Q: Paul, in what famous book will you read about a talking ass who wonders why it’s being beaten?
A: I read it, The Joy of Sex.
Q: The Great White is one of the most feared animals. What is the Great White?
A: A sheriff in Alabama.
Q: Paul, can anything bring tears to a chimp’s eyes?
A: Finding out that Tarzan swings both ways!
Q It is the most abused and neglected part of your body — what is it?
A: Mine may be abused but it certainly isn’t neglected!
Q: According to the old song, what’s breaking up that old gang of mine?
A: Anita Byant!
Q: Now listen carefully, Paul…during the time of the hula hoop, the yo-yo, and Davy Crockett hats, who was in the White House?
A: I’ll say the yo-yo!
Q: The Atlantic Ocean is the major body of water on Africa’s west coast. What major body lies off Africa’s east coast?
A: Ex-president Mobutu.
These questions and answers were exchanges between Peter Marshall and Paul Lynde on The Hollywood Squares, where Lynde spent over a decade as the “center square.” For many, he was the reason to watch the show. With Marshall, the straight man, settin’ ‘em up, Lynde always succeeded at hittin’ ‘em outta the park. Sometimes we’d laugh so hard our stomachs hurt.
Watching Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares in the 1960 and ’70s was such a treat. He seemed to be the only person who could get away with a certain brand of double entendres, perverted remarks, and pure bitchiness, and he was hilarious at it. It wasn’t just what he said, but his delivery that made it so funny. For those unfamiliar, check out his performance as the dad in Bye-Bye Birdie.
Although reputed to be a nasty drunk, Lynde was always the guy you’d want to invite to a party; no matter how dull things might get, he’d save the night. His appearance on a talk show guaranteed that a good time would be had by all (Paul, the host, and the audience).
Lynde was a stand-up comedian before I was born, and had built an extensive CV of film and television credits, as well as having been the voice of many cartoon characters. I was saddened when he died on January 10, 1982 but I was not aware of the circumstances. At the time I was living the life of a theater major and had to get a lot of partying in.
Recently I learned that Paul Lynde’s death has never been satisfactorily explained. He was found dead in his swimming pool. Was it a heart attack? Drunkenness? It was known that he had been ill for a year or more, and cancer was suspected. A friend discovered him, and rumors of his being dead for several days circulated, but were not confirmed by the coroner.
Paul Lynde was the first gay man I had ever been aware of, and he used his talents and his preferences creatively. “Asked ‘You’re the world’s most popular fruit. What are you?’ Lynde replied, ‘Humble.’” (Wikipedia)