Today, we examine one especially beloved but clearly flaming fruit who was once known as “America’s Most Eligible Bachelor.”
Sometime after folks started understanding that the world was round, but before Will & Grace, there lived a man named Paul Lynde. He starred as the dad in Bye Bye Birdie but made his name mostly on TV as the zingy-est Center Square ever to grace The Hollywood Squares. If there were a textbook on Gay Minstrelsy, he’d be on the cover. And despite a solid two decades of being typecast as homo-rifically witty “characters” and croaking during a poppers-and-vodka fueled night with a hustler, our moms still were clueless until we told them.
The Evidence Mom Ignored
Occupation: theater and film character actor; played nasal jester and Dean-o’s ever-willing set-up artist on the zing-a-thon that was The Dean Martin Show; did an eponymous sitcom, an eponymous comedy hour and several variety specials before serving out his minstrel sentence as game show quipster. 9 out of 10 gay points.
Appearance: clean-cut in that 60s preppy way, but ultimately could be found in 70s jaunty scarfs and he wore caftans around the house. Oh and we love this look. 8/10
Demeanor: consistently dry and whiningly witty, had signature snark-happy laugh. This clip sums it up nicely. 9/10
Beards: never married; was actually, we shit you not, called “America’s Most Eligible Bachelor” despite losing a boyfriend in ’65 off a hotel balcony one drunk night in San Francisco; did have a sitcom wife, and was kissed on the cheek at least once by Nancy Walker for a publicity still. 9/10
Minstrelsy: He was minstrel, hear him chortle. As Uncle Arthur on Bewitched he could pass off the “funny”-ness with that whole witch thing, but in later years, either playing an interior decorator or doing that Center Square bit, he even beat out CNR at his minstrel best. 10/10
Total: 45 points - High Flame (see scale)
So, we guess, if we squeeze our eyes shut and try really hard, we can maybe, almost imagine that the mass-delusionary effects of high-fat diets and three-martini lunches caused Paul Lynde to pass by the 60s and 70s suburban radar without sounding off any alarms. But did we mention that gay Zelig figure Paul Barresi was the lucky “friend” to find Lynde’s body after that hustler left him for dead and he rotted for two days?
Photos courtesy of PaulLynde.info
Here are a couple clips to wonder at… First Paul and Dean-o zing it out in this DMV sketch from the Dean Martin Show.
And in this number from Paul’s bizarre 1976 Halloween Special, featuring Margaret Hamilton in Wicked Witch drag and Tim Conway, Paul sings of his dream to be a “Rhinestone Trucker.”
Mom Thought He Was Straight?: Charles Nelson Reilly
Mom Thought He Was Straight?: Anthony Perkins
Mom Thought He Was Straight?: Elton John
Mom Thought He Was Straight?: Truman Capote
Mom Thought They Were Straight?: Village People
Paul Lynde Fan Site (PaulLynde.info)
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