Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, June 1, 1959
June 1, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Eating Ants Might Spice This HamI've been dabbling in the nether regions of the public eye for quite some time now.
To show you how far back I go, I was the father figure on a panel television show called Bachelor's Haven with a moppet named Zsa Zsa Gabor, who today -- according to her press release -- is still 10 years younger than Shirley Temple.
I pre-date vegetable peeler commercials, 1932 English movies starring Gracie Fields, and Hopalong Cassidy.
The viewing public has seen me, lot of me. It's been given the chance to take me as its idol or reject me.
And its decision -- or more accurately, indecision -- has been a matter of keen disappointment both to me and my mother, who's closer to me than the William Morris Agency will ever be.
For years, it's been a mystery to both of us why I've never been tapped for stardom -- why people still come up and say, "I know you. You were the one withZsa Zsa Gabor."
It was just this week, however, when I realized why they had discovered her and not me.
She has a gimmick.
And, after reading TV Guide, I know now for sure that a gimmick is essential for all of us in this racket.
The current issue has an article entitled, "He Eats Bees, and Sometime, Ants."
It reviews the proverbial rags-to-riches success of a Jack Webb protege named John Compton, whom, in my ignorance, I had never heard of before, and whom the magazine describes as a "handsome 36-year-old actor who plays the lead inNBC's "The D.A.'s Man.'"
In the article, Compton not only confesses to eating live bees and live ants, but he admits to having munched an occasional blue jay when the mood moved him.
With red ants, he is quoted saying:
"You've got to be a little careful. Chew 'em dead with your teeth else they'll bite the insides right out of you."
Now, possibly too late, I see my error.
A performance just can't get anywhere in show business without the gimmick.
Compton eats ants. Welk has a prop baton. Sandra Giles has a fur-covered ear. And then there's Desi with that phony accent of his.
Everybody's got something but me.
Actually, when I first started out in this peculiar game, I did have one little quirk which made me stand out from the average actor like Ed Sullivan.
I didn't smile either, but I had an eyebrow which raised provocatively.
I never coached or cultivated it.
However, that, as I said, was back in the days when Zsa Zsa was a girl and I was a somewhat older boy.
In Twilight of My Youth
With the passing of time, my whole damn face has fallen, eyebrow and all.
Today, I am aged and in need of a theatrical gimmick that will soar my weary frame to stardom.
And, if eating red ants will bring me to the attention of an impresario like Jack Webb, I'll do it -- even though my teeth aren't what they should be and there's a chance that the ants may eat me first.