On Sunday, Nov. 24, an eclectic group gathered to pay homage to the memory of Rip Taylor, the irrepressible star of TV, Broadway, and Las Vegas also known as The Prince or Pandemonium, The Master of Mayhem, The Crying Comedian, and The King of Camp and Confetti.
The program was held on the Debbie Reynolds Main Stage at the The El Portal Theatre in Hollywood, California and consisted of costume displays, video clips covering Taylor’s career on stage, television and the silver screen, his induction to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and more. The evening culminated with an appropriate explosion off confetti singing Taylor’s trademark song, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” led by JoAnne Worley.
Among the speakers who lovingly shared memories of the great comedian’s life were Bruce Vilanch, Johnnie Whitaker, Julie Newmar, Alison Arngrim, Kathy Griffin, Frank Sheftel, Marty Krofft, Jo Anne Worley, Ruta Lee, B. Harlan Boll, and Taylor’s life partner of forty-four years, Robert “Robby” Fortney.
Others in attendance included Ann-Margret, Darby Hinton, David Arquette, Elaine Ballace, Geoffrey Mark, Jaime Monroy, John Bowab, Judy Carter, Judy Tenuta, Kate Linder, Karen Morrow, Mary Jo Catlett, Rico Anderson, Roslyn Kind, Shelly Goldstein, Tai Babilonia, Travis Oates, Carole Cook, Tom Troupe and many more.
One of television’s most recognizable personalities, Taylor was born in Washington, DC becoming a Congressional Page as a teen until he served in the armed forces during the Korean War. He began entertaining during his time in the military and pursued it after he left, becoming known as the “crying comedian.” A guest star with more than 2,000 television appearances under his belt, Taylor brought his wild energy to The Gong Show, Password, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and to the coveted center square on Hollywood Squares.
Taylor arguably made his greatest impact on television when he was picked by Chuck Barris to host The $1.98 Beauty Show, the campy “beauty and talent contest” from 1978 that brought Taylor icon status as he served as ringmaster, gloriously reveling in the glitter and kitsch of “The World’s Tackiest TV Show.”
“My memories of Rip don’t revolve around he work on stage, screen or personal appearances, but rather the restaurant we ate at regularly: Hamburger Hamlet, The Silver Spoon, The French Quarter and that culinary establishment, IHop,” said legendary Hollywood publicist Harlan Boll. “The greatest joy Rip had in life was from the result of making others laugh. He didn’t have an easy childhood. Abused and bullied, he said he discovered early, that they weren’t hitting you if they were laughing.”