Red Skelton – Pledge to America


Red Skelton was an American pantomimist, meaning the art of communication by means of gesture and facial expression.  One of the rarest radio and television comedian hosts of all time, he brought a unique talent of truth and sensitivity onto the Hollywood stage characterized as a clown. He is remembered for his forthright patriotism, always referencing God in his devotion.  

Born in Vincennes, Indiana, Richard Skelton was the fourth son and last child of Ida Mae and Joseph E. Skelton (1878–1913). Joseph, a grocer, died two months before his last child was born. In Skelton’s lifetime there was some dispute about the year of his birth, noting Skelton began working at such a young age, he may have had to say he was older than he actually was in order to work.

Because of the loss of his father, young Richard went to work at an early age, selling newspapers to help his family when he was seven. He quickly learned the newsboy’s patter and would keep it up until a prospective buyer bought a copy of the paper just to quiet young Skelton. In 1923, a man came up to the young newsboy, purchased every paper he had and asked him if he wanted to see the show in town, giving him a ticket. The man, comedian Ed Wynn, was part of the show and later took young Skelton backstage. It was then that he realized what he wanted to do with his life. Skelton learned that he could make people laugh at an early age. When Skelton was ten, he auditioned to be part of a medicine show. When he accidentally fell from the stage, breaking bottles of medicine as he fell, people laughed. The young boy realized he could earn a living with his ability. By age 14, he had left school and was already a veteran performer, working in local vaudeville and on a showboat, “The Cotton Blossom”, that traveled the Ohio and Missouri rivers. Young Skelton was interested in all forms of acting. He won a dramatic role with a stock theater company, but was unable to deliver his lines in a serious manner; the audience laughed instead. Ida Skelton, who held two jobs to support her family after the death of her husband, never said that her youngest son had run away from home, but that “his destiny had caught up with him at an early age.”  Red Skelton remembers, “I left home because I was hungry.”

Skelton is remembered for quotes too numerous to mention.  To mention a few:

“All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner.”

“Congress: Bingo with billions.”

“God’s children and their happiness are my reasons for being.”

“I personally believe that each of us was put here for a purpose — to build not to destroy.  If I can make people smile then I have served my purpose for God.” 

And here’s a good one, “Today’s comics use four-letter words as a shortcut to thinking. They’re shooting for that big laugh and it becomes a panic thing, using four-letter words to shock people.”

On stage, Skelton had nine characters: Cauliflower McPugg: the poor boxer who was also a little punch drunk.  Clem Kadiddlehopper:  the farmer.  Junior: a destructive problem child.  Deadeye: the fastest cowboy gun in the west.  San Fernando Red:  the not so innovative politician. ” Willie Lump Lump: the alcoholic. George Appleby: afraid of his own shadow.  Gertrude and Heathcliff: the two birds – drunk and nagging. And then, there was Freddy the Freeloader: the hobo clown; homeless and living at the city dump.  

But Red Skelton said Freddy the Freeloader was a little bit of you, a little bit of me, a little bit of all of us. He found out what love was. He knows the value of time.  He knows that time is the glutton that eats up life.  When people say, “They don’t have time for this or for that,” Red Skelton would say, “There’s plenty of time. The trick is to apply it.”  The man, Red Skelton, would say the greatest disease in the world today is procrastination.  Now, Freddy Freeloader knows about all of these things; and so do we.  Freddy doesn’t ask anybody to provide for him, because it would be taking away from you.  He doesn’t ask for equal rights if it’s going to give up some of yours. And he knows that patriotism is more powerful than guns.  He is nice to everybody because he was taught that man was made in God’s image.  He’s never met God in person, and the next person you meet just might be God incarnate. “Freddy,” Red Skelton said, “is a little bit of all of us.”

We’ve included a couple of clips to celebrate the life and the memory of Red Skelton.

Freddy the Freeloader and Eva Gabor 

Red Skelton and The Pledge

Categories : Memories and Fun

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