‘THEY DON’T MAKE ‘EM LIKE THAT NO MORE’
By TOM CHESEK
Maybe you first made the acquaintance of funnyman Pat Cooper on a network variety show, back in the days when Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan ruled the waves. Back then, Cooper a horn-rimmed nightclub headliner won over JFK-era audiences with his observations on Italian weddings and other cultural crack-ups.
Or perhaps you were at a suburban cocktail party when somebody slipped Pat’s latest hit comedy LP onto the hi-fi; something like Spaghetti Sauce and Other Delights (the one where a half-naked Pat, in a parody of a popular Herb Alpert album of the day, sits waist-deep in “macaroni” and gravy).
Then again, maybe you heard of Pat Cooper only within the past few years, during one of the veteran comic’s appearances on such morning-radio free-for-alls as the Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony shows forums in which the man born Pasquale Caputo, working bluer than Violet Beauregarde and coming across as the real-life angry guy ancestor to Lewis Black, expounds on all things agita-inducing in American life.
It’s that ability to bridge the generations, without doing anything other than be himself, that remains Cooper’s allows him to maintain a career as a winning draw at venues across the USA including Red Bank’s own Count Basie Theatre, where The Comedy Genius of Pat Cooper returns with special guest Goumba Johnny on Saturday. Calling from his home in Las Vegas, the entertainer checked in with redbankgreen in advance of the show.
Great to hear from you, Pat. We’re doing a little story for the local online newspaper in Red Bank and we wanted to let you know how excited everybody is about your return to the Count Basie Theatre.
Oh, it’s a great theatre. It’s an icon; I did a DVD there three years ago. They don’t make ’em like that no more. They just re-do the performers.
You know, in Red Bank we’ve got a mayor named Pasquale; another Pasquale named Pat…
I’ve had the pleasure! Had the pleasure. Yeah, I’ve met everybody, worked with the biggest stars in the industry. I worked with Count Basie himself! Worked with Sinatra at the Sands back in ’63, ’64…
You were part of a scene that people look at as some kind of golden age these days…it had to sting a little bit when you saw the Sands get torn down a couple of years back.
Yeah, well, you know what, places like the Sands… it’s all gonna come down. People don’t wanna be bothered. Our national product is money! See, in Italy, it was tomatas; here it’s money. We could have a depression tomorra; whadda we gonna do, eat money?
I’ve been in Vegas since 1970, and lemme tell you something, Las Vegas has become a metropolis; they put a gondola inside a hotel, they got rollercoasters now…what the hell we need rollercoasters for in Vegas? And Atlantic City, I worked there before they had gambling! People used to dress in jeans, relax, hang out on the boardwalk feedin’ seagulls. Now, you know, nobody cares about the boardwalk. They had a wonderful resort town and…people ruin the nice places. Put the gambling someplace else!
So you’re unhappy with the state of the business? It seems that out of all the comics from your generation, you more than anyone have really been able to roll with the times; find different ways of connecting with a new audience.
Me, I’m just happy to be here. I’m 79 and here I am; of course I’d rather be 40 but here I am. Just don’t play with my minutes, you understand what I’m sayin’? One time I hadda spend seven hours in the airport, they’re not lettin’ anybody go anywhere, people are getting disgusted. I told ’em that they’re forcin’ me to get closer to dying!
Okay, so time is a precious thing for sure. But you don’t get nostalgic for anything from the past? There was never such a thing as the Good Old Days?
Yesterday’s over. Nowadays if your father hollers at ya, you have him locked up. It’s child abuse. Back in my day they called it raisin’ kids. All the ethnic groups are gettin’ touchy. Pretty soon we’ll all be talkin’ without usin’ our hands! It’s hypocrisy, y’know? Do-gooders doin’ bad. They took the ‘n-word’ out of conversation, and it won’t make anybody more secure. It’s a cultural word. What they should be lookin’ at is the politicians; the political spectrum.
Are you suggesting that many of our political figures are not the best role models for our kids?
Nowadays, the kids know more than their parents know. Look at what they see: you got the governor of New York with a prostitute; the next governor comes in and he’s even worse than the last one. Him and his wife both runnin’ around. It’s like he didn’t even want this job!
How about you? Would Pat Cooper want to be governor?
I love New York, and I love Jersey. I’ve made more money in Jersey than any other state. You have a great town, a wonderful town there in Jersey.
Well thanks, Pat, and I wonder if I could ask you to say a few words for my parents, who are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary this weekend.
Fifty years is a golden gift. Your parents are the backbone of this country; we should stand up and salute people like them. You tell your parents, when you look in the mirror, you’re lookin’ at an oil painting. An oil painting! Why? Because they don’t make ’em like you any more!
Tickets for the 8p Saturday show are priced from $32.50 to 57.50, and can be purchased online from the Count Basie Theatre website.