisting his hand to illustrate how the old Cleveland fireballer could break one off. Busby's Texas accent delights Kaye, who, naturally, has it down pretty well. "It was the curve," said Kaye, persisting in his defense of the old Dodger, "that made Koufax' fastball so effective. He had those long fingers that could be wrapped right around the ball, and he had those supple wrists." He was into a pitching motion in the coach's cubicle when he espied a boy of about four sauntering into the clubhouse. Kaye cannot resist children. He stepped off the imaginary mound and slouched over to the youngster, who looked apprehensive.
The boy laughed nervously. Kaye laughed nervously. The boy scrunched up his tiny face. Kaye scrunched up his. Every sound, every gesture the child made, Kaye duplicated. Finally, the boy stopped making faces. He cocked his head to one side like an inquisitive puppy and looked up at Kaye as if to say, "Never have I seen such a man." Kaye cocked his head in perfect imitation. They stood there in tableau, framed in a doorway, two restless children, one four, the other 64, frozen to the spot.
It may have been the little boy who snickered first, but Kaye was close behind. Their laughter, unaffected, infectious, filled the small room. The players, hopelessly adult, smiled tentatively at their new boss. Never had they seen such a man.
Kaye is often an athletic actor. A sampler of Danny's dandies (clockwise from top left): The Court Jester, The Inspector General, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Up in Arms, The Man from the Diner's Club, Wonder Man, On the Riviera.