One of the most talented comic actors was Paul Lynde. Anytime he was ina film ora television show, all focus went on Paul Lynde.
Despite his large body of work on television and film, Paul will be remembered for his long stint as the center square on the gameshow The Hollywood Squares hosted by Peter Marshall.
The viewer waited anxiously for Paul to be called and offer an hilarious answer to one of Peter’s offbeat questions. As Peter as the straight man ( as he was to Toomy Noonan in films and stage) he set Paul up for his punchline for over 10 years.
Q: Paul, in what famous book will you read about a talking ass who wonders why it’s being beaten?
A: I read it, The Joy of Sex.
Q: The Great White is one of the most feared animals. What is the Great White?
A: A sheriff in Alabama.
Q: Paul, can anything bring tears to a chimp’s eyes?
A: Finding out that Tarzan swings both ways!
Q It is the most abused and neglected part of your body — what is it?
A: Mine may be abused but it certainly isn’t neglected!
Q: According to the old song, what’s breaking up that old gang of mine?
A: Anita Byant!
Q: Now listen carefully, Paul…during the time of the hula hoop, the yo-yo, and Davy Crockett hats, who was in the White House?
A: I’ll say the yo-yo!
Q: The Atlantic Ocean is the major body of water on Africa’s west coast. What major body lies off Africa’s east coast?
A: Ex-president Mobutu.
Paul seemed to be the only person who could get away with a certain brand of double entendres, perverted remarks, and pure bitchiness, and he was hilarious at it. It wasn’t just what he said, but his delivery that made it so funny.
However, Paul had a far more extensive career from his performance as the dad in Bye-Bye Birdie to playing Uncle Arthur- the prankster warlock on Bewitched. He also was a frequent guest on talk shows including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson His appearance on a talk show guaranteed that a good time would be had by all (Paul, the host, and the audience).
Lynde was also a stand-up comedian before he became an actor. He also was the voice of many cartoon characters.
His friend, the wonderful actress Alice Ghostley started her career with him on Broadway in The New Faces of 1952. I interviewed Alice shortly before her death in 2007 for my Dr Feelgood book. She said that Paul was deeply troubled much of his life and had a longtime drinking problem that caused him problems. She also said that he had gotten clean before his death in on January 11, 1982. Alice, who at the time of her interview was ill with cancer, said she suspected Paul was ill with cancer as well and never told his friends.
We also interviewed The wonderful Ann-Margaret recently who had appeared with Paul ( as her father) in Bye Bye Birdie and a later film, thought that Paul was an ” enchanting and funny man.”
There are some who claim his death was a mystery however this is what was reported in his Wiki biography:
On January 11, 1982, after Lynde had failed to attend a birthday celebration, his friend Paul Barresi became concerned. When he and another friend, actor Dean Ditman, could not get an answer on the phone or from knocking on his door, Barresi broke into the side entrance to Lynde’s home in Beverly Hills, California and found him dead in his bed. Stories suggesting Lynde had a visitor at the time of his death who fled the scene circulated but could not be proven, as the comedian regularly activated his house alarm before retiring for the evening. When Barresi broke in, the alarm blared, indicating Lynde was alone at the time of his death.The coroner ruled the death a heart attack. Lynde’s cremated remains are interred at Amity Cemetery, in Amity, Ohio, next to those of his brother Johnny and sister Helen. His father and mother are buried at the same cemetery.
Paul was only 55 years old at the time of his death. From small town Mt. Vernon, Ohio ( which is just north of Columbus), he was a graduate of Northwestern University in a class that included Cloris Leachman, Charlotte Rae, Patricia Neal, Jeffrey Hunter and Claude Akins.
Paul also starred in the series Temperature’s Rising and the Paul Lynde Show.
From Wiki this part of his biography discusses his difficulties with alcohol that damaged his career in the 1970s
Alcoholism, arrests, and final years
The failure of his two series exacerbated Lynde’s alcoholism, leading to numerous run-ins with the law and frequent arrests for public intoxication. Peter Marshalland Kaye Ballard confirmed that Lynde, when inebriated, would sometimes ridicule his friends.
Despite his personal problems, Lynde’s continuing popularity led to his being signed by ABC to host a series of specials from 1975 to 1979, including;
The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour (November 6, 1975) with Jack Albertson, Nancy Walker and the Osmond Brothers;
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (October 29, 1976) featuring the first prime-time network appearance of KISS, along with Margaret Hamilton recreating her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Hamilton and Billie Hayes (as H.R. Pufnstuf’s Witchiepoo) teamed up in a skit where they ask Lynde to help them improve their (witches) image. Other guests included Betty White, Donny and Marie Osmond, Tim Conway, and Roz Kelly;
The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour (April 23, 1977) with Cloris Leachman and Tony Randall;
T’was the Night Before Christmas (December 7, 1977) with Alice Ghostley, Martha Raye, George Gobel and Foster Brooks;
The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour (May 20, 1978) with Juliet Prowse, Brenda Vaccaro and Harry Morgan;
Paul Lynde at the Movies (March 24, 1979) with Betty White, Vicki Lawrence, Robert Urich and Gary Coleman;
Paul Lynde Goes M-A-A-A-AD (May 20, 1979) with Marie Osmond, Charo and Vicki Lawrence.
Lynde was involved in an incident at his alma mater, Northwestern University, in October 1977. He was the Grand Marshal for homecoming. At a fast food restaurant after the homecoming parade, he made racist remarks and gestures to an African-American man, who was a professor at the university. Lynde blamed his behavior on fatigue and inebriation.
Lynde was a regular guest on the 1976–79 variety show Donny & Marie until 1978. On January 4, he was arrested outside of a tavern in Salt Lake City at approximately 1:30 a.m. for interfering with a police officer. The officer, who was investigating a car burglary, claimed Lynde kept insisting that the officer “attend to Lynde’s complaint that his briefcase with $1,000 in cash and valuables inside had been stolen.” The complaint was later dropped, but he lost his guest-starring role on Donny & Marie as a result.
Lynde suffered from weight-control problems and was honored in 1977 by Weight Watchers. That year, Lynde’s beloved dog, Harry MacAfee, died. Lynde could not stay in the house without him and later bought a new home. He spent heavily to renovate the house.
As demand for his services declined, he accepted a wider variety of job offers. He appeared as a guest weatherman for WSPD-TV in Toledo, Ohio in 1978. He appeared as Indian chief Nervous Elk alongside former Bye Bye Birdie co-star Ann-Margret in the 1979 comedy The Villain, (released as “Cactus Jack” in the UK) which was to be his final film role.
Lynde had become disenchanted with being what he called “boxed into” Hollywood Squares and departed the series that same year. Acting jobs continued to be scarce, although it is unclear if this was due to homophobia or Lynde’s known substance abuse and alcohol problems, which made him difficult to work with.
Lynde became sober and drug-free in early 1980. At this time, Hollywood Squares was experiencing a downward trend in Nielsen ratings. Lynde did not want to return but changed his mind when he received co-star billing with host Peter Marshall. He returned to the series in the spring of that year and remained with the show until its cancellation in February 1981.
In November 1980, the Beaux Arts Society, Inc. (founded in 1857) designated Paul Lynde “King” of the Beaux Arts Ball. Kitty Carlisle Hart was designated “Queen” that year. Paul Lynde remained a Life Member of the Beaux Arts Society from 1980 until his untimely death.
Over 30 years after his death, Paul Lynde is still influencing people in Hollywood. There are several cartoon artist that do an impression of him for the voice of their characters. One such example is the alien character in the animated series “American Dad”.