"In all fairness, when Pat (Brown) was governor, we didn't have earthquakes." - Jack Benny
When this show aired in 1973, Ronald Reagan was Governor of California, and it was no secret that he had aspirations for the Presidency of the United States. There was no shortage of celebrities on hand to remind him of that fact, including Phyllis Diller, who prefaced her remarks with 'If you ever get to be President...'. Reagan had made a number of appearances on Dean Martin's Celebrity Roasts as a member of the dais dishing it out, so this time it was his turn to be honored as Dino's 'Man of the Week'.
The guest list this night had some of the greats and not so greats of Hollywood at the time. Lesser known celebrities included comedians Jackie Vernon and Pat Henry, along with Olympic diving champion Mark Spitz. Of the better known names, you had Phyllis Diller, Nipsey Russell (as Reagan's brother Donald), and Jack Benny, along with Dom DeLuise doing a Brando/Godfather impersonation, and Jonathan Winters as Reagan's grade school teacher Maude Frickert, one of his TV variety show characters. The presenter who got the most laughs was Don Rickles who was on fire with his barbs, all in good fun of course. It wouldn't have been a complete night if Reagan's wife Nancy hadn't shown up to give a kiss to the man she loved - Jack Benny.
I remember these shows like it was yesterday; I tried to catch as many of these Celebrity Roasts back in the day as I could. They were a fun time when a bunch of these Hollywood personalities would get together to honor one of their own all in good fun. For his part, Reagan took it all in stride and appeared to be having a good time before he got a chance to unload at the end of the presentation. For Reagan fans, this show is a blast and a terrific tribute to the man who would eventually attain the highest office in the land.
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