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Kent Bernhardt: Victor Buono

I doubt you remember the late Victor Buono. He hasn’t been with us for quite a while.

He was a noted actor of the 1960s and ’70s, known best for his portrayal of villainous characters on TV shows like Wild Wild West, Batman, and Perry Mason. He also was a commanding presence on the big screen in movies like “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” and “Hush … Hush Sweet Charlotte.”

Few knew it, but Mr. Buono was also a humorist and poet. He wrote numerous funny poems and recited them with glee in public appearances, which made him a popular fixture on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the 1970s.

And Victor Buono was a fat man.

I don’t say that to be cruel in any way. He actually preferred the term “fat” to describe his girth. In fact, he hated terms like plump, stout or big-boned.

“For a long time, they said it was baby fat, and it would burn off sometime in adolescence,” he would explain to audiences. “But about the time of my 30th birthday, that particular theory bit the dust because it had not burned off, was not about to burn off, and any attempt to burn it off would constitute a public fire hazard.”

I stumbled upon a Tonight Show appearance by Buono recently, and found his poetry so funny and refreshing, I immediately started looking for more.

He released a comedy album full of his musings in the ’70s, and I listened to it from beginning to end. I doubled over with laughter and quickly became one of his biggest fans.

Included in his collection of original poetry was a piece he called “The Fat Man’s Prayer”:

“Lord, my soul is ripped with riot,

incited by my wicked diet.

We are what we eat, said a wise old man.

Lord, if that’s true, I’m a garbage can.

I want to rise on judgement day, that’s plain.

But at my present weight, I’ll need a crane.

So, grant me strength that I may not fall

into the clutches of cholesterol.

May my flesh with carrot curls be sated

that my soul may be polyunsaturated.

And show me the light that I may bear witness

to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.

At Oleo Margarine I’ll never mutter

For the road to hell is paved with butter.

And cream is cursed, and cake is awful,

and Satan is hiding in every waffle.

Mephistopheles lurks in provolone

The devil is in each slice of bologna

Beelzebub is a chocolate drop

And Lucifer is a lollipop.

Give me this day my daily slice

But cut it thin and toast it twice.

I beg upon my dimpled knees

Deliver me from melted cheese.

And when my days of trial are done

and my war with malted milk is won

Let me stand with all the saints in heaven

in a shining robe – size thirty-seven!

I can do it Lord if you show to me

the virtues of lettuce and celery!

If you teach me the evils of mayonnaise

The sinfulness of hollandaise

and pasta milenase, and potatoes a la Lyonnaise,

and crisp fried chicken from the South…

Lawd, if ya love me, shut my mouth!”

Rest in peace, Victor. And thank you for your honest view of life, and the humor behind that villainous exterior.

 

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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