Why my interest in W.C. Fields?
We both grew up on the city streets of Philadelphia. We had dysfunctional, alcoholic families and a father in the produce business (my dad was not critical or alcoholic but my uncle and grandfather were). We both felt that Philadelphia was way too provincial and conservative for our tastes and eventually settled in Southern California—W.C. in Pasadena and me in Santa Barbara.
We both stuttered as children and were often teased by bullies. Not only did I stutter but for a few years during my early teens, I talked in a high, squeaky voice like a tenor until one day I woke up and my voice changed; I was a baritone. Luckily we survived our childhood speech defects and turned out to become productive adults, obviously W.C. was a bit more prosperous than me.
We both loved humor. I used to write jokes for disc jockeys and various little humor shorts for small magazines. I only wish that I was as motivated, hard-working and possessed Fields enormous talent in the comedy field. Then again, I wouldn’t want to pay the price for stardom like Fields unfortunately did, dying young and alcoholic. I prefer growing old in Southern California, enjoying its sunshine and beaches without a hangover.
W.C. Fields had a comedy style that was edgy and politically incorrect. Many times it appeared to be in poor taste, but he had the guts to hang in there and take the consequences for his actions. He was proud of his obnoxious personality and often defiantly so.
Fields was an entertainment icon who was not going to be denied, just like the city that he grew up in. We both moved clear across the country to get away from Philly, but we never could escape. Philadelphia was always in our hearts. Like a myocardial infarction.
For more on W.C. Fields’ life, check out my article on Reelrundown.com called W.C. Fields: Juggling to Stardom.