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Subject: ARCHIVE: August 4, 1978 ~Comic actor/singer Frank Fontaine, known best with his crazy dialect as the always-inebriated 'Crazy Guggenheim' on TV's "Jackie Gleason Variety Show", but whose superior singing talents entertained audiences for mre, dies suddenly at 58. ...

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Date Posted: Friday, August 04, 04:47:44am

American stage, radio, film and television comedian, singer and actor. ...

Frank Fontaine
(April 19, 1920 August 4, 1978)

Early Years and Personal Life ...
Born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fontaine came from a family of entertainers. His father Ray was a popular vocalist, whose career in Canada resulted in his being compared to Bing Crosby. His mother performed as a dancer, and he had a brother who also became a singer. Frank Fontaine left school and married at age sixteen. He and his wife moved to Medford at that time. He had a reputation as a family man-- known for being devoted to his wife and children. He would rearrange his schedule so that he was never away from them for too long. In addition, he was well-known for the size of his family: he and his wife Alma had two daughters and nine sons.

Career ...
Fontaine is best known for his appearances on television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including
The Jackie Gleason Show, The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jack Benny Program. ...

One of his earliest appearances was on the radio version of The Jack Benny Program. During an episode which aired on April 9, 1950, Fontaine played a bum (named "John L.C. Silvoney") who asked Benny for a dime for a cup of coffee. The smallest coin Benny had to offer was a fifty-cent piece, so he gave it to him. The story Benny told about this event became a running gag during later shows. Fontaine's goofy laugh and other voice mannerisms made a hit with the audience, and Benny brought him back for several more radio shows between 1950 and 1952. He also later appeared in several of Benny's television shows.
On The Jackie Gleason Show, he played the always-inebriated character "Crazy Guggenheim" during Gleason's "Joe the Bartender" skits. His trademark was a bug-eyed grin and the same silly laugh he had done on Jack Benny's radio show. At the end of his Guggenheim sketch, he would usually sing a song, demonstrating a surprisingly good singing voice.

...In 1963, he released an album "Songs I Sing on The Jackie Gleason Show", with a collection of some of those songs, which reached number one on Billboard magazine's Top LP's chart in 1963. Comedian/Voice actor Lennie Weinrib imitates the "Crazy Guggenheim" character on The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "The Sam Pomerantz Scandals".

Stan Freberg's voice characterization for Pete Puma, a would-be nemesis for Bugs Bunny in the 1952 cartoon short Rabbit's Kin, was based on Fontaine's character voice, along with Daws Butler's voice for Sam the Cat in the Sylvester cartoons Trick or Tweet in 1958 and Mouse and Garden in 1960 and Barney Gumble from The Simpsons.

Frank Fontaine stumping the panelists on TV's "What's My Line?" -(Jun 21, 1964) ...

Fontaine received mention in satirist Tom Lehrer's 1965 song "National Brotherhood Week", from the album That Was the Year That Was. In the live show, Lehrer mentioned National Make-Fun-of-the-Handicapped Week, "Which Frank Fontaine and Jerry Lewis are in charge of, as you know." He also was the voice of Rocky the Rhino in Walt Disney's The Jungle Book until Disney cut the creature from the picture. He was also credited in Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker's song "Jingle Bells Imitations", which was the flipside of their Jingle Bell Rock record.

Along with fellow film and television "professional drunks" Jack Norton and Foster Brooks, Frank Fontaine was a lifelong non-drinker in his private life.

Death[ ...
Fontaine died of a heart attack on August 4, 1978 in Spokane, Washington. He had just completed a live stage benefit show, had accepted
a check for $25,000, which he planned to later donate for heart research, when he collapsed and died. He was married and had 11 children.

He was interred at Oak Grove Cemetery in Medford, Massachusetts, near his last residence in Winchester, Massachusetts,
a substantial house on Highland Avenue, now the home of Winchester Community Music School. ...

Links ...

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