The Great Dane

Victor Borge

(1909-2000) was a concert pianist and comedian in his home country, Denmark, when the Nazi's invaded in 1940. Borge, a Jew, abandoned all his worldly possessions and fled to the United States, where he got a job in 1941 doing the warmup for the Rudy Vallee radio show. Carroll Carroll, chief writer for Bing Crosby, heard Borge's warmup in Dec. 1941. Borge's act involved reading a story, including each punctuation mark, to which he assigned a sound. Carroll had Borge booked for the very next Kraft Music Hall. Carroll finishes the story:
"Victor was scheduled to go on after the station break. That meant there'd be a song by Bing, the Victor Borge spot, a commercial, a song by Bing, another guest spot, a song by Bing, a commercial, theme, sign-off.

"I shortened the other guest shot because I knew Victor needed time. We took a chorus out of one of Bing's songs. Victor agreed that he could do the spot in 12 minutes. That is, we thought he agreed. He spoke almost no English and only understood, if anything, what he chose to. Bing's intro said he'd seen Victor Borge warming up an audience for Rudy Vallee and anybody who's good enough to warm up a Vallee audience has got to be good enough to heat up an audience in the old Kraft Music Hall.

"Victor came on and repeated the punctuation routine and got the same earthquakelike reaction. After 12 minutes he was still going. We lost a commercial. He kept right on going. We lost a Crosby song. Then we lost a guest spot and another Crosby song and another commercial and the closing theme and we went off the air with people howling and applauding Borge. A telephone call came from New York telling us to sign the guy for as long as possible." (Carroll Carroll, None of Your Business, 178-181)

Borge was a regular on the Crosby show for the next 56 weeks. Early in 1943 he got his own five-minute daily show on the NBC Blue network. He made his concert debut in 1945, and began his famous one man show in 1953.

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