Can you believe this man hugging me from behind is THE Ronnie Schell, 75 years young and buff as a taut Swedish boy? Denise and I met up with him at some seedy little pizza joint following a day long camera shoot at PBS. Ronnie still runs the comedy circuit flying from city to city entertaining the masses who remember him as “Duke Slater” on the “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” show in the late 1960’s. Today, he’s the honorary mayor of Encino, California, living with his beautiful wife in their equally gorgeous home. Denise and I plied him with alcohol and picked his brain about his early days in television.
“Ronnie, do tell, do tell – who’s a jerk in the industry and who’s a bigger jerk”? “Well, not sure I can answer that” confesses Ronnie, “but I can tell you who’s straight and who’s not.” “That will do too” we chime in. He pulls out a photo of him and George Clooney being buddy buddy together. “Just kidding” he smiles then delves into film nostalgia with big names like Goldie Hawn, Jim Nabors, Tim Conway and Marlo Thomas. But in minutes he looses interest in repeating his own history again (probably for the millionth time) and implores Denise and I to talk about our lives; very uncharacteristic for most celebrities. Ronnie Schell is the sweetest, kindest and most conversational, albeit ridiculously funny comedian alive, on stage, camera, or behind a booth chowing on Italian fare. Here’s hoping I get the chance to do it all again when and if he ever makes it back to the East coast again.