Whenever I think of Abbott & Costello movies the memories are powerfully joyful and nostalgic. As I child I would watch them every Sunday morning on WPIX Channel 11 out of New York with my mother. Mom loved Abbott & Costello! So did I.
By the time I was a teenager I began to understand and appreciate the artistry of these great comedians. Lou Costello, ever round and wide-eyed, had the innocence of a babe. Bud Abbott was the overbearing, know-it-all straight man. Not exactly a sympathetic role to play, but Bud Abbott was flawless in his timing and fearless in his straight man duties. After all, the meaner he was to Costello, the more we loved Costello!
Out of high school I enlisted in the Army. At a bookstore in San Angelo, Texas one afternoon in early 1982, I saw a new biography about Lou Costello: “Lou’s On First” written by his youngest daughter, Chris. I devoured the book, all the while hoping my childhood hero wasn’t a troubled mess of a person in real life. Turns out he was a sweet wonderful man who loved his family and loved making people laugh. Boy, that made me feel better! I would talk to my mother once a week from a phone booth just outside of the barracks and relay the funny stories from the book to her. We laughed together.
Finally, I stepped
into the role of Lou Costello while stationed in Monterey, CA in 1983. My best friend Phil Cappel played Abbott and we worked hard to perfect the legendary “Who’s On First” baseball routine. It was for a theater review and we were great! One man told us after the show that he’d only ever seen it performed better once–when he saw the real Abbott & Costello live in the early 1940s. After one of our performances, the commanding general of Fort Ord requested several of the acts to perform at a formal banquet they were having. The other actors did their bits at the microphone they had set up. Phil and I ignored the microphone and walked out into the audience and in front of the general’s table to perform. We were the hit!
The photo attached is of Phil and me as Abbott & Costello. We both ended up getting assigned to Okinawa Japan. We reprised our roles and added several other classic A&C routines for another theater review in 1985. I recently discovered and edited some video of these routines and placed them on You Tube (www.youtube.com/michaeljameskacey).
Flash forward six and a half years. Phil is my Best Man at my wedding, the following week am his Best Man. At each of our wedding receptions, we strode front and center and performed “Who’s On First” to cheers and laughter.
Last year I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting none other than Chris Costello, Lou’s daughter whose book I had devoured and shared with my mother so long ago. More than just meeting her, we’ve become friends. My wife, Chris and her sister Paddy and I spent a wonderful day together at the Getty Center laughing, viewing artwork and sharing stories. Again, this was other Lou Costello-related story to share with my mother.
As I write this my mother is in the hospital in the ICU. She’s doing well and getting better every day. But when I think of her, I think of Sunday mornings and Abbott & Costello. I think of my best friend Phil, long ago adopted into the family by my mother, and again I think of Abbott & Costello. And now when I think of Abbott & Costello I have the pleasure of thinking about my new friends, Lou’s daughters Chris and Paddy. Small world, eh?
I’m just saying…