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The Guys at Police Squad! Hear of Leslie Nielsen’s Passing

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It seems like a typical day at Police Squad!.  Norberg is unsuccessfully practicing hitting a paddleball.  (Note:  Norberg was played in the Naked Gun movies by O.J. Simpson.  Since he’s obviously unavailable, O.J. has been replaced by another former NFL running back, Bo Jackson.)  Off to the side, a uniformed officer is attempting to read Miranda rights to a goat who is being charged with vandalism and destruction of private property.  The booking process is impeded by the fact the goat keeps eating the paperwork.   Lieutenant Ed Hocken is reading a newspaper, and has a pained expression on his face.

Suddenly a crash is heard outside as someone drives a car into a row of garbage cans.

Norberg:  “Captain, Frank is here.”

Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank DribenDetective Lieutenant Frank Drebin enters the room.  He removes a banana peel from the brow of his hat and sits down.

Hocken:  “Frank, I’m glad you’re here.  We’ve just received some upsetting news.  Leslie Nielsen has passed away.”

Drebin:  “Who?”

Hocken:  “Nielsen.”

Drebin:  “No thanks, I already have a chair.  And I don’t think you and I are related.”

Hocken:  “No, Frank.  Leslie Nielsen?  The actor?”

Drebin looks puzzled.  “The name doesn’t ring a bell.”

Hocken:  “Leslie Nielsen was born in Saskatchewan in 1926.  His father was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”

Norberg:  “I thought I saw a resemblance between a young Leslie Nielsen and Dudley Do-Right.”

Hocken:  “He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and worked as a disk jockey before winning a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse acting school in New York.  His career started on live television.  He made his debut in the 1956 film The Vagabond King.  This led to his role in the science-fiction cult classic Forbidden Planet.” 

Drebin:  “Forbidden Planet?  That’s near Cleveland, isn’t it?”

Hocken:  “He continued working in a variety of movie roles, including Tammy and the Bachelor and The Poseidon Adventure,  building a reputation as a solid lead actor.  He also worked in TV, starring in the Disney series Swamp Fox as the American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion.”

Drebin:  “He didn’t want to be called Shirley, but he’ll go by the name of Francis?”

Hocken:  “Then, with the movie Airplane!, he totally changed his persona and became known primarily as a comic actor.  The TV series Police Squad!, though initially unsuccessful, spawned his most famous roles a few years later in the “Naked Gun” movies.  The films capitalized on his ability to deliver the most absurd lines totally deadpan.”

Norberg:   “See, what I don’t understand is how he was able to say those lines without cracking up.”

Drebin:  “Let’s see what they have to say about this down at the lab.  Ted?”

Ted Olson (wearing slicked-back hair, glasses and a lab coat):  “We’ve been able to come up with some answers.  Let’s try an experiment.  First, here’s Mr. Zucker.  I’m going to tell him a joke and he’s going to try to keep a straight face.  OK, Mr. Zucker, a gorilla walks into a bar, says to the bartender … “ (Ted continues whispering)

(Mr. Zucker laughs uproariously.)

Olson:  “Now we’re going to tell the same joke to Mr. Abrahams.  The only difference is that the corners of Mr. Abrahams’ mouth have been stapled shut.”  (Olson tells Mr. Abrahams the same joke.  Mr. Abrahams, his mouth clamped shut, can only open his eyes wide and moan.)

Drebin (narrowing his eyes): “ I see.”

Al (a man so tall we can’t see his head on camera):  “Lt. Hocken, the scriptwriters say we have to wrap things up.”

Hocken:  “Thanks – say, what’s that on your head, Al?  You know that’s not regulation headgear.  Take that off.”

Al:  “Yes, Captain.“  (A ceiling fan falls from above onto the floor).

Drebin (looking at the goat eating the paperwork):  “So much paperwork.   Sometimes I think I should go off and join the French Foreign Legion.  Al, what was that movie about the French Foreign Legion?”

Al:  “Surely, Beau Geste.”

Bo Jackson playing Norberg:  “I don’t jest.  And don’t call me Sh-“

Suddenly the Police Squad! theme song starts up, and everyone freezes, except for Drebin, whose portrayal by Leslie Nielsen onTV and in film has delighted fans around the world.  The actor grins at the scene, shakes his head, and slowly walks toward the back till he disappears.

Leslie Nielsen (1926 – 2010)

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About Phillip Barnett

Phillip Barnett is a software geek with multiple, conflicting musical fantasies. He has played jazz piano, folk guitar and klezmer clarinet (not all at the same time - that would look ridiculous and would probably hurt his back).