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"Has everyone in America ever agreed about anything? Yes, and his name was Frank Fontaine." So states Larry Miller in this article about the old Jackie Gleason show titled "Hiya, Mr. Dunnaghy." Miller recalls the weekly barroom sketch in which Gleason would play the gregarious bartender:

"Then the best part. Gleason would pause and say, "What's that, Mr. Dunnaghy? Oh, he's in the back, I'll call him out. Hey, Craz'!" And the applause would start again, even bigger.

"Craz'" was a hugely popular character named "Crazy Guggenheim," played by Frank Fontaine, and he was, well, crazy. In fact, he might have been a drunk, too. Remember, I'm talking about the character, not the man.

The joke of "Crazy Guggenheim" was that for one reason or another he was impaired, maybe even mentally disabled, or as the blunter times used to say, retarded. Would that be funny today? I don't know. Dudley Moore was fabulous in Arthur, but "Crazy" wasn't rich, in fact just the opposite, he was a mass of rags.

He was funny. Oh, he was funny. "Crazy" would shamble out and stumble over, and in the sweetest, happiest way, say, "Oh, hiya, Joe. Hiya, Mr. Dunnaghy-hee-hee-hee-hee." The same every week, like everything else, and the same reactions: howls; applause.

But that's still not the part I'm talking about. Joe and Crazy would go into a few jokes in the timeless, vaudevillian structure (used so well by Burns and Allen, among others) where one partner tries to get a logical response from the other, who is sweet and willing, but not that bright. (Another running gag with Crazy was when Joe asked him about his friend, "Flootchey Tooley." "Flootchey Tooley?!" Crazy would repeat exuberantly, and spit in Joe's eye doing it. Gleason would wipe the eye theatrically--never angrily, by the way--and the bit would continue.)

That was the point in the sketch where Joe would say, "Hey, Craz', how about a song? Put a dime in number fifteen, huh?" "Okay, Joe," Crazy would agree, but the applause that was already rising blocked it out. Crazy would waddle over to the juke box, still demented, push a button, and return to the bar.

But as the music swelled, the most extraordinary transformation took place. He'd take his worn hat off, the brim turned up in front (like Carney's, come to think of it), place it gently on the bar, and his face would change completely. A new soul would fill him, and he became a different person; himself, as it turns out. For every week on The Jackie Gleason Show, at the same moment, in the same sketch, when Frank Fontaine came out of character and opened his mouth, you knew he was about to sing the most beautiful song you'd ever heard."

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