Comedian Jackie Gleason was dubbed “Mr. Saturday Night” in the early days of television because of his intense popularity. He has also been called “The Great One,” “The Abdominal Showman,” and “Mr. Miami Beach.”
Reportedly, when THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW/CBS/1952-70 aired on Saturday nights supermarkets had a decline in dollar revenue, there was less traffic on the streets and theater managers reported a drop in business.
The June 15, 1954 issue of Look magazine quoted “He is known as Mr. Saturday Night. No one in television ever rose so fast, so soon.”
Jackie Gleason created a stable of comic characters that appeared on his program, including:
- The Poor Soul, a silent, well-meaning lad in an uphill battle with life.
- Joe the Bartender, a gregarious bartender who carried on a monologue with regulars like Mr. Dunahee (unseen), loony drunk Crazy Guggenheim, Morrarity the Undertaker, Duddy Duddleson and Bookshelf Robinson.
- Charley the Loudmouth, who often picked on mild-mannered Clem Finch (portrayed by Art Carney, a future Honeymooners co-star)
- Reginald “Reggie” Van Gleason III, Park Avenue playboy philosopher with a penchant for booze who wore a tuxedo, cape, top hat and cane (Theme Song “Shangri La”).
- Rudy the Helpless Repairman.
- Pedro the Mexican.
- The Bachelor, a silent character (accompanied by the song “Somebody Loves Me”)
- Fenwick Babbitt, the man out for revenge against people who annoy him.
- Rum Dum, a confused drunk with a brushy mustache.
- Stanley R. Sogg, the announcer for the Late, Late, Late, Late, Late, Late, Late, Late, Show who advertised Mother Fletcher’s Products.
- Ralph Kramden, a loudmouthed bus driver featured on HONEYMOONERS skits.
Born Herbert Walton Gleason, Jr. (baptized John Herbert Gleason) on February 26, 1916 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, comedian Jackie Gleason died from colon cancer at his home on June 24, 1987 in Fort Lauderdale (Inverrary), Florida. He was 71. In 1986, he had been diagnosed with diabetes and phlebitis. In June of 1978, Gleason underwent triple heart bypass surgery.
Gleason was entombed in a sarcophagus in a private outdoor mausoleum at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami. Etched into the marble stairway leading to his sarcophagus reads the inscription, “And Away We Go.” (one of his signature catchphrases. Another one: “How Sweet It Is!”)
Note: Jackie Gleason grew up at 328 Chauncey in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. He later used that address for the home of Ralph and Alice Kramden on THE HONEYMOONERS, as well as designed their apartment to resemble his childhood home.