On the Internet, specifically on Reddit.com, the initials TIL stand for “today I learned.” The other day, I clicked on somebody’s TIL link, which took me to a Wikipedia entry about the Apollo 11 astronauts having not a star but a moon on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Within another couple of clicks, I had stumbled upon a list of unusual names on the Walk of Fame, which got me to read one of the greatest showbiz stories of all time. I can’t believe it was the first time I’d heard of it.
I knew that Albert Brooks and Super Dave Osborne are brothers in real life. I did not know that their father was a comedian too. Harry Einstein’s stage name was Harry Parke but he became famous on Eddie Cantor’s radio show as a Greek character named Parkyakarkus (park your carcass), which is how he got a star on the Walk of Fame. He also appeared in eleven movies under that single name.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving 1958, Harry Parke gave a great performance at the Friars Club roast of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. When he finished, he sat down next to Milton Berle and slumped into Berle’s lap. Parke had suffered a massive heart attack but the audience thought it was part of the act. They laughed when Berle asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?”
The emcee that night was Art Linkletter. Realizing something was seriously wrong, Linkletter called upon singer Tony Martin to perform while doctors tried to revive Parkyakarkus. Unfortunately, Martin’s go-to song was “There’s No Tomorrow.”
They took Parke to a back room at the Beverly Hilton and used whatever was on hand as they attempted to save his life. They cut open his chest with a pen knife and used an electric cord to shock Harry’s heart. Meanwhile, George Burns addressed the media on the other side of the door. Sadly, Parke died. He was later entombed in a mausoleum at Home of Peace Memorial Park.
Headlines of the day included: Parky, the Funnyman, Dies After Hilarious Dinner Talk; Parky Einstein Succumbs After Pocketknife Surgery; and Tops ‘Em All in Finale, Oldtime Comic Parky Dies.
I’ve been looking for any video of Albert Brooks talking about his father. So far all I found is a website with a quote from 1991: “The interesting thing to me was that he finished. He could have died in the middle. He could have done it on the way over there. But he didn’t. He finished. And he was as good as he’d ever been in his life.”